Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snobbery among the petunias

Alan Titchmarsh's comments in today's Telegraph reminded me how much snobbery there is in gardening.

It's not just which plants and styles of gardening are in or out, or whether you are a garden designer or garden creator or just a plain old gardener.

There's a big branch of snobbery among those who trained as horticulturalists, who paid their dues planting matchy-matchy petunias in municipal flower beds and learning the Latin names for everything.

As Titchmarsh said today, somewhat disingenuously, he was not going to hold his successor Monty Don’s “lack of training” against him. Monty Don, you see, may have written 20 books about gardening, and fronted gardening programmes for years, but to Titchmarsh and others who trained at Wisley, he's a presenter and not a gardener.

I could level the reverse accusation at Titchmarsh - he should stick at gardening and not presenting. I can't bear the programmes where he attempts to be a chat show host. 

Titchmarsh's peevish comments follow his demotion by the BBC for Chelsea Flower Show coverage. He was apparently asked to play second fiddle to Monty Don and declined. He was "hurt" by the decision. I'm not sure why. He stood down from the BBC's flagship gardening show Gardeners' World a few years ago and now presents the deplorable "Love Your Garden" on ITV. So why does he believe he should still be the BBC's top choice for Chelsea? He can't have everything.

This year, Titchmarsh has a show garden at Chelsea, his first since 1985. I'm not sure if his decision to have a show garden followed his "axing" by the BBC, but at least it allows him to show off his gardening expertise which Love Your Garden doesn't. And how heartening (I'm being ironic) that he will even allow himself to be interviewed by the BBC this year because "there is no point" in holding on to professional jealousy.

Really, all this gardening snobbery is so parochial and demeaning. The great thing about gardening is that it is highly personal and shouldn't be subjected to the dictats of a few pompous people who think they have a monopoly on taste, style and Latin.  Personally, I'm fed up with prairie planting and the same old "trendy" plants - alliums, agapanthus,irises, cornus and anything that looks like cow parsley. I'd like to see a garden designer at Chelsea brave enough to use unfashionable plants - chrysanths, marigolds, dianthus to name three - and to create the delicate, traditional English cottage garden that seems to be banned from the likes of Chelsea yet is the backbone of Britain's gardens.

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