New garden poster guy across the pond



Why do I even care about this? I will probably never see this show—when I travel to England I don’t watch TV—yet I am interested to hear that Gardener’s World has hired a new presenter. Following in the footsteps of Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don is Toby Buckland, a professional nurseryman and landscaper who’s done some high profile gardens and won a prize for something (rather frighteningly) called “The Ethical Garden.”

Buckland beat out more popular choices like Chris Beardshaw and Carol Klein. So there you go. It’s interesting to me because this show is on at eight o’clock at night on BBC Two at the exact same time Eastenders is on. (The legendary soap beats GW in the ratings, but still.) A prime-time gardening show on a major network here? Not bloody likely.

And here’s the other interesting thing; these presenters are always guys. It’s noticeable enough that the Guardian has a poll out (no results yet) on whether Gardeners’ World is sexist. And the conservative Daily Telegraph opines:

Is the BBC out of step in choosing another man? After all, the days of Percy Thrower, with his waistcoat, belted trousers, and collar and tie, are long past. It has been computed that nowadays 70 per cent of home gardeners are women.
When it comes to looking after the million acres of garden in this country, a division of labour now operates.
The blokes have been relegated to doing the boring bits, such as mowing the lawn, cutting back shrubs and laying patios, while women do the fun, creative stuff – planting borders, sowing sweetpeas, and deadheading roses. It suits us all fine since, surveys show, women are less interested in machinery or DIY than in nurturing plants.

Well, aside from all the questionable generalizations there, women gardeners throughout history and certainly today have been prominent enough where you’d think a woman would be chosen. But no. Over there you have Titchmarsh, Don, and now Buckland, while here we have Paul James.

It’s a puzzlement.

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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. The thought is here that perhaps Carol Klein didn’t want the job. She has a large garden and nursery in Devon – quite a long way from the garden used in the program. But I don’t expect we will ever know for sure. Toby Buckland is not well known on TV but the things he has done have been liked. The presenters usually get better at the job as time goes on. We will wait and see.

    One grumble is though the program is on at prime time, if there is any sport or major event on, then Gardeners’ World misses a week or two!

    Sorry you don’t get this great program as I am sure you would enjoy it.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  2. If 70% of home gardeners are women and they are going to watch Gardener’s World, is it any surprise the main presenter would be a man? Sex appeal is a major component of gardening. The prettiest and most robust plants are always what gardeners desire.

  3. I thought of that too, Chris, but it doesn’t really hold up–there are many very popular women presenters for programs that have mainly women watchers. I think magnetism easily cuts across gender barriers.

  4. Yes,we have Paul James.Though knowledgeable,his hoky delivery drives me up a wall.”just the facts Sir,just the facts,please”.Whatever happened to Erika Glasener?And why did BBC America stop showing Gardenshows?Used to love watching Alan Titchmarsh,Tommy and Charlie.

  5. I really don’t care whether the host(ess) is male or female but are they entertaining and do they know their stuff.

    Like Shirley – she’s fun to watch and she knows what she’s talking about.

  6. It is a very fair question but not one to be decided on the sex of the presenter. What matters is who will attract the most viewers. Gertrude Jekyll is popular because of the quality of her work: nothing else. I lay claim to the distinction of being a third generation feminist, because my grandfather was a keen supporter of the suffragette movement. But all he and my mother ever wanted was equality. I certainly do not criticize the University of Greenwich for awarding two
    honorary doctorates female garden designers – and none to males, so far. See blog comment at

  7. It’s not a gender issue – my husband and I both thought for sure they’d pick Carol Klein. She’s enthusiastic and you learn stuff from her. (A lot of British shows now just show someone planting stuff in a pot. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.) I think it’s an age issue – even Alan Tichmarsh had to have yoofy types around him. The BBC seems to have a thing about age. As in they’re allegeric to it.

  8. Why, thank you SJ for the plug!

    Maybe I need to go across the pond? I enjoy inspiring viewers through my work on television and clients in the real world.

    What bothers me me is when the television garden host is chosen for personality and looks only and is not a real life professional or “hands in the dirt’ gardener. We don’t need talking heads, we need quality information from people like us who have been there, done that and have enough energy and enthusiasm to get others out there to do the same!

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