Gardeners’ Question Time used to be for silver-haired ladies, but that’s changed – gardening has got hip

It fascinates me when I meet glitzy people who are non-gardeners and they tell me: “Oh my God, I love Gardeners’ Question Time”. And you think, “What, really?” But they also say that when they listen to people talking about green things it makes them feel good. While we all appreciate being in a green space gives you those endorphins, I also think that when you listen to people talk about it, it has a similar effect. 

For 75 years gardeners and non-gardeners alike have been listening to the programme on Radio 4. It was first broadcast on April 9 1947, titled How Does Your Garden Grow – A Gardeners’ Question Time, featuring a panel of three gardening authorities taking questions from an audience of amateur gardeners.

Since then there have been well over 3000 episodes filled with gardening tips and advice.

I must have been 11 when I first listened to the show. Then, when I was 16, I met my husband, who was a big Radio 4 person, and I got into it too.

For the past 25 years I’ve been a panellist on the show; joining the likes of Bob Flowerdew and Pippa Greenwood. The first time I appeared on the programme I didn’t sleep. We recorded four episodes over two days and the nerves kept me awake both nights. I even went to the doctor and asked what I could do. He gave me tablets but I didn’t take them. 

Still now I can feel the butterflies in my stomach before a recording. I think if you are performing you have to have a little of that. I would worry if my butterflies flew away. It keeps you on your mettle. 

It’s important to be on the ball, because, as people always want to know, yes, we really don’t know the questions that will be asked in advance. That briefly changed during lockdown, but now it’s back to being completely unprepared. It’s so much better when it’s on the hoof. And even when you’re given the questions in advance, you’ll still get three different answers. They’re not necessarily all wrong. It’s just that everyone has their own view. 

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