According To Hewson... It's gardening Jim, but not as we know it

What are we to make of the BBC's The Big Allotment Challenge and Great British Garden Revival? Aside from their entertainment value, will they help bring a new audience and much-needed cash to the garden market? After all, someone needs to buy the many splendid plants we grow.

We could, of course, grow less. But that's not in our nature, right? And why break the habit of a lifetime and stop losing money at the wrong end of a supply chain that protects corporate interests at the expense of growers?

The shows are not without merit, if you can bear the obligatory group hugs and tears as the latest gardener "leaves the allotment for good" - not withstanding that snobby judge turning up her nose at some poor soul's best marrow jam or tomato chutney.

Thank goodness for expert judge Jim Buttress, whom I remember from my Royal Parks days - hugely knowledgeable and a true gent. I can recall sitting in his Hyde Park office as he introduced me with such enthusiasm to the workings of London's royal spaces. Happy days. A Britain in Bloom judge to boot. They should give Jim his own show.

I wasn't aware that the Great British garden needed a revival, but there we are. Is there really a shortage of geraniums (sorry, slapped wrist, pelargoniums), irises and grasses? Still, it's very watchable and without the overly competitive element of reality TV, hence we are at least spared having to vote for our favourite gardener or best ridge cucumber.

Of course, these programmes are there to entertain us through the dark and dismal winter evenings rather than drum up business for UK Horticulture plc. But despite my teasing, let's not underestimate their influence and indeed that of their presenters.

My wife, for example, threatens to spend more time in the kitchen having been spurred on by the likes of Mary Berry and James Martin. Likewise my own interest in food and drink has also grown. But I still wouldn't let that snooty woman taste my chutney.

Andrew Hewson is a freelance writer and columnist


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