Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Opinion- Garden makeover shows

I thought the concept of the 'garden makeover' TV show was dead. 

It seemed that the hit BBC TV gardening show Ground Force, presented by Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh, had created the perfect concept and then flogged it to death. Ground Force was the garden makeover show.

If you are not familiar with the concept of a garden makeover TV show please let me explain: you find people who are going through profound personal difficulties (bereavement, illness, disability) but who have awful scraps of land as their garden, you send/lure them away from home while a team of gardeners and builders turn their patch of ground into a beautiful garden, and then you surprise them when they come home. Everyone cries, people's lives are made that bit better... everyone's happy.

I cannot fault the garden makeover concept, even though the formula had become very tired by the end of the final series of Ground Force in 2005 (Titchmarsh had already left the series by this point, knowing that the series had already run it's time); what I do not like is the 'a garden in a weekend' angle.
This garden has developed over several glorious years... Garden House, Devon

Gardeners will tell you a garden isn't made, it is matured. You can build paths, raised beds and ponds, and design and plant your beds in a matter of days, but it is only when things are settled and come together that you really have a garden. The enjoyment of gardening comes from the process of creation; finding out that one plant doesn't do well but another thrives, and that certain combinations of colour and form work well, and also the maintenance and development of your space.

I often tell people not to fill their whole gardens in one go. If you visit a nursery or garden centre and fill your garden with all the plants looking nice at one particular time you will find yourself with a garden that looks great for a couple of weeks at the same time each year. Large gardens with lots of different elements can get away with a border that peaks at one point, but in a small garden year-round interest is vital. Spreading your plant purchasing through the year spreads the cost of creating or adding to a garden and allows you to pick the very best plants through the different seasons; combining these plants well in your space will give you interest in your garden all year round. 
Centaurea montana and Persicaria bistorta 'Superba'-
not designed, a happy accident in my friend's garden.
The new series of the ITV programme Love Your Garden is following in the footsteps of Ground Force... in fact the concept and format are virtually identical, it is only really the crew (still led by Alan Titchmarsh!) and the theme music that has changed. I much preferred the last series where Alan visited people with existing gardens and helped them tackle challenging areas (like creating an attractive edge to a pond) where the gardeners weren't happy with the look and needed a little outside help; it seemed more... realistic. Each week's project was practical, achievable and could be useful to anyone facing a similar problem in their own garden. 

When I saw there was a new line-up, including a garden designer and a builder, I was really optimistic that this new series would be teaching us all how to be better gardeners, not just flogging a long-dead horse...