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Crank calls, TV shows and mud pies

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 01 Aug 2012 at 10:47 AM


"Hello?  Is that Dawn Isaac?"


"Don't worry, this isn't a crank call."

At this point I became slightly concerned.  Was this the same as someone saying "I don't mean to be rude..." before beginning a character assassination?  Still, I thought, how cranky can a call really be?  Indeed, what exactly is crank? Most of these questions were still running through my head as I realised the woman was still speaking.

"Were you on Love Your Garden last week?"

"Ah", I thought.  "So this is it." 10 seconds on ITV and already I am suffering from press intrusion.  Next thing you know I'll have paparazzi hiding behind my compost bin and I shan't be able to put out the milk bottles without donning a baseball cap and dark glasses.

"Yes. Yes I was," I sighed, wondering in the back of my mind what outfit I should select for the Leveson Inquiry.

"Oh good.  Can you tell me what that plant is.  You know, the dark, kind of purpley one with the pink flowers."

"Um, yes, it's Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'".


And then proceeded a relatively long exchange where I spelt out each and every word, so worried was I that the poor woman would end up trying to plant a dodgy bottle of readily flammable booze.

Yes, this is undoubtedly the beginning and end of my TV appearances.  Myself, my garden, but let's face it, mostly my very gorgeous four-year-old son featured in a small piece on Love Your Garden last week. If you haven't caught the series, it is basically Alan Titchmarsh doing garden makeovers and "any resemblance to programmes living or dead is entirely coincidental".

I get the sense people in gardening circles may be a little sniffy about the show.  I do understand their concerns.  Many will decry the fact that Latin names aren't used, and even more will complain about "instant gardening" which is expensive and often unrealistic, but to be honest I think this completely misses the point.  This is not about gardening, but giving people a garden to enjoy - these are two very different things but the latter will almost always lead to the former. I've designed enough in my time to realise that non-gardeners who ask for a low maintenance space are simply scared by the idea of looking after plants.  Give them a great garden they want to be in and before you know it they will be boring you with details of how well their roses are doing this year.

What's more, any prime time programme on gardening is good in my book.  People may not neccessarily want to recreate exactly what they see on screen (particularly, I hope, not the £10K hot tub...) but it will get them thinking about how to make more of their own outside space.  And finally, I loved the fact that the programmes have almost all shown families in the gardens and been designed with this in mind. 

For me this has been the missing link in most gardening programmes.  Too often on TV we see pristine spaces with a single gardener giving us a tour and waxing lyrical about individual flowers or a perfectly maintained border. 

This is fine for "gardeners" but what about "people with gardens"?  There is a world of difference between the two.  Most fall into the second category and have an outdoor space they want to make something of, but it's never as easy as this.  If you are a family, then this space has got to serve multiple purposes, appeal to a wide range of ages and withstand an awful lot of heavy use.  If you can do all this and still create an attractive space populated with plants, then you also have the possibility of making a whole family of "gardeners".

This is very much on my mind at the moment as part of my summer holidays will be spent putting together materials for the family garden design course I'm running for Mumsnet next month.  I'll also be choosing the biscuits (this is Mumsnet after all, they have a reputation to uphold) so if I can tempt you with my Jammy Dodgers do come along.

Oh, and if you fancied seeing Archie giving a tour of our garden and putting a mud pie in David Domoney's face, it's here (at least for the next three weeks) - 20mins 15secs in. I shall await the crank calls.


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