The 71-year-old is highly regarded within his field and is muted by some experts as helping reignite the British public’s love with the outdoors – and particularly their gardens. He is a vocal advocate of the garden industry, most recently demonstrated by his fury at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government’s decision to shut all garden centres and nurseries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time in March, Alan argued that the industry would be decimated if the stores were not allowed to reopen, and within weeks the BBC star got his wish, with the centres among the first shops allowed to start trading again.
But, he is also a massive advocate of ensuring that people do not get “stuck in a rut” with their gardens and continue to grow and plant the same produce every year.
In a column for Country Life last year, the gardener admitted that when he had a friend over who had first visited his garden 30 years ago, he was “ashamed” when they noticed that his “greenhouse was as exactly the same” as they remembered it.
He admitted that this was a major source of inspiration for him, and proved that it was always important to try out new techniques in the outdoors, as opposed to the usual tried and tested methods.
Alan wrote: “This year, I must bite the bullet and have a bit of a life laundry in my greenhouse. We can all get into a rut if we’re not careful; growing the same plants year in, year out. It makes for reliability, but it can be stultifying and rob a garden – and a greenhouse, in particular – of excitement and novelty.
“An old friend confessed that he would never grow any tomato variety other than Moneymaker. ‘I haven’t got many years left,’ he confessed, ‘and why would I risk growing a variety whose flavour I didn’t like?’ Well, yes, but gardening is about renewal, about anticipation. Surely it’s worth risking a little disappointment rather than being stuck in a rut.
“I did add aeoniums in variety to my greenhouse mix last year, but this season, I really must try to do better, to make the effort to pore over the seed catalogues and the websites and to give in to the blandishments of the plant breeders and try other things. I have no doubt that the results will be variable, but then greenhouse life is about a journey, not just a destination.
“And the old stagers? Perhaps I should plant a few of the pelargoniums in summer pots for the terrace and in gaps in beds and borders to free up space on the staging for new things that catch my eye and take my fancy.”
Last year, Alan discussed another topic which was close to his heart – this time, ensuring gardening is safeguarded for the foreseeable future.
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He explained that the “curriculum should cater for, at least, several periods each week, outdoors”.
The star said: “Even in inner city schools you can do it. There are green spaces. We know it’s good for them, they let off steam.
“I don’t need to spout Latin names at my grandchildren but they adore being outside, whether it’s collecting eggs from chickens or picking raspberries or just running around.
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“They are the future custodians of the landscape. We need to get them familiar with it.”
He also advised that youngsters growing up needed to know more about global warming, as opposed to just being aware of it.
Alan added: “We can’t keep bringing them up just telling them disaster stories and what’s going wrong,” he said.
“They will all grow up knowing about global warming and climate change.”
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