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
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