Victoria Summerley: Of all the viewing varieties, we are the ones with concentration

Gardeners

I found it difficult to greet the news that Monty Don was returning to Gardeners' World, the BBC's flagship gardening television series, with huge enthusiasm.

This was nothing to do with Mr Don himself: he's a charming, erudite presenter who quite clearly has a passion for his subject. Nor was it the reports that the BBC seems to have rather peremptorily sacked Toby Buckland, who took over the role in 2008, after a stroke forced Monty Don to step down. No, the problem is the programme itself. Keen gardeners may be divided on their favourite presenter, but they appear to be united in the criticism of the format.

It is a source of fascination to me that the people who make gardening programmes seem to think that the viewers have the attention span of a behaviourally challenged three-year-old. Surely of all the varieties of viewer, gardeners – people who order their bulbs six months in advance, who plant trees they will never see mature – are by definition the most capable of sustained concentration.

Yet we're presented with two-minute chunks of information as if the producers are worried that if any more substantial mental effort is required we might lose interest and go and vandalise the allotments or spray graffiti on the garden fence.

I'm not quite sure why the BBC feels it has to put all its seeds in one pot in this way. In the 21st century, when there are so many new aspects of gardening to investigate – organic, exotics, the native flower debate, drought-tolerant – it seems unrealistic to try to cram everything into one 30-minute slot. In what is supposed to be a nation of gardeners, is there not a big enough television audience to sustain at least two gardening programmes – one for beginners and one for more experienced gardeners who would enjoy looking at a subject in greater depth?

Gardeners' World is a programme that is obviously designed – and presented – by a committee and it has all the faults that entails. New gardeners complain that some of the information is too esoteric. Experienced gardeners complain (a lot) that it is too simplistic. Many gardeners don't bother to watch at all.

This chorus of disapproval came to a head after Monty Don left. He had been the first presenter to be filmed working in a garden that was not his own – the rather characterless Berryfields. Previously, the GW garden had belonged to the main presenter – Alan Titchmarsh's garden at Barleywood in Hampshire, for example, or Geoff Hamilton's garden at Barnsdale, in Rutland. When Monty Don left, and the programme moved to a site in Birmingham called Greenacres, I completely lost the plot, if you'll excuse the pun.

Whereas Berryfields had originally been a garden of sorts, Greenacres was basically a football field that was turned into a set by the BBC. It had all the ingredients of a garden – greenhouse, pond, flowerbeds, shed – but they were put together to work for a film crew, rather than as one person's vision of what a garden should be like. Like those painting by numbers kits, the right colours were there, but they didn't really add up to a genuine work of art.

At least with the return of Monty Don, the BBC is going back to the old format of presenter-with-garden, which will give us all a chance to see what the Lord of Cord has done in his own patch in Herefordshire. Rachel de Thame is rejoining the team of presenters, which will still include Joe Swift and Carol Klein. But I suspect the format will be as fragmented and unsatisfying as ever. A cheerful woman at the BBC press office told me: "We thought they were the best team to take the programme forwards." Or backwards.

Victoria Summerley is the 2010 Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year

v.summerley@independent.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
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: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones