Kim Wilde must be one of the keenest visitors Birmingham Botanical Gardens has ever had. On her tour of the Edgbaston grounds yesterday, the 80s pop star excitedly called out the Latin names of the plants as if they were her forgotten friends.
"My favourite is the Rubus chamaemorus," she said, "I do get excited about the names of plants. I walk around in my garden at home and try to remember them all."
It must be a far cry from the catchy lyrics of Kids In America and Cambodia which brought her pop stardom in her early twenties. Now though the one-time rock chick-turned presenter on BBC's Garden Invaders is happiest with her toes in the grass explaining the remarkable pest control ability of the ladybird to her fiveyearold daughter Rosie and seven-year-old son Harry.
So happy in fact she came to Birmingham to recommend it to other parents.
She said: "Children need an enchanted place, a wilderness, to escape to and a garden is ideal. It encourages a sensitivity to nature, provides exercise and gives kids unadulterated joy. Showing a child the pleasures of the garden also charges their creativity and imagination. That will be helpful to them whatever they choose to do in their careers. But best of all, time in the garden is about reclaiming time with children. Too often homework, after-school activities and meal times take over the day. What could be better than teaching them the wonders of the ladybird? They are, after all, the future caretakers of the planet."
Kim, her actor husband Hal and their two children live in a barn conversion with herringbone brickwork and old beams on a hill in Hertfordshire. Their garden has a vine and wisteria-clad outdoor room, a meadow with sculptures and raised vegetable beds, not to mention gravel paths, shrubs and a wide variety of flowers. The 44-year-old now devours the gardening manuals of Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd the way she used to feast on music magazines.
She said: "It started as a sort of therapy for my stressful life in the music industry. I wasn't having any rest and so I escaped to gardens. I realised that living in London had starved me of nature. I took classes in horticulture and really got into it. It still is a sort of therapy. I hear about the terrible things going on in our society, such as baby rapes and terrorism. My reaction is to go into the garden. It's like I'm saying to those people 'I don't care what you want to do with the planet, I'm going to make it beautiful'."
She also admits that when she swapped the microphone for the trowel, her pop career was "not going great guns" and that she was keen to settle down. She said: "I wanted to get married and have children. I strongly believe it's important to be there for your husband and your children. Now I'm more the gardener and the earthy mum than the 80s pop star. No longer do I have this nagging doubt about who I am trying to be. I'm glad those days are over."