It’s not fair



My name is Elizabeth and I am an anglophile. There. I own the entire DVD set of Upstairs Downstairs, not to mention the Irish RM and Mapp & Lucia. I have read all of Austen, Dickens and Trollope (most twice) and my Netflix queue includes every possible adaptation of these three that has ever been made.

That’s all well and good; these are the areas of my mania that are easy to indulge. But in at least one aspect of my obsession I am continually frustrated. Because English people clearly care more about gardening than we do and—equally indisputably—have been at it longer, they get to have much cooler gardening magazines and TV shows, most of which are unavailable to me. I couldn’t watch the recent Monty Don series on gardens around the world (though I’ve heard mixed reviews) and I doubt BBC America will ever carry the most popular of the British gardening shows, Gardener’s World—which, believe it or not, is shown on Friday nights over there. Imagine. And it’s been running for forty years. Can you envision the following sentence appearing in an American newspaper about a gardening show here?—Few roles on British television cultivate quite the same level of devotion as that of lead presenter on the BBC’s Gardeners’ World.

Don’t think so. Anyway, the latest news on Gardener’s World is that THIS guy (above) will probably be taking it over from Monty Don, who has suffered a minor stroke. “Heathcliffe of the potting shed,” they call him. There are other candidates, but Matthew Wilson, an RHS curator and wildlife book author, is considered the frontrunner. Would this even be considered news on this side of the Atlantic? I doubt it. Does Paul James (and there’s an obsession I really don’t understand, in spite of all the comments Susan gets on him) even come close? No. It is not fair.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Oh, my. I’ll probably be ridiculed for what I’m about to say. But I’ll say it. If I had to choose between the guy in the photo in this post and Paul James (based solely on looks), Paul wins hands down, even with his uber-wacky, way over the top corny sense of humor. I suppose the lantern-jaw look just isn’t my thing, although Mr. Wilson does have a nice head of hair. Maybe he has a dreamy voice, but I’ve not heard it. While I DO care for great garden programming, and the English have it, I just don’t care for his looks. So, I’ve said it. Let the ridiculing begin.

  2. Wow hadn’t heard this. Can’t comment on attractiveness or otherwise to the ladeez but this guy is a really smart gardener with a sustainability/wildlife perspective. Check out some of his writing in the telegraph or the RHS mags. This is awesome – I was expecting it to be the awful Carol Klein.

  3. Im with Kim, but not because of looks. If Paul James was the only thing on TV I’d be thrilled.

  4. Hubba hubba.

    I don’t miss British gardening shows because the climate is so different from Denver’s. I would just feel frustrated at not being able to use most of the info.

    But I do wish we had the equivalent here!

  5. Ha – how come you know this before I do and I live in the UK and am an avid gardener!!! I only just found out Monty had had a stroke! GW (as us Brits like to call it) has been having mixed reviews for the last couple of series. Unfortunatley Monty’s predecessor, Alan Titchmarsh, was hero worshipped by many and Geoff Hamilton before him was a god so it was a hard act for Monty to follow. Personally I shall be chuffed if Matthew Wilson takes over – I could watch him all day!

  6. My name is Zoë and I am English. I really hope it isn’t Matthew Wilson… in fact I would be pretty amazed if it was. How would he continue to run RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire? He does occasional reports for TV, but nothing major.

    I am hoping Carol Klein gets the job. She is great presenter, witty, knowledgeable, and above all, great to listen to and well thought of by current audiences; thats if she wants the job.

    You may be able to watch Gardener’s World via the BBC website on their iPlayer.

    Best Wishes,


  7. Hi Zoë, thanks for reading! I only know what I read online in The Independent, which I have linked to (click on the Heathcliffe reference). You could very well be right–the article cites him as the likely candidate, but does mention the others.

    I am sorry to have sprung this on any unsuspecting English readers!! But I am continually scouring the web for interesting stuff, and when I saw this, and the picture, well ..

  8. It certainly isn’t fair. But then, it’s not fair that the Brits get decent TV shows not only free, but ad-free, or at least with ads confined to avoidable slots. Whatever is the free world coming to? Does anyone else remember that the rationale for cable, way back when it was new, was that yeah, you had to pay for it, but you wouldn’t have to watch ads? Grrrr.

  9. I’m with Zoe. Matthew Wilson might be absolutely gorgeous, and have a fine curriculum vitae to back up the looks, but I’m hopelessly in love with RHS Harlow Carr. I chose to spend an entire week in Harrogate after a week spent in York attending a proteomics course because I wanted to see RHS Harlow Carr. I just purchased the Clematis ‘Harlow Carr’ for my garden to remind me of my visit. And I’m waiting for the David Austin rose ‘Harlow Carr’ to be available in own-root because I’m saving a spot for it in my garden.

    I can’t say that RHS Harlow Carr is the biggest or poshest of the RHS gardens, but I have such good memories of it, walking out from Harrogate through Valley Gardens, a huge open area with horse chestnut trees (and yes, I pocketed a few conkers) and a lovely wood, and roaming through the garden in a light rain. It was more relaxing than even an Agatha Christie rest-cure in Harrogate might have been.

    That’s the first news I’d had of Monty Don’s stroke, as well. I wish him a swift and complete recovery. Monty is a bit hunky, too, but my vote for sexiest gardener in the UK still goes to Alan Titchmarsh.

    Mind you, I’ve only seen these gentlemen in still photographs in the magazine “Gardener’s World”. I’ve only seen one episode of the program, and that was the “Britain in Bloom Awards” episode in 2004. It was interesting, but probably not the best episode ever.

  10. I read somewhere that Matthew Wilson was leaving Harlow Carr but it didnt say what he was going to do and this was about a month ago.

  11. Bring back Titchmarsh!!
    Oh, and British TV, ( I assume you refer the BBC) is not free – you have to buy a licence each year! ( they actually have the technology to drive a van full of tech stuff down your street and know which house has a TV, and wether they have a licence!! And that only covers the BBC TV and radio – ITV, Channel 4 have commercials just like the US, and then we also have Sky Satellite , which is the Brits version of cable and carries about the same rubbish programs!!
    I still say bring back Titchmarsh, and the show GW over here!!

  12. Hi,
    I enjoyed your anglophile post, and share your devotion, although I must mention my first love on BBC tv, which is Eastenders. No gardening there-in, except for the allotments.
    My husband and I have been enjoying this fabulous BBC show for since forever. Some of the stars were 15 and now are 35, since we’ve been watching.
    I do wish the gardening shows were available here in the U.S.

  13. I never really had a crush on Alan Tichtmarsh, but when I was deeply grieving the loss of a family member BBC America ran the episode where they went to South Africa and built a garden for Nelson Mandela. It was great — nothing bucks a person up like a cheerful old man who spent *twenty-six years* in prison and came out advocating for peace. And they built him a garden, as a surprise, and he chided his wife for the surprise because they promised one another “no secrets” — and then everyone drank champagne and tried not to cry. It was great — sigh. I wish we got more English garden television.

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