Page 40 - West Dorset Living Dec:Jan 2019
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comes really because the previous ten have all got into the Sunday Times top ten, so every time I write another I one think "will this one do it?". The bar is always being raised!
But you're enjoying it? That's the main thing...
Yes very much. You never think it’s brilliant. You’re always going to be self-critical. But I hope it’s alright.
I think writing is wonderful. My father-in-law used to write short stories for the newspapers. I'm pleased to
say my daughters are sort
of following on in the same footsteps. They don't write novels but they write about things that they do and places they've visited.
But that’s how I started. I had about thirty or forty non-fiction books under my belt before I started writing fiction.
So going back to your profession, how did you actually get into the gardening world?
I left school at 15 to be an apprentice gardener in a nursery. From there I went
to college for a year, then I went to Kew Gardens for three. Then I taught there for two years, then I went into horticultural journalism. So it was a sort of progression!
And then Television?
Prior to television I worked on the radio. I started writing first, then I did radio while
I was writing, then I went freelancing in 1979. And from 1980 onwards I’ve been on the box and I haven't left!
They call you 'The housewife's choice' don't they?
Well it depends which housewife you meet! You could say that, I couldn’t possibly comment!
You've got Percy Thrower,
but you are one of the earlier presenters of gardening on
the box. How do you think it's changed over time?
It’s changed in that it’s kept up with the times. Makeover shows get a lot of flak but people do want a more rapid effect in their gardens. Often people don’t stay in one place as much as they used to. It’s alright planting up a border if you going to live somewhere for twenty years but it’s not necessarily the case anymore. One thing that hasn’t changed is the
keenness of people to grow things, and to green up that little bit of grey Britain that they’ve got outside their backdoor. That’s a constant. The way you do it might have evolved slightly, but basically growing things hasn’t changed.
I think also perhaps now people view the garden as another room of the house - we now have a different view on outdoor living.
I think particularly now, because people can’t always move up and up and up. They have to make where they are, better. And that’s what Ground Force capitalised on all those years ago. It came at a time when there was a recession. People said "right, we can’t afford to move, we’re going to have to stay where we are. What can we do? Oh alright well do a bit more with the garden." And that’s what happened.
More people are growing their own. Some people are naturally green-fingered, but now people who have never grown anything in their whole life are now starting to think "well maybe I will have a go!"
People are certainly more aware of what they eat, and they want to know what they are eating, and they appreciate fresh produce.
How did Love Your Garden come about?
ITV asked me to do a gardening series for them. The first series involved me going to a garden, a cottage garden, a seaside garden or a town garden, and within that garden doing a little bit to help the owner. They liked that so much that the second to the eight series became makeovers, but for people who’s lives would really
be turned around. People who either had mobility problems, or weren’t well, or had
family issues, and the success of it has just been astonishing.
On some them we've really be reduced to tears!
Oh, I’m sorry!
No you mustn't apologise because I notice you have damp eyes on occasions...
Oh I do! It’s impossible not to when you become involved in these people’s lives, and I’m aware that they carry on after I’ve gone.
And it does make a difference to their quality of life.
Oh definitely. And I think that’s the joy, for me, is making a difference to them, while showing other people what a difference they can make in their own gardens. I also get to work with a wonderful team.
What did you think of chelsea FLOWER SHOW this year - did you have a favourite garden?
I thought it was better than the year before! There was the LG garden, which was a sunken garden with a sort of kitchen at the back, and I thought "Ooh I could live in this". I liked it.
Have we got any more Love Your Garden to look forward to?
I think all eight episodes have aired, but there’s still three episodes of Love Your Home & Garden to come in the Autumn. Plus there’s another series that’s been commissioned for next year too, so we’ll be back.
a parting gardening question from my black thumbed friend
- "What can I plant in my garden that is virtually bomb-proof and offers colours throughout the year?"
Err...something plastic! Tell her to read the books! There’s some paperbacks called How To Garden and there’s one on small gardens, so tell her she needs to look at that - I wish her luck!
The Scarlet Nightingale by Alan Titchmarsh is published by Hodder & Stoughton (20 Sept. 2018) and available in all good bookshops.
"One thing that hasn’t changed is the keenness people have to grow things, and to green up that little bit of grey Britain that they’ve got outside their backdoor."

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