Frances Tophill wants youth in the gar­den

Gar­dener Frances Tophill on her mis­sion to in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion to sow and grow, and work­ing with leg­ends alan and Monty

TV Times - - Contents - Re­becca Fletcher

Love Your Gar­den

Wed­nes­day / ITV / 8.00Pm

Frances Tophill is on a mis­sion to turn us all green. Green-fin­gered that is – in par­tic­u­lar, the younger gen­er­a­tion whom, she says, aren’t catered for enough on TV.

‘I love the thought that I might in­spire young peo­ple to get their hands dirty, but first I think the gar­den­ing es­tab­lish­ment needs shak­ing up a bit!’ smiles Frances, whose weekly en­thu­si­asm for trans­form­ing waste­lands into prized gar­dens in ITV’S Love Your Gar­den is noth­ing short of in­fec­tious.

‘The au­di­ence for gar­den­ing pro­grammes is pre­dom­i­nantly older peo­ple so, nat­u­rally, a lot of shows cater for that, but it’s quite alien­at­ing for young peo­ple. There’s noth­ing out there that caters for the youth.’

So what would she like to see? ‘A gar­den­ing show that fo­cuses on sus­tain­abil­ity, com­mu­nity gar­den­ing, peo­ple who gar­den against the odds, peo­ple who gar­den with no money, those who use it as ther­apy – and maybe in­cor­po­rate some travel, see­ing what gar­den­ers are do­ing in other places. I think younger gen­er­a­tions are in­ter­ested in this sort of stuff, but it’s not re­ally rep­re­sented in the me­dia.’ So if TV bosses are look­ing for a gar­den­ing pioneer to cul­ti­vate a new gen­er­a­tion of hor­ti­cul­tur­ists, Frances is clearly their girl. ‘I think I’m lucky to be do­ing what I’m do­ing,’ laughs Frances,

29, who de­spite a full day’s work film­ing an episode of Love Your Gar­den with host Alan Titch­marsh, is happy to chat to us from the back of her van, with her trusty lurcher res­cue dog, Rua, by her side…

You’re only 29, yet this is your sixth se­ries of Love Your Gar­den... I know! I was a stu­dent when I got the job, so I’d be on the train writ­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion, only to ar­rive for film­ing and find Alan Titch­marsh mow­ing the lawn – talk about sur­real! He’s re­ally lovely – ex­actly how he is on the screen. He cracks the whip too!

Since be­com­ing a Gar­den­ers’ World pre­sen­ter last year you’ve also worked with an­other gar­den­ing leg­end, Monty Don, how do the two com­pare?

I do some­times feel my loy­al­ties are di­vided. They’re both fan­tas­tic, and sim­i­lar too, as they have in­cred­i­ble pas­sion for what they do. They both have this nice qual­ity of paint­ing pic­tures with words – you find your­self drift­ing off some­where beau­ti­ful as you lis­ten!

Would you like to see both shows cater more for young peo­ple?

We al­ready try to. I think Gar­den­ers’ World caters for every­one as Monty makes it so ap­peal­ing. He’s got a lovely big gar­den, but Monty’s so cool in it. He makes it so re­laxed and look so rustic, that it ap­peals to all. In Love Your Gar­den we in­clude things that we make our­selves – like the per­gola with a swing I’m mak­ing at the mo­ment – things any­one can make, that don’t need a huge bud­get.

How did you get into gar­den­ing? I had a very out­doorsy up­bring­ing, but never con­sid­ered a ca­reer in it. I was work­ing in a lo­cal M&S store and my mum showed me an ad­vert for a gar­den­ing ap­pren­tice­ship.

Wasn’t the ap­pren­tice­ship at the Sa­lu­ta­tion ho­tel (for­merly owned by Gog­gle­box’s Dom and Steph)? They were my bosses! Dom would still be up some morn­ings and ‘cheers’ me as I was cy­cling up the path at 7.30am! I opened their gift shop and the night be­fore they took me out as a thank you and got me so drunk I fell asleep in the shop the next day! It was great fun, but it was a steep learn­ing curve. I loved it!

There’s noth­ing out there that caters for the youth

Frances and Katie rush­worth dig­ging in Gog­gle­box’s dom and Steph gave Frances her big break

Frances with Love Your Gar­den col­leagues Katie rush­worth, alan Titch­marsh and david domoney

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