‘You don’t need a garden, you don’t need knowledge. All you need is good teeth’

Expert launches attack on media approach to horticulture

Out in the garden all is not well. Mud is being thrown – with every chance it may stick. Some media gardening experts are a sham, it is claimed. Many are without any horticultural qualifications, and some without even a garden of their own.

Stefan Buczacki – the horticultural-ist, writer and broadcaster and former acting chairman of Gardeners Question Time – has launched a scathing attack on his print and broadcasting colleagues. As ITV announces it has picked the former raunchy Eighties rock star Kim Wilde to co-host a new gardening series in a bid to snatch some ratings back from Charlie Dimmock of BBC Ground Force fame, Dr Buczacki writing in the Royal Horticultural Society’s journal, The Garden – says: “On gardening pages, in gardening magazines and on television gardening programmes, I am frequently confronted by folk who are full of enthusiasm and good teeth but remarkably deficient in experience and horticulture.”

He continues: “Even owning a garden is no longer a prerequisite. I discovered that one gardening correspondent – after working for a newspaper for several years – had just acquired his first garden.” He quotes another columnist as saying: “I am most certainly not an expert and have no intention or desire to be so. The science of gardening leaves me cold and my knowledge of botany is minimal.”

Dr Buczacki – whose entire team defected to Classic FM in 1994 because Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time was becoming “too showbizzy” retorts: “When I read another gardening journalist’s words, I expect to learn what a fellow practised gardener has gleaned and honed over many years. But these days it happens much less frequently.

“It is all part of a wider picture. In recent years the media have discovered ‘lifestyle’ and gardening fits into the pattern. Television has largely followed the same path where the makeover programme illustrates a related trend. The most popular, such as Ground Force, obviously gives pleasure to many people. Good luck to them. At least Ground Force is pre- sented by professionally qualified hor-ticulturalists. But it is no more about showing people how to garden than Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook and Changing Rooms are about showing people how to cook and decorate. These programmes use their subjects as entertainment.”

He adds: “Real gardening is not about the quick fix and the makeover.

It is about the measured, methodical craft of horticulture through the seasons. How often these days do you see a programme that offers what Geoff Hamilton used to do so professionally? He gave you the confidence that he would be doing his gardening whether or not the cameras were present.”

Kim Wilde’s appointment to the team of Better Gardens – a spin-off of Carol Vorderman’s Better Homes series may provide him with further fuel for his argument. She is better remembered emerging on stage clad in black leather through a cloud of dry ice, in the days when she achieved eight top 10 hits, including Kids In America and Chequered Love.

ITV says it discovered her at a horticultural college near her Hertfordshire home where she was the star pupil when taking a garden design course two years ago. A spokesman said: “People may be surprised to see her in this series. But she’s got everything – green fingers and glamour.”