Sweetpeas in Guardian, Prince Harry, £250 or a trophy?, cake and eating it

1. Sweetpeas in The Guardian. I rang lots of people for this piece. Hope that comes across. Generally doesn’t in most gardening pieces that there’s been much talking to experts going on. Usually the writer styles self as expert. Is this right?

Also, much annoyance from me about allotment plots getting ‘borderline’ notices. Several of my allotment neighbours (and me) at Merton Martin Way have received them after a crackdown by new allotment committee. Is this the way ahead as councils give up looking after allotments, leaving them to over-zealous committee types.

2. RHS Chelsea Flower Show…think Prince Harry. Also Chris Beardshaw for Chelsea. On his 780km 21,000m ascent cycle ride round the Alps he was about 200 out 600 so was “well chuffed. He is trying to find another excuse to do something similar”. See charity link. There’s loads more in this week’s Hort Week. Adam Frost for Homebase. Think I’ve got nearly all show gardens sponsors/designers now. Adam Frost is designing for Homebase after beating three other designers to the job. Roger Platts M&G,  James Wong, Michael Balston, Nigel Dunnett is designing for Royal Bank of Canada.
The Daily Telegraph Christopher Bradley-Hole, Ulf Nordjfell’s Laurent Perrier garden. Flemons Warland is also rumoured to be designing a show garden. Jamie Dunstan. Hillier have linked with Beazley for another year. Diarmuid Gavin applied late but is set to return.

3. I didn’t realise, because I haven’t won for so long, but the Garden Media Guild has quietly dropped the £250 prize money it used to give. I’m told “the feeling among recent committee members has been that £250 was not enough to excite whereas a trophy would have lasting, if not intrinsic, value. No doubt the trophies cost less than the prize cheques but I wouldn’t be sure that the change was primarily a cost- saving measure. But it is obviously true that the loss of the cash prize matters more than the Committee thought it would so a bit of lobbying might bring it back.”

Lack of cash is clearly an issue, hence fee paying members don’t need to have journalism and/or  gardening qualifications. The awards used to break even or made a small profit with every award winner receiving a £250 cash prize until three years ago. The event is a good idea, to bring industry sponsors and garden writers together. But GMG doesn’t do much else and doesn’t do much to promote good garden writing, especially given some of the awful winners I’ve seen get their gongs – you know who you are. Awards are on 29 November. Free invitations in short supply I’m told. Tables £1,450.

4. See Anne Wareham has upset Yellow Book National Garden Scheme so much she has been kicked out of showing her plot, Veddw. While this is a brave effort in writing in the Spectator about NGS gardens being no good, as I well know, you can’t have your cake and eat it.

5. “My name is Tim Bates; I’m a journalist with the Medway Centre for Journalism. I’m writing an article about how garden centres across Britain are coping with the economic downturn, as well as this year’s poor summer.” If anyone wants to help.

6. RHS autumn shows have been split into two. RHS are looking for ideas for future monthly shows in single hall after Lawrence is sold off. Veg orchestra. 23-24 Oct at Lindley Hall( 50) shades of autumn.

7. At HTA conference this month, Hillier MD Andy McIndoe said on Downton Abbey Maggie Smith’s character talking to Edith (jilted at the altar) had said ‘I’ll take up gardening’. U can’t be that desperate, said Dame Maggie. AM: “We’ve got to get over that.”
Also at HTA, New Economics Foundation wonk Andrew Simms suggested national gardening leave as some sort of statutory unpaid holiday. Everyone works four days and has a spare day to spend in the garden.  He talks about Hackney and growing on a Budgens roof in North London. So no connection to most people’s reality there then. But fits well with the most vocal gardening media types.

8. Nicholas Marshall can’t talk about Garden Centre Group. But he’s not ruled out a return to garden retailing. Industry worry is an ‘outsider’ taking over at GCG. An even bigger worry is GCG getting split and depressing market for GCGs devaluing everyone’s centres. More likely GCG will buy lots of centres for good $, GCG’s new chairman Stephen Murphy tells me. He says its BS when most centres talk up ambitions to buy because they haven’t got £100m funds.

9. Garden Retail awards on 7 November. The presenter is a secret but he will say what he sees.

Gardening nanny, Chelsea Flower Show revealed, borderline allotments

1. Chelsea Flower Show- Crocus have announced they will supply Christopher Bradley-Hole/Daily Telegraph and Ulf Nordjfell/Laurent Perrier’s Chelsea Flower Show gardens for 2013.
Meanwhile, Hortus Loci is set to supply three show gardens.
The RHS is launching Chelsea at an event at show sponsor M&G in London in late November.
The society said they were keen to stop names leaking out and would talk to Crocus about releasing their designers names on its blog.
Michael Balston, Jinny Blom, James Wong and Diarmuid Gavin are all likely main avenue designers for the centenary show on 21-25 May. Tom Stuart-Smith, Cleve West and Andy Sturgeon are not planning to exhibit.

2. Interviewed Nicholas Marshall a week before his leaving by mutual consent from Garden Centre Group. No indication he was leaving. GCG people say Guy Hands and Stephen Murphy looked round the business, decided they needed a new leader and NM resigned. Shame. Hope he stays round the industry. Neil Fishlock has left Dobbies too. And Garden Centre Association has lost its chief. Some of this change might be the aftermath of a bad year. Incidentally, I reported all these three stories first.

3. Looking to talk to new Kew boss, ex BBCer Richard Deverell. When Steve Hopper got the job Times set up an exclusive with him. Wonder where we’ll be in the queue?

4. Royal Parks half marathon pix.

5. ‘Gardening nanny’ Mr Bloom is back for a harvest special episode of Mr Bloom’s Nursery will tx next Wednesday 17 at 10.35am on CBeebies.
And here is some general info on the new series which filmed over the summer and will be shown on CBeebies early next year: Mr Bloom’s Nursery: Get Set, Grow! (20 x 22 mins plus 2 x 24 min specials) sees Mr Bloom pack up his Compo Car and head out across the country to set up a travelling village fete for thousands of Tiddlers. Mr Bloom is, of course, joined by his loveable team of Veggies who are thrilled to discover about life outside the Nursery from an amazing maize maze to meeting enormous vegetables; from scarecrow competitions to rooftop gardens.

In conjunction with the new series, BBC Learning are staging a series of family events throughout the country this summer*. Hosted by Mr Bloom (aka Ben Faulks), the events will show the audience how to have fun in the garden and of course there will be the usual mix of humour, music and lots of audience interaction!


6. The Organic in the Garden website forum has closed because it gets too few new members.

7. View on peat from Poland: “Peat is not banned in Poland either. The fact is we have huge deposits of peat comparing to other countries in Mid-Western Europe. That’s why peat-free composts are still unavailable in our country. Producers like Compo still concerns launching them on the local market because it’s very hard to sustain high quality of peat-based products in our climate… But from the other hand, it won’t be easy, because Poles generally don’t want to invest in sustainable goods and decrease harmful impact on our environment. We can estimate that there are less than 3 per cent of customers, who consider investing their money in their own composting units. In case of any further questions, please don’t bother to ask.”

8. There is a row brewing about a vocal gardener’s green-based accusations against an established garden hack, written across many blogs. Watch this space.

9. There’s also a row brewing on people getting chucked off their allotments by over zealous committee members. I got a ‘borderline’ notice the other day for my award-winning (and very tidy given the poor season) plot. Ummm.

10. Alan Titchmarsh was at the recent HTA conference having a pop at talent shows. Luckily, no-one was taking notes.

11. Free thinking:

“I hope that you can join us at the Battle of Ideas 2012, an annual festival of debate and discussion, organised by the Institute of Ideas, which is a must for the intellectually curious and open minded. The festival, now in its eighth year, will take place on the weekend of 20 and 21 October, and will for the first time, be held at the Barbican in London, one of the world’s leading art centres.

During the festival weekend, over 2,000 delegates will attend over 80 sessions, together with hundreds of insightful and thought provoking speakers from across the globe, who represent a wide range of disciplines and viewpoints.

The Battle of Ideas provides a forum for free thinking, debate and discussion: in particular, evaluating to what degree the great ideas of freedom, equality, and solidarity, can still provide a foundation for living together in the 21st century.

This year’s programme includes exciting debates such as; What is wrong with equality? Capitalism: kill or cure? The illusion of free will The 21st Century case for freedom Austerity: here to stay? and Risk, regulation and red tape.

Speakers at this year’s event include; David Lammy MP, Ferdinand Mount, Trevor Phillips, Natalie Bennett, Piers Hellawell, Vicky Pryce, Philippe Legrain, John Haldane, Raymond Tallis, Zoe Williams, Ivan Krastev, Brendan O’Neill, Rob Riemen, Frank Furedi, Mick Hume, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Andrew Keen, Wendy Kaminer, and Mark Walport.”

Royal Parks half marathon in the style of Haruki Murakami, US embassy, autumn bulbs campaign success

Royal Parks half marathon in the style of Haruki Murakami.
Every year I run a half marathon. At least for the past five years anyway. Apart from last year, when I was ill. So this year I decided to train harder to make up for missing last year. I ran round Wimbledon Common at least twice a week. Another reason for my desire to run harder was age. I am getting older and want to beat the times I ran as a younger man. As each year goes by it becomes more difficult to run as fast as when as I was my twenties, or even thirties.
The half marathon begin in Hyde Park. Royal Parks press officer Neil Coyte had arranged for me to have a place after I met him during an Olympics event in the same park. But I found when I arrived at the park that I did not have a VIP pass, as at previous events. I queued behind Katie Piper (the woman who campaigns disfigurement discrimination) and her boyfriend.
Inside the VIP tent I saw Hyde Park manager Nick Biddle, who I had met two days earlier at the US Ambassador’s House in Regents Park. My name was not on the list so I trekked through the mud, picking up free gifts as I went, to the normal runners’ bag drop. Then I made my way to the start. I saw Gordon Ramsay, looking younger than he used to, and Jenni Falconer, who was on the tube as I travelled from my home in Wimbledon to the event. I also saw Will Greenwood, the former rugby player. And Ben Fogle, who evidently was not running this year. He had Ludo, his child, on his shoulders.
Fogle and Nell McAndrew started the race. I did not fell nervous. I had drunk some Red Bull and taken some painkillers for my sore hamstring, damaged during the warm up to my last race, a 10km a fortnight ago in Regents Park. It may look like I only run in Royal Parks, but that is not the case.
I set my watch and went with the flow of runners. I was near the front so did not mind being over taken. In fact, throughout the race, I was overtaken by more than 100 people I would guess – I did not count them. This is simply an estimate. But I was sanguine about my performance after reading Haruki Murakama’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running book. Reading this on the way to the race is rather like wearing a Smiths T-shirt to a Smiths concert. However, I enjoyed the calm feeling the book gave me on the way to the race. I had been up since 5.30am with my two children.
A song was in my head during the opening part of the race, which ran down Constitution Hill to Big Ben. It was Thomas the Tank Engine. This was slightly annoying but when I looked at my watch I did not mind because I had run 6.47 for the first mile. Slow down I thought to myself. I thought the same for the first few miles. Blade running Paralympian Richard Whitehead passed me at four miles. Many people spoke to him. He replied, talking about how he had won at 100m in the Paralympics, a month earlier, but this half marathon was much further and more difficult. He was being self-effacing.
I did not mind him passing me. I had read that he was a very fine runner, with a best marathon time of 2.35. Mine is 2.59, which shows the comparison. My belief was because many people had begun behind me, they would pass me during the race. And they did. I did not mind. The sun was out and my need to urinate was decreasing as I began to sweat a little.
My seven minute mile pace did not let up. I passed 10km in 43 minutes, only a minute less than I had run the whole distance in my disappointing race in Regents Park a fortnight before. I was growing more confident. This was because I was not putting pressure on myself. Many people would say I do test myself with challenges and that leads to stress. Today there was little stress. I was calculating the worst case scenario time in my head. If I ran the second half of the race five minutes slower than the first, which was unlikely as I was feeling quite strong, I would complete the race in 1.36. That would not be the end of the world. But my pace was steady. The runner carrying the 1.30 pace flag passed my after exactly 10 miles. I tried to stick with him but only managed that for a few minutes. He had begun behind me and was therefore running faster than my pace. I would have to beat him anyway to make under 1.30. I kept running on. I heard a steel band. They mostly play at festivals when I hear them, usually high profile runs such as this. I neared the end. My pace had not slipped. I tried to speed up but as I did not want to hurt myself earlier in the race by testing the boundaries of my pace I found it difficult to step up a gear. I cantered down the finishing straight and finished in 1.31.13. Seven minute mile pace or just under. I had to walk a long way to fetch my bag. By now I had six Lucozades, six Bavaria non alcoholic beers, is Rude Health granolas, 6x Eat Natural bars, 6x Rice dreams – and an M&S banana. I caught the tube home. There were no runners nearby. At home it was as if nothing had happened. I had run my best time in a decade.


At US ambassador Louis Susman’s house Winfield House in Regents Park the other day for New York High Line event. Met Mark Camley who is looking after Olympic park legacy. A lot of Elsworth Kelly art. And signed pics of Barack and Joe Biden. I drank G&T and ate Ferrero Rocher.

3. If you get an email telling you that you can catch Swine Flu from tins of ham then delete it. It’s Spam.

4. I see Daily Telegraph has this week published a piece on what bulbs to plant now. I wrote this a few weeks ago one how article son bulbs should be out now rather than in spring, as they usually are. Amateur Gardening’s Kris Collins says he does spring bulb articles in autumn when you plant bulbs. KC has won a T&M trip to Essen for best tree lily pic.

5. Put away the barbecue and garden furniture this weekend. And tidied up the allotment for winter. Indoor growing now. My Westland chillis are coming up.

6. At Wimbledon Common on Saturday I went up the windmill. Windmills are a good thing I think. My eldest made some flour.

7. Also at the Common, my youngest met a pig.

8. And the other one climbed the woodpile. This could become a children’s book.

JK Rowling, allotments – is it the end?, “could not make head nor tail of it”

Went to see JK Rowling the other day. Some people were selling her book on Ebay after the talk and signing. JK was very nice. The audience was mainly very sweet geeks aged around 20. I vox popped a few and they’d come from France, Italy, Surbiton etc. Some were in witch hats. The book is quite sweary- JK read a bit that sounded like Vicky Pollard as read by Pam Ayres. She had a go at the Daily Mail off camera because Jan Moir criticised the book for being a ‘socialist manifesto.’ JK said she took this a compliment. Mail doesn’t like JK. JK doesn’t like Mail much either.

1. I’m running the Royal Parks half marathon this weekend. Aiming to beat Chester the Squirrel and Ben Fogle. And my personal worst. The event is the grandest half marathon the the world, heading through Hyde Park, Green Park, past Big Ben, Whitehall, the Mall etc.  I’m a big fan. I’ve done it every year since it started. I’ll take a bag for freebies too.

2. Got an email from James Alexander Sinclair about  iPad garden magazine appintoGardens. Tiffany Daneff is co-editor or whatever they’re titling themselves. Tiff is married to James ‘batshit’ Delingpole, popular Telegraph anti-environmentalist blogger. Del has written anti-windfarm articles. I quite like windmills. What is interesting is how Del and Tiff get on. I always feel sorry for the spouse of the foaming type of writer. She’s a garden hack and he’s anti-green. How does that work? I know nothing about either by the way. I used to blog for Telegraph and was popular in my own field (gardening) and was told to contact DT blogs ed Damian Thompson. He ignored me. Which is what you don’t want as a blogger I’m told.

3. More allotmenteers are getting thrown off their plots. This is a good thing, say some, because of waiting lists. Mainly newbies who are giving up, allotment types tell me, such as Allotment Regeneration Initiative, which is closing. Gardeners Click has closed too.

4. Debra Stephenson is a celeb friend of Red Tractor Week.

5. National Trust’s Morden Hall Park farmers’ market is surprise hit. The market includes a wet fish stall as well as the usual stalls selling “meat, fruit, vegetables, apple juice, chutneys, cheeses, bread, cakes and more!” Why is bread singular but cheeses plural? Also at Morden Hall, they had an apple day recently. Derek Diaper from Clandon turned up to drop off some kit and got roped in.

6. Dear Matthew, At the Daily Mail we are now running a new syndication website whereby you can view all the features that have appeared in the Daily Mail and its associated papers and magazines. This includes a vast backlog with contributions from top contributors and award winning magazines. Of particular interest to your magazine is our collection of garden features that include contributions from Monty Don. It is free to set you up with an account, from where you can easily navigate the site, and then select any features that are of interest to you. We can also send you the latest features that are of interest to you on a weekly basis. Is this something that would be of interest to you? Kind regards, Sean.” I asked how much MD’s articles cost. No reply.
7. Mr Bloom is coming back.

8. Best selling gardening lit. James Wong is top.

9. Conifer Encyclopedia should win Garden Media Guild book of the year. It’s comprehensive. Probably won’t, I’m told. I sent an entry to GMG the other day. They rang back, endlessly repeating they “could not make head nor tail of it”. Does not bode well.

10. I’ve written a piece on sweetpeas for Guardian for 20 October and wild bird care for mid November. I really want to write about peat. And Christmas trees. Amateur Gardening is set to publish a news featureby me on peat. It will be the first in a consumer mag that isn’t an opinion piece in the history of garden writing.

11. At Glee last month, top celebs were: Adam Eustace, James Wong, Pippa Greenwood, David Domoney, model Zoe James.

12. Countryfile-style pic. There’s a lot of spiders around.

13. On a sadder note, attended Kew inquest.

Mo Farah, Titchmarsh’s £29m, Anita Desai, Heston Blumenthal, David Cameron’s latte, James Wong electric daisys

Allotment competition last week. No rosettes-epic fail. Running-got bitten by a lurcher on Wimbledon Common and ran through brambles. But times improving (see no.5).


1.  Garden Media Guild has which judges are judging which categories at its annual garden writer awards for the first time this year, after I’ve suggested they do so for several years.
Or at least I though they had.
They changed the link and later told me they had sent me who was judging what by accident.
They’ve also got a few journalists to judge for the first time. Ok, maybe three or four I’d recognise as journalists and not just garden writers.
Marc Rosenberg and Anita Gress are doing trade. News is Liz Anderson (The Hillier PR I think though GMG haven’t confirmed) and Jane Merrick, political editor of the Independent on Sunday. Michelle Chapman and Petra Hoyar Millar are doing blogs, a category that will surely be dropped by next year. There’s quite a lot of PR people judging. Suppose they are media-trained.

2. Seasonality. Topicality. Spring bulb articles – should they be published now, when you can buy and plant them rather than in spring (as all gardening publications do), when bulbs bloom.
Taylors Bulbs tells me: “Regarding writing about spring flowering varieties now, yes, I totally support articles being published about spring flowering bulbs when the gardening public can then take the inspiration and put it into action. Gardeners have enough to occupy them in the spring anyway and there is no point in tempting someone with beautiful varieties that they then cannot get. After all, we know bulbs need to prominently positioned as a good number of visitors to garden centres can forget the correct planting season and we know of customers asking where the bulbs are when they are in flower so writing about them in the Autumn is far better. And, with the best will in the world, the number of gardeners that plan 12 months ahead when reading about a variety in one spring to buy in the autumn and see the following spring is not many.”
Do you think the garden media should write about them now rather than in February?

3. Went to T in the Park this year. Wash out. Garden blogger Patrick Vickery went to this festival
I’d like to start a campaign to get better bands at garden shows and not just Johnny’s Jolly Jazzmen. Any views?

4. New series: What garden types are reading: Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day-read by Catherine Dawes of Gardeners’ World mag. As seen at Sutton’s event at Hadlow College. I was on a train with her. No wonder she got her book out.
James Wong, who is the face of a new Suttons ‘Homegrown Revolution’ range said his mother had taken more psychoactive drugs than he could contemplate. I ate one of his electric daisies – not nice. Marc Rosenberg was wearing his signature shirt, as pictured last week.
I’m reading Nicola Barker’s Love Your Enemies and Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike.

5. Running 10km in Regents Park for Action Against Hunger.
If anyone wants to donate I’m trying to beat my age in years in minutes to complete 10km. Mo Farah can only just do it.
Also doing Royal Parks half marathon this autumn, mostly in Hyde Park.
6. Plea for help from Amateur Gardening

7. I’m told Diarmuid Gavin and Heston Blumenthal are not linking up for Chelsea Flower Show’s centenary in May 2013 with a garden that encapsulates the enfant terribles of gardening and cookery’s wild imaginations (as rumoured). So it must be Diarmuid and…dunno. Who is like Blumenthal but less well known? James Wong’s doing a garden with a new sponsor. Cleve West and David Domoney have both been described at the Heston B of gardening. West won’t be at CFS.

8. Prime Minister David Cameron has visited the cafe at Burston Garden Centre, Chiswell Green, Hertfordshire, ordering five teas, five coffees and three lattes at the garden centre restaurant.

9. New Defra minister is Owen Paterson. Guardian not fans.

10. Garden writing operates in its own sweet world where you can write a feature without talking to anyone involved or visiting where you are writing about and you can write a market update without any numbers.
To help out, GfK figures show slug killers year on year performance was up 29.9 per cent to July 12. Water butt sales were 56.2 per cent for the year to date to August 12.
Weedkiller sales were 0.3 per cent up (not “did phenomenally well”). Bedding sales…a bit more difficult to quantify but around 15 per cent. Article Doesn’t mention autumn campaigns from HTA and RHS. Peter Burks said his quote in February.

11. Jamie Oliver has sold £126.4m worth of books to make him second most successful author behind JK Rowling. Alan Titchmarsh has sold £29.6m (42nd).

12. BBC1 primetime programme The Flowerpot Gang bounced back to 2.2m viewers in its last showing last week. Figures were 3.4m, 2.7m, 2.7m and 2.2m, average 2.25m, around 10 per cent of audiences. I don’t see it being recommissioned.

Big plant little plant, Flowerpot Gang


Big plant little plant. You have seen it before. Here’s an example. See how many times you see it in gardening press in the next week. Meanwhile, Thompson & Morgan tree lily comp hotting up. Phil McCann in the lead. Tim Rumball and Peter Seabrook are also competitive. You win a trip to Essen.

2. I spotted this for sale in a garden centre. It’s an owl. Really.

Here’s a real owl at Deen City Farm, which is under threat from lack of funds.

3. Blackberries are out. Watch out for Alys Fowler types in your undergrowth with ice cream containers, foraging. It’s still in. There’s London Food fortnight or forage week or something coming up. They don’t need me to publicise it. Mostly media folk involved I imagine.

4. Went raspberry picking at Garson’s recently. The people we went with got a bit carried away and spent £9.09 on raspberries. I ate at least a tenner’s worth. Whatever happened to pick your own?

5. Saw the Olympic marathon. Was stood near National Trust allotment, which is now cleared. The National Trust’s Archimedes screw at Morden Hall is coming on though.

6. Here’s an opportunity for garden centre owners. Head shops in your garden centre.
Bio Bizz All Mix compost and equipment seized by police from a cannabis factory in Shrewsbury, is being put to good use helping create a “secret garden” at a local school. The police felt it was a shame to destroy the perfectly useable compost. The Dutch compost brand is a favourite of cannabis growers. These people really know their crops. They buy a lot of equipment.

7. I saw this Olympic gardening piece in the Guardian. It was similar to a piece I wrote…in the Guardian. The author was good on Flowerpot Gang though, which is now down to 1.7m viewers, at 8pm on BBC1. Forums are amusing on the programme.

8. Was v keen to get a pic of night gardening at the Olympics. But couldn’t get one and was not allowed in to take one. Apparently there was one in a paper. Did anyone see it?

9. Kevin Pietersen has been dropped from the England cricket team for slagging off colleagues by text. The thing cricket writers can’t say about KP is that he’s as thick as most footballers (and many athletes) and therefore can’t be expected to not say stupid things.

10. My allotment has a September show. Competition-ugly veg, three fruits are the only ones I have a chance in this year. My plot is infested with marigolds, snails and has a frog living on it. The allotments have gone self-managed. Rents are still the highest I know of and there are more eviction notices.

11. There’s a sycophantic interview in the Telegraph with Joe Swift about his new gardening programme, The Flowerpot Gang, the one that I revealed existed back in May. JS and the interviewer talk extensively about Chelsea 2012 without mentioning JS was jettisoned from presenting BBC TV coverage there this year because he was also doing Homebase’s garden. Why is gardening journalism always so soft? Why not just run the PR?

12. Anne Wareham has written a piece on her experience of being part of ITV’s Love Your Garden. She says she didn’t fit into the TV producers’ box and they tried to mould her view of her garden towards making it my TV-genic. You don’t learn anything about TV producers (pushy, out of touch, PC) and AW (difficult, contrary, amusing).

13. Bob Flowerdew talking about money in the paper. He has no pension and claims not to use money. He rents. He once bought a gardening book for £200 and an Amstrad for £300. He’s 59 and says he is a financial management accountant.

14. Further to last post, first to leave lunch at Mr Fothergill’s open day was not Liz Dobbs. It was Peter Seabrook, who took a sandwich into the trial grounds.

15. Environment Agency press officer: “I’ve got a million things to do and can’t waste oxygen on this.”  She had been on ‘Olympic secondment’. That’s ok then.

16. Evening Standard has reviewed this year’s gardening books. In August. David Sexton, who is books ed, chooses A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto’s Gardens (he goes as often as he can) as ‘most desirable’. Monty Don’s Gardening at Longmeadow is ‘absolutely likeable – like the man himself’. Choosing Laetitia Maklouf’s Sweet Peas for Summer is a nod to the under 55s: ‘could be insufferable-actually, winning’. Last two are Lord Cavendish’s In a Time to Plant: Life and Gardening at Holker. This is about Holker Hall in Cumbria. I’ve written about it having talked to the gardener, rather than the landowner. Finally, Encyclopedia of Flowering Shrubs by Jim Gardiner: ‘no serious gardener will want to be without.’

17. Email to Asda press officer Oliver got autocorrected…to ‘Hi Lover, Do you have a pic of…’ Oliver said he didn’t have a pet name for me yet but here’s the image. Me: Red face.

18. The Independent Garden Center show in Chicago has Dennis DeYoung from Styx on. Last year was Lou Gramm from Foreigner.

19. National Trust film night at Morden Hall. Hundreds there. For Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. £5 a sandwich and £4 a pint. £10 entry.

20. Men’s waistlines in the agricultural and landscape industry are expanding more rapidly than people working in any other business sector, according to workwear specialists Alexandra. The company, which provides construction and manual labour workwear, has reported a growing demand for larger clothing, after the average chest size order has increased by five inches over recent years. According to data sourced by Alexandra in the UK, the chest size of workers in the sector has continued to expand over recent years with the purchase of larger size boiler suits showing the greatest increase

21. Carolyn Hart did a feature on blueberry grower Castleton Farm in Daily Telegraph mag. She calls the growers the Murrays throughout. They are Mitchells. A long way to go to not get their name right.
Anthony Snell @AntSnell
Fantastic piece in saturday telegraph mag about # Blueberries @rjmitch21 most northerly@berrygardensltd Scottish farm.Great team!
Ross Mitchell @rjmitch21
@AntSnell thanks ant, it was a shame they got our names wrong!

22. After last time’s guess who?  (it was Bob Flowerdew’s Ugg boots) whose signature C&A shirt is this?

23. Wimbledon topiary Wenlock sold for charity for £3,000 post Olympics. Cost £6k to make. Used Chinese steel (and UK plants).

More Olympic gardening with the medal winners, music special, win a prize


Thompson & Morgan tree lily competition entry. My boy is 9’6” tall btw.

1. The Crown Estate in Windso had an unveiling of Lie of the Land, an artwork by John Edgar in the New Zealand Garden at the Savill Garden. I went along. Met Mahe Drysdale. He’s the NZ rower who won the single sculls at the Olympics. He wants to carry on to Rio. Also there, ex All Black Anton Oliver, seven more rowers including two more winners and three more thirds (bronzes in Olympic speak). Sam Martin designed the garden. The oarsmen looked a bit bemused by skirt-wearing mohawked Kiwi plantsman James Fraser. On the way there the taxi driver pointed out where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Brucie and Ernie Els live.

2. At Mr Fothergill’s seed trial at Newmarket the other day. Part of the journalists’ calendar. Thompson & Morgan’s similar event dropped off it this year, as did Unwins’ a few years ago. It’s the year of the sweetpea, say Mr F’s. Colin Hambidge ate six puddings and Liz Dobbs was first to leave lunch to survey the trials.

Music special:

3. At Royal Parks event at BT London Live Site in Hyde Park with the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Dodgy and Cast headlined. I watched the golds roll in on the telly while swigging Pimms. Better than when I last saw Dodgy and Cast in student union swigging 10p a pint promo lager.

4. Jake Shillingford played at a wedding I went to at Cambridge University Kings College last week. The happy couple met thru the My Life Story Facebook page. Keynes, Turing, Rushdie, Zoe Smith and Baddiel are alumni. Met the editor of antipodean expat mag TNT there.

5. Stephen Lacey has had another go for the Telegraph at the Olympic gardens after they published a piece by a guy who hadn’t been. Probably a bit late after Guardian, Standard and Gardeners World had covered (some more successfully than others). DT makes a point of saying SL visited. There’s def a debate to be had on whether you need to go somewhere to write about it.

6. Morrissey being nasty about Olympics. Is an event mostly for middle classes and higher? All the bunting is in the nice areas, unlike for the football tournaments.

7. Olympic stadium hot choc stand. “Sorry we’re not doing it anymore because we’ll get too many complaints”.

8. Chelsea latest. Spoke to Anne-Marie Powell. Me: Who’s at CFS 2013? AMP? Tom Stuart-Smith on the triangle. Goes to show, if you start a rumour it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jinny Blom now in frame. Sturgeon and Cleve West out.

9. BBC press office for The Flowerpot Gang (15 Aug 8pm BBC1). I heard the presenter of this new feelgood hospice garden makeover series Phil Tufnell let cat out of bag on cricket radio commentary in May. So I asked BBC press office for details (title, channel, series length). They wouldn’t give any. I ran the story with what Tuffers had said on the radio. The next week they press released all the details, but didn’t send them to me.


10. New feature-Whose shoes? Prize: Olympic gold medal (chocolate) – or packet of seeds (for vegans). Clue: They’re Ugg boots.

Read More »

Olympic gardening, 50 shades of gardening, big names in gardening

1. eFIG PR: “Team Office Plant stood proudly before an independent panel of judges as the Olympic Women’s Football kicked off in Cardiff. The panel was made up of some big names in the world of horticulture, Matthew Appleby of Horticulture Week, Phil Evans of Planteria News, Rhiannon James of The City Planter and garden designer Claudia de Yong.”

2. Got sent a free Gardeners’ World mag to try and persuade me to subscribe. It has a ‘what’s on’ page mostly about what gardening’s on TV. That lists Hampton Court Flower Show coverage (BBC2), Tatton Park coverage (BBC2) and Gardeners’ World (BBC2) coverage, plus, to fill the rest of the page, Chris Packham programme on otters (BBC4) and Michael Mosley on the human digestive system (BBC4). No mention of the magazine’s cover star Alan Titchmarsh’s Love Your Garden, which attracted double or more audiences than most of the other programmes mentioned. Seems a bit disingenuous not to mention it, especially since BBC is no longer publisher. GW mag is now published by Immediate Media after private equity company Exponent bought 50 BBC mags in 2011. GW mag was sold under licence – BBC and BBC programme-branded titles will be licensed (including Gardeners’ World, BBC Wildlife), with BBC Worldwide not retaining ownership but “keeping a strong continuing editorial interest under licensing agreements”.

3. Olympic update: London paper Evening Standard Homes & Property gardening writer didn’t visit the east London site either (as well as Telegraph guy who wrote a long feature without seeing the park) for her two page feature on the Olympic garden. But ES did find time to nick and publish without asking my pic of Olympic head gardener Des Smith. I’ve asked pic desk at ES for 50 quid. They didn’t reply. Keen to photograph night gardening at Olympic park. But since I can’t get in during the day, night may be out of question.

4. Travel section: Garden Museum/Hortus mag offering five day trip to Yorkshire with Christopher Woodward and David Wheeler. Middlethorpe Hall, Scampston Hall etc. Price £1,699.

Cruise to Tenerife with Matt Biggs and Will Giles, or Madeira with MB, David Hurrion and Tony Russell. Price: not disclosed.

5. September is D-Day for some consumer gardening mags, who have seen ads from posh glasshouse companies etc dry up this year because of recession/poor weather=poor sales, I’m told by insiders.

6. Tony Hawks Lakes film premier

7. “Weren’t they meant to be sold out? Day one of the Games sees banks of empty seats at key venues… as Lord Coe promises to ‘name and shame’ sponsors who waste tickets.” One big reason sponsors’ seats are empty is because corporate types are nervous about taking free hospitality-looks bad and could break rules. Hence seats are full of employees, soldiers and schoolkids.

8. Fifty Shades of Green-Exbury makes Private Eye this week. Exbury Gardens sent out a press release trying to cash in on the hit S&M novel. Private Eye included it in a column of similars. Fifty Shades of Grey at Littleheath Garden Centre tops Exbury by using an innocent elderly male employee sitting in a display of grey plants. Is he called Grey? I asked. No. He’s not. They replied.

9. Went down to Richmond Park to see cycle race then Bushy Park for women’s and saw Wiggo win the time trial too. Also in attendance was Dom of dick and dom. He was in wellies, shorts and with a pram. He had a ’50 pence’ bald spot.

10. Legendary blogger Soilman has received an allotment eviction notice.

11. Regents Park manager Nick Biddle has to scrub out Blur graffito ‘and the views so nice’ lyric from a path on Primrose Hill. NB is the most rock’n’roll parkie I know. He’s an ex House of Love roadie.

12. Query to Jamie Oliver press office-emailed reply. “In case it helps, Jamie is currently unavailable for comments or interviews – many apologies. Peace n love.”

Olympic gardening – I was there, hanging with gardening stars, lycra louts

1. Did a piece for the Guardian on the Olympic park gardens. There was one in Telegraph on the same day. I’m reliably informed the author of the DT piece Noel Kingsbury has never been to the park, or seen the meadows or the gardens.

2. At Hampton Court. I’m back left, either Chris Beardshaw’s bodyguard or on Her Majesty’s Service with Sophie Wessex. Sent/papped by the Fat Gardener. At the Bournemouth garden I mistook the dove sculpture for a whale.


3. I see Alex James from Blur is having another go at a music/food festival, this time with Jamie Oliver. Last year’s organisers went into administration, leaving many creditors and popster turned cheesemaker James blushing. You would have thought AJ would have lied low for a while.

4. Did this charity event in Keswick. Here is the winning team. Wasn’t really a race and the event was cut short because of torrential rain and high winds. Still first though.

5. Ex England cricketer Paul Nixon, who once hit me for six, has a autobiography is out this month, titled Keeping Quiet. I was hoping to write this. Brackets failed as my dad would say.

6. Stars at Hampton-Danny Baker (looking bit better), Sophie Wessex (doesn’t garden-has two kids), Nick Knowles (white suit), David Seaman (spelt Seamen on the PR), John Humphries (with daughter maybe?), loads of garden presenters but not Titch or Charlie Dimmock. Titch was mid Love Your Garden filming (didn’t stop Domoney being there) but Dimmock, well, she’s gone, because of TV sexism against older women presenters. And most gardening TV producers are women. Apple Bee was an EDF promo at H Ct. Golden Knob one of the pics of apples that they used in the PR.

At Gardeners World Live James Martin, Titch, other TV gardeners. They don’t count as clebs at a gardening show. Andy Flower on the tube ahead of England cricket team’s loss to South Africa on a laptop.

7. Summer is the new spring says the Horticultural Trades Association,
trying to drum up business for garden centres after a cold and wet
season, which has seen plant sales down a quarter on last year.
The planting season traditionally stops when Wimbledon tennis starts.
It’s too hot, too late and it’s the summer holidays.
But while summer is unlikely to be the new spring, there is some reason
in what the HTA says.
The weather has been so bad (looking like the least sunny June, wettest
April etc) the season is several weeks behind where it usually is. You
can plant now. The soil is damper than usual and the climate is milder.
The downside is that slugs and snails are rife and will eat your new
plants unless you’re vigilant. There are 50 per cent more gastropods
around than at the same time last year, says the British Horticultural
Despite Monty Don on BBC Gardeners’ World saying he will not bow to
chemical companies and mention non-organic methods of pest control,
slugs pesticide sales are 20 times higher than this time last year one
manufacturer tells me. A garden centre owner tells me pesticide sales
were 92 per cent up last week, because of increased slug and snail
activity in the wet.
I conducted a straw poll of 20 professional grower exhibitors at
Gardeners’ World Live last month. They all told me that they admired
Monty’s principled stance, but he was wrong to advocate organics only.
Two people told me he was right. Both were TV presenters.
So, is this a bit of a write off season or not? And if it is hard to
grow stuff this year, is it ok to use chemical help?

7. Saw Mark Nicholas in hospitality at Wimbledon. Can’t stand this cricket commentator’s Tony Blackburn accent. Same with Andrew Castle of the tennis. Sound off for them. Boris Becker has moved house in Wimbledon. Has a load of sponsored Mercs outside.

8. Wimbledon town centre has a new metal stag sculpture on the station forecourt. There are no stags in Wimbledon. A womble would have looked tacky, said sculptor.

9. Titchmarsh set to sign a new B&Q contract I reckon. Secondary school gardening is where it’s at, says Titch, who I interviewed recently. Also interviewed Matthew Wilson this week about Greenfingers and sat next to Toby Buckland at GIMA dinner a couple of weeks ago, talking about football. They were all very nice.

10. Met some 90-year-old Kiwi war veterans at Green Park. Quite inspiring to hear the old guys’ stories. Serco has landscape contract. Mike Read was there.

11. At Hampton Court lunch, Elizabeth Banks got plenty of laughs by calling Sophie Wessex the Countess of Essex and john Butterfield, John Butterfly. Our table fell down but Dan Wolfe and I dived under it to save the day. Jon Wheatley took a photo of me under the table.

12. Monty Don has been tweeting that he is the great friend of nurseries but hasn’t been to garden centres for years. Many garden centres have nurseries. All sell nurseries’ plants. He’s also doing a BBC French garden series but says cuts mean its just three hours.

12. Saw Chris Young at Hampton Court. He asked about my blog and wondered what I did all day now it is occasional. Got me wondered what CY did. Unearth little heard fresh voices such as Lia Leendertz, Tim Richardson clearly. They feature in the latest The Garden issue. Sui Kee Lee told me there wasn’t much work going round for hacks. That’s because LL, TR and Anne Wareham get it all, filling the column inches of the retired formerly ubiquitous Ursula Buchan.

13.  Tom Stuart Smith on the triangle at Chelsea 2013.

14. I asked a representative gardening audience sample what could be made better about Gardeners’ World. Stop the presenters saying plarnts instead of plants was the answer. You don’t say arnts instead of ants do you?

15. There’s a new cyclist on the road after Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win. It’s the lycra lout who want to tell you they have been cycling for longer than you. These biking bores have a go at you for discreetly riding through red lights, down pavements etc, saying ‘you’ll give cyclists a bad name’. There are thousands of new cyclists on the road. And you never get anywhere if you don’t run the odd red. Most media is now pro cycling, with wrap round covers on the Times etc. They all run loads of cycle accident stories. Times have changed here. For years, the Evening Standard ran an unofficial anti-cycling campaign, reasoning its readers were not cyclists because you can’t bike and read the paper at the same time. This all changed when editors realised half its staff biked to work because they couldn’t afford public transport (reading Rosamund Urwin etc you will know how much they moan about their wages). Now ES loves cyclists. But let’s not forget the harm it did by running stories about the havoc bikers to pregnant dogs etc caused by nipping through the odd red.

16. NFU headlines.
NFU continues fight against changes to livestock movement rules

Subject: NFU News AMENDED headline
Importance: High

NFU continues fight for common sense livestock movement rules

garden blog April

Blog april

1. Spotted Boris Becker and family in Wimbledon. There was an Easter thing on with Shetland ponies being ridden by people dressed as bunnies. Boris looked bemused, as did everyone else.

2. Titchmarsh at Ideal Home Show. He was blaming water ‘boards’ for drought.

3. David Domoney and Prince Charles at Ideal Home Show.

4. Antonio Carluccio, not eating at the Umbria a land of culture event at the Italian ambassador Alain Giorgio’s house in Grosvenor Square. There were no Ferrero Rocher’s on offer but some mushroom gnocchi was quickly snapped up as was the dessert wine. Contemporary art, Luca Signorelli’s exhibition and music and dance by UmbriAEnsemble was the entertainment.

5. Garden hacks calendar: where writers exchange gossip-ie no work, newspaper has cut payments, isn’t so and so wonderful?
The calendar used to involve Yellow Book launch in Feb at South Bank Centre in London as a first meeting after New Year. Now YB launch is so late that fewer people go. My record is nine YBs. The hacks go to Garden Press Day instead in Feb (when it doesn’t snow). That was moving to Alexandra Palace in north London from Hort Halls (RHS is selling Lawrence Hall for £18m). Will the hacks trek that far? No, so its moving to Barbican.

6. Thompson & Morgan’s popular July open day is going too. Hacks grand (Robin Lane-Fox) and humble (me) gorged on seeds and food at the Hintlesham Hall (once owned by Robert carrier and then Ruth Watson) near Ipswich. But that’s off this year because of the Olympics. More might go to Mr Fothergills trials, which are the last of their kind with this sort of open day. Unwins sweet pea open day ended a few years ago –last special guest was Mary Archer, who everyone described as ‘fragrant’.

7. Then there is the Garden Media Guild event in November. Been rather hijacked by an undesirable clique. Oh, and garden blogger get togethers. Maybe we need less knowledge sharing for a more diverse garden media.

8. B&Q has been selling 39 per cent peat top soil. Maybe I’m cynical but I think this didn’t become a newspaper story because B&Q has such a big spring ad spend. Ditto the story in 30 March HW about the Scabious ‘Kingfisher Blue’. The Telegraph eventually ran a bowderlised version of the peat story– but they did have a four page B&Q ad in the same issue. The next day the ‘Independent’ ran a not very Independent even lamer version of the tale. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/for-peats-sake-bq-runs-into-trouble-with-new-topsoil-7609048.html. Oddly, the hack who wrote it, Josephine Forster, who has a first from Cambridge, tweeted Tim Briercliffe for comment. Why not ring him up? Or find the original story rather than relying on the Telegraph’s? They all used the headline ‘for peat’s sake’.
They all made a lame job of rehashing my/each others’ articles but at least it’s out there…



9. Is Guy Hands only sleeping 4 hours a night and working the rest of the time a Thatcher/Churchill-style myth? I rang his office the other day at 7.30am and a bod said he wasn’t there yet.

10. At the GIMA meeting at Barton Grange, Pippa Greenwood: “I’m not sure what I’m meant to be talking about.” You can cruise to the Baltic with PG in cruise.co.uk’s latest series of trips, which also see David Hurrion manning the forecastle to Cuba, with Matt Biggs on the bridge for the Norwegian fjords.

11. Top 100 garden centre people list in latest Garden Retail mag that I edit: 26 emails/calls so far. Three in favour of, 23 against their placings. One accusation of misogyny
one of wrong title, several requests for extra copies. All good fun.

12. Some great feedback on Tim Penrose (Bowden Hostas) interview in HW 23 March. He upset Harrogate show people by saying he makes less there-they all do well. Others liked his style-sell and don’t moan. Ex GB’s youngest funeral director TP liked the piece as it “ruffled feathers”.

13. Martyn Cox is now a TV star on BID TV doing an OB from lottery hq is Bucks.

14. Hosepipe bans.


15. Alys Fowler on the curiously humourless Our Food, eating samphire. Nice 2c AF bk on TV. Bit prissy that she wouldn’t pick it herself and had to get a local to do it – PC BBC. Lots of goshes too. No-one has said gosh since about 1950.
Why do so many garden hacks want to be food hacks? Guess they get more work and a bigger audience. Also they have made garden media so dull, including with their blogs and tweets, that can’t blame them for wanting to get out. Also good on the programme is Historic Royal Palaces curator Lucy Worsley, who is known for having a rhotacism. Quite common in the countryside/home/garden TV sector Joe Swift, Mike Dilger, Phil Spencer, Packham etc. Guess its cute. No stuttering allowed on TV though. I’ve only interviews three no.1 pop artiss and two had stutters-Tony Hawks and Paul Hardcastle. Kim Wilde didn’t.

16. Amusing spat between Independent environment hack Mike McCarthy and Defra. MM is one of the few enviro hacks left on the papers, who have got rid of specialists and replaced them with cheap staffers. MM is upset after talking to Dr Bob Watson, the Defra chief scientific advisor. After several paragraphs lauding Dr Bob, MM gets to the point. Dr Bob has told MM he is going to review neonictinoid new evidence that the chemical buggers up bees.
But Defra has written one of its rather odd ‘myth busters’ saying it isn’t reviewing anything. MM in Indie 5 April gets v upset about Defra ‘peddling’ its line. Turns out the ‘mythbuster’ is a year old and Defra is investigating the research. So all fine then.

17. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17597370#asset
What can go wrong with the big fella’s backing?

18. Saw two red squirrels in Lake District last weekend.
19. I may be involved in a charity tandem ride pulling a wheelbarrow from Fermoys garden centre in Devon to Chelsea.
20. PTES has highlighted a number of Urban myths –quoted by Steve Head of the Wildlife Gardening Forum.
Urban myth
Rats are as numerous as people –
You are never more than six feet
from a rat
In fact:
There are fewer than ten million brown rats in Britain. In 20076,
The English House Condition Survey found that rats occupied
four of every thousand urban properties and were present in the
gardens of just three per cent.
Rats leap at people’s throats Rats jump to escape, not to attack
Rats spread disease – inhaling
rat droppings or coming into
contact with their urine can be
Rats are fastidiously clean unless overcrowded, spending a
considerable proportion of their time grooming themselves and
others. They do carry some human diseases, particularly
leptospirosis, but the risk of infection is low and is smaller from
urban rats than those in rural areas.
Fox numbers are increasing
Fox populations are stable in the long-term. Mange has had a big
impact in many areas and populations are slow to recover.
Numbers in Bristol five years ago were only a fifth of those in
1994, before an outbreak of mange. The findings of Living with
Mammals are that numbers in urban areas nationally have
changed little in the last decade.
The pre-breeding (adult) population in urban areas is estimated at
about 35,000; within the M25 there are fewer than10,000.
Foxes raid bins and are
dangerous to people and pets
Very few raid bins – better food is often left out for them by
people – and heavy-duty wheelie bins are completely fox-proof.
There is no evidence that the parasites and diseases foxes might
carry pose any significant risk to people or domestic pets – in
fact, the risk to people is much greater from their pets, which
carry most of the same parasites. Confirmed attacks on people are
6 Given the average adult biomass of each of the 62.3m humans in the UK is about 240x greater than that of a
rat, it’s pretty clear which mammal species is above carrying capacity.
almost unknown – compared to the many thousands of injuries,
and several deaths, caused by dogs each year.
The mole population has rocketed
since the ban on strychnine use in
The latest data (to 2007) assessed by the Tracking Mammal
Partnership, of which PTES is a member, suggest a decline in
numbers since 2000. Nothing is known yet about numbers after
the ban. The indication from Living with Mammals is that mole
activity has changed little in urban areas over the past decade.
Bats fly into your hair7
Bats are superbly adapted to navigating in the dark and skilful
enough flyers to catch airborne insect prey – they have to desire
to get caught (accidentally or deliberately) in a person’s hair.
Bat roosts cause damage to
Bats rarely cause any damage to buildings: unlike birds, they
don’t bring in nesting materials and, unlike rodents, they won’t
gnaw electric cables or wood. Their droppings carry no disease
and are generally odourless. Large colonies of pipistrelles can
number several hundred individuals in summer and can be noisy
tenants, but so important are buildings to bats that managing and
renovating them appropriately is a big part of bat conservation.
Grey squirrels have caused
declines in British bird numbers
over the past 40 years
The British Trust for Ornithology found that grey squirrels had
no impact on many of England’s woodland bird species. Grey
squirrels do occasionally eat eggs and fledglings but so do red
squirrels, and birds probably compensate for the loss.
Grey squirrels are responsible for
the decline of red squirrels
While grey squirrels have a competitive advantage over reds and
have displaced them from much of England, red squirrel numbers
declined drastically between 1900 and 1925, before grey squirrels
had become established. In southern Scotland and Ireland, red
squirrels were extinct by the 18th century due to deforestation and
habitat loss – those there today are the result of reintroductions.
In England, red squirrels were viewed as a pest and almost wiped


**** “Highly entertaining” Daily Telegraph **** “A riot” What’s On Stage **** “Inspired wordsmiths…laugh out loud funny” ThreeWeeks
If you hate slugs then you’ll love this – a musical comedy show all about the ups and downs of growing your own. Sprouting from the fertile brains of comedy songwriters and real-life allotment gardeners Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods, Can You Dig It? features a wheelbarrow-load of songs covering topics including compost, vegetable theft, annoying allotment neighbours and digging (of course).
Having earned rave reviews with a successful run at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the show is now touring the country. Highlights include a rap battle between an angry gardener and a slug, a 1980s-style power ballad to cuddly gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, a virtuoso performance on the cucumber trumpet and popular radio show Gardeners’ Question Time as you have never seen it before – Eurovision-style.
Can You Dig It? will appeal to both vegetable-growing novices and seasoned cultivators, as Jo and Dan delve into the mysterious and competitive world of vegetable shows, launch a campaign to give sprouts the recognition they deserve, and ask: John Innes – who is he?
With more and more people in the UK growing their own, Can You Dig It? is both timely and topical. There’s even a song for people who don’t like vegetables, poor things.
What’s more, Jo and Dan, are inviting gardeners across the land to join in the fun and take part in their Greenfingers Challenge designed to identify the best allotmenteering talent in Britain (and weed out the gardening dunces). At each show they’ll be inviting audience members to plant seeds, charting progress on their website at www.can-you-dig-it.co.uk
Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods are familiar faces on the UK comedy and cabaret scene and keen amateur gardeners. Both have allotments where they strive to grow a vast array of vegetables with mixed success.
Dan has performed his accordion-based comedy shows to critical acclaim across the UK both solo and with his band Pig With The Face Of A Boy. His song A Complete History of the Soviet Union, arranged to the melody of Tetris has become an internet sensation with more than two million hits on YouTube. Jo plays the ukulele and her music has featured on BBC Radio 4. She recently launched her first album and was Highly Commended in the 2011 Funny’s Funny Female Comedian of the Year competition.
Can You Dig It? is touring the UK in 2012/13 after premiering at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in August 2011 – tour dates attached. The Can You Dig It? CD, which features 16 original songs about growing vegetables, can be bought from the show’s website or is available to download from iTunes and all other good MP3 stores.
Web: www.can-you-dig-it.co.uk Twitter: twitter.com/canyoudigitshow Facebook: facebook.com/canyoudigitshow
Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods are available for interview. Media enquiries: Jo Stephenson on 07980 854097 or email jo@jostephenson.com
Photos (more images available): http://can-you-dig-it.co.uk/pr/canyoudigitpress1.jpg http://can-you-dig-it.co.uk/pr/canyoudigitpress2.jpg

20 April 2012
Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa
01926 334418, www.warwickdc.gov.uk/WDC/RoyalSpaCentre

5 May 2012
Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot
01235 515144, www.cornerstone-arts.org

18 May 2012
Bleasdale Parish Hall, Bleasdale
01995 61343, www.spotonlancashire.co.uk/bleasdale-parish-hall

19 May 2012
The Arts Centre, Burscough Wharf, Ormskirk
01695 576844, www.spotonlancashire.co.uk/the-arts-centre-burscough-wharf

26 May 2012
Square Chapel, Halifax
01422 349422, www.squarechapel.co.uk

11 July 2012
The Carriageworks, Leeds
0113 224 3801, www.carriageworkstheatre.org.uk

30 September 2012
The Kirkgate, Cockermouth


Matthew Appleby
Horticulture Week deputy editor
Garden Retail editor
020 8267 4660

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