Reviewed by Matthew Appleby
Gardener’s World returned late – missing out on the best gardening March for five years.
Questionable timing also surrounds GW’s “biggest ever” campaign, entitled ‘Dig In’. Inevitably, it is about grow your own and trails in after ‘The Big Lunch’, ‘Dig for Victory’ (not the WW2 version), ‘We Will if You Will’, ‘Grow Your Own’ (Potato Council), ‘Grow Your Own’ (Tesco, B&Q, Suttons) etc.
New, modish, magazine-style Gardener’s World apparently also worked on an allotment campaign but looks to have have dropped it – maybe the Gardeners’ World producers realised that it had missed the boat after the National Trust’s publicity-grabbing announcement that it is developing 1,000 allotments (still yet to be given locations a month later) and more than 50 books published on allotment use last year.
The most cringeworthy part of the programme, where you can almost see the brainstorming groups thinking up ideas to jazz up the elderly GW format, was the contrived, try-hard potting shed ‘what’s hot, what’s not‘ discussion between presenters Toby Buckland, Joe Swift, Alys Fowler and Carol Klein.
Swift said, 11 months after the event, that Chelsea Flower’s Show’s trend towards green plants was ‘hot’. Buckland said: “I can see this one is going to run and run. Is green hot? Join in with the debate?” What debate? An entirely made up one, designed no doubt to get the discussion boards ‘humming’ as Buckland will almost certainly report back next week.
The shed talk also mentioned Obama’s press release about how he is growing his own. Obama-balls. All four presenters all laughed a lot during the chat. Don’t know why. Presumably to show the show was entertaining. Klein and Buckland both urged readers to get down the garden centre, going against their, and Fowler’s, recent writings which have urged gardeners to save money in these times of thriftiness by propgating, seed swapping etc. Guess they realised they should try to appeal to the viewers rather than some hypothetical Good Life young people who stay in one Friday nights watching BBC2 between 8pm-9pm. Or look to iPlayer to watch Gardener’s World rather than Horne and Corden, Dr Who or Top Gear.
Also awful was the ‘is that eco-friendly paint Alys?’ ‘Yes I think it is!’ discussion between Buckland and Fowler. Trendy efforts such as fast cuts and (2007 vintage) Kate Nash music does not stop the show being one presented by a middle-aged man in a red anorak with a bald spot (on his head, not the coat).
Strangely, Klein, 20 or 30 years old than the other three, seems a fresher character in outlook and enthusiasm than the holiday camp persona Buckland adopts, the languid, thick uncle Swift poses as or the kookie that Fowler plays. Perhaps its just the minging script that lets them down. Though my Mum – a typical watcher- says Fowler is her favourite. But she can’t remember what was in the programme because it had “too many little bits”.
On the bright side, the presenting line-up is the biggest yet, which may create a bit of a buzz. And the new garden, overlooked by Birmingham Botanic Gardens (the BBC want to keep this secret in case of Les Ferdinand-style Blue Peter garden break-ins) is an opportunity, rather than what Swift says was the maintenance job of the mature predecessor Berryfields. And Fowler is the coolest TV gardener ever.
The problem with GW all comes back to the BBC. The utter compromise between its duties to be educational and to appeal to bigger audiences means the programme is destined to be a creative failure. Not that there’s anything better. I’ll watch next week, even if it’s just to hear the ‘the blogs are buzzing’ bollocks.
Matthew Appleby – Horticulture Week Deputy Editor and Garden Retail Editor
Matthew Appleby’s blog on the Horticulture Week website