In his new podcast, Ben Dark discusses plants, nature and gardening, either on walks in nature, in situ in gardens and sometimes talking to horticultural guests.
Ben invites guests from all over the word. In some episodes there might be a number of guests in others, just one. There’s a good stand-alone interview with Nick Stewart Smith talking about being the head gardener of Lambeth Palace. He gives us a fascinating insight into this historic walled garden, hearing how he went about creating the ‘glades’ with colourful perennials such as rudbeckias and salvias, all intermingled so that it feels like a wild flower meadow attracting birds and bees. He’s a thoughtful man and the pair discuss everything from long-tailed tits to Tolstoy, as well as his unique gardening philosophy. Nick tells us how he likes to visit gardens without a map to see where the garden takes him. And I enjoyed hearing how he’s inspired by paintings such as Long Grass and Butterflies by Van Gogh, whom he says is an amazing painter of nature creating a feeling of life, energy, movement and colour.
There are solo episodes where Ben takes us on rambles in the countryside discussing seasonal highlights, with lovely observations of plants and nature, such as the wild garlic and wood anemones or describing the beauty of laburnums against a blue sky. He talks about his own gardening in Holland with lots of botanical detail, discussing successes as well as errors, propagating, cutting back ivy and sowing seeds. He’s also good on garden observations in general, such as describing how a neighbour in Denmark has a trampoline buried in shrubs like cornus, lilac, apple and weigela, like a circular clearing or den – a good tip for those who want to keep the children happy without compromising on aesthetics!
Ben is an educated gardener and the podcast is a great mix of the practical and the bookish. The episodes are full of references to history and quotes from literature. For example, he quotes Tennyson’s ‘rosey plumelets’ when describing larch buds and discusses how box was grown in Roman Britain. Ben also recommends a great range of books that link literature, horticulture and history such Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit. Gardener’s World Magazine described him as the ‘Millennial Monty’ – he certainly has those dulcet tones and love of words – making for an engaging and thought-provoking listen.