Saturday, 23 November 2013

An open letter to Amateur Gardening magazine

Today it has been brought to my attention that Amateur Gardening magazine are about to publish a piece about my previous blog post, #shoutyhalfhour. Although I am pleased that the post is out there in the public eye and that people are obviously reading it and it is a talking point, the piece is possibly the laziest piece of journalism I have seen in a while. Firstly I need to point out that they have done nothing illegal by using quotes from the piece but what they have done is remove it from it's context and so it looks as though all I am doing is criticizing when in fact the point of the post was to explain why and how the #shoutyhalfhour hashtag came about in the first place and why it has carried on.
I am not going to bang on about the piece, but I do wish to make some things clear. Yes I am a self confessed plant nut, but I am also a horticultural professional with many years experience as a nurserywoman, working on many wonderful projects which, I am lucky to say, have involved growing gardens for designers at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court as well as many large, well known projects, including providing the plants for the Royal Wedding.
Equally yes, I am a Garden Blogger, but one from a professional horticultural background, and with concern for the industry that I am writing from within. An industry that is struggling to survive and to recruit young people into it, and one which deserves recognition and help from the garden media rather than reading sensationalisation of a blog post. I wonder how many Amateur Gardening readers are aware of the struggle of the trade and the fight many nursery people have every year to keep themselves afloat, whilst passionately believing in what they do. Or are aware of the quantity of plants that are bought in every year from abroad by the DIY superstores, who's pile them high and sell them cheap policies are killing anyone who has been a bedding specialist.
And finally, the post is not a scathing attack as Amateur Gardening have said in their piece, but is a well thought out piece of writing and if Amateur Gardening magazine had really done their homework they would have seen that Monty Don has posted a comment on the blog, in which he argues several points but says it is written "elegantly and with perceptive wit". I'm pretty sure the presenter would not have commented if it had just been a rant, or aimed at him.
If Amateur Gardening Magazine have anything further to add to this, my email address is on my website, which is, rather than here, my blog, and I look forward to hearing from them. Sadly I assume that is unlikely.
Finally a word to all garden writers out there. Whether a professional or an amateur, writing should be excited, passionate and inspiring, whatever it is you are writing about. Writing should be from the heart and every time you post or publish something you should feel that you are putting yourself out there. Never hold back because it is that kind of passionate writing, be it in blog, book or magazine form, that the horticultural industry in this country needs from you and will inspire new and old gardeners alike to rethink their own passion for gardening and plants and why they feel that way about what they do.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


This blog post has been a long time coming but after I posted My Twitter Experience and was accused of being a troll by several people on Twitter, I thought now might be a good time to write it.
The whole thing began several years ago when I was sitting watching Gardeners World one Friday evening and getting exasperated at something and my dear husband posted to Twitter that it seemed #shoutyhalfhour was here again and it stuck. So before I go into the whys and wherefores I need to point a few things out!!
Firstly it is not a personal assault on the presenter. I do find Monty Don a tad patronising on the programme but he is only following a script and although it surprises me sometimes when things are shown that are so definitely wrong and I wonder why he hasn't picked up on it, he is a man doing a job.  Both his writing and his gardening programmes other than Gardeners World are fantastic as is the series on BBC Radio 4 that he is presenting at the moment.
Secondly much of the shouting is light hearted and positive. We all love to see Nigel and beautiful gardens such as Esther Rantzen's which was shown on Friday evening. We all love to ooh and arr over the plants and really enjoy seeing what other gardeners and nurserymen are growing and producing.
However and here is the crux of #shoutyhalfhour, Gardener's World ought to be just that. A beautifully crafted programme which offers inspiration, tips, help and aspiration to gardeners young and old, ancient and modern, and whatever their skill base, and sadly this is rarely, if ever, achieved. Seeds are sown and rarely do we see them potted on or palnted out. Cuttings are taken but we never see the result, whether good or bad, and all of us that have ever worked in a nursery know that sometimes cuttings don't take and seeds don't germinate but that is never mentioned either. Every year we see a presenter planting seed potatoes and sweet peas and hear tales of blight and the horrors of not scarifying our lawns, but rarely do we see anything new, cutting edge or exciting. New plants and seeds come to the market every year so why not bring them to the fore?
Equally in the UK  we have a tradition of small nurseries, all of whom work really hard to produce beautiful plants, some of which would often be lost if it wasn't for a handful of people keeping them going. We have amazing bulb growers and companies working really hard to produce us blight resistant potatoes, and we never hear of these people. Occasionally a National Collection is shown, like the amazing Asters a few weeks ago, but there are a miriad of National Collections out there that could be shown and rarely are. It's been proven that a mention of a plant on Gardeners World means that on Saturday morning the garden centres are stripped bare of them, so why not look at what can be done for the British growers out there and support them?
Equally, and here is my personnal bug bear, make sure that the information given is correct and relevant. If you are showing how to take a hardwood rose cutting, make sure that's what it is. If you are discussing the Chelsea Chop, go into it properly and talk about the whole process or it makes no sense and it will go wrong. If you are showing how to put Dahlias to sleep over the winter, tell the viewer that you're doing it early for the sake of programming and that really it's not necessary until after the first frosts have blackened the stems, or at all if you live in some areas. It is this sort of mis information that means people don't succeed and then feel that they can't do it or become too scared to even try. Sadly many are so far removed from the earth that they truly are fearful and so turn to Gardener's World for good, horticultural advice which often it just is not.
Gardening today is a whole mishmash of things. Often people have no gardens and become involved in community projects which are rarely, if ever, included. Our children ought to be inspired to garden too and yet I have yet to see a piece on gardening with children, although there are many great practitioners out there who do so and I can tell you, as one of them, that kids love to garden and are naturals as they don't worry it might not work. There are also some amazing gardeners up and down the country, many of whom open their gardens for the National Gardens Scheme, and many who don't, whose gardens would be an amazing inspiration to the viewer. There are awe inspiring allotments, school gardens, urban roadside projects, amenity landscapes and gardens, heritage landscapes, historic gardens, garden conservation projects, and many more, that are never mentioned and yet would inspire and offer not just help to folk who already garden, but to those who are also looking for ways to be able to garden.
As some of you are aware, The BBC are aware of some of these issues through viewers forums and I attended a meeting a few weeks ago where I was able to pass over 300 plus tweets I received from people saying what they thought was needed and they seemed to listen. Gardener's World is an institution to me and where I was inspired and excited by gardening from a very young age.. It horrifies me that there might be a generation who grow up without that and miss out on the wonders of working with the earth and learning all that there is to be learnt from the experience of gardening. Gardener's World is the only mainstream gardening programme that is available to us, although I have to say I have watched Beechgrove Garden this year and think a lot could be learnt from that, so it needs to be seen to be the best. We British are known as a nation of gardeners, so the presenter needs to be the Head Gardener for the nation as well as the patch being gardened on the show, so I beseech the BBC to up their game and improve the programme so that it becomes grea, aspirational TV.
And please never let any of us have to endure 6 minutes of how to jet wash a path ever again!!

Beautiful meadow planting this summer on a Bristol housing estate.