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Cornucopia - Gardeners Question Time

Gardeners' Question Time
Sally Pearson

On midsummer day we were at Gregynog, a huge Victorian pile of black and white manorial splendour in the wilds of Montgomeryshire. The Music Room, tastefully decorated in National Trust blue, looked out over mounds of rhododendrons and mature conifers from around the world. The audience were grey but stylish, in contrast to young Howard the Producer, introducing the session in waistcoat and jeans.

Gardeners’ Question Time has been a feature of Radio 4 broadcasting for years, and the wheels of its well-worn format are smoothly oiled by the comfortably reassuring tones of Eric Robson. No glitch, human or electronic, could faze him, as he warmed up the audience, welcomed the panel members, and swung into “the first question, please”. Anne Swithinbank, Chris Beardshaw and Matthew Biggs were all knowledge and enthusiasm, answering questions on topics as diverse as composting blanket weed, the effects of the ermine moth on hazels, and why my pyracantha produces no fruit. What a relief to hear intelligent in-depth discussion of gardening issues! All of us came away inspired to garden better, with a more thorough understanding of not just what to do, but why we’re doing it.

There were some interesting tips too. Chris recommended pelletised ground wool for use as a slug deterrent; lavender cuttings can be used in a net, like barley straw, to prevent weed on ponds; planting Mexican marigolds may be a way to ward off ground elder, but you will need an awful lot of them! The selected questioners were treated with friendly respect, but occasionally chided for not giving their plants enough TLC – gardening is a two-way relationship, we were reminded. One unfortunate woman had bought her husband the wrong sort of walnut tree, and it had produced no crop in 15 years...

The sun finally dipped below the horizon of the 750 acre estate, leaving the still warm glow of a summer evening. Our recording drew to a close with appreciative applause, right on cue. A very few fluffed lines were re-recorded. Smiles and satisfaction abounded. It seemed that, so long as there was Gardeners’ Question Time, all would be well with the world.

First published in the Herefordshire & Mid-Wales Group Newsletter, Autumn 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 28.
© Copyright for this article: Sally Pearson

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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