He’s a brilliant presenter, accomplished gardener, talented novelist and all-round horticultural inspiration. This month, Alan Titchmarsh talks about getting our youngsters involved in gardening projects.
I started gardening when I was nine or ten. I made a little greenhouse, tidied edges, mowed the lawn and sowed seeds, which then came up. When I had that little bit of success, it emboldened me to take cuttings and do more, and it all went on from there.
To be honest I was obsessed with all things nature – frogs, toads, insects… and the garden is the nearest bit of natural history to us, so I always felt comfortable there and I still do, although I’m not sure the young generation have quite the same connection with the outdoors.
In recent years I’ve worked with the Royal Horticultural Society in campaigns for school gardening, and we’ve had over 30,000 schools involved. Particularly at primary level if we can, literally, sow the seed when children are young, get them connected with the earth rather than disconnected and fearful, it will mean we are investing in the future custodians of the landscape. To me, it’s vitally important we pass on our joy and knowledge.
When I was a boy, Percy Thrower presented a programme called Gardening Club on a Friday night – this was way before Gardener’s World. He, along with a junior schoolteacher of mine, Harry Rhodes – who used to sell cacti at the church bazaar – were great inspirations. Indeed, my first plants came from Harry. Before he died, he saw me building a career, and one of life’s great delights was knowing that Harry witnessed this little lad he had encouraged to garden getting on, and doing alright. It was an unusual thing for a small boy to be interested in, therefore when you see a young gardener showing a keen interest, you always want to fan the flame. I’m now doing what Percy and Mr Rhodes did.
Of course as you get older, the way you use a garden changes. Just as when I was a boy it was a place of discovery and play, now it’s more a thing of art, beauty and quiet contemplation.
What undoubtedly links my present self with that nine-year-old version of me, is stimulation, and that has never changed in all the years I’ve spent outdoors planting this, trimming that. And that’s what’s there for the younger generation. That’s why I feel we should do our utmost to engage young people in the glory of our gardens and outside spaces. With all the other distractions they have nowadays, it feels more important than ever.