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Alan Titchmarsh reveals his 6 favourite Yorkshire gardens

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 August 2019

Alan Titchmarsh at 2019 RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate (c) Charlotte Graham

Alan Titchmarsh at 2019 RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate (c) Charlotte Graham

©2019 Charlotte Graham- CAG Photography

Gardening royalty Alan Titchmarsh returned to his favourite Yorkshire stomping ground, RHS Harlow Carr, to celebrate some blooming big birthdays. We caught up with him in the sunshine.

Castle Howard (c) Mike Kipling PhotographyCastle Howard (c) Mike Kipling Photography

The nation's growers have indeed grown up with Alan Titchmarsh, from TV shows such as Ground Force to Love Your Garden and a fair few Chelsea Flower Shows in between.

Add to the mix his best-selling books, chat shows and a classical music radio show and well, he's proved himself a mixed bouquet of talent, all stemming from his early interest in horticulture.

This year he celebrated his 70th birthday and was happy to share the birthday joy in Harrogate and fittingly, as an RHS Ambassador and Vice-President, mark the 70th anniversary of the show garden at its summer flower event.

He recalled first visiting Harlow Carr as a 15-year-old when after leaving school he started a five-year apprenticeship, telling his audience that, even at 70, 'Inside your head you're still a 16-year-old apprentice that you hope won't be found out.'

The River Skell in Studley Royal Park an Water Gardens, Ripon (c) Andrew Barker / Alamy Stock PhotoThe River Skell in Studley Royal Park an Water Gardens, Ripon (c) Andrew Barker / Alamy Stock Photo

The enduring appeal of Ilkey-born Alan is his warmth and easy manner with people, coupled with his wealth of knowledge of plants, gardens and horticulture - and the transformative effect they can have on people's lives.

His makeover shows are evidence of that.

'I do the 'door knock' and the reactions are amazing. I get screamed at or even told, 'Oh get lost!'

'We make gardens for all kinds of people - life is very cruel but we can make a difference and prove that gardening makes a difference.

Parcevall Hall & Gardens, at Skyreholme in Wharfedale (c) Park Dale / Alamy Stock PhotoParcevall Hall & Gardens, at Skyreholme in Wharfedale (c) Park Dale / Alamy Stock Photo

'Those who watch it know what an emotional programme it is.

'It is difficult when you're talking to someone who has shown the most amazing courage in dreadful circumstances then you gift them a garden that is tailormade to their requirements. It is emotional.

'But you come away secure in the knowledge that a garden has changed lives - that is a wonderful thing.

'Gardeners know the therapy you get from plants. It's a delight to do that', he says.

The border has been a highlight of Newby’s beautiful 25-acre gardens since the 1920sThe border has been a highlight of Newby’s beautiful 25-acre gardens since the 1920s

A career highlight he talks about is creating a garden for Nelson Mandela in 2000.

'I ended up calling Mrs Mandela from the potting shed explaining what we wanted to do', he recalls.

'I got to make a garden for the great man and to sit down and interview him. His charisma was enormous. A very gentle, quiet charisma, but he was one of those people who don't just fill a room, they fill a landscape, He said, "thank you for the garden, I'll take great care of it".'

He went on to tell Alan that when he was imprisoned the only thing he had control over were two tomato plants in the prison yard. He planted them out, one grew and one didn't. He tried everything but eventually it died - he took it over to the other side of the prison yard and gave it a burial.

Alan added, 'He said, "That's how important plants are to me."' 

Yorkshire Gardens - Alan's favourites:

RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate: 'for obvious reasons'

Newby Hall, near Ripon: Beautiful grounds and a wonderful house

Parcevall Hall Gardens, Wharfedale: an outstanding setting

Castle Howard, near York: Grand showcase gardens

Studley Royal, near Ripon: Stunning parkland

York Gate Gardens, near Leeds: 'I can't believe it's only an acre.' This garden also supports Perennial, the Gardeners Royal Benevolent Society

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