Flower Power

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls catches up with the nation’s favourite gardener Alan Titchmarsh who turns 67 this month and has written more than 50 books.

Q. What’s your favourite plant and why?
“I’m a huge fan of Cedrus libani – the cedar of Lebanon. I planted three in the land at the back of our house ten years ago and they are beginning to look lovely… though I’ll never see them at their glorious best. It gives me tremendous pleasure to think those who come after me will enjoy them.”

Q. Where did you love of gardening spring from?
“I was eight or nine and loved being outdoors. I found I could sow seeds and they would come up and it spurred me on. I built my own greenhouse when I was 10 or 11 from old bits of wood and polythene. It was my sanctuary, even then.”

Q. How well do you know Blenheim?
“I’ve always loved the grandeur and proportions of Blenheim and the way it sits so beautifully in the landscape. I’m a great fan of
Capability Brown and his work here is spectacular.”

Q. Do you get ‘mobbed’ by fans while you’re out?
“Not exactly mobbed – except at flower shows! People come up all the time – not always to ask advice. Sometimes just to say ‘hello’, which is really rather nice.”

Q. What do you love about where you live?
“I split my time between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight where we have a house by the sea. To be allowed to make two gardens – one coastal – has been a joy. I love the food at the Little Gloster restaurant in Gurnard, just outside Cowes. They do the best roast pork on a Sunday! I’m a Yorkshireman living away from home but have lots of friends in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight and my grandchildren live ten minutes away from us in Hampshire. Closeness to my family is the most important thing of all.”

Q. What is your favourite piece of music?
The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams always moves me.”

Q. Do you enjoy writing? Any more books in the pipeline?
“I’ve written for a living since 1974 – first about gardening and subsequently about natural history and royalty. I wrote my first novel in 1998 and recently completed my tenth – Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour. I’ve loved writing since I left school, whether stories, newspaper columns or non-fiction. It’s just what I do. I have been commissioned for another two novels so I’ll have to get thinking. Heaven knows where the inspiration comes from, but I hope they are entertaining and thought-provoking.”

Q. What’s your favourite book?
“I would choose The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – it’s a lovely story and the perfect evocation of the English countryside.”

Q. If you could grant one wish for Britain, what would it be?
“I hope we can keep our children and grandchildren connected with the natural world – screens seem to keep them away from it. I feel passionate about communicating the thrill of nature and growing things to the next generation. Without that understanding both they and the planet will suffer. Get them out there!”

Q. Is there any bit of gardening kit you treasure?
“I treasure my grandfather’s spade and I bless the day I bought pair of long-reach De Wiltfang secateurs that mean I can prune high branches without a ladder!”

Q. What advice would you give your younger self?
“Trust your instinct and remember you have as much right to be here as anybody else. Be open to opportunities that come from unexpected directions and prize generosity of spirit above all else.”

Q. Is there anything on your bucket list?
“I’d love to conduct an orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall!”

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