This week saw the start of a new 10 part gardening series commissioned by the BBC – The Great British Garden Revival. The concept is that each one hour programme is split in two with each half focussing on an area of garden that the producers presumably think is interesting to the viewer; naturally each half hour is presented by what one commentator called ‘the great and good of the gardening world’.
I think the range of subjects from topiary, through alpines, to exotics via wildflower meadows with a dash of lawn care and vegetable growing thrown in demonstrates the complete and overwhelming diversity of what we conveniently call ‘gardening’. I think this breadth of subject is at the root of many of the complaints that proliferate on social media about gardening media and in particular the BBC’s Gardeners World. How anyone can expect a programme that lasts for 30 minutes once a week to appeal to all of us interested in some form of gardening/horticulture is beyond me.
I remember listening to Geoff Hamilton’s son talking about his father’s time as the presenter of Gardeners World and the thing that stuck in my mind was that he said that Geoff’s goal each week was to inspire viewers to get out and do something in their garden. I think this sentiment should be bourne in mind today when we watch any gardening programming we are offered. Whenever a technique is shown on Gardeners World, particularly if by the current presenter, you can guarantee that if you go on Twitter there will be those who are decrying the lack of accuracy, picking holes in any and everything. Personally, this irritates me, we all know that if we were to ask three vegetable growers on the local allotment site how to plant onions we would get three different answers and the same is true for any gardening technique just as it is with cooking, sewing etc – we all with familiarity bring our own approach and tricks, it is what works for us regardless of what we have been taught.
I believe that the purpose of a good gardening programme should be to inspire the viewer – perhaps to take up their trowel, perhaps to research a new plant, perhaps to visit a garden, perhaps to try a new form of propagation. I have to admit that in recent times it is not often that Gardeners World has achieved this for me and I think it has fallen foul of trying to be too many things to too many people. But it seems to be that the naysayers will find something to complain about regardless. After all they complained endlessly about the previous format of the programme saying it was dumbing down, how they didn’t like the new garden, the modern magazine style of presentation, how it would be better set in the presenter’s garden, how Monty had more authority than the new younger presenters, etc etc. So Gardeners World was changed, again, Monty was brought back and the programme was moved to his garden. Are the critics happy – well no of course not, they just have new things to complain about!
I truly hope that this new ten part series will appeal to a wide range of people: experienced and new gardeners, horticulturists and especially people who may generally ignore the green space outside their back door. For myself, the first episode on wildflower meadows and front gardens was interesting. Anyone who reads this post will know how I have a love/hate relationship with my front garden (see End of Month Views) and I have even dabbled and given up on wildflower meadows. However, I found myself engaged and interested, my mind was stimulated and I found the two topics coming together and led to me wondering whether it would be possible to embellish my gravel driveway with wild flowers and whether I could get away with another small tree in the front garden. I was inspired and if others were in whatever way then the series will have achieved one of the programmers goals. And, if we show the BBC how much we value their investment then maybe, just maybe they will give gardening some of the coverage that cooking has and we can look forward to more inspiring programmes focussing on aspects of a hobby that is wide-ranging, compelling, fascinating but most importantly that we feel passionate about and brings so many of us together.