Alan Titchmarsh



As Strawberry Hill House is transformed this month for a flower festival, we talk to celebrity gardener and author Alan Titchmarsh about being patron for the south west London spot, how we can all garden better and instil a love for gardening in children. 

What are your favourite flowers to grow throughout the year?

The great thing about gardening in the British Isles is that our cool temperate climate allows us to grow so many different plants from places as far flung as sub-arctic areas of the globe and the Mediterranean. As a result, my favourites change with the seasons: snowdrops in February, daffodils in March, tulips in April, peonies in May, sweet peas in June, roses in July, dahlias in August, Japanese anemones in September, and then we have berries and autumn colour to keep us going before it all starts again! Brilliant! 

If you don’t have green fingers, what flowers can you grow for the most impact and least effort?

Why give in? Gardening is an aptitude. Watch how plants grow, give them the conditions they like and they will grow in spite of you. Drowning them or allowing them to dry out completely may result in failure, but the delight of growing things lies in learning to work with nature. Start with plants that seem to grow well in your area and ask the advice of good local gardeners.

What are the key things we can do to be more eco-friendly in our gardening?

It’s incumbent upon all of us to ‘do our bit’ in our gardens so that we are gentle on the environment and encouraging of wildlife. This does not mean rewilding everything. Native insects, including butterflies, can enjoy exotic (non-native) flowers every bit as much as our native flora. Gardens are collections of plants that beautify our surroundings, that feed and sustain us both mentally and physically. They do not need to look like waste ground to make a contribution to the wider environment.

Paved front gardens are an irresponsible travesty, exacerbating local flooding and contributing nothing to carbon retention. If you have to park a car there, construct two strips of hard standing to cope with the vehicle when it is there, and plant up the rest with ground cover plants – better to look at, retentive of moisture and responsible in terms of environmental sustainability.  What’s not to like?

A part of the festival will include children’s workshops – what can we do to inspire a love for gardening in children?

Make gardening fun – not a chore.  Help them to identify butterflies and wild flowers. Collect the common wild flowers (NOT the rarities) and press them before naming them and putting them into albums – much more fun than Pokemon cards. That way they learn about the wonders of nature and our native flora, which will encourage them to cherish it in later years. If they ask for a bit of garden, give them the best patch – not that bit of root-ridden ground in the shade of a tree – and help them to grow vegetables they like to eat. Above all, make the garden somewhere they enjoy being, even – with tinies – if it is only to make mud pies. Teenagers go off gardening (they have other preoccupations) but if they enjoyed sowing seeds and playing outside when they were tiny, they will come back to it once they have a garden of their own.

What’s next for you professionally and what ambitions do you still have?

I’ve just written my 12th novel – ‘The Gift’ which comes out in February, and both ‘Love Your Garden’ and ‘Love Your Weekend’ (ITV on Sunday mornings) are being filmed now. I continue to exercise my love of music on Classic FM every Saturday morning.  I’m so lucky to do a job I love and to have a family who are supportive and fun. I can’t really say that I have any ambitions, except to keep being stimulated and to enjoy what I do.

One day I suspect I’ll be found out, but I’ve had a good run, and gardening continues to be a passion.

How long have you been a patron of Strawberry Hill House and what do you think makes it special?

I’ve been a patron for four years now. I love the place, the architecture and the story of Horace Walpole. I’d love to have met him, though quite what he would have made me I don’t know!  The newly restored gallery on the first floor is simply breathtaking and the garden is a haven for locals and visitors alike.


  • Strawberry Hill House  Flower Festival takes place 8 – 10 October. Rooms will be transformed with dramatic displays, and the festival will also feature sustainable methods of flower arranging and workshops for children.