Step away from the pansies



And here’s yet another installment in my on-going fascination will all things British. In between complaining about our own TV gardening shows (or lack thereof), it’s interesting to check in on what’s going on across the Atlantic, where they actually do have a primetime—and long-running—gardening show, Gardener’s World.

GW hired a new host a while back, Toby Buckland, and the reviews have been mixed. One of the snippiest is from former GW co-presenter/BBC personality Stefan Buczacki, who, after stating that the show no longer has relevance for real-world gardeners, sites an installment from last fall, where Buckland demonstrated how to take cuttings from pansies.

“Not one gardener in ten thousand wants to or ever will take cuttings from pansies. If they want more, they will go to B&Q and spend a pound or two on another tray. Get a life, Toby.”

Even this critique demonstrates how far away the specific problems of British gardening are from ours; the extreme climates across most of our zones dictate that pansies will be an early spring (north) or autumn (south) annual and that’s pretty much the end of it. (Personally, I find pansies annoying in their prettiness—such a tease when I can barely get them to last through May.)

In perusing several of the articles referencing Gardener’s World, I did see that the show has recently been including some interesting topics, such as the problem of vandalism on allotment sites, and has long been addressing home vegetable growing. Whatever its problems, GW does seem to rise above HgTV’s norm of decks, firepits, and other accoutrements of “outdoor living.”

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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. GW is brilliant – I get really frustrated that they show BBC’s Top Gear over here, but not Gardeners’ World. I think there’d be an audience on this side of the pond, even given the obvious differences in climate & native flora.

  2. While I agree that certain aspects of Gardeners World no longer match what a regular gardener is doing, I think the way Stefan has aired his grievance just sounds like sour grapes. It’s pretty easy to pick something apart if you don’t do the actual work there anymore. If he thinks they’re doing the wrong thing then he should march up to the BBC and offer them an alternative.

  3. My wife is a total HGTV addict; I can’t stand it:(

    I can’t see any value in stories about a couple desperately trying to rebuild their bathroom so as to sell for a higher price, allowing them to reach that magnificent, life-long goal of owning a half-million dollar house.

    …And the phrase “curb appeal” is starting to make me nauseous!

    I HAVE enjoyed some of the programming on the DIY channel; would certainly like to see the British gardening shows!

  4. Who cares if most of the viewers would buy new pansies rather than go through the ‘hassle’ of taking cuttings? The question is, do we want the most prominent gardening show on television to champion a sort of Big Box Throw-away style of gardening?

    So what if viewers are replacing pansies every 6 months. I want my gardening shows to take the more sustainable/less wasteful/DIY/perhaps even more personally rewarding garden path.

  5. I think we are not addressing the fact that some of us geeks think it’s fun to try little gardening challenges, like starting pansies from cuttings. All this focus on easy care, no work gardening isn’t for everyone. We are a busy society but some of us would rather spend a half hour puttering with plants when we get home from instead of watching HGTV. Some of us have splendid gardens out back and could give a rat’s tail about “curb appeal.”

  6. There’s much to be said for teaching basic gardening skills. Ten thousand may never do it, but the one that does will teach another, who will teach another.

    Keeping old-school techniques alive is just one aspect of the bigger picture from passing on now-obscure growing techniques to preserving the diversity of heirloom varieties. This is how we will survive the big-box, throw-away mentality that plagues our culture.

  7. I agree with Victoria and Barbara. I wish we had some shows that preached some of those basic techniques. Sustainability depends on putting those techniques into practice.

  8. I don’t know about pansy cuttings, but I have a bed of “hybrid” marigolds that I’ve kept going for a decade; I just clear it off, and up they come.

    Always different; always pretty…

    …and free:)

  9. In california, pansies go like hell fire for about two to three months max. Then they look like leggy little bums. Like they have been eating lizards. Then you rip them up and go to lowes or home depot or the local garden center and get a flat for twenty bucks and stick those in.

    pansies are cut and paste plants.

    like the paint can utensil on MS paint.

    I prefer zinias and snapdragons anyway. At least they last for a whole season (or in the case of the dragons a few years)

  10. “LOL. You obviously don’t live in California. We call 500K houses “starter homes.” ;-)”

    Oh, I know, I know…!

    Around here, you may find a modest older house on an acre of land for under $150,000:)

  11. I have been reading all this and I agree that I’d love to have a show half as interesting as GW here, AND that we need shows that demonstrate basic techniques like rose-pruning, compost-making, and perennial-dividing. That being said, there are lot of things I painstakingly nurture through the winter, but pansies would never be among them.

  12. I hope pansies can make my pots look better this fall. So many plants fried in the PNW last week with temperatures higher then Death Valley. Dr Dean Adell commented on the temperature. I just hate it that practically every plant has been scorched.
    I’m looking forward to pansies this September.
    Poor growers trying to raise them in this heat.
    I love pansies,

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