Alan Titchmarsh: My Life in Media

'Having Bette Davis walk out on an interview on Radio 2 ranks pretty high as an embarrassing moment. No sense of humour, Bette Davis'

Britain's favourite gardener has been sharing his passion for flora and fauna with the viewing public for almost 30 years. In addition to hosting the Chelsea Flower Show since 1983, remodelling Nelson Mandela's garden for Ground Force and writing for the Radio Times and Express newspapers, he has been immortalised in wax at Madame Tussaud's. Aged 57, he lives in Hampshire, is married to Alison and has two daughters.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I left Kew Gardens, where I'd been teaching horticulture, to become a gardening editor at a book publisher. I then went into magazines and began broadcasting, first on radio and then on television. Eventually the freelance work took over from the day job.

When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

The Daily Express. Dad occasionally changed to the Yorkshire Post - I grew up in Ilkley - but usually went back to the Express. Yes, I did read it. Especially the Gambols and Giles.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Whirlybirds I would watch with my dad. I also enjoyed Look with Peter Scott and On Safari with Armand and Michaela Dennis. Percy Thrower became a childhood hero and Gardening Club a must. Children's Favourites with Uncle Mac we listened to on the Light Programme every Saturday.

Describe your job

Varied, stimulating and exhausting by turns. I simply love the variety and it seems churlish to turn down offers to diversify, even if eyebrows are sometimes raised. I only ever tackle things I'm interested in or passionate about.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

The Daily Telegraph. Especially the letters, the obituaries and the arts pages. I'm not keen on noise first thing, so no radio or TV for me, though if I'm in the car early in the morning I'll turn on Terry Wogan.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I'll listen to the news on the hour on Radio 4 or Radio 2 if I happen to be in the car, but I get increasingly irritated when news stories are handled sensationally.

What is the best thing about your job?

The fact that it is constantly changing. Gardening, nature, history and music are all passions and writing fiction allows me to enter another world.

And the worst?

Not having enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the...

How do you feel you influence the media?

I'm not sure that I do. But I hope I can raise awareness of a responsibility for the landscape and the countryside by encouraging people to celebrate it rather than by being a pain in the nether regions. If people get out there and enjoy the countryside, they can enjoy it, feel ownership of it and really make a difference. Not everyone will listen, of course. But you have to get your head down and, in the words of Winston Churchill, "keep buggering on".

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Being awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society. It's their highest award and no more than 63 people can hold it at any one time.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Having Bette Davis walk out of an interview I was conducting with her on Radio 2 ranks pretty high. No sense of humour, Bette Davis.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Radio 3 and Classic FM (though the adverts drive me nuts). Radio 4 for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (pure gold), and Radio 2 on Sunday evenings.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I take the Sunday Express because I write for it. I've stopped The Sunday Times because I found its bossiness and opinionated writing increasingly irritating. I could not get through the week without Country Life - simply delicious.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

I'd like to sing one of the "patter roles" in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. I've done it as an amateur but not for money.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I'd keep growing things. It is the ultimate pleasure, and they don't answer back.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Alan Bennett - a great communicator. And the Queen, for keeping it at arm's length.

Britain's Best is on UKTV History from next Monday, 9pm. Vote for your top historical site at www.uktvhistory.co.uk

The cv

1964: Leaves school aged 15 to become an apprentice gardener in Yorkshire

1968: Leaves to study horticulture in Shipley, eventually moving to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

1974: Leaves to edit gardening books at Hamlyn Publishing, then Amateur Gardening magazine

1983: Presents the Chelsea Flower Show on BBC and has hosted the coverage ever since

1988: Presents House in a Garden with Gloria Hunniford on Radio 2

1991: PresentsPebble Mill at One, then Gardeners' World from 1996

1997: HostsGround Force

2001: After writing many gardening books, gets into fiction with Only Dad

2002: Publishes the first volume of his autobiography. The second, Nobbut a Lad, came out last year

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Guru Careers: Product Design Engineer / UX Designer

£20 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Product Design Engineer /...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor