The 71-year-old has for decades been helping the public spruce up their gardens, by sharing an array of top tips on how to make the most of your home’s outdoor space. Always on the lookout for new items and plants to put into his own garden, the star was left shocked following a visit to Sissinghurst – one of his favourite gardens. Although he has visited the grounds before, Alan couldn’t believe some of the terracotta tubs that were on display at the grounds back in 2018.
This find helped spark a makeover of his own garden, and he shared his thoughts on how the tubs can be used while writing for Country Life two years ago.
Initially, Alan said that once your garden is “working satisfactorily there’s a tendency to rest on our laurels”, admitting that the “how long that lasts will vary, but will be shorter than we think”.
But the BBC star explained that after enjoying the fruits of his labour, he walked around the garden and began thinking about what needed to be changed and “said goodbye” to his oak tub planters.
He said: “The impetus for this wholesale rethink was a visit to Sissinghurst, which has been a favourite garden of mine since I first went there exactly 45 years ago.
“We were lucky enough to stay for a weekend at the very end of June this year, by far the best time to see this wonderfully atmospheric garden, when the roses are in their prime and the generously proportioned borders seem to burst with rainbow colours – busy, yes, but with not a single jarring note.”
Alan explained that the garden team on the land had struck the “perfect balance” as “the planting is generous and billowing, a state of affairs of which Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, the garden’s creators, would surely have approved”.
He added: “Huge terracotta tubs played host to a mixture of summer flowers and will, no doubt, be replanted for a spring show with tulips, polyanthus and the like. Most of mine support box balls, hostas and other permanent residents.
“When we came home, the rejuvenation of my own containers began and I’ve added to them with a clutch of extra-large terracotta pots. As well as a row of seven yew lollipops, which have been grown in waist-high pots along one side of the house for some time, I now have half a dozen others that will contain temporary residents to offer colour in summer and again in spring.”
“A big garden needs a big compost heap, but even a small garden can fit one.
“What do you put in? Your vegetable waste and your weeds. Soft pruning from flowers and lawn mowings.”
But the best thing for gardeners to do to finish off the heap is to place old carpet on top of it, he suggested.
This, he told viewers, will “stop the sun’s rays from scoring it”.