All Rhodes lead to loam? Harry Rhodes, my teacher when I was nine at Ilkley Church of England Junior School, was a lovely man. He was a keen cactus-grower and the first plants I ever bought were his cacti in little pots, costing sixpence at the school bring-and-buy sales.
I would taken them home and leave them on the loo window. They thrived on neglect - and I gave them a lot of neglect.
Stony Ground? I failed my 11-plus and went to Ilkley Secondary Modern. I really hated it. They weren't encouraging. I was always having "See me!" on my essays because they were written with too much imagination. I once wrote a synopsis of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This got 17 out of 20 - but also with "See me!"
When I asked why, the teacher said, "You used the word `reciprocated'. Where did you get it from?" I said, "I know it". She thought I'd copied it.
Everything in gardening's lovely? From about 12 I knew gardening would be my career - I built a plastic greenhouse in the garden. At school I wasn't doing the subjects I wanted.
I was in the A-stream, and in the first term we did "rural studies", but then we were considered too clever for gardening so only the lower streams did it. I took my Art GCE a year early, then left at 15 to work for five years in the Parks Department Nursery.
To hell on a handcart?
My peak period was between fifteen and twenty. I took a City & Guilds in Horticulture on a day release scheme. There were a lot of no-hopers on the course, because you had to go there if you were an apprentice, but I thought, "I can do this". Instead of being at the bottom, I soared ahead to the top.
Gardening was not so sexy then as it is now, and it was very embarrassing to be seen by people still at school when I was watering the hanging baskets at home; it was that terrible age when you blush very easily. One of the guys at work sold me his greenhouse and my dad wheeled it home on a handcart: my second major embarrassment.
Personal growth area?
I then went to Hertfordshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture, full-time for a year, for my National Certificate of Horticulture. This was my first time away from home. I was in a residential block - with my own washbasin! I thought, "I'm a big boy now" . Occasionally this meant you were up at five in the morning, washing leeks for market in cold, muddy water. I took the "Amenity Option" which was a bit more colourful: beds of heather, shrubs and flowers for flowers' sake, not for commercial reasons. College was a bit commercial for me; it taught me I didn't want to grow tomatoes and lettuces for a living.
Join the Kew! Then I went on to the Royal Botanic Gardens for a three- year Diploma Course: Dip. Hort. (Kew). You worked in all the departments: Tropical, Temperate, the Arboretum. Afterwards I taught there myself. I thought I wanted to teach but, after two years, I discovered I didn't.
I'm now about to start a series of lectures in theatres called "An Evening With Alan Titchmarsh". Talking to an audience is lovely: they want to be there. In teaching, they don't want to be there.Reuse content