Wilde things (You make my heart sing)

The British passion for gardening is deeply rooted. From the villas of Agricola’s time, from the walled gardens of medieval manor houses, from the Kew and Blenheim of Lancelot (Capability) Brown, and from the trim lawns, borders and allotments of the urban age springs – annually and perennially – abundant, glorious evidence of an abiding love. In these relatively leisured, affluent days, gardening is a growth business as never before. Everybody is at it, it seems, to the exclusion of everything else (excepting beer and football). Southern England is rapidly becoming one big garden centre. From high-rise window box to humble vegetable plot, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s pastoral dream of natural states lives on. They say lots of gardening reduces stress, too.

Thus the news that Kim Wilde, 80s pop star and recently qualified garden designer, is to present yet another TV gardening programme might have been expected to be greeted with universal de light. Not so, it seems. Dr Stefan Buczacki, ace horticulturalist and former star of Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, has spotted something nasty in the potting shed. Such programmes are mere ‘entertainment’ which teach one nothing about the finer points of husbandry, Buczacki says. Too much show-biz, not enough know-how.

Rhubarb, Buczacki, rhubarb! If Wilde, Charlie Dimmock and other ‘popularisers’ are treading on your turf, then tough Tuberaceae. Professional elites may no longer erect the intellectual equivalent of ‘Keep Off the Grass’ signs to baffle the public. Wilde and her genus are spearheading the onward march of the ever-expanding ranks of amateur (and yes, armchair) gardeners. May they thrive, blossom, and propagate. Anyway, Buczacki, speaking personally, we never understood half of your dead-clever answers on Question Time – and the roses have never recovered.

Today’s gardening tip: chill out.