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
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
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: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect