REAL LIFE: Come rain or shine, Julie loves gardening

Emma LeeAs the flowers begin to bloom heralding the long-awaited arrival of spring, BBC weather presenter Julie Reinger tells EMMA LEE how she's never happier than when she's pottering around in her garden.Emma Lee

As the flowers begin to bloom heralding the long-awaited arrival of spring, BBC weather presenter Julie Reinger tells EMMA LEE how she's never happier than when she's pottering around in her garden.

When the snowdrops poke their heads out of the soil, it's a welcome sign that the cold, dark days of winter are nearing their end and that Spring is on its way.

It's an exciting time in the garden. And no-one is looking forward to the weather warming up more than BBC weather presenter Julie Reinger.

As regular Look East viewers will know, gardening is one of Julie's great passions.

She often mentions it in her weather bulletins, warning gardeners if frost is likely to nip at their plants or tipping them off that it's going to be a good weekend to get out and get digging.

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It's a love that has its roots right back in her childhood when she would help her granddad on his vegetable plot.

'One of my earliest memories is helping my granddad sow his peas and potatoes. He actually looked after his own garden and the one next door that belonged to a lovely lady called Maisie,' she says.

'With such a large vegetable plot it wasn't often that my grandma cooked a meal that didn't include at least some home-grown produce. However, granddad wasn't a huge fan of growing flowers, I think I remember a few chrysanthemums either side of the path leading to the front door.'

Julie, 36, was born and grew up in Oxfordshire and started her broadcasting career at BBC Radio Nottingham as a newsroom assistant. She then moved into television working on BBC East Midlands Today.

In 1999 she made her debut on Look East and has been a permanent fixture ever since - come rain or shine.

Away from the newsroom she says that she's 'probably at my most content pottering around my garden getting my hands dirty.'

Recently Julie donned her pink wellies and braved the chill at How Hill Farm Garden at Ludham to join writer and the National Gardens Scheme's Norfolk ambassador Alan Gray for the launch of the 2010 NGS Norfolk Guide.

The 32-page booklet lists the gardens across the county which open to the public to raise money for good causes. This year 75 gardens, many of them private, are taking part. The guide includes 14 new additions, which are certain to delight and inspire gardeners.

'I joked at the launch of the NGS Norfolk Gardens Guide that in my case NGS stands for 'no gardening skills'. However, I feel what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm!' she says. And that enthusiasm is so clear to see, it's almost catching.

One of Julie's great pleasures is growing flowers, which she cuts to brighten up her Norfolk home.

'Unlike my grandad Smith I don't always have huge success with vegetables but I love growing flowers for cutting,' she says. 'My collection of dahlias is steadily increasing in number and I'd really encourage people to have a go at growing zinnias from seed.

'Last year I tried zinnia elegans giant cactus dahlia mix. They were easy to grow, looked fabulous and lasted really well once cut.'

She also takes great care to try and choose plants that will attract wildlife to the garden.

'For me the best thing about gardening is being out in the fresh air and having that connection with nature,' she says. 'Last year I finally completed a couple of 'bee boarders' full of plants like lavender, rose, scabiosa and verbena.

'It was wonderful to just sit and watch fabulously fat bumble bees buzzing from flower to flower and we also had so many beautiful butterflies.'

And she's really looking forward to her favourite season for gardening - the Spring, which, at long last, feels like it's finally on its way.

'I love the Spring,' she says. 'Winter has erased the memory of all the previous year's gardening disasters and I'm full of grand plans and fool-hardy optimism.'

As well as getting out in her own garden, when she has the time Julie also loves to have a nose round other gardens - and one in particular is a fairytale come true.

'I don't get there as often as I'd like to but I absolutely love the Old Vicarage garden at East Ruston,' she says.

'When I was a little girl I would imagine living in a big old house with a magical garden, where I could escape the outside world. And I remember the very first time I went to the Old Vicarage it was like stepping in to a childhood dream.

'It's incredible what Alan [Gray] and Graham [Robeson] have created from scratch, and it is very reassuring to know that such a special place is in such capable and loving hands,' she says.

And that's why she was pleased to be invited to launch the NGS Norfolk Gardens Guide.

'The NGS gives you the opportunity to peep over the hedge, fence or gate of so many incredible gardens that normally wouldn't be open to the public.'

Given her job, you'd think that Julie would have the inside track on when the weather's going to be good enough to get out into the garden. But not so, she says.

'I'm very good at forecasting a dry night and then completely forgetting to water. I just hope this year I'll be forecasting lots of dry, sunny weather for all the open days and plenty of overnight rain for the plants!'