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.|