Titchmarsh show exit concerns sector

TV presenter quits BBC role fronting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show after being replaced by Monty Don for BBC2's coverage.

Titchmarsh: quit after being dropped from BBC2’s Chelsea coverage
Titchmarsh: quit after being dropped from BBC2’s Chelsea coverage

Horticulture industry figures have reacted with concern at the loss of Alan Titchmarsh as lead presenter of the BBC's television coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Titchmarsh said the BBC has dropped him from its BBC2 coverage, replacing him with Monty Don, so he quit because he would not be able to present BBC2's "in depth coverage of horticulture - my chosen profession and area of expertise".

The Sun garden writer Steve Bradley said: "Monty is a very good presenter but I won't be watching Chelsea. Monty has no link with the industry and its shows."

Garden Industry Manufacturers Association director Neil Gow said: "This is probably the end of BBC coverage of Chelsea, or certainly the viewer ratings. A sad day for gardening. If the RHS has a spine they will kick-off about this."

HTA chief executive Carol Paris said: "Alan has always been incredibly popular on Chelsea and we wouldn't want to lose that. Horticultural expertise is important to give the show credibility."

The RHS and BBC recently signed a new four-year deal for show coverage. The 12 hours of 2014 coverage will be presented by newsreader Sophie Raworth and Joe Swift, with Don on BBC2.

Titchmarsh denied that his work with Waitrose was a factor or that he had asked for too much money.

A RHS representative said: "The BBC has a large pool of presenters, some of whom do have horticultural qualifications, such as James Wong and Toby Buckland. Many of the BBC's researchers are also professionally trained horticulturists and they work closely with the RHS."

Other Chelsea presenters on the BBC include Carol Klein, Rachel de Thame, Chris Beardshaw, Nicki Chapman, Andy Sturgeon and Christine Walkden.

Chelsea 2014 gardens launched last week featured World War One, Italian and young designer themes.

Show judging - Changes confirmed for 2014

The RHS has confirmed that judging will change at Chelsea in 2014. Shows director Stephen Bennett said: "As part of the ongoing development plan for judging, we piloted a criteria-based system at Tatton in 2013. Feedback has been very positive and the changes will be rolled out across all RHS Shows in 2014."

Bennett has also negotiated a new sponsorship deal with M&G Investments lasting until 2014.

Meanwhile, the RHS has been criticised by Peter Seabrook for omitting commercial horticulturists from a series of 10 videos promoting horticulture as a career. Most are landscapers or designers and only one shows a nursery - Holden Clough.

Seabrook put forward a selection of names including Hannah Darby, Christine Howard and Thompson & Morgan trials manager Sarah Curtis.

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