Alan Titchmarsh: I feel bad about encouraging 1990s decking craze

Hannah Furness
Alan Titchmarsh with Ground Force presenters Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh - BBC

It was the 1990s trend which took over the gardens of middle England before falling spectacularly out of fashion.

Now the man behind the decking phenomenon, Alan Titchmarsh, has admitted he feels "a bit bad" over encouraging the trend, saying the notoriety would follow him to his grave.

Titchmarsh, whose Ground Force television makeover programmes set the tone for British gardens for years, said decking had become his "Achilles heel", as he confesses he does not even have it in his own Georgian farmhouse home.

Decking I do feel a bit bad about but you've got to remember we're talking about the mid-90s

Alan Titchmarsh

He blamed it firmly on the constraints of BBC show Ground Force, claiming he had warned programme-makers it was impossible to transform gardens properly in just two days.

As such, he disclosed, hosts were left reliant on quick fixes such as decking to make an on-screen impact.

Speaking at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, he was asked whether he now "feels bad" about the decking craze, which left swathes of perfectly good grass covered in budget-friendly wood across the land.

The influence of the programme, he disclosed, was such that annual sales of decking at B&Q went from £9,000-worth the year before Ground Force to £8 million in the aftermath.

"Oh my Achilles heel!" said Titchmarsh.

"Decking I do feel a bit bad about but you've got to remember we're talking about the mid-90s."

Alan Titchmarsh on Ground Force, putting in some decking - Credit: BBC

He told an audience he had learned about decking while at Kew by a "great landscape designer" called John Brookes , who taught him how it was used in the States in the late 60s.

"When we started doing Ground Force we were given two days to makeover gardens," Titchmarsh said.

"And when I got asked to do Ground Force, I said 'you can't do it, you can't make a garden in two days, it's a lifetime's work'."

Eventually, he said, he was won over by the challenge, conceding: "Oh go on then I'll have a go."

"The thing about doing a makeover programme is that it's the reverse of painting a picture, because you have to do the frame and paint the picture in it rather than painting a picture and finding a frame for it," he said.

"If you've only got two days, decking is economical and you can do it quite quickly.

"And if you slip and fall over on it you only bruise yourself rather than break you hip, which you do on stone.

"So those were my reasons. And on a modern house, decking works."

He added: "In that year before Ground Force went out, the gross total of sales for decking in B&Q throughout Britain was £9,000.

"Then Ground Force came on, and the following year they sold £8million.

"So I have no doubt that when I'm put in the ground eventually they will deck my grave.

"I do feel a bit bad about it, yes.

"But then Chanel didn't apologise for her little black dress, did she?"

He now has some decking at his home of the Isle of Wight because the modern build means "it's suitable, it fits the surroundings".

But his second home, an old Georgian farmhouse, has "not an ounce" of it.

First broadcast in 1997 on the BBC, Ground Force starred Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh and became the must-watch gardening show for its formula of making over an ordinary garden with a water feature, decking and last-minute dash to get it finished before deadline.

In its heyday, 12 million viewers tuned in.

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