The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Gardeners World 2011: maybe it will grow on me

March13

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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.

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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.

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16 Comments to

“Gardeners World 2011: maybe it will grow on me”

  1. On March 14th, 2011 at 9:27 am Sandie Says:

    …..do you know – I agree with absolutely everything you’ve said – I felt strangely let down by the first episode of GW – it may get into it’s stride – you should be programme advisor as your format would be great……:oD

  2. On March 14th, 2011 at 9:46 am Sylvia (England) Says:

    I do agree, I have never been a Monty fan but thought he might be better in his own garden but just him on his own is too dry. The programme felt even more bitty than usual. The first programme of the season is rarely good (at least recently, Geoff and Alan were enthusiastic) so lets see if it improves. The only bit I really enjoyed was Carol. I miss Alys, I do hope she gets a new series because I think she is really good and has something different to say.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  3. On March 14th, 2011 at 10:53 am Christine Says:

    You’ve put into words my own sense of unease and slight alienation, although I was very happy to see Monty Don back. And I really did miss Alys. One of the things I enjoyed about the Berryfields series was that at least there was an admission, by the very presence of Alys the Head Gardener, that the garden was the work of a team of people. When Monty finished Friday’s programme saying, “trimming these apple trees should take me the rest of the weekend,” I felt like saying, “come off it, Monty, do you expect me to believe you do all this with no help?!”

  4. On March 14th, 2011 at 11:11 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Sylvia — I agree with you that the first episode out is probably never going to be earth shattering; I do like Monty and his delivery, but as a lone wolf I don’t think he can carry everything.

    Sandie — from your mouth to BBC’s ears! If they are in tune with what’s being said about their programs on the web, maybe they will listen and take ideas on board.

  5. On March 15th, 2011 at 8:09 am Richy Says:

    I’m happy to see Monty back with more than a measure of unease about the way Toby and Alice have been treated. Alys especially, in my opinion, has been badly wronged.

    Yes the prog was a bit hit and miss and thought the NGS Gardener didn’t need any guidance – total waste of time.

    Don’t the BBC just love chucking our license money away, how much did Berryfields over two years cost? Landscaping, greenhouses, salaries…….etc.
    I despair.

  6. On March 15th, 2011 at 10:13 am Petra Hoyer Millar Says:

    The new GW is certainly creating much discussion in resulting blog posts. I too succumbed, but simply out of excitement to see Monty back in the reigns. I completely agree with you regarding Carol. She is too good, to just be in the background. Her plant knowledge is uncanny, and I am always interested in what she as to say. The first programme was a bit rambled as you say, and the NGS entry certainly did not help the programme, nor the NGS. In terms of Rachel, well done you for taking a stand. I don’t see the problem with her being on the team. She is very competent, but I fear that simply because of her appearance, viewers tend not to take her seriously. There was lunatic uproar years back as she had manicured nails… Crickey – I wish I did, my hand show all the results of my gardening… Finally, I do think a programme such as GW needs to be filmed in a location that inspires. I realise that not many have that kind of garden, but we all apply ideas of what we learn to our gardens. If the location inspires therefore, we are more likely to take it in…

  7. On March 15th, 2011 at 10:55 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Richy — totally agree, the ngs garden was not needing anything, and one does wonder if last two GW tv gardens went to waste or recycling. They taught me something so I don’t feel licence fee was wasted (public broadcasting is still a wonderful thing to me…I come from the us, where it NPR is threatened constantly ), but it is frustrating never to see long term effect of actions taken in these tv gardens. And yes Alys was very badly treated…do they think viewers don’t notice? On that front, GW has a bit of work to do to earn forgiveness.

  8. On March 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Petra — similar uproar in Garden Answers a few yrs ago about gardeners looking too femine in the magazine. Isn’t is lovely how some members of the public categorise good-looking women in media as ‘too pretty to be taken seriously,’ followed quickly by ‘too old to look at.’

  9. On March 19th, 2011 at 8:49 am Ronnie Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I was quite excited at the thought of Monty Don coming back, having always been a fan. However, after watching episode 2, I find I am a little bored. He owns an enormous garden, which he does appear (according to the program) work on alone so interaction with another human would make it more interesting. Maybe he doesn’t like other people to comment and discuss, he certainly seemed not to get on with Chris Beardshaw. I also wish he would stop saying how cheaply he bought things etc. very slightly condescending. The lovely part of the program is the wonderful Carol Klien and her enthusiasm. I fear, I may not watch it avidly, if there is something more interesting elsewhere. Sorry Monty!

    Ronnie /Hurtling Towards 60 and Beyond

  10. On March 19th, 2011 at 6:37 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Hi Ronnie, I noticed the ‘cheap’ comments too, but last night I did kind of like the fact that here was a guy working in his own garden…felt less like telegardening. But Rachel giving basic tips to a knowledgable gardener felt false. Attn GW, I want to see Rachel in her own garden please! By the way, Itv Titchmarsh gardening show is due Friday nights 8pm in June.

  11. On April 5th, 2011 at 12:10 pm Sarah Cowell Says:

    I’m so relieved to have GW talking to me as if I 1. am a gardener and 2. have a brain cell. I don’t have anything like the scale of Monty’s garden but feel his jobs are relevant to me. I like what Carol says but not her enthusiasm – it’s OTT. Shame about Alys though – I thought she got on well with Monty when they were gardening at Berryfields.
    My tuppence worth!

  12. On May 22nd, 2011 at 10:17 pm sandra barnes Says:

    I’m really enjoying watching Monty on GW but wish Carol Klein had been given the chance. Her programme from Glebe Cottage was really good. My daughter and I filmed Open Gardens with her. She is really enthusiastic and we were sad when Carol and the Open Gardens team finished filming. We now realise just what goes into filming a gardening programme, in all weathers – so many takes!!!

  13. On May 23rd, 2011 at 1:53 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Sandra – which open garden were you? I really enjoyed that show. It must have been so exciting for you to do — although, as you say, filming is repetitious and involves and insane amount of standing around (I worked as an actor for 5 years…hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror). There is still time for Gill Tierney to do something much more clever with Carol and Rachel, and I hope she does it.

  14. On May 23rd, 2011 at 1:54 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Sandra – which open garden were you? I really enjoyed that show. It must have been so exciting for you to do — although, as you say, filming is repetitious and involves an insane amount of standing around (I worked as an actor for 5 years…hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror). There is still time for Gill Tierney to do something much more clever with Carol and Rachel, and I hope she does it.

  15. On September 14th, 2011 at 9:36 pm sandra barnes Says:

    My daughter Joanne and her garden 6 Kendal Place, Clayton, Staffordshire, was filmed for the Open Gardens programme. She was the one who had over 300 pots!!!

  16. On September 14th, 2011 at 9:40 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Ooh Sandra I used to love Open Gardens — can’t find it on the television anymore! Your daughter must’ve been thrilled.

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