A few weeks ago I was in the car listening to Gardeners’ Question Time. It was inadvertently amusing because Anne Swithinbank was talking to a Geordie gardener, about a council bedding scheme he was planning. Despite the fact that he didn’t have a particularly thick accent, when he mentioned wallflowers, she thought he’d said wildflowers and commented they were an interesting choice for a regimented bedding scheme. I tweeted about this later that evening. And then in another tweet said that the programme needs a bomb up it’s arse.

After that I was a bit surprised to get a reply tweet from Robert Abel, of the GQT production company, who tweets at JunctionForty5, saying “Exploding arses-probably out of the question but give us some more specific constructive criticism for GQT and we’ll listen.”

It too often seems to me that we in the UK excel at producing people who delight in moaning about stuff, without ever offering anything positive. I hate that. To my mind you are only allowed to moan about something if you think you can improve it, or have ideas to offer about how to do so.

With that in mind, here is my response to Robert’s Tweet.

Of course, I must begin by saying that I’m sure that the experts know more than I ever will, and I utterly respect that. But this isn’t about expertise.

It should also be said that GQT is a programme that I used to never miss, and now is one I rarely bother with. After asking myself a few times why that is, the main reason I came up with wasn’t that it’s boring, or uninspiring, or uninformative, but rather that it’s dull to listen to.

Last year, after Geoffrey Smith passed away, they aired some “best of” clips, including him crossing verbal swords with Nigel Colborn. I remember listening and wishing that the programme was more like that these days.

It seemed vibrant and alive in a way that just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

From my perspective this has been thrown into even sharper relief by the loss of John Cushnie, the only one of the recent regular incumbents with any sort of spark about them.

Of the remaining panellists, I find Bunny Guinness a bit tedious and mildly annoying (and not in a stimulated by being annoyed kind of way), and Bob Flowerdew’s manner is just plain odd. This has nothing to do with his gardening ethos, which I do quite like, just his manner. As for the other regulars, Anne Swithinbank, Pippa Greenwood and Matthew Biggs, they’re just…..well they’re just…. well frankly, they’re just beige.

I realise that the gardening radio audience are uber-conservative, by and large. And I’m not advocating a wholesale “Night of the Long Trowels” like they had in 1994 when they got rid of the whole panel.

But it just seems to me that they could have the odd expert with a bit more snap and fizz.

Thinking about it, a new presenter might be another way of injecting a bit of colour, but that said, Eric Robson is one of the most three-dimensional things about the programme. That may be seen as either praise or damnation, but whichever you choose it does not reflect well on his understudy – that big drip whose day job is reading the weather. They’d do well to give him the old ‘Spanish Archer’.

In summary, I think what I am saying is that:

Gardening as a process is about life and death. Plants reproduce and they die, they thrive and they wane, they grow berserk and are eaten to the ground.

Gardening as a practice is about empiricism along with intuition, it’s reactive and proactive, it is both passionate and passive and sometimes all at the same time.

And that surely GQT should reflect some of this vibrancy and contradiction.

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