Wilde about gardens

Kim Wilde, 39, has seen her dreams come true – and it doesn’t scare her any more.
She is in love, very much so, with her husband Hal Fowler, who adores her. They have two cute children, Harry, two, and three-month-old Rose Elisabeth.
At one time, chart-topping Kim Wilde with the cover-girl looks, would have harboured fears over everything being so completely perfect in her life. She admits to feeling terrified that something bad was going to happen to take it all away.
Now she has opted for a life more ordinary and lives for each day. As a result, she could not be happier. She and her family live in a converted barn near Caldecote, Hertfordshire, where a handsome weeping willow overhangs a small pond.
The new Kim Wilde, the Mother Earth chick who is TV’s latest recruit in making gardening sexy, has had a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.
“There’s no bogey man out there anymore, like there was for me in the pop business,” she says. “All that silly neurosis is gone. Now I go into my greenhouse every day to see how all my little seedlings are doing. I am trying celery this year. I am a new vegetable gardener.
“When I moved here 10 years ago to this barn-conversion with a big field behind, it kind of ignited all my latest horticultural desires.”
This is the same Kim Wilde who once indulged in a fast-lane lifestyle of glamorous parties and adoring fans. Far from losing her way like so many other pop starlets, it’s good to discover that there is a mature, sensible woman who has finally emerged from within.
So what happens when a woman with classic pop hits such as Kids in America, Cambodia, You Keep Me Hangin’ On and Four Letter Word, doesn’t want to play pop diva any more?
The answer is to leave the business, which is exactly what Kim Wilde has done.
“It’s over, I am finished with the pop business”, Kim says firmly. “I am more than ready to let go of the past.”
This has been one of her most important decisions. Now life is a bed of roses, as it were.
She says: “I have been getting into gardening in the last three years. During that time I got married and had two children. I have really had to fit gardening around nappies, temper tantrums, and being rather big and waddling around with babies inside me.
“I have to say life is just perfect for me. I met a wonderful person to marry, Hal. He is just great. He is my great paland my lovely husband and I am just mad about him.
“We met in January of 1996 at rehearsals for Tommy, at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. By March, I had managed to squeeze a dinner invite out of him. By July he proposed and that September we got married. We knew, both of us knew in a very strong way, that we were meant for each other.
Quite open about how she feels, Kim adds: “Obviously it’s love, but it is something deeply mysterious, probably something we’ll never know the answer to.
“It’s really just the living that is the important part of it, not the analysis. It’s the day-to-day living of how it feels.
“In fact, gardening is really an expression of the joy that this relationship has for both of us and for our family.”
Yet none of this begins to explain how Kim made the transformation from recording star to presenter on Carol Vorderman’s Better Gardens on ITV, due back soon for a new series.
Probably it was Charlie Dimmock who proved in Ground Force that green fingers and glamour can go together well. ITV certainly thought so when they head-hunted Kim from a horticultural college where she was the star pupil on a garden design course.
“It happened slowly at first, because I was still being a pop star and running around the world and trying to maintain my career”, says Kim.
“I would come home very tired with my make-up smeared down my eyes and then try to make time for the garden. I’d be up a ladder and pruning back the vines. Fortunately I had a gardener at the time to do most of the work.
“He used to turn up and see this pop star perched on a ladder with a pair of secateurs trying to figure out what to do with them, full of good intentions but not necessarily full of good knowledge. Still, I was desperately trying to learn.
“Now, I love how gardening has transferred on to TV and become a mass passion. I think it is long overdue”. When she speaks about this career change it’s delivered in such a passionate way that it all sounds convincing.
But there can hardly be a more extreme conversion than switching from the ruthlessly ambitious world of pop to tending a private plot in the quiet countryside.
She had a string of hit singles. She had been voted Newcomer of the Year. She had supported Michael Jackson on tour. And, typical of her jet-set lifestyle then, she had never had a relationship last longer than a few years.
The men in her life included Calvin Hayes, son of producer Mickie Most, Rupert Kenyon, a millionaire’s son, and TFI Friday’s madcap entertainer Chris Evans.
Kim, who celebrates her 40th birthday in November, realised that she had been looking for something more out of life.
“It became clear to me that I had to make a choice about my pop career. There is a sense of relief about that. When I got into pop, it was all I wanted, but when the time came and I decided to get out of the music business, that was what I needed to do.
“I keep an open book on life. I just follow what feels like the right thing to do.
“The family is a large consideration, of course. Having a pop career tends to keep you away from people who you love. I am not really into that. I am a real hands-on mum and I intend to be the one who picks them up and takes them to school. It is a practical decision as well as a personal one.”
So what is there to miss in leaving behind a career in pop? “Sometimes I miss having my make-up done. I used to enjoy that. Sitting there letting someone else do the business was rather nice”, says Kim.
And what if, in years to come, one of her own children sat down with Kim one day and said they wanted to be in pop?
“I’d embrace anything that they wanted to do. I am just going to sound like any parent now and say that whatever they wanted to do is fine by mean, I really do mean it.”
Kim’s sister, Roxanne, 20, is just about to embark on a pop career, and Kim is in a good position to warn her about the pitfalls.
“She is part of a band that will, hopefully, be putting out a record this year. I am really excited for her and I would be for my kids if they wanted to go down that road. I have been very close to her. Most of the advice I give her is about men.
“I’ve got some good advice about that. With a pop career you have to go on the hoof. You just have to do it. I just reaffirm with her that whatever nonsense might happen, you know when you find the right person for you.
“Having a good relationship is a really easy thing to do – it is not a struggle for me anymore”.
The person who can’t understand Kim’s decision to leave behind the pop business is her father Marty, who was famous for wearing crepe soles and rockabilly jackets and having hits such as Rubber Ball and Donna.
For a long time he had steered his daughter’s musical career, a proud father just like his friend Joe Brown whose love of singing was passed on to his daughter Sam Brown.
“I think he wonders where my head is because his passion for rock and roll has never diminished whereas my passion for pop has been replaced by a passion for my family and other things”, says Kim.
“We are different people. My dad has just taken on a whole load of new gigs doing his rock and roll show which he loves. His voice is stronger than it has ever been and there is a great demand for it. He does a great show and he still loves it. That is the reason why he does it.”
But the woman who has been singing pop since she was 20 feels she deserves the quiet life, deserves to be out of it all, and be allowed to get on with doing her own thing.
She and husband Hal, who has just finished in a West End production of Les Miserables, are beginning a whole new chapter in their lives.
Kim says: “Hal is a real foodie, a great chef. We fully intend to get involved at some level or another to make our living and have a bloody good time.
“In gardening there is lots still to learn. I am just very focused on doing it because I love it.
“At one time I was full of passion for music, singing and songwriting because it fulfilled me. Then it started to change when I met Hal. I didn’t feel the same way towards my career anymore. Because I felt it all for him and for the life that we could have together. I took my passion from one place and transferred it to my husband, my family and the garden.
“Just watching the seeds come up in the greenhouse is a great thrill. We have got most of our vegetables already. Slowly but surely I am edging myself into this world.
“It might take a while for people to accept me. But that is okay, I am expecting that.”
So having replaced video shoots with plant shoots, Kim is all set to cultivate a bright future for herself.
She says: “Already I’m having people ask me to get involved in other outdoor projects. Eventually I’ll gain more and more experience, and put myself right in the middle of the world of gardening.”