Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Is BBC's "Gardeners' World" worth watching?

It seems that the BBC is changing its flagship gardening programme “Gardeners’ World” again; after the non gardening hierarchy tried to make it into a young professional’s fashionable gardeners’  “Top Gear”.  This left the stalwart serious gardeners resorting to their traditional bolt hole of: “Gardeners’ Question Time” on Radio Four.  Even this has changed out of all recognition since Professor Alan Gemmell, Fred Loads and Bill Sowerbutts left the programme.  Just their names conjure an image of hot summer Sunday afternoons with insects buzzing in a tranquil English country garden.
For many of us in the baby boom generation the epitome of the great iconic garden programme presenter was Percy Thrower… Although, Geoffrey Hamilton was a worthy successor.  However, now the senses are bludgeoned by the Jeremy Clarksonised, let’s mess about a bit and not take this seriously, presenters.   Well they have discovered that the committed amateur gardener takes it a little more seriously and  have been voting with their feet. 
We want good down to earth, Percy Thrower type sensible advice because we actually get our hands dirty in the allotment and the garden.  We touch the Earth literally.  We don’t dibble dabble around like Margo Leadbetter snipping a bit here and there.  I don’t want to watch presenters dance about buying a garden for loads of money and setting it up in less than three days before some poor member of the public comes back to find his back garden vandalized in the interests of television ratings rather than to produce a long lasting; earth enhancing; beautiful garden.   
You do not need any skill to buy a garden. You do not need a lot of skill to “set it up”.  You need a lot of skill to create a garden and then maintain it for tens of years. Great gardens are not designed they evolve out of a landscape.  ‘Gardener's World’ seems to be for plant people that can spend thousands of pounds on their gardens. I can't and I don’t want to.  When they advise us to go into Wilko or Netto where we will find the cheapest seeds and plants then I will sit up and take more notice. 

If you give people the impression that a garden can be created and maintained without effort, just dabbling about here and there, then we will continually get the happy, clappy gardeners that take on allotments and leave them high in weeds. Gardeners’ World encourages people to get an allotment, pay for it, then disappear without trace, while some poor soul, left on the waiting list for years, with a genuine enthusiasm has to work very hard to turn the plot around.

What we need is a programme that shows us how to get dirt under the fingernails.  Gardening and allotmenteering are hard committed work. We need something like:
If Claire, an amateur, can do it so well then why can’t highly paid professional programme producers do it?
As Claire shows us, one of the delights of gardening is to see just how much you can get for very little.

Anyone can grow if enough money is thrown at it. I need a programme that will show me how to get maximum yields with the least financial input; how to develop a garden to produce the most stunning results; how to nurture the soil, propagate and maintain beauty.  I don't need patronizing. I just need to know the best way to grow carrots.  I do not want to know how to keep garden center profits high.
There are more than enough new techniques: such as the use of aspirin, mychorrhiza, charcoal, companion planting, natural pest control and organic v inorganic methods, that would easily interest both the experienced and inexperienced amateur gardener.  Pippa Greenwood once berated me for using soft soap as an insecticide.  Why couldn’t you have talked about that on Gardeners’ World?  That is interesting. You just need to look on the gardening internet forums and blogs to find out what amateur gardeners are interested in.  


  1. Did you not see this?

  2. Yes I have seen the Horticultural Channel. I thought it was going to be really great but it has not really fulfilled its potential.