Gardening not for 'thick or dull', says Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh Alan Titchmarsh called for more to be done to reconnect young people "with apples rather than Apple Macs"

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Gardeners need to show that their profession is not for "thick, dull or unadventurous" people, says television gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

In a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) study, Mr Titchmarsh says gardening is "undervalued" by the young.

The study claims 72% of horticulture firms cannot find skilled workers, with teens viewing the job as "unskilled".

"If this situation continues, British horticulture will become a pale shadow of its former self," he said.

Mr Titchmarsh called for more to be done to reconnect young people "with apples rather than Apple Macs, plant cells rather than cell phones and raspberries as well as Blackberries".

Some 200 businesses were surveyed for the report. More than two thirds (67%) said that those entering the profession were inadequately prepared for work.

Start Quote

Our role is undervalued by government, by the population and by young people in particular”

End Quote Alan Titchmarsh

Almost one in five (19%) said they had to recruit skilled staff from abroad and 83% said they blamed difficulties on recruitment on a poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges.

A separate survey of 500 secondary school teachers suggested that fewer than a third (30%) were aware of horticultural qualifications with only 20% aware of the "vast career opportunities" available.

Only 16% of the school staff surveyed promoted horticultural careers to their pupils, with many regarding gardening as a hobby rather than a career choice, says the report Horticulture Matters.

Earlier research has suggested that many teenagers believe careers in the sector are for those who have failed academically.

This poor perception of horticulture as a career is despite the fact that the industry contributes £9bn to the UK economy and employs 300,000 people, says the report.

"Our role is undervalued by government, by the population and by young people in particular," writes Mr Titchmarsh

"In every instance because they just do not understand the breadth of what we do and its importance in terms of the well-being of the planet and its population."

He writes that gardeners "have the best jobs in the world", ranging from "growing plants, designing gardens, managing open spaces feeding the population, looking after historic trees and famous gardens, conducting scientific research into plant breeding, pests and diseases, collecting plants in far-flung parts of the globe... the list goes on... 60 different areas to my reckoning".

'Green skills gap'

The report calls for urgent action to bridge the green skills gap, welcoming government plans to include gardening in the national curriculum as part of design and technology - but says more could be done.

"We ask government to embed horticulture across the national curriculum, to encourage young people to study further the subject in higher education and consider [the sector] as a future career," said RHS director general Sue Biggs.

"The horticultural industry is facing a skills crisis, ageing workforce and lack of young people coming into the industry."

"We are unanimous in the belief that there must now be urgent action to save British horticulture and it must happen now. Our report calls on the government, employers and those in the education system to take action to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said reforms to the national curriculum were aimed at giving schools more flexibility in what to teach.

"In our draft Design and Technology curriculum, we have provided various topics in the programmes of study so schools can choose what they want to focus on. This includes horticulture as well as electronics or woodwork."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: "It's really important that the horticultural industry is able to attract the right people to the sector.

"Through our Future of Farming initiative we are working with the industry to help more talented, entrepreneurial young people build careers across the agriculture sector, including horticulture."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The UK has an 'Education?' system totally dominated by The Degree. For years the idea that there are real skills that are not measured by, or even developed by, a University course has been denigrated. From a useless Minister to undereducated management there has been continuous pressure for young people to go to Uni even if they have skills and aptitudes better grown elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    "Gardening, horticulture is not skilled"

    Of course it's skilled - it's more likely pompous attitudes like that that have driven kids away from such work and into the pointless degrees. University is such a waste of time (and money) for so many who could be out learing a real skill and a job they can take some pride from and will be more far more fulfilling that most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    @ 83

    I always laugh when people condemn millions of young people to boring, unfulfilling jobs because it's good for the economy. Would you at 16 accept the argument that you shouldn't go to uni because you really ought to do your bit and dig ditches?

    People have always got plans for what other people's kids 'should' be doing

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Should be part of the curriculum from reception year and onwards!
    Lesson one, the joy of planting a tiny little seed in the soil and nurturing it with tender loving care then watching with excitement as it pops up one day and grows taller and stronger because of the kindness shown to it is an extremely important message to any small child in this world. I loved growing cress! at 4. Educate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Gardening, horticulture is not skilled, companies import workers as they are cheap. There must be plenty of young people capable of such work. I suspect it is largely an image problem, children are told they are nothing if they do not waste years partying at 'Uni' and are given a degree. Along with many jobs pretending having a degree is needed. Good solid reliable simple work would suit millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I honestly couldn't give a stuff who thinks is 'dull', all the more space for those of us that enjoy it. It's not for everyone, nothing is, horses for courses, too much navel gazing going on. Move on, nothing to see here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Nothing dull about gardening.

    I often enjoy sitting back in my comfy chair, sipping tea and watching the gardeners at work...

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Although I find Mr Titmarsh exceedingly dull, we have to realise the plain truth about the fundamental characteristics of gardeners.
    They are all optimists. They plant things and hope they grow.
    Pessimists only plant seeds of doubt...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    In my experience most people would like a nice garden but few have the skills or effort to make one. The same applies to cooking, DIY and many other practical disciplines. So all these things get dismissed as dull or for those strange people like Mr Titchmarsh. Schools should not focus on the academic but should give priority to practical skills that improve lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    I think Titmarsh is just coming out with a deliberately controversial statement because he needs the publicity. Perhaps he is just sulking because Monty Don does a so much better job on Gardener's World. Mind you, I do call the pieces of carpet on top of the compost heap a 'Titmarsh' as it is his suggestion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    When Councils employed 1000s of gardeners, public spaces were beautifully kept. Now they hire designers and "horticultural" contractors.

    So you get flowering shrub plantings, wild-flower verges, privacy hedges planted by Housing Associations.

    Then the contractors come along in May or June, "tidy" the buds off the shrubs, scalp the verges, and cut the hedges neatly down to six inches high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The dull part of gardening is the near fanatical obsession with making different varieties/cultivars and giving them stupid names. (not latin names)

    Gardeners need to promote the aesthetic and artistic far more than the dull stands of 100 types of the same primrose. Lets not forget, we live in a world with countless plants which should be explored as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    One or two of Alan Titchmarsh's television series were quite good.
    As others have commented, he now seems to be TV presenter first and gardener second.
    A friend achieved good horticultural qualifications but did not drive a car. He lost his job with the council because he was higher qualified that those he worked for. His is now a joiner.

    Perhaps the young do not get the recognition they should?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.


    "...mundane articles (like this) are available to comment on while important political and other issues are not?..."


    You logic is faulty.

    It's quite regrettable that the threads you (and I) miss are not here.

    However, that has no bearing on the fact that it's a good thing that ones like this are here from time to time. "Mundane " is a matter of opinion too

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Anyone who thinks gardening dull would do well to read about the lives of Joseph Dalton Banks, William Hooker, David Douglas and George Forrest. These men travelled the globe hunting for plants and narrowly avoiding death on many occasions and without the discoveries they brought back our gardens would be truly dull! Su

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Young people not into gardening? i think the local hoodies could teach me a thing or two about hydroponics lol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I grow chilli's on my window ledge as I don't have the luxury of my own garden.

    Personally I think that makes me one cool dude!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.


    "If I had a garden... there would be vegetables growing in it."

    I was just wondering if that's what Thatcher thought about the Cabinet in the run-up to the 1979 General Election.

    I wonder, too that if politics were a bit more like gardening we would be ruled by a slightly less hubristic shower, and live in a slightly prettier world . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.


    "...u need very little knowledge to garden..."


    It's true, you can by experience and communal gardening knowledge, folklore etc. if you stay in the same locality with the same soil and weather etc.

    If you want to start from scratch somewhere unfamiliar it's different, but learning what you need's part of the pleasure. I bet granny knew plenty, really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It is great to notice other BBC users (and probably licence payers) are now realising that mundane articles (like this) are available to comment on while important political and other issues are not?

    It all looks rather like manipulation by the BBC!


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