Charlie Dimmock of Ground Force fame made her QVC debut last month in our Summer Garden with Charlie Dimmock shows. We caught up with her to chat about growing her own veg, ponds and getting the giggles…
What's your own garden like?
It's quite cottage-like – my front garden is totally chaotic and everybody turns up and goes 'Oh, what a mess!" but I've left it like that for the wildlife.
You don't want to be too tidy in your garden, have one or two areas where you just let things happen - then you'll have more wildlife and less pests.
In my back garden I've got a pond with a little waterfall. It's very cottagey so I've got lots of poppies, corn cockles and roses, lilies, clematis and a few bedding plants. And then I've got quite a big vegetable patch.
Do you have any tips for growing your own veg?
If you want to start growing your own veg, then you don't need a whole vegetable patch. There are so many containers out there, or you can add fruit and veg amongst your flower beds, which can look quite pretty.
For instance, you can grow runner beans amongst your roses, no problems, they're all going to die in the winter anyway. And you only need two or three runner bean plants to get a good crop. Tomatoes in a container look lovely with sweet basil or parsley underplanting. It's quite straightforward.
You're renowned for your water features – why do they appeal to you?
I'm biased but I think having water in a garden adds another dimension – even if you only have a balcony or a seating area, the effect is the same. Water is a sensory thing; the sound of the moving water, the reflection of the light - it's all very relaxing.
I'd recommend thinking about the sound you'll get from your water feature, because while water can sound very relaxing, it can be a bit overpowering in a small conservatory or enclosed space.
Even a birdbath counts as a water feature, and every form of wildlife needs water. You'll have butterflies drinking from it, and bees and birds bathing and drinking in it.
Some people think that ponds are parts of the garden that are low maintenance – that's not true.
How then should you maintain your pond?
The plants will keep a pond balanced, clean and looking nice. But because they're herbaceous plants, you need to split them through and revamp them every 5 – 7 years, which is quite hard work.
That's why you may be better off with a water feature that has moving water, but which isn't a pond. A water feature is easier to maintain because it's just water and you can drain it down and refill it.
A pond for me is a whole micro-environment which you can stand and watch for ages - suddenly you realise you've been stood there for three-quarters of an hour and you haven't done anything! Ponds are very relaxing and interesting, but they're not low maintenance.
What plants do you recommend for ponds?
It depends on whether you're going to keep fish in there, but for your average ornamental pond, you must have two types of plant: oxygenating weed, and water lilies or something similar that lays on the surface to cut out the sunlight.
These are your key workers to help keep your pond clear and balanced. The other marginal plants around the edge are much more aesthetic and don't do any hard work.
I started off on Richard Jackson's garden programme Grass Roots. On my first show I put a pond into a neighbour's garden, which they filmed, and then I got a screen test for Ground Force about three years later.
What was it like on Ground Force?
Good fun and hard work. When you work regularly with any team of people you have fun and there's a lot of jokes going on.
The first series we did was quite spread out, filming every 2 – 3 weeks, whereas the second series we did back to back, which was more full on and pretty hard work. But for the third series we saw each other every other week. So it was more like 'Oh, how are you?' and things were more upbeat.
Do you have any funny Ground Force stories?
There were lots of silly things – there was a long-running joke about crème de menthe frappe which for the life of me I can't remember what it was about!
We always used to leave a set of Ground Force chairs in the garden, like the ones film directors have, and we'd sign them. Our director wanted to film us signing them all at the same time and Tommy spelt his name wrong! Oh, and Tommy is really bad for getting giggling fits!