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

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried