Gardeners’ Question Time. Live.
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.