14 episodes

Gardening walks and green thoughts from award winning writer Ben Dark and guests.

Dear Gardener Ben Dark

    • Leisure
    • 4.4 • 21 Ratings

Gardening walks and green thoughts from award winning writer Ben Dark and guests.

    [Solo Episode] A Chronicle Botanical: Parham House, Uppark, and the joy of stolen plants

    [Solo Episode] A Chronicle Botanical: Parham House, Uppark, and the joy of stolen plants

    On this episode of Dear Gardener, host Ben Dark explores gardening life and gardening death. From the ranunculus flower’s writhing stem - a cut flower snake, trying to find its way back into the garden - to tulips drooping in a vase, the importance of writing accurately about plants is emphasised.
    Literary comings and goings-on are explored on a visit to Parham House and hints are given for those of us in temporary gardens (aren’t we all?) We look at how to string a tomato and take soft-wood summer cuttings from a grape vine. Also, what to do with your moat and why hippoptamuslike plants are no good at all.

    • 29 min
    [Interview] The Thousand Year Old Garden: Inside the Secret Garden at Lambeth Palace with Nick Stewart Smith

    [Interview] The Thousand Year Old Garden: Inside the Secret Garden at Lambeth Palace with Nick Stewart Smith

    Nick Stewart Smith spent seven years as Head Gardener at Lambeth Palace. Here he tells Ben Dark about his hidden life as a link in thousand-year horticultural chain, about his unique philosophy of place-making and about how to work in dialogue with a garden.
    Nick's book: https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/the-thousand-year-old-garden/9781803993041/
    Wild Times in a London Park by Nick Stewart Smith: https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/wild-times-in-a-london-park/
    Support Dear Gardener on Kofi: https://ko-fi.com/bendark
    Episode Breakdown:
    [00:00:03] Podcast intro: introducing Nick Stewart Smith, author of "The Thousand Year Old Garden"
    [00:04:07] The personal nature of the book.
    [00:06:23] Gardeners and garden features as links in a very long chain.
    [00:09:38] Creating a dialogue with the garden.
    [00:13:26] Life at Overbecks, the eccentric National Trust garden of rock face and banana.
    [00:16:07] Exploring the book’s focus on the forgotten gardeners of Lambeth Palace
    [00:21:50] The Glades, Nick’s signature effect with colourful perennials and nomadic annuals.
    [00:27:56] Gardening, finding balance, small scale focus.
    [00:29:33] Awareness of nature crisis, positive gardening, adaptation.
    [00:32:36] Tolstoy, Levin and the transcendental power of scything.
    [00:35:57] Van Gogh & Dürer - painters as inspiration.
    [00:40:51] Farewell and thanks to guest, Nick.

    • 43 min
    [Solo Episode] Losing and Finding Beauty: Munstead, Laburnums and the Afterlife of Gardens

    [Solo Episode] Losing and Finding Beauty: Munstead, Laburnums and the Afterlife of Gardens

    On this episode of Dear Gardener, host Ben Dark explores the legacy and afterlife of gardens. The starting points are: a Laburnum safari through Østerbro, a fence-climb into an abandoned garden, and a run through the acid-sands of West Sussex.
    Featuring Gertrude Jekyll, Edwin Lutyens and the National Trust in the news that Munstead Wood is 'to be preserved for the nation'
    Support the show on Kofi https://ko-fi.com/bendark
    Tickets to the Birmingham Talk here: https://www.bournvillehub.com/box-office/the-grove-a-nature-odyssey-in-19-1-2-front-gardens
    Episode Breakdown:
    [00:00:06] Lime tree mist season in Copenhagen. Excellent for spoiling cars
    [00:05:36] Tennyson praised for 'rosey plumelets bud the larch'
    [00:08:24] Golden chain tree and the particularity of its yellow
    [00:13:01] Lilac's use as a besmirching foil. The neighbour's trampoline of huge and surprising beauty
    [00:15:38] Father's death inspires thoughts on gardens.
    [00:19:16] Gertrude Jekyll and the Arts and Crafts movement
    [00:23:52] Gardens best seen after suffering?
    [00:27:32] The Canterbury tales as told on the Hidcot coach.
    [00:29:27] Small towns end abruptly.
    [00:32:41] Rhododendron ponticum invasive but lovely in the shade
    [00:35:50] Stalin's mimosa.

    • 38 min
    [Roving Episode] Hop Poles and Wild Garlic: A Hampshire Hangers Walk

    [Roving Episode] Hop Poles and Wild Garlic: A Hampshire Hangers Walk

    On this episode of Dear Gardener, Ben Dark takes us on a journey through the wooded Hampshire Hangers, discussing plants and history along the way. Passing cowslips, wild garlic, incongruous copper beech, and wildly inappropriate bamboo, Ben shares his love-hate relationship with these plants and how they fit in the changing English countryside. Our host also delves into the writing of William Cobbet and his critical commentary on the landscape while relating his own experiences with managing meadows and creating a space for both people and wildlife. Tune in to learn more about the beauty and challenges of gardening.
    Episode breakdown:
    [00:00:06] Podcast discusses the potential reason behind gardeners' dislike of the colour orange, possibly due to its association with plant blight.
    [00:05:42] The English countryside is going through significant change as ash trees are being lost, allowing new plants and vistas to emerge. This is similar to the aftermath of the great storm of 87, which led to a boom in gardening as people were freed up to create something new.
    [00:09:50] William Cobbet as inspiration for J. C. Louden. Weather and its importance to nature writers
    [00:11:19] Forest floor covered in wild garlic due to deer agitating it in the dawn
    [00:14:49] Trees grow conjoined with roots exposed.
    [00:18:13] Dan Pearson's newsletter Dig Delve and artisanal tulip bulbs
    [00:21:24] Eric Newby's wife and her drunken suitors.
    [00:26:05] Description of a house with symmetrical plantings including a native white beam tree and a fantastically shaggy bamboo.

    • 27 min
    [Roving Episode] It was a day in spring

    [Roving Episode] It was a day in spring

    Malus × domestica and Taraxacum officinale (apple and dandelion) take to May's springy stage in this special on location recording that starts deep in the beach woods and bursts into the orchard.
    Episode overview:
    [00:00:16] Ben talks winter and spring weather and how it affects the growth of plants like apples and bird cherries, and why he decided to record the episode in the woods rather than at his desk. The ground is covered in beach kernels and dry leaves, making a crunching noise when stepped on.
    [00:02:48] The winter aconites are blooming staggered, possibly for an advantage. The area will soon be deserted of pollinators, but was once covered in flowers. The author wishes they could experience the beauty forever. They walk past an understory U tree.
    [00:05:12] Discussion of spring in the UK and Denmark, including the appearance of dandelions and their potential use in producing rubber for car tires. We also examines the anatomy and function of dandelions, including their papas and role in seed dispersal.
    [00:13:59] Blowing dandelion seeds not all bad. Dandelions hard to grow, try not cutting lawn too short. Seed-eating beetles help reduce dandelions. Leave lawn longer for fewer dandelions.
    [00:16:20] Apple blossom time is perfect when buds are half open and half closed. The king bud produces the best fruit. Apples need cold for proper formation of flowers and lack of cold causes poor pollination.
    [00:24:01] Observations of diverse species in grassy understory with small apples on dwarfing stock, well-pruned for fruit. Seeing a variety of heritage apple trees with grafted and non-grafted roots. Also, discussion of a recent planting project and a classic rose ACA flowering.
    [00:30:50] Bee landed in hair, hair wild, no time for vines, thanking supporters.

    • 32 min
    [Solo Episode] Bread for all, and roses too

    [Solo Episode] Bread for all, and roses too

    Tales of horticultural sin and floral redemption featuring Salvia, Nepeta, Carl the Murderous Gardener, Gypsophila and Hemerocallis.
    Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit https://www.hatchards.co.uk/book/orwells-roses/rebecca-solnit/9781783785520
    Husbandry by Isabel Bannerman https://www.foyles.co.uk/book/husbandry/isabel-bannerman/9781914902949
    The Grove by Ben Dark https://uk.bookshop.org/p/books/the-grove-a-nature-odyssey-in-19-1-2-front-gardens-ben-dark/5044771?ean=9781784727413
    Episode breakdown
    [00:00:20] The episode discusses the popularity of the ornamental cherry tree, particularly the Kanzan cultivar, and its rise in popularity throughout the 20th century. Ben briefly mentions his recent writing on lawns and their place in the Gardening World.
    [00:07:48] Heinous garden blunders include buying cheap plants from a supermarket. Reading about George Orwell's Woolworths roses.
    [00:16:05] The author had trouble with overcrowded Gypsophila elegans seedlings and shares their experience with propagation. They also discuss the fraught etiquette of giving plants as gifts and their own propagation progress with London pride (Saxifraga x urbium and Nepeta 'Walkers Low.'
    [00:22:33] Ben cuts back ivy for more light and space but the result is ugly, needs to go completely bare. Ivy on a wall needs constant cutting to maintain modern look, better to hide bulky stems in a small hedge.
    [00:24:23] Archaeobotany and the use of box hedges in Roman Britain. Recommendations for reading on garden history and a call to support the podcast.

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
21 Ratings

21 Ratings

eileencee ,

Return to solo

I’m so glad you’re doing solo podcasts again. I’ve really enjoyed listening to them. I loved The Garden Log, but I couldn’t listen to Dear Gardener, it wasn’t something which made for a relaxed listening experience. The only thing I don’t like about these new solo episodes is the music.

Lyrical Bankster ,

Such a tonic

This is a great podcast for anyone interested in gardening, nature or just the world around them. Always a delight when a new episode drops. Ben is such an engaging host whether he’s in conversation with other experts and enthusiasts, or piloting a solo episode. Listeners will always find something to educate and entertain. Highly recommended.

Lindseyincornwall ,

Time well spent

What a revelation. Such a lovely podcast in conversation with passionate and interesting gardeners and an affable, intelligent host.

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