Monty Don says BBC must stop pandering to ‘gardening mafia’

·3-min read
Monty Don
Monty Don

The BBC has pandered to “gardening mafia” who just want to show off about their own knowledge, Monty Don has said.

In a column in Gardeners’ World magazine the celebrity gardener said the show now needed to attract a younger audience of renters.

The broadcaster claimed there is a “small but vociferous” part of his BBC audience which watches to “tick the boxes of their own horticultural knowledge”.

At the same time, this group “loudly disapproves if anything is shown or done in a way that differs from their own”, he added.

Until recently, the Gardeners’ World show pandered to this portion of the audience, wanting to “placate” them, Don suggested. That approach, however, is going to change as the show looks to cater to a newer, younger audience.

An expert gardener, Don, 67, has been the lead presenter of the TV show since 2003, and has been presenting gardening programmes for 35 years.

The Cambridge graduate usually presents the show - which has been broadcast since 1968 and regularly attracts audiences of 2.5 million people - from his two-acre garden in Herefordshire.

Some ‘vociferous’ viewers loudly disapprove

Writing in Gardeners’ World, he said: “There is a small but vociferous part of the audience who see Gardeners’ World as a chance to both tick the boxes of their own horticultural knowledge and to loudly disapprove if anything is shown or done in a way that differs from their own.

“We used to be self-conscious about placating this ‘gardening mafia,’ but not any more.

“They are welcome, but Gardeners’ World is not aimed exclusively at or for them.”

Monty Don
Monty Don

The gardener added that he wanted the programme to attract a younger generation of people who “may never get their own home” but still love “growing things... every bit as much as the owner of a proudly maintained garden”.

Don explained that his children’s generation, “born between 1985 and 1990”, would never watch the show of their own volition until recently, and if they did they would be “slightly embarrassed to admit it”.

“I think the answer is that Gardeners’ World obviously has to be entertaining and informative,” Don added.

“I see it as my own mission to inspire and encourage those starting out on the rich experience of making a garden or growing things.

“If Gardeners’ World can help shape, inspire and inform your future - rather than shoring up your past - then we are hitting the right mark.”

Young people ‘do not feel horticulturally enfranchised’

He has previously spoken out about the need to attract more young people to the pastime.

Speaking at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, he said young people “do not feel horticulturally enfranchised”.

“They do not feel that Chelsea, the RHS, Gardeners’ World, everything that I do and I suspect quite a lot, with the best will in the world, of what you do, is for them,” he said.

As a child he was “dragooned” into gardening, which he initially “hated”, he said at the event.

“You were expected to go and work in the garden and that would earn you the right to go and play, and of course, I deeply resented this.

“I hated bloody gardening, because it stopped me doing what I wanted to do.

“However, I’m extremely grateful, because, along the way, grudgingly, I did learn about it.”

The Royal Horticultural Society has also launched Chelsea Flower Show prizes for indoor and container gardens in a bid to interest younger people, many of whom started gardening for the first time during the pandemic.