Alan Titchmarsh: Gardening gives perspective in troubled times

In today's frenetic world it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but celebrated gardening presenter Alan Titchmarsh has got the answer to staying grounded and feeling calmer - time in the garden.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
Alan Titchmarsh will be at RHS Malvern Spring Festival in May 2023.

If getting out in the garden is good enough for keeping King Charles III grounded, then it's probably good enough for the rest of us.

As we enter a new season, filled with flowers and greenery, Alan Titchmarsh is ditching negative headlines and is buoyed up with hope for the future. And he's keen for us all to embrace the possibility that things could be better than we think.

Chatting to SoGlos ahead of his appearance at RHS Malvern Spring Festival in May 2023, Titchmarsh shared his thoughts on the benefits of time in the garden to mind and spirit.

Starting with King Charles III's Highgrove Estate in Tetbury, he reflects: 'Highgrove is one man's garden. It's a window on to the king's soul, you can see his personality and he gets so much from the garden.

'It's a great anchor. When he reaches the house, he gets out of the car and walks through the garden and pulls out a few weeds before he even thinks about going inside.'

And that grounding anchor from the garden is something Titchmarsh is keen to highlight.

'Gloucestershire is a lovely county with a great legacy of gardens and gardeners,' he said. 'I love Hidcote Gardens, Kiftsgate Court Gardens and Highgrove. It's a great place to be.

'Covid made people aware of the value of gardens; of your tiny patch and what you can do with it.

'I'd like more people to pause and realise what their garden can do. And I'd certainly encourage people to green up their life and look after their bit of land as best they can. People can make a difference locally.

'When it comes to the news, there's no way we can take on board everything that's going on in the world. We're told about it all, but if you stand back you think, 'how absurd'; it's testing our compassion and the fact we can't affect it. We can't be expected to take on the daily troubles of the world and we're not equipped to. 

'Gardening is the way to counter this because it gives proportion and perspective, which can be so hard to maintain.'

He recommends new gardeners start close to home and do what they can with what they have, with simple, practical advice such as beginning work nearest to the kitchen window, so they can appreciate the fruits of their labour from inside the house.

And he's hopeful for the future of enthusiasm and care for nature that grows from time spent outdoors.

Titchmarsh said: 'Primary schools are doing more now than ever to educate young people to look after nature and growing is encouraged. I have high hopes for young people and they should have optimism.'

He's passionate about stewardship and husbandry of the land, believing it's our duty to cherish the planet and make it the best it can be.

But when it comes to his own life, what is it that he enjoys so much about gardening?

'It feeds my soul,' he muses. 'It's very sustaining. In this frenetic world, everyone seems to be very cross and, in certain cases, for good reason. But we can't be angry all of the time, we're only here a short time. My garden is where I find contentment.'

His prized willow tree, which he planted in his garden 18 years ago, now stands at 40ft with an 18-inch trunk, and he's enormously proud of it.

As we speak, he gazes out on to the tree and his newly-crafted wildlife pond surrounded by daffodils and remarks on how excited he is to leap into spring.

'Every spring is a new beginning,' he said. 'It gives me a wave of optimism. I showed my sister a video of my freshly potted up greenhouse the other day and she exclaimed I still have the same enthusiasm as I did when I was 10 years old. Gardeners always think this will be the best year ahead - while farmers think it will be the worst!'

And he can't wait to meet visitors at RHS Malvern this May 2023.

He said: 'It's a lovely, blissful setting with beautiful hills. I love Malvern, it's a favourite RHS show of mine, if not the favourite for its setting, growers and atmosphere. It's a proper gardener's show and I'm looking forward to interacting with visitors and swapping stories.'

Titchmarsh will be in the Festival Theatre at RHS Malvern Spring Festival on Saturday 13 May 2023.

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