Christine's Garden Episode 1

Christine's Garden Episode 1

This first episode of Christine's Garden was first shown on BBC2 on 30 December 2005 and repeated in January 2022.  

Christine Walkden introduces us to the programme by saying "I love gardening - I do not like it - I eat it, sleep it, drink it, dream it".

Christine has been a gardener for over 35 years and her life is fantastic and she never wants to do anything but gardening and horticulture.

She says she lucky to earn a living doing this.


Late June

Harlow Essex

Christine is in her ex council house home in Harlow Essex surrounded by bird song and the sound of airplanes from Stanstead Airport.

She dreams of living in the countryside but makes do with the few trees outside and the Essex countryside is not that far away.

Christine Walkden

She moved to this area as it is what she could afford as a single person and with her job she has not got a lot of money.

But she has done this all by herself.


The garden is 175 by 35 feet and Christine loves it.

It is a typical garden for a 1950s council house, it is sloped and in sections with the one nearest to the house has her containers and pots.

The garden

Next up some steps a lawn and Herbaceous Border, this provides colour all year round and there is an area full of Foxgloves.

The last part is her favourite the Veggie Patch and she loves her vegetables, 'I love growing them, I love eating them and I just love them!'.


The doorbell rings and Tara the dog barks and its neighbour from 2 doors down Reg with a bag of courgettes!

Reg

'Courgettes' yells Christine 'they WERE'!

The neighbours share surplus vegetables but Reg has let some of these get too big they are more like Marrows!

With Tara barking in the background Christine points out what is a suitable Courgette size and tells Reg off that he needs to check them more often.

Reg promises to check them every day and Christine can make use of them so they are both happy.

Courgettes

Christine says she will come round and sort out his tree, she will get her gear together and Reg can get the kettle on.

She says that Courgettes can grow from a good picking size to too big in just 4 days if they have the right amount of water.


The other love of Christine life is her dog Tara whom she has had for 14 years and she is now going deaf which means she keeps barking as she cannot hear her telling her off.

Tara

They are off for 'Walkies' and she got Tara just before she left Lancashire College of Agriculture and they had always had pet dogs growing up.

They are off along the river for their walk and they go on this walk most days in the beautiful countryside watching the changing seasons.

countryside

Christine says her home county Lancashire is very dramatic with all the hills and mountains but every Counties landscapes are different and special.

England is beautiful it is a very beautiful country.


After her dog walk she usually goes round Reg's for a cuppa and a chat and Reg lives with his wife Pat next door but 2!

Christine

They have lived there since the late 50's and they also love their garden.

Reg is a lovely man but he is also very deaf.

He gives her an offer she cannot refuse to have a look at his Plum Tree as its got Silver Leaf and Christine promised she would have a look.

Reg

Reg and Pat have been married for 50 years but she is camera shy unlike Reg who is loving the attention.


Christine sticks her head in his greenhouse and the Tomatoes are coming along and she asks if he is watering, Reg laughs 'she's always asking that'!

Tomatoes

Christine accuses Reg of butchering the Plum tree and she says he not been pruning it properly just cutting bits off.

Reg just laughs and she tells him he should be cutting so he not leaving little snags.

The tree has Silver Leaf which is a fungal disease that will eventually weaken the tree so it will produce no more plums.

snags

Also this is not helped by Reg's pruning and Christine explains how the disease gets under the skin and causes the the skin from the leaf to separate and it looks silver because of the air space in the leaf.

She compares 2 leaves and shows Reg the difference and the affected leaf looks much lighter due to the light reflection.

Silver Leaf

Reg says do not leave us Christine we cannot do without you as she promises to sort his tree.

Time for cuppa and she enjoys sharing her knowledge and skills with other people and its nice to help and share.


Next day and the birds are singing and in the Summer Christine is up by 5am as it the best time of the day and its still cool outside.

She likes to wander down the garden to look at the plants for disease or slugs because things like Potato Blight that caused the Irish Famine can take a plant in a couple of hours.

Pumpkin

The camera man then walks on her Pumpkin and ruins her sweetcorn and is chastised with cries of 'cretin'!


If she not earning money through talks or lecturing she does other peoples gardens to earn money.

She likes getting her hands dirty but her own garden comes first and she watering her hairy Petunia first and is pointing out the hairs and veins.

Christine

Then its into the car and she telling us that when she left Lancashire College of Agriculture 20 years ago  she had various job in Research, Manager at Seed Company before deciding to go freelance.

She loves the variety and would be bored in a permanent position now.

She finds working for herself so much fun and she has grown as a person because of it and there no one stopping her doing what she likes.


Christine is in Epping Forest to a garden she been working on for about 12 years to do the garden maintenance which involves cutting back and tidying.

The house was owned by John and Olive Portnoy who were also from Lancashire so they really got on but they have both sadly passed away.

Bridget

Bridget a family friend is looking after the house and has asked her over to give the garden a much needed tidy up.

Christine spots a bush that needs a trim and the Roses need a deadhead.

They go to the bottom of the garden thats a bit of a jungle and Christine says she can tidy it up and make a path through the middle as there lots of brambles in the way.

jungle

It is a huge area and cannot be done in just 1 day.


Christine says she wants to be a tree after she dies as she can take on all the 'crap' during Summer and in Winter she can be a 'spectacle of colour', then drop all the 'crap' off and it flutters to the ground.

tree

Then she will sleep all Winter but be watching and when Spring comes and the sap rises the buds come out like new clothes.

She thinks be nice being a tree 'until some evil sod comes along with a chainsaw and chops you down in 3 seconds'.


Christine is tying up some Sweet Peas and she wants them to make a lovely display so she cutting some of the flowers off it will help new blooms come out tomorrow and if she doesn't do this it would go to seed.


The garden has got so overgrown but its given it a romantic feel but the garden at the moment is looking down and not its best.


Christine says when someone dies and especially when they put so much into their garden like John and Olive it feels like the Soul of the garden has also died.

People ask her what do you mean and she cannot explain it 'you feel it and know it'.

The garden is grieving it is not the same.


Christine says there is a story about the Forest when John died he wanted to be with Olive when she died.

Forest

Their Son David brought John both their ashes down and mixed them and walked through the woods, they now walk them every day.

An emotional Christine walks away.


Christine is back home and walking round her garden and she is hating the hot weather and says most people think its wonderful if they like sunbathing and covering themselves in gunk.

Christine

But the plants do not enjoy it as they are not protected from the sun and just sit there and fry, it has sunstroke and there is nothing she can do about it.

She loves her plants and spends a lot of time with them she has learnt to notice every change and they communicate with you.

They are waiting for when it cools in the evening because if you water them in the Midday sun it can burn the foliage, so if you wait for the sun to go in there will be less damage when watering.


Christine is in her 'glory hole' her little office where she spends hours bringing the garden indoors by way of her slides and preparing talks and lectures.

'glory hole' her little office

All her training and dealing with other professionals, Lecturing, writing, preparing talks and preparing for tours starts in this room sorting it all out amongst her many gardening books.

She started gardening at 11 years old when she got an allotment and it has been her passion ever since.

She used to grow vegetables and flowers to sell to neighbours etc.

At 13 she was the Horticultural Society Librarian and Show Secretary and by 16 she was already travelling around giving lectures.

Tara

'I've always chatted and some people would say I've never stopped'.

At 19 she left Lancashire to find work moving to Essex and her current house is her first one she has owned.

The house and garden are not problem free but she is too attached to the neighbours to move as they share their lives together and their doors are always open.


Christine is off round to Reg's with her ladder and tools to do the Plum Tree she looked at earlier.

Reg is joining her up the garden  and Christine tells him he going to lose quite a bit of the fruit.

Christine

He says if she has to take it off she has to and Christine says it will look like its had a complete hair cut shorter than Reg's.

Reg laughs and even more when she accuses him of being 'Mr Stump Man' for his bad pruning.

Christine tells him that any pruning should be done to a bud or leaf not just cut off anywhere he likes.

She says this makes the sap rise to where it was cut and carries on living the way Reg does it he gets left with dead stumps,

Reg says he gonna take her job and Christine ok with that and thee pay is just a cuppa and 2 macaroons!

Reg chuckles away as Christine says she going to get fat not rich.

He wanders off to hopefully put the kettle on and Christine says how lovely he is with a 'cheerful grin and his wicked smile and his dancing eyes'.

Reg

Reg is in the greenhouse and he got a snail stuck in the spout of his watering can bringing him much merriment before he taps it out.

Christine carries on trimming the diseased tree until she is happy with it and all the crossing branches need to come out to open it up to get more fruit.

Fruit trees like lots of cooling air through them the same as Christine does on a hot day, 'not congested'!


Reg is back and surprised how much she has got off and instead of a cuppa he got her a cold beer which Christine is pleased to see.

drinking their beer


They both stand drinking their beer watching the Robin in the tree and Reg says he trying to get in on the filming and they both laugh at the Robin trying to be a star.

Christine back to work and she says its a lovely tree ,thats too good to have it,  'pop it's clogs' when she can save it.


She has done all she can for today and is off back home and says its an honour that she can pass on her talent for gardening and help out and nice that people feel they can come and ask her and not be frightened to.


It is 7 o'clock in the evening and she is looking out into the garden as its a lovely time and the light in the garden on the foxgloves and she can forget all about the plane noise.

Christine

She loves the cool of the evening as she does some deadheading and trimming back and all the drooping plants have perked up and back to normal.

Christine and the plants are fresher and even plants that have not been watered are looking better and if they are drooping it doesn't need gallons of water to make it better.

Phygelius

Her Phygelius is from South Africa and she cannot remember the common name (Cape fuchsia or Cape figwort) and the flowers have a beautiful throat and says her mouth doesn't look like that its a beautiful 'gob'!


Christine says she never bored in the garden, there loads to see in a garden and the way it changes with the light and plants.

Christine

'Boring? Get a life! You've not learned to look'.

'My garden it's reet gradely'.


All Photographs are copy right of BBC.com




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