CAROL KLEIN: A NA­TIONAL TREA­SURE

We cel­e­brate the work of a great reader favourite

Amateur Gardening - - Contents -

CaRol Klein is a one off: a whirl­wind of in­fec­tious en­thu­si­asm for all things hor­ti­cul­tural, who never fails to leave a trail of in­spi­ra­tion in her wake. De­spite hav­ing no for­mal train­ing, she is one of the UK’s best-known green-fin­gered gu­rus, whose husky voice has been a fa­mil­iar sound on TV’s Gar­den­ers’ World since 2005. She has also fronted pop­u­lar se­ries such as Grow Your Own Veg and Real

Gar­dens, while no cov­er­age of flower shows such as Chelsea and Hamp­ton Court is with­out her ex­pert opin­ion on the sea­son’s must-have blooms.

She has also writ­ten nu­mer­ous books, in­clud­ing best-sell­ing guides to prop­a­ga­tion, and grow­ing wild flow­ers and fruit and veg­eta­bles – her Grow Your Own

Veg was the UK’s top-sell­ing gar­den­ing book for two years run­ning. Plus, she’s an am­bas­sador for the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s new Bridge­wa­ter gar­den, lo­cated close to her child­hood home.

No fewer than three flow­ers have been named in Carol’s hon­our; read­ers of

York­shire Women’s Life Magazine voted her the na­tion’s favourite gardener in 2016; and there was a pub­lic out­cry when she didn’t get the lead pre­sen­ter’s job on

Gar­den­ers’ World fol­low­ing Monty Don’s de­par­ture in 2008, with Carol quip­ping that she had “hit the grass ceil­ing”. So what is it that keeps the Sal­ford-born mother of two at the top of her game and makes her a hor­ti­cul­tural hero­ine to so many?

The an­swer has a lot to do with the fact that there’s noth­ing fake about Carol's un­bri­dled en­thu­si­asm for grow­ing plants, or her ea­ger­ness to ditch the mystique and en­cour­age oth­ers to have a go. She is a fully paid-up mem­ber of what Jekka McVicar calls “the dirty fin­ger­nail brigade”: a hand­scom­plete

on gardener who’s not afraid to pull on her wellies and get stuck in. Carol sowed her first seeds as a child, and she knows what it’s like to cre­ate a gar­den from scratch be­cause she did just that – at home in Devon, clear­ing the plot of de­bris, smash­ing up con­crete with a pick­axe and mov­ing 15 tonnes of hard­core in a wheel­bar­row be­fore plant­ing could be­gin.

the voice of ex­pe­ri­ence

When she ex­plains how to strike cut­tings peo­ple lis­ten, be­cause they know she has done it her­self, count­less times be­fore. And read­ing Carol’s books, it’s hard not to be car­ried along by her pas­sion for nur­tur­ing plants; the sense of magic she feels when seeds push up tiny shoots; the thrill of see­ing new roots formed on ma­te­rial taken from other plants.

An­other rea­son for her longevity is her nat­u­ral, down-to-earth ap­proach and easy way with peo­ple. Some might call it the com­mon touch, a qual­ity honed while teach­ing art in Lon­don and, later, Devon.

One of Carol’s last jobs in ed­u­ca­tion was fill­ing in for a term at South Molton Com­mu­nity Col­lege near Barn­sta­ple. Head of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy An­drew Goode re­mem­bers her time there, par­tic­u­larly her “quirky and dif­fer­ent ap­proach” and use of nat­u­ral re­sources to in­ter­est chil­dren.

“She was very en­thu­si­as­tic: she had lots of cre­ative ideas and ap­proached things in an imag­i­na­tive way, which en­thused the stu­dents as well,” he re­veals.

How­ever, it was not just in the art stu­dio that Carol made her mark. Says An­drew: “I can still see her walk­ing along and stop­ping to dead­head a flower in the school gar­dens, then pop­ping it into a bin.”

Screen pres­ence

The seeds for Carol’s jour­ney from art teacher to TV gar­den­ing pre­sen­ter were sown when she gave up full­time teach­ing to con­cen­trate on her Devon nurs­ery. She grad­u­ally de­vel­oped an im­pres­sive rep­u­ta­tion for her plants and be­gan ex­hibit­ing at RHS shows in 1990, go­ing on to be awarded six gold medals from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Her first ap­pear­ance on Gar­den­ers’

World came in 1989, when Ge­off Hamil­ton paid a visit to Glebe Cot­tage. De­spite be­ing ner­vous at the prospect of speak­ing to gar­den lovers all over the na­tion, her knowl­edge and pas­sion shone through. Fur­ther in­vi­ta­tions to ap­pear on the small screen fol­lowed, lead­ing to her be­ing made a fully fledged Gar­den­ers’

World pre­sen­ter in 2005.

Carol ran her plant nurs­ery for 30 years, un­til 2011, when it closed af­ter a dis­pute with her neigh­bours. How­ever, she still lives at Glebe Cot­tage with hus­band Neil, and con­tin­ues to tend her or­ganic gar­den, putting her faith in na­ture and nat­u­ral pro­cesses, and ac­knowl­edg­ing the ‘priv­i­lege’ of be­ing able to tend an out­door space.

Far from rest­ing on her lau­rels, Carol is now busier than ever, with ap­pear­ances on TV and at nu­mer­ous flower shows. At 72, she shows no signs of wilt­ing. In fact, in April she will be hit­ting the road with her

Life in a Cot­tage Gar­den Show, which fol­lows her suc­cess­ful six-part TV se­ries (screened in 2014) and sub­se­quent book.

One per­son who isn’t at all sur­prised by Carol’s longevity is her old col­league An­drew. “She has been very suc­cess­ful,” he says. “I love watch­ing Carol on the tele­vi­sion and see­ing that her en­thu­si­asm has not di­min­ished.”

“At 72, she’s busier than ever, and shows no sign of wilt­ing”

Come rain or shine, Carol’s sunny na­ture and en­thu­si­asm for all things hor­ti­cul­tural make her one of gar­den­ing’s best-loved per­son­al­i­ties

When not pre­sent­ing, writ­ing or at­tend­ing flower shows, Carol can be found do­ing what she loves: gar­den­ing

Film­ing for the BBC at Chelsea in 2014. Since her TV de­but in 1989, Carol has be­come a reg­u­lar on our screens

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