TV guide: Alan Titchmarsh grows on you


Alan Titchmarsh is a Jack of all trades who could expertly create a wonder garden in the morning, host an engaging chat show in the afternoon and entertain as a DJ.

But Titchmarsh says he doesn't really consider any of this to be work: "Let's be honest, I don't 'work'. I just do things and the greatest gift in life is to be allowed to do a job that you adore doing.

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"The variety is the thing. I'm a gardener and one or two of the critics think that's what I should stay, but when you're offered things, you think to yourself, 'why not?' We're only here once - have a go."

Titchmarsh is on familiar turf with this new show which follows him as he visits a selection of Britain's most renowned gardens, examining their histories and detailing how they continue to influence amateur and professional horticulturalists today.

Tonight he heads to Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire. The 19th-century country park contains separate highly stylised designs inspired by Chinese, Italian, Egyptian and Scottish influences. Here Titchmarsh contemplates why the Victorian age gave rise to a taste for exotic plants from around the world, a thirst for technology in the garden and a love of bold horticultural statements. He also reveals why Biddulph Grange is a classic example of all these elements.

"We all love to show off in our gardens from time to time and the Victorians show us how with their brightly coloured exotics, elaborate carpet bedding and glasshouse displays," says Titchmarsh. "But they also revolutionised gardening technology, establishing new methods for growing exotics and produce, all of which we can use in our own gardens."

The green-fingered presenter reveals how the natural landscape gardens of the 18th century gave way to a new manufactured style that came to symbolise the era's reverence for knowledge and power and explains how the Victorians were passionate plant hunters, particularly for orchids.

After demonstrating how viewers can plant and care for exotics in their own gardens, Titchmarsh discusses how the Victorians also invented ways to transport and care for these rare plants.

He shows how they revolutionised growing under glass, constructing some of the largest glasshouses in the world, and established practices for produce-growing that survive today.

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Titchmarsh also reveals that there was also a passion for elaborate and gaudy displays at the time which led to the creation of the carpet bed, and shows viewers how to create one that will complement their own modern gardens.