Earlier this year landscape designer Jim Fogarty and I were walking back from the ABC Studios after talking to Lindy Burns on 774 ABC Evenings about the upcoming Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. We were bemoaning the lack of a gardening show on radio that covered more than how to garden.
There are some great talk-back sessions by experts in horticulture, and occasionally the chance for them to cover a topic in a little more depth. But where was the place for discussing the big questions in horticulture, a chance to argue and debate about gardens and gardening?
We are very polite in the gardening world and tend to make every segment upbeat and life-affirming. Not that we need biff and blustering but a little prodding and disagreement wouldn't go astray now and then.
Mulling over this the next day I thought a panel show might be the answer. I wanted it to be national, and I wanted it to be done with style and integrity. ABC Radio National (RN) seemed to be the right vehicle.
So I emailed Robyn Williams, presenter of the RN Science Show for 30 years, who has always been supportive of botanic gardens and knew I could at least string a few words together. I thought he would be a good sounding board for a mad idea. This was the pitch.
Within minutes Robyn Williams had forwarded on my email to an RN commissioning editor, and within hours I received the reply via Robyn that there was certainly interest. RN had always had a hankering for a gardening show of some kind and this concept was appealing. Robyn recommended me warmly, which I'm sure helped.
After some paperwork and internal ABC decision making we were invited to prepare a pilot episode with Amanda Smith (above; presenter of The Body Sphere, and producer of many great RN shows) producing. The show format evolved into a half-hour episode, including a 10-minute panel discussion, a plant of the week (Under the Microscope), a 5-minute outdoor interview (In the Garden) and a final whip around for what was good (laurel) or bad (thorn) in horticulture that week.
I would host, Jim would be a regular guest and join me from the start of the show. A second guest could come in during our Under the Microscope session and stay for the panel discussion, to be joined by a third guest for that segment and the laurels/thorns. We would build to four of us chatting about horticulture...
For the pilot, we invited Damon Young (above, left), a philosopher, and Teena Crawford (above, third from left), a plant grower, to be our guests, staking out our territory as horticulture expertise within a wider cultural context. The pilot was viewed positively and we agreed to provide a series of six shows to run over Christmas with the pilot becoming the first episode.
Does it meet the brief? Does it work? Is it any good? It's over to you. I'm Tim Entwisle, on RN, for Talking Plants You can hear me at 9 am on Sunday mornings, or download the show from the Radio National website.