Alan Titchmarsh has done it all! Apart from being a garden expert, he has worked in both television and radio, and become a well-respected writer and journalist. He has written over 40 gardening books, a couple of autobiographies (‘Trowel and Error’, and ‘Nobbut a Lad: A Yorkshire Childhood’), and six novels, including Mr MacGregor, Only Dad, Rosie and Love and Doctor Devon – all of which have raced their way up the Bestseller lists. As many would say, Alan hasn’t done too badly for someone who came from such humble roots…
Alan was born and raised in Ilkley, Yorkshire, by his father, Alan, who was a plumber by trade but also worked for Ilkley’s fire service, and his mother, Bessie. He also has a sister, Kath, who is five years younger. Alan’s love of gardening began in the small back garden of his family home when he was about ten years old. He expressed great interest in growing his own plants, and it wasn’t long before he decided that gardening was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
During his school days Alan wasn’t the most academic of students, and he didn’t particularly enjoy school. He was a late developer, but certainly proved himself after leaving Ilkley County secondary school at the age of 15 to go and work as an apprentice gardener at his local nursery. He worked hard and eventually, eight years later, he acquired a Diploma in Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London. He was then asked to stay on at Kew after his graduation, where he worked as a supervisor and staff trainer.
Alan then stepped into the world of publishing by leaving Kew in 1974 and taking up the position of assistant editor of gardening books at Hamlyn Publishing. He then moved on to Amateur Publishing two years later, where he worked as an assistant editor and department editor of Gardening magazine. Alan’s success in the publishing world gave him the confidence to take a further leap by deciding to work for himself as a freelance writer. This then led him into the world of television and radio, where he is still very much in the limelight.
Working in television and radio brought more fame and fortune to Alan’s door, and he has often found himself in demand for his gardening expertise. As well as gardening programmes, Alan has also done many interviews and presented a number of shows, such as ‘Points of View’, ‘Pebble Mill’, ‘The BBC Proms’, and ‘Ask the Family.’ He also started presenting ‘The Chelsea Flower Show’ in 1983 and has done so ever since. In 1996, Alan also began presenting BBC’s ‘Gardeners’ World’, which he hosted from his own back garden in Hampshire.
1997 brought a new ground-breaking show that was a huge hit and attracted more than 12 million viewers. The show, entitled ‘Ground Force’, saw Alan star alongside Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh as they travelled around performing garden makeovers for people whose gardens were in some kind of turmoil – Alan even had the pleasure of travelling to South Africa to perform his magic on Jason Mandela’s garden.
Her Majesty the Queen of England’s 80th birthday celebrations brought a new honour for Alan, as he was asked to take part in the children’s party. He has a whole string of other accolades too, which include a gold medal from the Chelsea Flower show in 1985 for his country kitchen garden; TV Personality of the Year award – four years running; and Garden Writer of the Year – twice awarded. He has also received an Honorary Doctor of Science from both Bradford and Leeds Metropolitan University, a medal of honour from the Royal Horticultural Society, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Garden Writers Guild. Probably his greatest honour of all, however, was being appointed MBE in the Queen’s Millennium New Year Honours list for his services to horticulture and broadcasting. Alan now has a waxwork model of himself that stands proudly at Madame Tussauds in London.
Apart from Alan’s privileged career, he is a family man and lives with his wife Alison in an old farmhouse in Hampshire, England – along with his many animals that include dogs, cats, a number of ducks, some chickens, and other livestock. Alan also has two daughters, Polly, who was born in 1980, and Camilla who was born two years later – both are now teachers.
The Titchmarsh’s also have a second home on the Isle of White, and this is the place where Alan likes to do most of his writing, including writing poetry. He has a boat there too, and this is somewhere else he enjoys spending time when he isn’t in his garden.
As a bell ringer, and lover of vintage cars and steam engines, Alan never fails to amaze people with his many talents and interests. He even runs a small nature reserve and is patron and president to over 30 charities. He is also trustee of his own charity, ‘Gardens for Schools’.