Hewson on ... the comeback kid

I must confess to being somewhat baffled by the BBC's decision to return our old friend Monty Don to the Gardeners' World hot seat for the new series. I fear it may end in tears, as comebacks so often do.

Much has been written about Monty's return and not all of it polite. I'm not entirely sure why, as he's an able enough presenter - if a bit posh and lacking in the common touch. And he does have the unfortunate habit of burdening viewers with his opinions perhaps a little too enthusiastically at times and there's a fine line between giving your opinion and cheesing folk off. But personally, I'm not that fussed if he lacks the technical rigour or fancy qualifications as is sometimes claimed - more important is good presentation and editorial content.

And therein lies the programme's problem. Currently, there are too many presenters doing too many things and getting in each other's way. You just need one, perhaps two at the most, doing simple, practical things in their own gardens, rather than somebody else's. Don't get too complicated, wear sensible shoes (especially when spiking lawns), leave the laptop in its bag and drink loads of tea from a mug instead of a cup. Don't prissy around in stately homes, waffling on about garden history and design - you only have 30 minutes and nobody's that interested. Remember it's a gardening show, not a lifestyle programme. Avoid being trendy and don't pose - that's what the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is for. And have a dog or cat on hand but make sure they're clean.

Of course all this makes me wonder if Gardener's World is still relevant. Does a strong garden market still need our fireside friends of a Friday night - and is Friday night the best slot given that many viewers often make their weekend plans well in advance of this?

Finally, a word about national treasure Carol Klein's new cottage garden show - "disappointing". The only thing to do in a cottage garden in midwinter is hibernate. I'd sooner plait fog than twin-scale snowdrops or pollinate hellebores, much as I love both.

Andrew Hewson is a freelance writer and columnist.


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