Monty Don in disbelief as Alan Titchmarsh unveils how he got him Gardeners’ World role
Gardeners' World: Alan says he 'recommended Monty to BBC'
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For newer fans of Gardeners’ World, before Monty Don took over as lead presenter, Alan Titchmarsh MBE fronted the BBC Two show. And when the British gardener stepped down back in 2002, he was asked who he would recommend to take over from him and the Longmeadow owner was at the very top of his list. In a 2017 BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine video unearthed by Express.co.uk, the two horticultural experts sat down together and shared their early memories.
Gardeners World first broadcast on 5 January 1968 and it still running as of 2021.
Its debut series was presented by Ken Burras and came from Oxford Botanical Gardens.
Other lead presenters have included Percy Thrower, Arthur Billitt, Geoff Hamilton and Geoffrey Smith.
Alan took over from Geoff and presented the show from his garden at Woodroyd (remained Barleywood for the programme) in Alton, Hampshire until 2002.
The following year Monty took over the reins until 2008 when a stroke saw him take a two-year hiatus from the show and Toby Buckland stepped in.
In 2011, Monty was back and the show was being broadcast from his garden, Longdmeadow.
But it seems, Monty never knew it was Alan who recommended him for the role.
Speaking in a clip from BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine YouTube channel, Monty said to Alan: “Stepping into your footsteps was clearly a big thing.
“But you have to – and I’m sure goodness gracious it was worst for you under those circumstances with Geoff – you have to own it after a bit, you can’t cringe under the shadow of your predecessor, however lovely and revered they were. You have to, quite early on, say ‘I’m doing this.’”
“You’re right, it was hard,” Alan replied. “Geoff Hamilton – were mates anyway, we knew one another – Geoff had decided after 14 years that he wanted to just do Specials.
“And he said ‘When do you want to take over?’ And I said ‘When do you want to do?’ He said ‘What about next Easter?’ And I said ‘Fine, that’s okay by me’. This was in June, I was going to take over next April.
“He died in the August and that was hard because I was finishing off his series and there were various ‘Oh look who’s come’ – you’re always going to get that when somebody’s really made a programme their own,” he continued to explain.
“And so I did those six [episodes], got my head down and got on with it. And then when the next series started, exactly as you said ‘Look, it’s me now. I’m doing it my way, I can only be me, I hope you like it!’”
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On his own experience of taking over the prestigious role, Monty added: “I remember, I got a phone call from the then Head of BBC Two, I had no idea you were stopping!
“I genuinely had not an inkling and they said ‘Would you consider it?’ And I thought for all of a millisecond – it’s the best job.”
“Do you not know why?” Alan commented. “I was asked when I left who I would recommend.”
Stunned by the admission, Monty eventually replied: “Did you? That’s the first time-”
And Alan continued: “And I said ‘You need someone who can chair a meeting, you need an anchorman’ – this is absolutely true – ‘You need an anchorman and I think your best bet is Monty Don.’”
Flattered, Monty said: “Well, I am very glad to hear that, thank you.”
According to Monty’s fact file on BBC’s Gardener’s World website, he has “gardened on television for over twenty years” beginning with This Morning, landing the lead presenting role on Channel 4’s Real Gardens, Fork to Fork and Lost Gardens and Around the World in 80.
Apparently, he “loves hedges, woodland, topiary, vegetables, fruit and all plants that capture a season, mood or spirit of place”.
As for what he “loathes”, it seems he doesn’t get along with “houseplants, begonias and horticultural pedantry”.
Gardeners’ World airs Friday evenings at 8pm on BBC Two.
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