Episode 53: begonias, carnivorous plants and more with Mike Clifford

Mike Clifford in his tropical greenhouse, surrounded by just some of his incredible plant collection.

Mike Clifford in his tropical greenhouse, surrounded by just some of his incredible plant collection.

Behind an unassuming bungalow near Poole in Dorset, Mike Clifford's garden may measure up to just 65ft long, but it's absolutely packed full of wonderful plants, both in greenhouses and outside.

Mike - @mikesrareplants on Twitter - is a huge fan of all kinds of tropical plants, but he's got a particular penchant for big-leaved plants such as the tree dandelion (yes there is such a thing) and the tree fern. I was privileged to get a tour of Mike's garden and greenhouses, meeting everything from his huge American pitcher plants to his iridescent begonia species.

You can hear my tour of his unheated and heated greenhouses in this episode; if you'd like to hear Mike talking about his outdoor plants, you'll need to be a Patreon subscriber, donating $5 or more a month to On The Ledge: if you are already a subscriber you can listen here, in On The Ledge: An Extra Leaf 7. That way you'll unlock extra content a well as helping to support the show.

(Like the sound of this plot? Mike's garden is being thrown open to visitors for a few days in July and August - visit the National Garden Scheme website for times and details.)

Below is a list of all the plants we talk about: do take a look at the images of Mike's plants below as you listen. If you're wondering about Will Giles's garden, the inspiration for Mike's tropical plant obsession, see some photos of the garden on this YouTube video here. Unfortunately Will died in 2015: his obituary is here.



If you're intrigued about how to propagate begonias, there are various different techniques that can be used for different kinds of this plant - cane, rhizomatous and so on. There is good advice on begonia propagation on the American Begonia Society website, and a step-by-step guide to begonia leaf propagation (for Rex begonias and the like) is worth looking at on the excellent houseplant blog Plants Are The Strangest People. 

Sarracenia flava  'Strained'.

Sarracenia flava 'Strained'.

Dionaea  'Great White'

Dionaea 'Great White'

Begonia fusca  - it's huuuuuge!

Begonia fusca - it's huuuuuge!

Nepenthes... powered by crickets.

Nepenthes... powered by crickets.

Begonia heaven.

Begonia heaven.

Question of the week

@thegardeningengineer asked whether I could suggest a precautionary pest treatment for a new houseplant that was looking a bit peaky. My advice was that the best way of making sure that houseplants don't fall prey to pests is to make sure that they are healthy, because most pests target plants that are already showing some sort of weakness. It's not wise to treat a plant with soap sprays and the like unless you know there's an existing pest problem, as these substances aren't great for the plant so should only be applied when absolutely necessary.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com

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On The Ledge talks, live show and houseplant chats 

I am going to be at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on the afternoon of July 4 giving talks on houseplants in the roses theatre at 1pm and 4pm - do join me if you can. And on the evening of Friday October 26 I'll be bringing a live show of On The Ledge to the RHS London Urban Garden show, with special guests including Alys Fowler and all kinds of leafy fun! Put those dates in your diary NOW!


This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy DropsHot Lips by Bill Brown and HIs BrowniesAn Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gokarna by Samuel Corwin, and Overthrown by Josh Woodward, all licensed under Creative Commons.



Jane Perrone