Urban gardener: My brilliant TV career

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The Independent Online

So I'm lying there, right, and my regular osteopath says to me "Got any telly lined up this year then?" – actually let me stop there. I ought to clarify the situation otherwise you're going to think a) I'm turning into a chronic hypochondriac, or b) that my osteopath, Richard May, is rubbish at his job. According to my partner, who obviously knows me better than anyone, there may be an element of truth in the former, but casting aspersions on the latter would be biting the hand that heals me.

Anyway I tell him I don't "do" telly. Apart from the odd appearance as a contributor here and there, or publicising a show garden, I don't have a natural affinity with telly, so I've learnt to accept my limitations and stick to the day job. It doesn't stop the odd production company calling up from time to time, confirmation that – apart from BBC2's current adventure Around the World in 80 Gardens – TV gardening is in the doldrums. Just the other day an enthusiastic researcher on the other end of the line tried to make it all sound so enticing:

"We're looking for new talent for a really exciting gardening project."

"What will it be about exactly?"

"Well, we haven't finalised all of the details just yet, but we were wondering how you feel about gardening programmes today and what the future holds for garden design. What are the current trends?"

"Well, cheap makeovers are a non-starter. There might be some mileage in real projects, but watching a garden being created takes time."

"How do you mean exactly?"

"Following a real, live project that hasn't been generated just for TV, where good design, architecture and plants have been chosen to suit a very specific set of conditions."

"Great idea ... Have you got any projects that might be suitable?"

"Well, most of my clients find TV intrusive and wouldn't be happy with a camera crew interrupting the work. And you'd need to film it over several seasons to really do it justice."

"What about your allotment? I hear you grow great veg?"

"Well, er, I have an allotment, and yes I did think it would make an interesting programme when we first took one on eight years ago, but Carol Klein did a brilliant series on growing veg last year. Besides, I'm not sure if I want to be known first and foremost for my skills (or lack of, as it turned out last year) in growing root vegetables – it's more a hobby, you understand."

"Maybe we could do an organic allotment?"

"I've been gardening organically for 20 years."


"But most veg growers are organic these days," I say, with rising irritation, "it's nothing new so it wouldn't be any good as a USP."

"Do you know anyone else who'd make a good gardening presenter?"

"Well James Alexander Sinclair should definitely be on the box more and, of course, Roy Lancaster would be top of anyone's list for a pukka series on plants – most of us call him God, you know."

"Hang on ... Alexander ... Sinclair ... OK, and who was the other guy?"

At this point I realise this conversation is going nowhere. (Later I find out that several other designers were called by the same production company, including Dan Pearson, who was asked, "Have you been doing garden design for long?" – a clue that this lot really hadn't got a clue.) I decide it's time to call a halt to the proceedings.

"Anyway, aside from everything else, television doesn't really pay so well these days," I say.

"Well, think of it as being good for your profile."

"At my age I need hard cash, not profile."

"Exactly how old are you, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Not at all – I'll be 50 this year," I say slightly annoyed with myself that I didn't think of mentioning it earlier.

"Well, it's been lovely talking to you ... er, we'll be in touch ..." Click.