Have you seen the 2011 season of Gardeners World, just aired? I know it’s easier to sit behind a keyboard and critique than get behind a camera and make it, but here’s what I would’ve done differently (and what they may still have in store for the coming season, who knows?):
Monty and someone else in his own garden — how much chemistry can one man have with his buxus? Let’s see some kind of occasional assistant working alongside Monty in his lovely garden (and why not call Monty’s garden Ivington, since that’s what it’s really called, viz The Ivington Diaries? The makey-uppy Longmeadow name is not keeping it real — a bad start when the new GW needs to build trust. Monty has since tweeted that Longmeadow is the old name of the garden…I think that needs saying on air)
Joe Swift at his best — What did you think of Rachel de Thame and Joe Swift being sent off around the country as jobbing gardeners in otherwise immaculate NGS Gardens? Feels too low-level for these skilled folk. This idea is a boring bit they’ve lifted from the otherwise quite watchable Open Gardens show (where candidate gardens compete to make it into the National Gardens Scheme’s Yellow Book, which lists gardens that open for charity). The idea feels awkwardly pasted into Gardeners World as busy work for Rachel and Joe. I’d love to see Joe designing, maybe in urban spaces. In my opinion he excels at it, and I want to see more of it.
Bring back Alys Fowler — I was racking my brains Saturday night thinking how GW could have kept Alys and made better use of her on the show. Doing urban gardens with Joe Swift would have been a no-brainer. A visit to my local Dobbies showed a vast section of seeds devoted just to the urban gardener, as well as balcony boxes and other small-space accoutrements. Can anyone doubt that urban gardening is a massive upwards trend? Alys’s credentials speak for themselves in that area, and Joe would be a perfect partner. As it is, both Alys and Toby Buckland are the babies sitting in a puddle of bathwater on the kerb. Mistake.
A woman in her garden — Rachel de Thame is beautiful, but I’m tired of hearing that her looks are the only reason she’s back on air. She’s a knowledgeable writer, gardener and broadcaster and just a couple years ago she took on her dream patch in the country. Why aren’t we seeing Rachel in her own garden, designing that young space? If you want to be a sexist pig about it, it would provide plenty of opportunity for shirtsleeves and ogling. But if instead, like me, you identify with young mothers who struggle to find time for children, work and the garden, Rachel in her own space would strike the perfect note, shirtsleeves or no.
Carol and more Carol — I loved the BBC red button coverage of Chelsea Flower Show a couple years ago, where Carol Klein just roamed about and wowed over the plants. It’s good that Gardeners World now has her visiting open gardens; hopefully it’ll provide plenty of opportunity for her to talk about plants with fellow experts. But wouldn’t it be good to also see Carol working alongside Rachel in Rachel’s garden, as some kind of learned-oracle presence? Carol is too established to be an assistant, but she could be an advisor, and the partnership would offer a lovely older/younger woman dynamic that I bet millions would relate to — including Carol, who often speaks of her own time gardening with her late mother.
It’s absolutely right that Gardeners World is centered around a stunning garden, a strong personality and skilled gardener with vision, passion and knowledge to share, like Monty Don. But how many gardeners out there have Monty-scale dilemmas (“what shall I do with my large garden and mature pleached limes?”) Sure, have Monty’s garden as the standard to which we can aspire, but use the rest of the show to strike notes which really resonate with the people filling their trolleys at the garden centre, online and off-line.
Speaking of online: Attn gardeners world producer Gill Tierney, why not take a leaf out of the book of Later with Jools Holland and display a twitter hashtag at the start of Gardeners World – can I suggest #BBCGW? You might be surprised who’s watching and tweeting. You were quick enough to broadcast an e-mail address where viewers can send in gardening dilemmas that may be featured on the show. (How many days will it take the intern to go through that inbox?) Instead of just inviting work for themselves, why doesn’t the GW production team use technology to take the temperature of the twittersphere, and eavesdrop on what people really think of GW?
I’ll be watching GW, but if they want to win more hearts and minds than just mine, they’ll have to dig a little deeper.