Some commonsense gardening

Expect commonsense gardening when Christine Walkden comes to speak at Worthing’s Ritz Studio on Thursday, March 7 at 7.30pm.

As she says, horticulturalists with their Latin and long words risk putting people off. Christine, known to millions as the One Show’s gardening expert, prefers to keep things simple.

“Growing plants is no different to growing people,” she insists.

You wouldn’t put a baby outside in the freezing cold, and yet some people will do it with plants. Equally you wouldn’t shove a baby out in the blazing sun.

“A lot of gardening is instinct. If you have got the natural, gardening bug, then I think it is there. Gardening is no more really than cultivating children. When you have got a tiny baby, you give it milk, and then you move on to some kind of sloppy stuff from Heinz.

“The same with gardening. You start with a tiny seed. You wouldn’t give it a gallon of fertiliser straight away!

“And then with the baby when it grows up, you give it roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and then when it gets old and dumb, you give it something else that it can cope with. You wouldn’t dream of giving it roast beef and Yorkshire pudding when it is old and dumb, would you? And it is just the same as with gardening really.”

Christine is best known for her frequent appearances on BBC Radio 4s Gardeners Question Time and contributions to the Gardeners World Magazine. Fans will also remember her programme Christine’s Garden.

And to think that it all started in Sussex at Wakehurst Place where she looked after the growing side of the seed physiology unit after getting her diploma at the Lancashire College of Agriculture,

Since then, she’s enjoyed the chance to see many of those seeds she looked after growing in their natural habitat. Christine has led both garden tours and field trips throughout the world including Turkey, Iran, Kashmir, China, USA, Central Asia, South Africa and more.

As a keen photographer, she illustrates her talks with her extensive library of wildflower and garden slides from around the world.

The wanderlust is still strong.

As she says, you can learn more in five minutes looking at a plant where it ought to be than in ten hours reading up about it in a book.

It’s all a matter of asking yourself the practical questions. If it is doing well, look at its environment and take note. If it is not doing well, ditto. Have a look at the kind of conditions it is in and get an inkling of what is going wrong.

It’s all part of Christine’s famously down-to-earth approach to gardening – a label which makes her laugh.

“I don’t see myself as down to earth. I just garden the way I garden!”

But certainly she gardens with an eye on the far horizons, while remembering – she insists on this – that we Brits are the world’s best gardeners, a mix of having the right instincts and also a beautiful country in which to garden.

Even so, it is still fabulous to get to California, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, you name it. As she suggests, being a gardener really is the perfect passport.

“Gardening is something that transcends all social and political and educational boundaries. You can do it at whatever level you are.”

Go into a field of flowers abroad, and you will always find someone to talk to, Christine says.