Miranda Hart So this is quite amusing for us – me interviewing you – a career high for me! To give RT readers a bit of context to our chat – I’ve always thought that gardening and gardening parlance are very funny, and that my mother would be television gold! So, what does it feel like to be making your TV debut at the very young age of 77?
Dee Hart Dyke It’s unexpected and exciting. I’ve loved indulging my passion for gardens.
Miranda I’m beginning to take an interest in gardening now. When did you first get the bug?
Dee It goes right back to when I was nine and my mother gave me a packet of seeds and showed me how to sow them. A few days later they came up and that excitement has never left me. From that moment on I was hooked, and I went on to grow bigger and better things….
Miranda Including me… ha!
Dee Indeed! And later I began visiting gardens, which has been a very important part of my life.
Miranda Was your mother a keen gardener?
Dee Yes, she was, so was my grandmother who, even aged 90, used to walk all over the Austrian and Swiss mountains looking at wild flowers.
Miranda It sounds like it runs in the genes. My cousin Tom is so besotted by flowers that he travelled to the Darién Gap in Central America – and got himself kidnapped [by guerrillas in 2000].
Dee He’s absolutely fearless. Like so many plant hunters of the past, he’ll go anywhere to find a fascinating new plant.
Miranda What lengths would you go to?
Dee Not to those! But I will garden anything up to eight hours a day. I’m so lucky that I’m fit enough to be able to do that. But I think it’s gardening that keeps me fit. Miranda Will you keep going in the rain?
Dee Not if it’s pouring down, but in gentle rain.
Miranda You see, I would say that was pretty adventurous and without the risk of a kidnap! I remember you giving me a packet of seeds when I was younger but I didn’t catch the bug.
Dee No, you didn’t, and neither did your sister, Alice. But the majority of people come to gardening later in life. When you acquire your own garden, and you’re not so busy growing up.
Miranda Do you think it’s increasing in popularity because of the pace? I’ve reached an age  where I want to slow the pace of my life.
Dee Definitely, we live in an age of stress and anxiety and it’s really therapeutic. The peace and solitude are relaxing. You’re away from the demands of modern technology. Your generation is never out of communication, which must be perfectly exhausting. Gardening, or visiting gardens, is the perfect antidote – it just unwinds you.
Miranda How would you describe your garden?
Dee A person’s character is often reflected in their garden…
Miranda Which is why yours is so beautiful and elegant.
Dee Oh, thank you! My garden is two-and-a-half acres, and a mass of borders full of plants, because plants are my absolute passion.
Miranda Have you got a favourite plant?
Dee I’m very fond of the salvia family, which are just coming into their best now through August, September and even into October. Earlier in the year, I love a plant called a burning bush, the dictamnus.
Miranda You just said burning bush and then you mentioned a dick! Gardening is filthy!
Dee Only you’d think of that…
Miranda Everybody is thinking it, Mother! As part of the show you helped me with my garden. It was lovely doing something together other than eating scones and watching Neighbours. Do you think I’ll catch the garden bug?
Dee Yes, what little we did in your garden was SUCH FUN! Because not only did you turn everything I said into hilarious innuendos but I also felt you were genuinely beginning to get interested, which surprised me greatly. By the way, don’t forget to dead-head all the things in those pots. Are you finding ten minutes every day as I suggested?
Miranda I sometimes realise I’ve gone two or three days without doing my ten minutes and I’ll do a burst of 30 minutes. But I now pride myself on a neat, weedless garden. I finally understand your excitement about having a patch of earth that you can turn into something special, a real oasis to enjoy. I’m enjoying watching my plants grow.
Dee Oh good! Because before your garden had a lot of waving tentacles of wisteria. Miranda There were lots of overgrown bushes and ivy, which was – as you kept saying – rampant! So twice a year I’d get a man to come and trim my bushes, if you pardon the expression. You see? It’s constant innuendo!
Dee Now it looks so nice and under control. I didn’t want to give you too much to do, so it’s just a plain lawn with a little border all the way around. We put in a new shrub, didn’t we?
Miranda There’s one called Phlox Miranda.
Dee And we put in salvia “Hot Lips”, which amused you!
Miranda I’m doing theatre at the moment and on my day off I absolutely love sitting in the garden and just staring at the plants… If I’d done that in my 20s, I’d have been bored, but now I find it really nice just to breathe and be mindful. Mindfulness is the word of the moment; people are beginning to understand how important it is. The last two years politically and in terms of the news have been very difficult, and living in London recently has been tough, so I think we all need things with hope and joy and lightness in them. And hopefully, your new career will also create that with this show. Gardening could be the new baking! No pressure, Mother!
Dee We are a nation of gardeners and visiting gardens is very much a national pastime so it could… Although, I don’t think I could ever be the new Mary Berry because she is unique!
All Gardens Great and Small begins on Monday 21 August at 9pm on More4