'How I fell in love with Alan Titchmarsh'

 

I think I might be going a bit granny doolally where Alan Titchmarsh is concerned. It could be the signs of impending old age, because I didn't always love the Titch. For a start, he appeared on my TV radar just after the tragic death of committedly green Gardeners' World presenter Geoff Hamilton.

It was a long shot, Al trying to distract us from grief by cheerfully shovelling (non-renewable) peat in his potting shed. It didn't work. Geoff was always on about threatened limestone pavements and eco-mulch, and here was Titchmarsh undoing all his good work in a moment, with such blithe unconcern it made me want to shriek or weep.

But recently Alan has grown on me. I find myself increasingly fascinated as I watch him, for the umpteenth year in a row, treading out a path through a temporary flower-show garden. He does his work in circumstances that would put others off (that is, in front of a roped-off crowd of gawping idiots). But Al remains focused, intoning the garden's virtues in soft Yorkshire tones as if he'd just pondered them. Yet in actual fact, he's remembering a script while following a complicated series of camera marks for the crane hovering overhead. Grudging respect, then, at the very least.

TV professionalism aside, Old Al has horticultural virtues that weren't apparent on first acquaintance. He can explain how to prune something with infinite sagacity. And in his new book, My Secret Garden (BBC, £25), he invites the reader for a personal tour of his own plot (above), which has infinite charm. It's nice to know Alan has the same irritating issues and weird enthusiasms as the rest of us: "I never tire of mowing," he writes. "It is thinking time… A time of just being in my garden and endeavouring to exercise some kind of control over it."

For my money, there's almost nothing more interesting than reading someone on the subject of their own garden. It's an area where they have unique expertise. And he's fantastically good at explaining it all: the good and the bad. Al's yearly choice of tulips, his odd terracotta statue of landscape gardener Humphry Repton, his lead pigs, his duck island… whether or not you agree with it, it's all cherished. (And what's not to like about a man who says of his post-parks-department years: "It took me ages to stop being too tidy"?)

His nest box cameras, his beehives, his leylandii hedges, his 16 camellias, closely guarded from the limey soil he's chosen to garden on, his gypsy caravan (Al's boho side, a surprise to me); Mrs T's dim view of Mr T's noisy water feature; and finally even his quotes from Salman Rushdie (seriously). When Alan uses a word such as "mither", I'm delighted. When he calls a horse chestnut "a conker tree", it makes for a broad grin. And I'm even seduced by his occasional turn for the philosophical : "Winter is neatly crafted by the Almighty to make Britons pause and take stock: rest even, and think about next year – hopefully rather than reluctantly."

Alan Titchmarsh, may you live long and prosper.

Tips from the Titch

The flowers Alan has three pink and purple tulips together – Negrita, Attila and Gabriella – for gorgeous spring effect. £5.99 for 15 of each, jparkers.co.uk

The abomination Don't buy him wind chimes! "The bings and bongs of some new age confections crafted from copper pipe and baler twine". But if you fancy one, a classic chime is £12.95 at thewindchimeshop.co.uk

The wellies The Titch's desert-island luxury: "neoprene-lined wellingtons". Hunter's are £89 in smart black. wellywarehouse.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border