You ask the questions: Alan Titchmarsh

(Such as: Alan Titchmarsh, does it annoy you that, despite not wearing a bra, no one's asked you to pose naked?)

ALAN TITCHMARSH, 50, was born and brought up on the edge of Ilkley Moor, North Yorkshire. He left school at 15 and became an apprentice gardener in a local nursery, before training at agricultural college, and then at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He diversified into horticultural journalism and became the deputy editor of Amateur Gardening, and a prolific freelance writer and broadcaster, producing more than 30 books and two romantic novels.

Since 1996, he has presented the BBC's Gardeners' World, and the 48-hour gardening challenge series, Ground Force. His other programmes include Pebble Mill and Titchmarsh's Travels. According to a recent survey, he is now the second most sexy man on television. Alan Titchmarsh's latest novel, The Last Lighthouse Keeper (Simon & Schuster, pounds 16.99), is published this month. He lives in Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Do you get saucy letters from viewers? And what do you think about speculation that you're a "sex god"?

Sue Mills, Gravesend, Kent

I do get a few saucy letters, but they are usually good-humoured rather than seedy in any way. They always used to end with "I'm old enough to be your granny", but now that the average age of my fanbase has dropped, some of them come from people who are old enough to be my mum.

As far as being a sex god is concerned, I have never been able to see it myself, but then, who am I to argue?

Doesn't it annoy you that you haven't been wearing a bra for years, yet no one asks you to pose naked in Sunday supplements?

Bill Manners, by e-mail

I have learned to rely on other assets to make my way in the world, otherwise what am I going to do when my looks go? But I have to confess that The Independent did once persuade me to take my top off and then pose behind a fern. However, my calendar includes only pictures of gardens.

Is it true that you left school at 15? And if so, is this something that you'd recommend?

Katie Thompson, Milton Keynes

Yes, it is. I was fed up and was desperate to garden. I got a job in the local parks department's nursery. I think it's harder to get on now without having GCSEs, but I still believe that the things that get you most places in life are passion and enthusiasm.

Worst TV moment?

Pat Keen, Otley, North Yorkshire

Being a keen boater, I was very jealous of my co-presenter on Pebble Mill who had just sailed around Britain on a tall ship, which was crewed by physically handicapped people.

As she walked down the gangplank, I greeted her enthu-siastically with the words: "I'd have given my right arm to have been on board." Behind her was a man who had done. I don't think he heard me.

Do female fans go to extraordinary lengths to attract your attention?

Jenny Elliott, London W11

Embarrassingly, yes. One woman started rolling up my trouser-legs while I was in a garden centre. I quickly explained that she might be better off imagining what my legs looked like rather than discovering the reality.

Do you base your novels on your own experiences? And what about the sex scenes?

Colin Barlow, by e-mail

The pleasure of writing novels is that they use a part of your imagination that would otherwise remainuntapped. Characters are invented, but feelings must come from the writer. The same is true of love scenes. There is no substitute for experience.

What would you say to critics who accuse you of having the most boring haircut on TV?

Julia Haines, Bristol

First, that it is all my own; second, that I am 50; third, that I do not dye it, and fourth, that I agree. The trouble is, it grows so bloody fast I can't keep pace with it.

What is your own garden like? And do you employ a gardener?

Hannah Grigson, by e-mail

You can see it every Friday night from February to October on BBC2's Gardeners' World. It is one-and-a-half acres on a north-facing slope in Hampshire - chalk, clay and flint. I have two gardeners - Bill, full-time, and Sue, part-time. We also maintain 30 acres of field and woodland as a nature reserve.

Worst case of a dissatisfied customer on "Ground Force"?

Mrs J Robinson, Liverpool

The 6ft 8ins prison officer from Milton Keynes who came back and said: "Who's knackered me gazebo?" And the neighbour from hell in Sanderstead who compl-ained about us putting up a shed in next-door's garden. He had four at the bottom of his own garden.

If "Ground Force" approached you, would you allow them to overhaul your garden?

John Peters, by e-mail

As I design all the Ground Force gardens, yes.

Was Alan Partridge based on you on "Pebble Mill"?

Dean Locke, Maidstone, Kent

I know that Steve Coogan has said he that he was. What is less well- known is that my character on Gardeners' World is actually based on Steve Coogan.

What's the most horrible smelling flower that I can plant in my windowbox to deter unwelcome visitors?

Lucy Hartwell, Leicester

The dragon arum, it stinks like rotting meat. Mind you, it attracts flies. So it depends which you prefer, flies or people?

Have you ever tried smoking any of your plants?

O D Edin, by e-mail

Nah. I prefer to inhale the perfume of an old-fashioned rose.

Is there a plant aphrodisiac?

Karen Bolt, Birmingham

I do find fresh carrots rather stirring.

Favourite gardening anecdote?

G Lane-Smith, London E14

The party where the husband returned to his wife, at the other side of the room, and said he had just been talking to me and that I knew absolutely nothing about gardening. The wife looked across the room at the man he had been talking to, and then turned to her husband and said: "That's Melvyn Bragg."

Do you ever feel like just paving over an entire garden and so that you could put your feet up without ever having to worry at all about any of the plants?

Keith Flett, Tottenham, N17

No, never. I love stuff that grows.

Questions, Please

SINGER AND ROCK CHICK MARIANNE FAITHFULL, FOLLOWED BY BBC2'S `FOOD AND DRINK' PRESENTER JILLY GOOLDEN

Send your questions to: You Ask the Questions, Features, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (fax: 0171-293 2182; e-mail: yourquestions@independent.co.uk) by noon on Friday. The best question wins the sender a bottle of champagne.

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