The Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party

Perusing stalls, with the famous Victorian glasshouse in the background

During a week in which Britain has demonstrated itself to be exceptionally bad at several things, including but not limited to international relations, various sports, and summer, it is reassuring to remember that there are still some things we are good at. One of these is informative radio broadcasting, and another is horticulture, and therefore a day at the Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party was just the antidote to a week of embarrassing mayhem on the international stage. As we mingled with the kindly faces of fellow Radio 4 listeners perusing stalls for garden societies and reclaimed wooden furniture, who among us couldn’t feel comforted by the sense of continuity of all that is and always has been British? The lawns, the bunting, the mildly eccentric celebrities, the fizz of anticipation as we waited to see whose questions had been picked for the broadcasts…

Friendly Radio 4 crowd mingling after the first recording

Not mine, it turned out, nor that of my friend and fellow gardener M, who was as thrilled as I was to spot Bunny Guinness doing a piece to mic about a patch of dahlias right next to the bench where we were sitting as we agonised over what questions to write on our purple slips for the ballot box. Both of us were determined to achieve the glory of putting a question to the panel. Eventually, M plumped for the ‘boring dry shade question’ (her phrase) while I wrote a plea to cure or condemn a hydrangea of mine that has odd brown patches all over the leaves. In the end, eleven far more interesting questions were picked out of the 700 submitted, and M and I no doubt enjoyed the show all the more for not having to sit in the front row with the other questioners, fearfully waiting our turn to have our quavering voices broadcast to 2 million listeners.

Pippa Greenwood, Bunny Guinness and Bob Flowerdew, the panellists for the first broadcast. Bob Flowerdew has spotted my camera and flashed me a most charming smile.

Elsewhere in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh, where the party took place, we enjoyed demonstrations on composting, bread-making, and crop rotation among others, ate our lunch to the strains of a local Scottish folk band, and admired the Botanics’ wildflower meadow and bounteous summer borders, as well as the giant lily pads and other tropical wonders in the glasshouses. At a plant disease Q&A session, I was finally able to put my hydrangea question directly to Pippa Greenwood, who helpfully diagnosed a magnesium deficiency, which I might cure with a foliar spray of diluted Epsom salts.

The Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party is broadcast on Radio 4 in two parts, the first today (Friday 15th July, repeated on Sunday), and the second at the same time next week.

Pippa Greenwood interrogates me about my hydrangea, and diagnoses a magnesium deficiency


A display about horticultural hygeine



Crop rotation education
Anthurium display inside the tropical glasshouses
Tropical scenery inside the glasshouses
Big enough to sit on. Giant lily pads inside the glasshouses

14 thoughts on “The Gardeners’ Question Time Summer Party

  1. Glad to read you got an answer to your question Joanna – you must keep us informed of it’s success. Looked like a great day out was had by all. All in the lovely back drop of the very special RBGE. Thanks for sharing your day out with us.

    1. Thank you Angie. It was a wonderful day out indeed. By the way, I just tried to comment on your GBBD post (mainly to agree about the weather and express delight at your geranium pratense and the agapanthi) but the publish button just wouldn’t work. So, apologies!

  2. Oh what fun. We went to a GQT recording a couple of years ago at RHS Rosemoor, a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
    Your photos are so sharp. What camera do you use?

    1. Thanks Rusty Duck… it was good fun to see all those familiar voices suddenly attached to faces at last. I actually used my camera phone for these photos (Samsung S4). The trick is to hold it steady, preferably with an elbow resting on something or someone, and breath out slowly while you press the shutter. Repeat until non-fuzzy photo obtained. Normally I use a Canon 50D but it is too heavy (and I am too lazy) to bring it along on non-photography outings.

  3. What a lovely day out!
    I caught most of Friday’s programme whilst in the car. I assume you were one of the many wishing me ‘good gardening’ at the end? Thanks!

    1. PG didn’t recommend a dose and I forgot to ask! I think I put a teaspoonful in about 500mls of water but I have absolutely no idea if that was an overdose or homeopathic. No improvement yet, so I might up the dose a bit.

  4. Now that sounds like a most civilised and relaxing day out Joanna. Where there any plant buying opportunities? We attended a recording session of GQT years ago at Liverpool University which was most interesting. I opted out of asking a question as I was convinced that I would not be able to speak if a microphone was thrust anywhere near me.

    1. Luckily there were not any plant-buying opportunities. I have run out of room for the time-being! But I recommend the GQT summer party as a most civilised and relaxing day out indeed. Do go along to one if you get the chance.

  5. Hi Jo! I love this blog about our day at the Botanics and GQT and your beautiful photos. What a lovely day it was. Thanks for your company. Maia x

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