Speech given at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
19 May 2003
you very much for inviting me today.
some things in life that are predictable and others are not. If someone
had told me 20 years ago that I'd be Guest of Honour at the Chelsea
Flower Show I doubt I'd have believed it.
regret about today is that my father is no longer alive to see this.
As a keen gardener he would either have collapsed laughing or just shaken
his head saying, "Chelsea isn't what it used to be".
spent many hours at the end of our garden. It didn't always seem productive
but for him, as for so many gardeners, it was the best escape from his
wife and three children.
my two brothers, I did not inherit either his interest or talent for
gardening, so Chelsea is a revelation to me.
always seemed interesting to me that despite, or perhaps because of,
the fact that most people in the UK live in towns or cities there is
enormous and seemingly increasing enthusiasm for gardening.
the notion of a green and pleasant land is hardwired into the British
psyche, even if many people's own patch of green is limited to a window
box or roof terrace.
do understand about gardening is that firstly it increasingly dominates
BBC TWO's schedules and secondly that the BBC gardening presenters seem
to end up as the most unlikely sex symbols.
A bit like
the visual arts, however, horticulture can arouse strong passions amongst
enthusiasts whilst at the same time being a little intimidating and
mysterious for the uninitiated like me.
tries to satisfy both the keen and knowledgeable gardener as well as
bringing new audiences to gardening and hopefully, over time, encouraging
everyone to take their interest in gardening further.
Force which is watched by many including those who don't even have a
garden, to Gardeners' World, relaunched with Monty Don, a new sex symbol
in the making I hear, for the more committed gardener, the BBC aims
to cater for all levels of interest and expertise.
me to why I am here today apart from annoying my late father.
Flower Show is of course the Wimbledon of the horticultural calendar,
although the British seem to do rather better at Chelsea than they do
I was invited because the BBC will be broadcasting coverage of Chelsea
on BBC ONE, BBC TWO, Radio 4 and just about every local radio station.
also be extensive coverage online on our gardening website.
forget that although Chelsea happens in the south east, it is very much
a regional, national and even worldwide event with hundreds of passionate
gardeners and growers each making their personal pilgrimage here. This
year even Songs of Praise will be coming from the bandstand in Ranleigh
changing television technology offers more possibilities than ever.
coverage of Chelsea on digital television, first launched last year,
has tours of every one of the show gardens and in depth interviews with
can explore the gardens in much more detail from the comfort of your
own armchair - and you don't even have to strain your neck to see over
the heads of people in front of you especially if you're short like
may not know is that the BBC's co-operation with the RHS goes much further
than bringing Chelsea to the nation.
without an enormous contribution of expertise from the RHS the 'How
to be a gardener' online gardening courses would never have been the
success they are.
resources have encouraged thousands of people to learn more about the
basics of gardening and garden design and by doing so introduce a whole
new generation of people to what must be one of the nation's favourite
I'm able to announce today an exciting new scheme supported by the RHS
to cultivate a nation of successful, amateur gardeners.
BBC Neighbourhood Gardener. Enthusiastic leisure gardeners
will be able to take a course at their local horticultural college and
then pass on their knowledge as volunteers in their neighbourhoods.
idea has been hugely successful in the United States with over 60,000
'Master Gardeners' operating throughout the country.
that the RHS will be advising us and helping us deliver this ambitious
project in its pilot stage this summer and, if that's successful, hopefully
RHS, the BBC is passionate about gardening and we look forward to a
vintage Chelsea week to inspire people across the country to share that