Gardening sustainably is the topic for our celeb speaker Frances Tophill, presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and ITV’s Love Your Garden when she joins us on Saturday 4th May at Powderham Castle. Frances advocates growing sustainably, and that by giving plants the conditions they would naturally grow in the wild, they grow more healthily and are less likely to need watering and pesticides.
It’s a strategy made popular by the late great plants-woman Beth Chatto at her garden in Essex where she pioneered the idea, creating a dry gravel garden in the area of an old car park to show it in practice and to beautiful effect.
So, if you garden on a sandy soil near the sea, growing plants suited to well-drained conditions such as those that grow in Mediterranean conditions like rosemary or thyme they’re more likely to thrive. Or if your garden is cold and prone to sitting wet in winter, choose hardy plants which grow naturally at the water’s edge.
Mimicking the conditions of where a plant would grow naturally means it will be stronger, grow better roots and be more self-sufficient, and this in turn means it requires less resources in the way of water and intervention from the gardener.
Just as when we are well and healthy we are less likely to fall prey to illness, plants growing strongly are less prone to pest attack and disease, dispensing with the need for chemical sprays, something which most gardeners prefer not to use due to the knock on effect on the garden’s wildlife and bees in particular.
It sounds simple and it is if you follow Frances’ advice, you can learn to look at plants in a new way. Not just how pretty they are but what the leaves can tell you about the conditions where they prefer to grow. Silver leaves for sunshine, like scented lavender or very large, dark leaves mean a high chlorophyll content better able to capitalise on even low light levels.
Join Frances in the Speakers Hall to find out more, talks are free to festival visitors.