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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before