Wellies in the winter garden

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The Independent Culture
I presented a gardening programme once. On the radio. It was not an unqualified success. Strolling around a garden while you ask the person responsible a few searching questions may seem simple enough but that mixture of sincerity and interest is not as easy as it looks. It is that puppyish enthusiasm that is vital to gardening programmes. And Geoff Hamilton has it in spades. While Gardener's World takes its winter break Geoff has taken up cottaging and tonight presents the first of a six-part se ries Cottage Gardens (8.30pm BBC2).

The wise viewer will probably skip the first programme with its tiresome idiot's guide to Everyday Life in a Medieval Village and concentrate on the five that follow. Tonight's introductory episode wheels out sundry geriatrics to share their wisdom: "My father allus taught me to dig with a spade. `Allus dig with a spade, my boy,' he'd say.'' You think I'm making this up, don't you?

Not to worry. Cottage Gardens fills the gap in the border left when Gay Search's More Front Gardens ended last week. The cottage garden is a lazy English ideal that proves that there is more to low-maintenance gardening than dwarf conifers and some gravel. Ms Search, in her comely lumberjack drag, is an able pro but her series proved what you had long suspected - that all it takes to become a garden designer is a supply of graph paper and a few mates in the building trade.