Elegies From A Suburban Garden

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01

0120110328

"If we're lucky", says botanist Phil Gates "we gardeners get to experience the seasonal rollercoaster of gardening emotions about 70 times.

Just 70 spring, summer, autumn and winters in a lifetime...

and with each passing cycle those that remain become even more precious".

In this series, recorded over a year, the relationship between a gardener and his garden and the emotions evoked by each season, are explored.

In a modern, high-tech consumer society cultivating a garden remains perhaps the most direct way in which we can maintain an emotional and sensual link with the natural world.

The series begins in early spring.

Much of the soil is exposed at this time of year, and at first glance there seems little life, but look more closely, and green shoots of new life are visible.

There's an air of expectancy and excitement.

What will the new season bring? What has survived the sub-zero temperatures and heavy snows of winter? Hope and expectation is mixed with relief as survivors are discovered.

But this is no time to relax, there are jobs to done; the greenhouse needs sweeping and cleaning out, the glass which cracked under the weight of the winter's snow needs replacing, the slugs need rounding up and then the arrival of new packets of seeds set in motion plans for the year's new plantings.

Presenter Phil Gates

Producer Sarah Blunt.

Botanist Phil Gates discusses the rollercoaster of emotions evoked by the seasons.

02

0220110329

"If we're lucky", says botanist Phil Gates "we gardeners get to experience the seasonal rollercoaster of gardening emotions about 70 times.

Just 70 spring, summer, autumn and winters in a lifetime...

and with each passing cycle those that remain become even more precious".

In this series, recorded over a year, the relationship between a gardener and his garden are explored, and the emotions evoked by each season.

In a modern, high-tech consumer society cultivating a garden remains perhaps the most direct way in which we can maintain an emotional and sensual link with the natural world.

It's now late Spring and in Phil's suburban garden in County Durham, there's a real sense of expectation as buds swell, and a songthrush sings for a mate from a high tree perch.

A woodpigeon nests in the Pear Tree whilst blackbirds and wrens set up home elsewhere.

The dark hues of winter are transformed into a rich variety of greens.

Duckweed runs rampant across the pond, cloaking it with an emerald veil.

In the glasshouse, the strawberries which were planted earlier in the year are now ready to move outside, and all across the garden the green shoots of spring are bursting through the soil.

After the long cold months of winter and the wet days of spring, Nature is gearing up to blossom and grow in the weeks ahead.

Presenter Phil Gates

Producer Sarah Blunt.

For botanist Phil Gates, late spring in the garden brings with it a sense of expectation.

03

0320110330

"If we're lucky", says botanist Phil Gates "we gardeners get to experience the seasonal rollercoaster of gardening emotions about 70 times.

Just 70 spring, summer, autumn and winters in a lifetime...

and with each passing cycle those that remain become even more precious".

In this series, recorded over a year, the relationship between a gardener and his garden are explored, and the emotions evoked by each season.

With the arrival of summer, the garden is transformed.

Barely a centimetre of soil is visible, under the luxuriant growth of trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.

Phil slides back the glasshouse door carefully.

Just inside there are several pots of squirting cucumber plants.

The squirting cucumber, Ecballium elaterium, disperses its seeds in a sudden explosion.

As the fruit ripens, it fills with a slimy juice, which gradually creates pressure.

It then burst open and propels its seeds with an initial velocity estimated as of 56 km (35 miles) per hour.

So, as Phil explains, it's necessary to enter the greenhouse with caution at this time of year, to avoid becoming a victim to a rain of seed pellets! Then there are the pitcher plants capturing and digesting wasps and flies; a gruesome sound on a quiet night! Beyond the glasshouse, poppies fight for space amongst the potato crop; courgettes straddle across the path, and the fruit bushes ripen in the sun.

At this time of year, there's almost nothing nicer than grazing as you wander through the garden, even if that means feasting on the occasional maggot-infested raspberry! After all, as Phil says "What's wrong with eating a few maggots?"

Presenter Phil Gates

Producer Sarah Blunt.

For botanist Phil Gates, when summer arrives there's a sense of exuberance in the garden.

04

0420110331

"If we're lucky", says botanist Phil Gates "we gardeners get to experience the seasonal rollercoaster of gardening emotions about 70 times.

Just 70 spring, summer, autumn and winters in a lifetime...

and with each passing cycle those that remain become even more precious".

In this series, recorded over a year, the relationship between a gardener and his garden are explored, and the emotions evoked by each season.

With the arrival of autumn, the fruits of all the hard work of the previous months are literally ready to pick.

Phil doesn't waste any time gathering in the Autumn-fruiting raspberries.

The other great success in the garden has been the raised beds; and for what feels like weeks now, Phil and his wife have been enjoying home-grown courgettes.

In fact Phil is so impressed by his raised beds, that he's beginning to think about transforming all the vegetable area to raised beds...

and having bought a new spade after the old finally collapsed, he's ready to begin!

Before that, though, there are plenty of other tasks to do, such as cutting the hedge, now the nesting season is over, With a hatred of noisy electrical garden tools Phil happily clambers up his ladder with a pair of secateurs and sets too, trimming the beech hedge.

Whilst to some, the garden in Autumn may seem at times a sad place; as leaves fall off the trees, but the red, orange and golden colours of the leaves are for Phil a last 'Hoorah!' as the garden explodes with colour; enjoying its very own firework display.

Surrounded by such wonderful colours as well fruits and vegetables to harvest, Autumn is surely a time to feel a sense of elation in the garden.

Presenter Phil Gates

Producer Sarah Blunt.

For botanist Phil Gates, when Autumn arrives there's a sense of elation in the garden.

05 LAST

05 LAST20110401

"If we're lucky", says botanist Phil Gates "we gardeners get to experience the seasonal rollercoaster of gardening emotions about 70 times.

Just 70 spring, summer, autumn and winters in a lifetime...

and with each passing cycle those that remain become even more precious".

In this series, recorded over a year, the relationship between a gardener and his suburban garden are explored, and the emotions evoked by each season.

Winter brings with it heavy snows and for more then a fortnight, the garden lies buried under two feet of snow.

Phil is forced indoors, and watches the garden through the windows.

But this brings its own rewards as the bird feeders attract hungry visitors.

The highlights include a flock of Waxings; tropical looking birds with prominent crests which migrate here from Scandinavia, and arrive one morning and feed on the remains of the crab apples before disappearing again.

As soon as the snow melts, Phil ventures back out into the garden; young green daffodil shoots are peering above the soil, and there are the first strange-looking scented flowers on the Wintersweet.

Phil has seen a small hexagonal greenhouse in a catalogue which would make the perfect bird hide and herb house, so now he has to clear a space for it; and that means removing a large tree stump.

Meanwhile in the glasshouse, the Hollyhocks seedlings have survived the winter and Sweet Pea seeds have germinated on wet paper towels in a plastic container and are now ready to sow into seed trays, prior to planting out later in the year.

And whilst Winter signifies loss and the end of one gardening year, sowing seeds and planning ahead is forward looking and with this, there's the excitement of a new cycle starting again.

Presenter Phil Gates

Producer Sarah Blunt.

For botanist Phil Gates, an elegiac feeling accompanies the arrival of winter.