Now that I’ve finished watching almost every British mystery I could find on BritBox or Acorn TV, I have changed gears and begun to plant my virtual garden. With a stack of seed catalogs waiting on the table, I have looked for gardening inspiration in a new place this year, the weekly BBC gardening program “Gardeners’ World.”
Finding the show purely by accident, I have already watched one whole year’s worth of shows — 29 to be exact — and I am overwhelmed with information and inspiration. I already knew the Brits were keen gardeners, but now that I have virtually visited some of their growing plots, I am in awe of what they can accomplish in their yards, fields and allotments.
One of the things I like best about the show is the variety of people and places visited in each episode. The presenter, Monty Don, demonstrates seasonal chores at his own, large garden, aided by his adorable pair of golden retrievers. Additional cast members visit a wide selection of gardens around the United Kingdom to highlight specific plants and arrangements.
One segment is about growing vegetables in an allotment, similar to our community gardens. Another highlights the planning of a new backyard garden with help from a garden designer. Many installments focus on ordinary people who have an affinity with a particular plant, or who create an oasis in a tiny urban space. In one program, the staff helped people plant gardens on their apartment balconies; there were three different gardens, developed according to the apartment dwellers’ wishes and the amount of sun or shade they had.
From each of these episodes I collected a tidbit of wisdom and the kernel of an idea for my own garden and landscape. Due to the difference of climate, I will be challenged to adapt my vision to the reality of my growing zone and soil; but I am really jazzed to try a few new things.
Now that I’m back in my comfy recliner, I have begun plant-hunting in those waiting catalogs. Three of my favorite seed sellers are relatively local: High Mowing Organic Seeds from Vermont, Pinetree Garden Seeds from Maine and Turtle Tree Seeds from just over the hill in Copake, N.Y. This year I have added Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota for their selection of native seeds and plants. I also buy from a selection of specialty growers, such as Jackson and Perkins for roses.
My source for seedlings is Windy Ridge Organic Nursery in Hawley. I had great luck with the plants I got there last year, including my favorite new vegetable, callaloo, a variety of the flower called amaranth.
Some of the new flower varieties I want to try include purple-headed sneezeweed for my pollinator garden. It resembles a coneflower, but with yellow petals and a very tall head. It will provide nectar and pollen to bees and butterflies. Specifically for black swallowtail butterflies, I am adding golden Alexanders to the garden because those particular butterfly caterpillars feed on its leaves.
I am also buying seeds of the malva called “Snow White,” mallow and kirigami, none of which I have ever grown before. I am also getting new varieties of calendula, cosmos, nasturtium and catmint.
I have started saving plastic food containers in which to start some of my hundreds of seeds. The ones with lids make perfect miniature greenhouses to keep the seedlings moist. I will slice up a large cottage cheese container into strips to make a batch of plant labels (works best with a permanent marker to avoid accident erasures).
I don’t care if it snows again today. My virtual vision sees nothing but gorgeous green plants in the back yard. I can almost taste those tomatoes.