Klein: web challenging show sales - Presenter laments decline in specialist growers at shows

Gardeners' World presenter Carol Klein has said growing to sell at retail plant shows is tougher now than when she began 25 years ago with Glebe Cottage Plants because of the rise in internet sales.

Klein: says flower shows provide opportunities for ordinary gardeners to talk to people who grow their own plants - image: © Jonathan Buckley
Klein: says flower shows provide opportunities for ordinary gardeners to talk to people who grow their own plants - image: © Jonathan Buckley

For instance, an event at which Klein presents, Malvern Spring Flower show, cut floral marquee exhibitor numbers from 100 to 80 in 2014 and changed its name to RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

"Yes, very much harder now for growers," said Klein. "I was very lucky to have done what I was doing when I did it. It was really different. At one time I used to carry crates of plants on my head at Hampton Court. They let the sides of the old marquee down because it was so hot and busy but now the stands are wider and wider apart, which is a great shame. One of the main reasons is mail-order and how easy it is to order online. But specialists at flower shows provide fantastic opportunities for ordinary gardeners to talk to people who grow their own plants."

Gardening is under-represented on television, added Klein. Carol's Plant Odyssey was broadcast on the BBC this summer but the veteran presenter said no new series is planned for 2016, though she "lives in hope" that she may be asked to present more shows. "I'd like to do more and I have a lot of other ideas too," she said.

"I don't think gardening is a particularly fashionable subject but I think it is important. A lot of people who watch TV also garden. There are 11 million gardeners in the country. Not that their gardens are all perfectly tended." She would like to cover the history of the dahlia, poppy and peony, should a new series be commissioned.

Klein, whose new book Making a Garden: Successful Gardening by Nature's Rules is out on 22 October (Mitchell Beazley, £25), added: "I'd love to do more. I like having the opportunity to do things I think are interesting and new. Perhaps you're in a better position to do that if you're just doing smaller pieces. A lot of gardeners in the country are women - the majority - and women have a lot to say. I certainly have. I would say that gardening is under-represented on TV."

She has not heard anything on The Great British Garden Revival, which ran in two series on the BBC since beginning in December 2013. "I'm going to be talking to commissioners and seeing if we can do something else," she said. "Where there's a will there's a way. I'd like to do more plant odysseys - dahlia, poppy and peony have exciting stories. (Production company) Oxford Scientific Films made such a good job on limited funds."

Allotments: suggestion for smaller plots gains more support

Carol Klein has backed fellow TV gardener Charlie Dimmock, who recently suggested that allotments should be split into quarters to cut lengthy waiting lists. "I agree completely," said Klein. "I don’t think it’s a question of taking allotments away from people who have them but everyone knows there are lot of plots where that’s a really sensible proposition because people can’t manage a large plot. I’d like to see more councils making allotments and taking space and giving it back to people so they can grow their own. It’s hugely important people get space to grow. There’s a lot more in schools now. I used to be a teacher long ago and there was very little provision then. If schools did gardening it was for the ‘remedial’ classes, as they were called then. Gardening should be part of everyone’s education. It’s not just for maths but about contact with the soil. I know where I think it should go — right the way through secondary school too as part of the curriculum. There are so many links to the community. I used to teach at a boys’ school in London for seven years before I came to Devon and I used to take them to Kew. I taught art and they would take pictures and do drawings there. It was such a good experience to put them in touch with things that were growing. They were from places that had signs saying ‘keep off the grass’ and ‘no ball games’."

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