A Plea to the British Media From a Fustrated Gardener
I try very hard to be a glass half full person and to try to find a positive side to things but sometimes I feel that I am flogging a dead horse, so to speak, and I should just accept the fact that I am really irritated. What is irritating me? Well it’s the apparent notion that gardeners and people interested in horticulture are simple people who can be fobbed off with the same old same old stuff.
I like to think of myself as fairly intelligent and I have an enquiring mind but I feel constantly frustrated that the media in the UK does not cater to my needs in relation to gardening/horticulture. There are more and more programmes on art history which are pitched at a level which requires the viewer to concentrate and if you do and manage to keep up, or stay interested, you feel that you have really learnt something. The same can be said in recent years for the programmes on history, although I do think that in some cases they have gone a little too far and some recent offerings have been a little dry. The UK BBC is well-known for the quality of its wildlife and nature programmes, which have large budgets and are of a fantastic quality. But somewhere in the dividing up of budgets and programming horticulture has been overlooked, and is treated like the poor relation.
Why? We are apparently known as a nation of gardeners. If this is so then it is in despite of our media. There is of course Gardeners World which has been going longer than many of us can remember. It has been through a few sticky years recently and received a lot of criticism but the most recent series has moved forward and is providing good tips, advice, visits to gardens and profiles on plants. And to be honest that is it – 30mins once a week, and not even every week of the year. We have gone through the overload of the garden make over programmes in the 90s – you could probably find a programme most days of the week if you looked but even these have disappeared (though I wouldn’t want them to come back).
So I was pleased to see a new series was coming to our screens – Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets. The premise of the programme is that the it looks at a different historical garden which is iconic of its era and how gardening and horticulture developed during that century. Ominously, the trailer went on to say that the programme would show you how you could recreate the look in your own garden. I should have know that it was too good to be true. I sat through the first programme – Hatfield Garden (17th Century), enjoying the history and seeing how various elements still feature in contemporary garden design. But then for each of the elements identified there was a project incl topiary, training fruit trees etc. I tried to overlook these and concentrate on the history – I even defended the programme to friends. However, my resolve failed this week when the second programme came on. This week Stowe and the 18th century – the landscape movement. The projects were dire and the sort of thing that I doubt even a novice gardener would think were a good idea.
Why oh why can’t we have some intelligent programmes about garden history – there is just as much material out there as there is for art history programmes. Why can’t we have programmes on the characters that have contributed to our vast and diverse horticultural tradition: the plant hunters, the garden creators? Why can’t we have programmes that look at plants closely, heading more towards the sort of nature programmes that we all enjoy. Why can’t we have programmes that looks at careers in horticulture WHY?
The photo is of a Hydrangea taken at Arley Arboretum. I have no idea which one and this is why I am looking for programmes (and magazines) that will educate me so I do know.