Gardeners’ Question Time. Live.

GQT 001 Wm


We were late. And I’d particularly wanted to get a Good Seat.

The journey got off to a bad start when we met a large lorry on a narrow country lane. There was a wider bit of road behind him, so what does the driver do? He just stops. And waits for us to back up. For some distance as it turned out. From the hedge in which we were now stationed I delivered my best withering look.

At RHS Rosemoor I’m dumped unceremoniously at the door while Mike finds somewhere to park. I’m to go inside and bag some seats. Except, dammit.. in the rush I’d left my jacket in the car. The marquee, where the recording takes place, is unheated. The road doubles back on the way up to the car park and I managed to catch Mike’s eye. I never was much good at Charades. In the middle of the road I go through the motions of pulling on a coat and pointing vigorously at the rear seat of the car.  He looks back blankly. Several members of the assembled horticultural elite are also looking in my direction. I know what they’re thinking. “Ooooh, we’ve got a right one here…”

In the marquee a man in a hi-viz jacket strides up and down the aisles holding a bedraggled potted begonia. I never did find out why. Gardeners’ Question Time is hosted by Peter Gibbs, weatherman for the BBC and keen gardener. I have to say, he was brilliant. I had no idea what to expect, never having been to a recording for either radio or TV. But it plays out as much for the audience in the ‘studio’ as for those who will later listen to the programme at home. Hilarious. And all for a ticket price of £2.50 per head. Coffee included. I’m sorry the photo quality is so poor. The lighting was dreadful and it was taken on a phone.

Questions from the audience are submitted in advance. We are told that Peter and the show’s Producer choose the best dozen or so but the panel have no idea what they’re about to be asked. The first question refers to up and coming trends. What did the panel recommend? Echinacea, apparently. Matthew Wilson (second left on the stage) asked the audience if anyone had bought that star plant of a couple of years ago, Echinacea ‘Art’s Pride’. No-one moved a muscle. I would have put up my hand. Except my plant had died.

“It will die. They all do.” Phew. “But now there’s a newer one, ‘Tomato Soup’.”

My hand is half up in the air.. Hurrah! I bought that one this year. Feeling rather smug..

“It will die too.”

‘Cherokee Sunset’ is the one we need people. You heard it here first.

And then there’s a veggie question. Bob Flowerdew’s turn. He’s the one in the woolly hat. For two reasons, he and Mike have never really hit it off. One is his hair which, although it doesn’t show up in the photo, is tied in a plait. The other is his trade mark tip for rotting down compost. We heard that too..

“Basically you get and consume a large barrel of beer, convert it into its well known by-product….” And sprinkle.

There were hardly any breaks, or retakes. They could more or less have recorded the whole programme in one go. Were it not for getting really quite cold, I would happily have listened for many minutes more. All through the recording they’d been careful about referring to “this afternoon”, being the time the programme goes out on air, even though it was in fact evening and dark outside. The time came for Peter to record the sign off at the end of the show.

“Shush now, while I tape this bit.” There is dutiful silence, as he thinks about his words. All the better then to hear what is happening outside, just as he is about to speak. And, being a tent, there is no sound insulation at all. An owl. A night owl.

“Too-Woooo. Too-WOOOOO!!!”


2018-02-08T21:00:35+00:00October 18th, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Crafty Gardener October 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Had a good chuckle when the night owl called out. 🙂
    That would of been an interesting event to attend. Did you get to listen to it on the air later?

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      It was fascinating. It’s on this afternoon, repeated Sunday. Required listening – if only to find out how much they pruned out!

  2. CJ October 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    They did one in my little town a while ago, and I really regret not going now. Glad you had a good time.

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      It was good fun. I was also impressed by how relaxed they all seemed. But it must be well rehearsed by now.

  3. Jenny October 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a really fun evening. Glad you enjoyed it, I hope you get just as much pleasure out of listening to it this afternoon. 🙂

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      The radio version was a lot shorter! Quite a bit cut out. Not surprising I guess.

  4. countrysidetales October 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    WHY do lorries refuse to move backwards even a tiny bit? Do they not have a reverse gear?
    The recording sounds huge fun- I love listening to it (when time allows) on the radio. Hope they left the owl in 🙂

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      That must be it, you’ve hit the nail on the head. No reverse gear.

  5. Jo October 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Ha ha, that’s given me a good chuckle. Hope your Tomato Soup proves them wrong.

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      That was one of the bits left on the cutting room floor. Maybe the new hybrid Echinaceas are just a bit fussy. Tomato Soup still looking good here!

  6. Freda October 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Good to know we’re not the only ones! Green Wizard died, White Swan is surviving not thriving. Will we try Cherokee Sunset? Not sure we will. Loved the owl chipping in!

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      White Swan is on my ‘must have’ list. Like you we have a lot of rain, last winter I had many casualties across the board. Perhaps that’s something we just have to put up with, for the pleasure of living where we do.

  7. Em October 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    I’m listening NOW. I do agree with Mike regarding the plait, but not the compost…..we always get OB to wee on ours!

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Obviously we are missing a trick. I must acquire a small child willing to perform.

  8. steph@woolythyme October 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    what an incredibly fun evening!!!! Is this show something that might be available on the internet somewhere??? Not familiar with it. 🙁

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      Sometimes it’s just nice to do something a bit different!
      I’m not sure whether it works across the pond, but you could try the BBC website. Click the ‘radio’ tab and then put Gardeners Question Time in the search.

  9. Amy at love made my home October 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a great time was had by all, and I love the owl hooting at the end!! Hilarious, you could not have got that to happen even if you tried, could you. I will record the show and listen to it. Have a good weekend. xx

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      The owl ended up on the cutting room floor too. Sadly!
      You too, Amy.

  10. frayed at the edge October 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I used to enjoy seeing Bob Flowerdew on tv, but then I thought he got a bit old for the plait! I know someone who wees in the compost bin ……

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Under cover of darkness I hope…

  11. Wendy October 18, 2013 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Lorries on country lanes are a menace – the number of times I’ve had to half drive or reverse into a hedge, too. My poor car bears the scars and scratches.
    I don’t usually listen to GQT, so was fascinated by this. I wonder why it is so important to give the impression it’s recorded in the afternoon. Does it matter if it’s not actually live? Hope they forget to take the owl out!

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm - Reply

      I don’t often listen either, it’s on at the wrong time of day. From now on I may well add it to my iplayer list.
      I suppose it just sounds a bit odd if people are saying “good evening” in the middle of the afternoon. They didn’t forget, sadly. I knew exactly when to listen out for it!

  12. Denise October 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a jolly good experience. Bargain, too, at £2.50 PLUS coffee! It is always interesting to see the process of how these shows are made. As for lorries, well…they just permeate arrogance, don’t they?

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      The lanes around here are really too narrow to take the heavy traffic but, as you say, the worst thing is the arrogance. Mostly the drivers don’t even try to be accommodating.

  13. elaine October 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    I won’t hear anything against Mr. Flowerdew he is my hero, plait, pee and all. As for Echinacea’s – I have never, ever had any success with them – sad really ‘cos I love them

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Oh dear, so much for my dreams of having swathes of Echinacea colour on the bank.
      Mr Flowerdew talks an awful lot of sense to me.

  14. Sarah October 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Your recollection of the evening made me smile! I had an Echinacea, it died too!! I loved the way the owl joined in,
    Sarah x

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. An owl with perfect timing.

  15. wherethejourneytakesme October 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    I like Bob Flowerdew and his no fuss approach to gardening. I can’t understand why they can’t come clean though about when they record the program instead of going to such lengths to pretend it is the afternoon! They may be able to edit the owl out but one day they might just get caught out.

    • Jessica October 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      It’s not so much trying to hide when it is recorded, just to make it sound more natural to listeners. Maybe sometimes more natural than intended!

  16. colleen October 19, 2013 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Oh, brilliant! So English on a number of levels and much more fun the the BBC Radio Theatre.

    I may have chortled, I believe.

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

      It’s one of the things I miss being so far from London. Nice that the show comes to us, once in a while. Thanks Colleen.

  17. Linda October 19, 2013 at 9:03 am - Reply

    I can just imagine the scenario – first the lorry in the country lane, the miming for your jacket, the way the event was recorded and then the owl incident. I haven’t listened to Gardeners’ Question Time for years, but I do remember Bob Flowerdew and his plait from appearances on the tv and the reassuring voices of the rest of the panel on the radio programme. Your account made me smile, which was a good way to start my day!

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Thanks Linda. Bob Flowerdew hasn’t changed a bit!

  18. Pats. October 19, 2013 at 9:25 am - Reply

    I’ll let you sit on my tractor….everyone backs up for tractors..even lorries!

    Love GQT when I remember…it’s an age thing….where did I put that echinacea? deeead!

    Nerines are spectacular in the garden just now. Love your garden.

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 10:43 am - Reply

      The last time I sat on a tractor was over 40 years ago as a kid on my uncle’s farm. They weren’t so big in those days. I fell off into a nettle bed, if memory serves.
      I must get some nerines. They look so exotic for October!

  19. Anna October 19, 2013 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Oh what fun Jessica. Attended a GQT recording session many moons ago at Liverpool University and it was fascinating to see how it’s done. Must admit that the one time I came across Mr Flowerdew I yearned for some secateurs to cut that plait off. Must confess that my ‘Art’s Pride’ met the same fate as yours. Has the edition been broadcast yet?

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

      It was broadcast yesterday afternoon, repeated Sunday afternoon.
      We both listened on our respective laptops, but as broadband here is absolutely useless there wasn’t enough bandwidth to stream both. Mine cut out in the only bit that I didn’t hear ‘live’ because they’d recorded it separately. I shall just have to tune in again tomorrow!

  20. Pauline October 19, 2013 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Fantastic being able to go to a recording of GQT and see how it is all done. You do tell a good tale, lorries on our Devon lanes are a menace aren’t they! Loved the story about the owl, so sorry it ended up on the cutting room floor.

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Thanks Pauline. It’s worth going if you get a chance. They record a whole lot more than is actually broadcast. And then there’s all the logistics around getting the people asking the questions set up. One woman put in two questions, both of which got chosen, which put the cat amongst the pigeons somewhat.

  21. haggiz October 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    What good value! I am firmly in the love Bob Flowerdew camp despite the plait and peeing! He talks alot of sense and how could he be anything other than a gardener with such an apt name. Julie x

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      There was a discussion about his name, not broadcast, but it’s his real one apparently.

  22. Janet/Plantaliscious October 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I want to know what happened to that begonia! Sorry your froze, but what fun to be there for the recording. I haven’t listened to GQT for ages.

    • Jessica October 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      It was bizarre Janet. There was no reason that I could see for marching around with a half dead begonia. Anyhoo, I shall make more effort to listen from now on, knowing a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.

  23. nataliescarberry October 20, 2013 at 1:30 am - Reply

    Interesting post. I find it very odd that the Echinacea’s mentioned did not do well. I have a lot of the original
    species in my yard and they are so hardy! I wonder what the problem with the new hybrids is? Blessings, Natalie

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      It is probably more to do with the British climate. They could well do better in Texas.

  24. Helene October 20, 2013 at 2:54 am - Reply

    How fun to be able to attend this show! I have never heard it on the radio but see everything gardening related on TV. Interesting about the Echinacea. I have Echinacea purpurae, it’s 8 years old and produced 3 flowers this amazingly great summer. Sheer luck it hasn’t ended in the compost bin years ago. I did actually look at ‘Tomato Soup’ several times last year, but left it as it didn’t really fit with my colour scheme, next year I have Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinglow’ and ‘Vintage Wine’ on my wish list, I hope to have more luck with them.

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      I shall try more too, for a couple of years at least. I had hoped they would give me a mass of colour up on the bank. Tomato Soup is certainly strident! It would be good to see it survive though.

  25. wherefivevalleysmeet October 20, 2013 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I wouldn’t like H to spray the compost with pee – I can imagine it eventually creating quite an atmosphere in the garden. I have heard that if you do it around trees that are being antler rubbed by deer then it puts them off. Apologies in advance for all this lavatory talk.

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      It makes sense Rosemary. Territory marking!

  26. Rosie October 20, 2013 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Sounds like an interesting evening but I do hope Mike twigged what you were trying to tell him and that he brought your jacket to the tent! I wonder if they will keep the owl in the transmission? I hope so:)

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      He did, and just as well… I was cold enough even with the jacket.
      No owl, sadly. So either the microphone didn’t pick it up in the first place, or they filtered it out.

  27. Mise October 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Very nicely described, but the Cherokee Sunset will die.

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      I am preparing myself fully for that eventuality Mise.

  28. Simone October 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    I wonder why they have to pretend its day? You would think they would say it was pre recorded and let the owl hoot too! I wonder if my echinacea alba will die? I am afraid to ask! Thanks for such an entertaining post Jessica on such a dull and dismal Sunday!

    • Jessica October 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      If anyone has a chance, you do. You have a much drier climate than us poor western folk. 🙂

  29. ournewlifeinthecountry October 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Brilliant, they really should have left it in the recording 🙂

    • Jessica October 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      They should, it would have been a hoot 🙂

  30. welshhillsagain October 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    I would love to attend a recording of GQT. I heard this one from Rosemoor. I try to listen to most of them. I am right in the middle on Bob Flowerdew: not keen on the plait but boy, does he know his stuff!

    • Jessica October 23, 2013 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth if you get the chance you must, it’s really good fun. And effectively you get a double length programme because it takes them an hour and a half to record it.

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