Alan Titchmarsh’s new ITV series Britain’s Best Back Gardens does exactly what it says on the tin, inviting viewers into 30 of the country’s most noteworthy domestic gardens.
Here, Alan shares five of his favourites – starting with quite a bold claim…
The best garden in the world – in Walsall!
“Marie and Tony Newton were health professionals until their retirement five years ago. They have planned a garden that looks good all year round. It’s been described as the best garden in the world, and it’s in Walsall. They spend two hours each per day out there and they get tourists from as far as Japan knocking on their door.
“The key to their garden is having a skeleton, a framework of evergreen plants, shrubs or conifers around which the rest of the garden hangs. If you’re clever and use evergreens that are a bit brighter, like yellow or blue conifers, or something like Acer senkaki, with its beautiful red stems in winter, you do end up having a garden that is colourful all year round. It’s quite a multi-coloured garden. It’s very tonal. It’s not just white.”
The best lawn you’ll ever see
“Andrew Moore in Kilmarnock has the best lawn you will ever see. He mows it every morning, and he hasn’t been on holiday for 43 years! Now, I’m not saying that Radio Times readers should mow their lawns that frequently, and go that long without a holiday, but if you only cut your lawn once a fortnight, it’s not going to look great.
The more frequently you mow your lawn, the better it will look. Andrew mows every day, and often he’s barely taking anything off but dew. But the lawn’s like a billiard table, it looks like it’s made of velvet. In summer, mow twice a week. You won’t be taking much off; it’s just making sure that it stays below the blade.”
Belize comes to Beccles
“Andrew Brogan, from Beccles in Suffolk, has what I can only describe as a tropical rainforest. Visiting his garden was like walking into the jungle – it’s like Belize comes to Beccles. You don’t expect it anywhere, and certainly not in dry East Anglia. I was blown away.
He created it simply by stilling the air, planting a protective barrier of Leyland cyprus around the outside of the garden that created a wind filter. That allowed him to build up more humidity, an area of still air, like an oasis. In there he has tree ferns and quite a few subtropical things, like Musa basjoo, a banana plant. He’s got 30ft high bamboo canes, which are as thick as your arms.”
A garden fit for a buddha
“A lot of us are a bit frantic in the garden. But there’s a man in his 70s who lives in an old pig farm near Newark in Nottinghamshire. He’s Japanese and his name is Buddha Maitreya. He got in a JCB and sculpted the earth into rises and hollows, and has created pools and bridges. He’s got some extraordinarily large Koi carp that swim languidly beneath the surface. Just being there feels like it lowers your blood pressure.
He says that it’s a garden that’s a place to be calm, and it is astonishing, with an overwhelm- ing sense of peace. He has these Leyland cyprus, and he’s cleared the lower stems and pruned the tops into giant orbs. It looks very exotic, but it’s just Leyland cyprus, like you might use for a hedge.”
Welcome to the Bates Motel
“Everyone thinks you have to spend a fortune on your garden, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Londoners Susan Bennett and Earl Hyde have a garden that’s a complete flight of fancy. He’s a sculptor and she’s an art teacher.
They have a reclaimed fireplace, brilliantly painted and fixed against a wall, with bright orange flowers growing in the hearth. There’s a baroque temple, and a shed that looks like the Bates Motel out of Psycho. It has this ornate filigree on top. Earl told me it’s plastic; he got it from a pound shop.”
As told to Patrick Foster
Britain’s Best Back Gardens is on ITV tonight (6th January) at 8pm