Dame Prue Leith: From Bake Off queen to gardening decide


Wildflower mishaps, vegetable gluts and disappointing fruit trees have all proved a terrific learning curve for baking ace Dame Prue Leith, who is also a keen gardener.

But her wealth of growing encounter would make her the ideal option as new choose in this year’s B&Q Gardener of the 12 months competitors, along with returning judges Matt Childs, Humaira Ikram and Steve Dude, with a prize of £10,000 up for grabs.

All around a year-and-a-50 % ago, Leith, 82, downsized from her Cotswold country manor with the wonderful backyard she had created, to a close by modern day dwelling she created with partner John Playfair on a two-acre plot.

The new garden – highlighted very last calendar year in Channel 4’s Prue’s Great Backyard Plot – is a get the job done in progress, she claims. In this article, she demonstrates on how she was a latecomer to gardening and shares the triumphs and disasters of her horticultural life…

How did you turn into intrigued in gardening?

“I grew up in South Africa, we experienced a wonderful garden. I invested a whole lot of time outside the house because the climate was wonderful and we did not have a tv,” states Leith.

“Until I was about 40, I didn’t have a good deal of curiosity in gardening due to the fact I was chaotic with the young children [she had a son and daughter with her late first husband, Rayne Kruger] and with my business. And the little ones were at the age when they had been continue to kicking balls into the herbaceous border and experienced all the clobber of sandpits and climbing frame.

“When they went to university, I began to study the variance concerning an oak and an ash. I was a latecomer but then I turned seriously obsessed.”

You like color – how do you use that outdoor?

“I like the South African search. We had a whole lot of oak yard home furniture in the outdated house, which we brought in this article – and we painted some of it shiny crimson, whilst the terrace upstairs has Kingfisher blue furnishings, like California, and we sunbathe up there.

“The colours of the plants are robust, not muted. If I’m looking for eryngium, I like the most lovely deep electric powered blues. We also have tubs of agapanthus on the terrace.”

What are you wanting for in the opposition gardens?

“We’ve 4 categories: the common gardener, where by we are expecting maybe hedges and herbaceous borders the 12 months-spherical gardener, where by we are hoping to see winter desire from somebody who’s thought about color and shape the whole calendar year spherical.

“Then we have received the productive gardener, which appeals to me for the reason that it is about feeding men and women. We’re not just expecting a veg yard. It will be attention-grabbing to see if individuals place some greens into herbaceous borders or whether they develop herbs in pots and troughs. The other group is the eccentric gardener, which will be a surprise.”

What is your yard like?

“My current backyard is very new simply because we’ve just taken in excess of an old farmyard, which was applied for contracting to retailer huge equipment so was mainly concrete. We had fifty percent an acre of concrete to get rid of in advance of we commenced.

“We had no experienced trees apart from on the incredibly edges, which made use of to be the hedgerow. The oldest issue in our new backyard is the orchard, which we planted three years ago ahead of we even had preparing authorization for the household. We just took a likelihood.”

What have you planted in the orchard?

“They are all native British endangered apples, damsons, plums and pears. Very last yr, we had our 1st crop of apples and I started to understand why these apple trees had gone out of style and have been now endangered, mainly because so lots of of them are tiny and scabby – and we just cannot spray them since we are hoping to go organic and natural.

“The scabby apples are as well little to be bothered to peel and a whole lot of them had been bitter. Nevertheless, they produced really very good apple jelly, which I foisted on my mates in jars.”

Do you have a vegetable backyard garden?

“No, mainly because there are only two of us, and I’ve had my fill of disappointments with vegetable gardens. It is attractive to be eating your possess veg, but by and massive with a significant vegetable backyard, you conclusion up with far also a lot of cabbages all completely ready at the exact time. Every little thing takes place at at the time.

“But we have large agricultural cattle troughs in our courtyard, which are whole of crops and veg and I really don’t have to get on my fingers and knees to weed. We are developing runner beans on wigwams and tumbling tomatoes, plenty of herbs and lettuces. Final calendar year, we managed to consume it all due to the fact we experienced a little of a ton of items.”

Have you experienced several gardening disasters?

“Plenty. Who hasn’t? When I initially moved into my aged house, it experienced a pretty experienced backyard when we acquired it. I did not like conifers, so I chopped down a massive fir tree and only realised later on that it was actually strategic to have been set in that put for the reason that it acted as a focal stage, a column. You often make problems due to the fact you rush into things.”

Did you have a trouble rising wildflowers?

“Yes. The matter about wildflowers is that I experienced thought that, like all flowers, they like truly wealthy soil and a ton of compost. It turns out that if you’re heading to have soil like that, the weeds and significantly grass just love rich place. The grasses which appear up prior to the wildflowers absolutely smother the space.

“When John was receiving the new orchard all set, owning set in masses of compost and leafmould, grit and good topsoil, I believed, would not it be a excellent thought to have wildflowers expanding in amongst the trees? I acquired a load of wildflower seeds and tossed them underneath the trees and of program the grass arrived up and smothered them all.”

What is your latest job in the backyard garden?

“We’ve just planted an avenue of trees through a field which goes down to a stream, which included planting 76 trees – oaks and rowan. Oaks mature really little by little and I’m 82, so I’m not going to see this avenue in all it’s glory. I’m hoping no a person will dig them up, as they are amazing for long run generations.”

What plants do you use for colour?

“We have two beds, which are fifty percent grasses and fifty percent color. 1 side has obtained a good deal of orange and red in it and the other facet is blue and purple. The blues contain eryngium, purple sedum, blue salvias, with Michaelmas daisies and yearly white and pink cosmos to fill the gaps.

“The incredibly hot pink and yellow border consists of grasses with euphorbias, phlomis, Anemone hupehensis, Coreopsis grandiflora, working day lilies and fennel.”

To enter the B&Q Gardener of the 12 months levels of competition, check out do it yourself.com/gardener-of-the-calendar year. Entries must be submitted by midday on June 20

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