In The Limelight: My Day Filming With BBC Gardeners’ World

Reading time 11 minutes


I’ll let you into a secret – I’m not very good at keeping secrets. When BBC Gardener’s World contacted me, quite out of the blue, I was a tiny bit sceptical. Sometimes these things naturally come to nothing and I didn’t want to build my hopes up. But before I knew it a date was confirmed, entered in the diary and I was sworn to secrecy until the film was ‘in the can’. In the days that followed I preened and primped my garden knowing that it wasn’t just for my NGS visitors, but also for the television cameras. I don’t mind admitting that I found keeping such an exciting secret both excruciating and impossible. I let the news slip to a few close friends and acquaintances, partly to explain why I was being even more fastidious about everything than usual. My restraint did, however, extend to keeping my secret away from any form of social media, for which I give myself a small pat on the back. Now it’s done I can spill the beans.

BBC researcher Yvonne and director Adrian travelled down on Tuesday night ready for an early start on Wednesday. Happily the workshop was already set up for my open weekend and so became the green room for a day. The Swan hot water urn I purchased three years ago is the most useful thing for occasions such as these, since all the best teams are fuelled by regular cups of tea and coffee. The cameraman drove up from Brighton and the sound engineer from nearby Faversham, completing a team of four. It’s many years since I’ve done any TV work and the equipment gets smaller and more advanced every time: just as well as my garden is so small.



(I took the photograph above when we were filming in Alan Tichmarsh’s Garden Secrets back in 2009. My, how the garden has grown over the last ten years! I have to admit that I do rather hanker after the days when the garden was more open. Perhaps one day it will be time to return to a more Mediterranean look. Down in the bottom right-hand corner you will also see a tiny sprig of Solenostemon ‘Gay’s Delight’, which is one of many I’d like to track down again.)


It all looks marvellous from where I’m sitting …


For the first three hours of filming I was required to sit on a chair and talk about the garden whilst looking into the Director’s eyes – all extremely pleasant experiences about which I had no qualms. The last time I sat down for that long was when my train got stuck in a snow drift in March. There was no presenter for this segment, so it was down to me to do the talking. Normally I find describing the garden the easiest thing in the world, but there’s something about a TV camera that scrambles your brain. I’m sure I said ‘lovely’, ‘exotic’, ‘lush’, ‘tropical’ and ‘enveloped’ far too many times. Most of my gormless repetition will be edited out, since we worked for 10 hours to create an ‘insert’ which will be just 5 minutes long in the end.


A seagull’s eye view of the crew


The whole day was meticulously organised and brilliantly scripted, although there was still flexibility to add a few impromptu scenes which we felt would be good on the day. I won’t give the game away by telling you what we filmed, but the general idea was to show viewers that it’s possible to cram a great deal into a small garden. I would hope I’ve instilled that message into you already if you read this blog regularly.


Fuchsia splendens being briefed on its cameo role.


The size of my garden presented a real challenge when it came to filming. The cameraman used every trick in the book to get different angles and perspectives, which was fascinating to observe. Every window or table was used to create shots that conveyed a sense of enveloping jungliness (there I go again!). A small screen on-top of the camera allowed us to see what the cameraman was capturing. Of course, there’s no such thing as ‘film’ now, the programme is recorded on tiny memory cards that have travelled back to BBC Bristol on the train for editing. We filmed most segments three times using different lenses and camera positions. These will be cut together depending on what works best for the final version. Adrian the Director went to great lengths to make sure everything was done perfectly, with no continuity slip-ups. One poor begonia got watered 10 times in the name of great television …. and now it’s being rained on too. Poor old Solenostemon (coleus) ‘Henna’ was in just the wrong position for all the cables and tripods so took a bit of a battering. I hope this plant makes it on to Gardeners’ World as it really has been the ‘It’ plant in my garden this year, giving flame nettles a good name. My local garden centre / nursery has already confirmed they will be growing ‘Henna’ again, so I expect to see it in every garden in Broadstairs next summer.


Working out the best angle


The Jungle Garden commanded most of the camera’s attention, but we briefly  filmed The Gin & Tonic Garden …. just as it was time for a Gin & Tonic. At 6pm it was a wrap, and the crew packed up their kit and went home. I had just enough energy in reserve to switch off the urn and get myself fish and chips (this is becoming a dreadful habit) before curling up on the sofa with a glass of rosé and watching TV. I was so tired I can’t even remember what was on. I vaguely remember Stephanie Beecham doing yoga in India and thinking that Dynasty had changed considerably since I last watched. I was in bed by 10pm and didn’t wake up for 12 hours.


And there was me thinking they used drones for aerial shots!


As yet, there’s no confirmed date for the piece to air, but readers of this blog will be among the first to know when I know. It might be this year, or it could be sometime in 2019, depending on scheduling. Gardeners’ World is posted to You Tube so you should be able to watch it there, wherever you are.

All-in-all filming the garden for television was a great experience and something one only gets to do once. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see behind the scenes and also to spend time in front of the camera. I learned a lot that I can apply to my own short films in future, although I doubt I will be spending ten hours creating them!

A huge thank you to the BBC for singling out The Watch House for inclusion on the show. Now I can’t wait to see how it looks on the television. TFG.


With Yvonne and Adrian from Gardeners’ World at the end of filming



Categories: Flowers, Foliage, Garden Design, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Planting Design, Plants, Small Gardens, Urban Gardens

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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50 comments On "In The Limelight: My Day Filming With BBC Gardeners’ World"

  1. If you needed or wanted an affirmation that you are a great gardener, I think you just received it. I’ll look for the link to see the show. Your gardening skills will now be appreciated world wide if they weren’t already. Applause and a bow to somehow who has created a lush jungle without soil because most of us have trouble even maintaining a cottage garden with soil. Sincere congrats on the recognition – well deserved. 🙂

  2. Wow. How exciting. I’m sure that was a fascinating experience and great for your gardening profile. Well done.

  3. Brilliant, just brilliant. I cannot wait to see the finished item on Gardeners’ World. You are indeed a brilliant gardener and your garden deserves to be shown to the wider public. It will be a brilliant addition to the program. There you are, I have used the word ‘brilliant’ a lot!

  4. Well done Dan!!! So happy for you – and so lovely for all of us to have ‘known’ you before you hit national fame and glory!!! Onwards!

    1. Oh Goodness. I shall not be letting this go to my head. One day I hope to ‘break free’ and do all this for a living, but I imagine that day is still a long way off. Onwards, as you say!!

  5. Congratulations, Dan. I am proud and happy for you. Well deserved to be on BBC. Can’t wait to see the programme 🙂

    1. Thank you Laurin. I definitely am getting more adventurous as I gain experience. So many ideas for next year. One plant I really need to get hold of is Myosotidium hortensia, the Chatham Island forget-me-not. Just the right look for my garden! Dan

  6. How lovely, what a thrilling – if exhausting – day! We’ll all be agog now to know when the prog will air – I hope it’ll be this year! And hopefully it will inspire even more visitors to your NGS day next year – more cake will be needed! (And, btw, fish and chips, no guilt needed. Yum.)

    1. I hope it will be this year too.

      I mean it in the nicest possible way, but I’d rather not have more people at the NGS open weekend. If that were a possibility I’d need to open for a lot longer as we were already at capacity with 300. Each garden can only take a max of 10. Perhaps it’s time to move?

  7. Well deserved, Dan, just wonderful 🤗. I will be waiting for your segment here Down Under. Love your stamp size garden, it is always very exciting to see what is happening in it.

    1. No, you really don’t. They reckoned three days in total for my segment, including planning, filming and editing. That said it’s all done very professionally. I can really appreciate the quality of the work when I watch GW now …. and identify all the tricks being used!!

  8. This is such exciting news! Well done you! And my goodness your garden IS a jungle! I hadn’t realised just how many big plants you had in there. So tropical looking. Much applause from me and can’t wait to see it feature on the programme. xx

    1. In fairness I have gone much bigger with everything this year. One wonders where it will all end!! What is so wonderful is how much the birds love it. The sparrows bring the whole garden alive with their incessant chattering, and I’ve had lots of visits from the local parakeets too.

  9. So many congratulations and what a star your garden is, as are You! Can’t wait to see it on youtube.

  10. Another follower here signing up for the We Knew Him Before He Was Famous club… what an exciting day and looking forward to seeing the piece when it hits the airwaves. What had you most excitedly – the first email or call to say that GW wanted to come or the day of filming dawning? Ceri

    (Also – have to admit I am disappointed with that camera on a big stick device. Surely Monty has scaffolding towers and cherry pickers at his place?)

    1. I think it’s different at Longmeadow as it’s a permanent set-up, but I gather filming is all very relaxed and enjoyable there. I don’t recall seeing aerial shots, which I would actually find most helpful to understand the layout better.

      Like Christmas, the day itself was quite stressful, so I’d definitely say the build up was more exciting. Dan

  11. Congratulations, Dan, and well deserved after all the meticulous care you lavish on your plants. Wonderful for those of us who most probably will never get to visit your garden. I’m glad the Coleus ‘Henna’ had a starring role!

    1. I wish I could bring my garden to you Jane ….. although it would probably fry in the Australian heat! Gardeners’ World will give you a really good perspective on the garden. They filmed some very interesting angles! Dan

  12. Wow – so exciting ! You must be so proud of yourself Dan and so you should be. So gratifying to see others appreciate and acknowledge all that you have created. Its such a beautiful jungle and I sure many viewers will dream of having the skills and knowledge to create such a glorious haven. Well done and big hugs from Aus… I will be watching on You Tube and boasting to all about my very talented and gifted friend ! congrats xxxx

    1. We have been very blessed with the weather this summer which has helped enormously with the jungly effect. However very high winds are predicted this afternoon, immediately before a group of professional gardeners are coming over to see it, so I’m somewhat apprehensive about that. I need to get out there with my canes before any more damage is done!

      I’ll let you know when it’s on. Could be quite a long wait if it’s next year.

      Hugs from me. Dxx

  13. Congratulations, well deserved recognition – we’re really looking forward to the programme now. What a secret to have to keep!

    1. I know. I did quite well at first but there were some people I just had to tell. The garden is very happy that I’m now ignoring it a bit and allowing it to ‘get on’. The plants were getting tired of all my fiddling!

  14. What fun! It is such an honor to be featured on a TV program, especially Gardeners World. Whoooo hoooo…..

  15. I am amazed by your garden and so pleased that this opportunity has arisen to be on Gardener’s World. I always forget to watch it, unless I’m at my parents’, but I need to anyway, as my knowledge of ornamental plants is still very poor.
    No wonder you slept for 12 hours after the shooting. Incredible how much work goes into making a programme – thanks for the insider view. I too had wondered how they got the aerial shots 😊.

    1. I think they really do use drones for larger gardens! If they’d tried in mine a seagull would have taken it out in no time!

      I tend to watch GW in chunks whilst I’m ironing, but very rarely when it’s actually on the TV. Might have to make an exception to watch myself 😂

  16. I’m only replying to tell you just how much I enjoy reading your posts which a friend told me about. Can’t wait for the Gardeners’ World and maybe next year make a pilgrimage to your open day. Truly inspiring…

    Kind regards Jane


  17. Really looking forward to seeing your garden. So inspirational. My daughter Joanne and I did an Open Gardens programme with Carol Klein as Joanne opened her garden for the NGS. We had a fantastic team who filmed from February (freezing and very wet) to July when the garden opened. It makes you appreciate just how long it takes to film just 5 minutes! The number of times they filmed our feet walking and they left it out. I can well understand how tired you were. She has a tiny garden and over 200 people visited. It was a tight squeeze, with some of the filming done from the neighbour’s garden. Really enjoying your posts.

    1. Thanks Sandra. That must have been quite an experience. I don’t think I could have coped for more than one day. My nerves were really on edge as the garden had already taken quite a battering over the weekend. I’m very glad it’s just the plants and me …. and my uncle from tomorrow. It’s definitely a garden for one / two!

  18. Many congratulations on recognition for your wonderful gardening skills! I’ve watched GW for many years and long wondered when your garden would be featured. Hard work creating such a special place, especially when you have a day job as well! One day I hope to come and visit and know I’ll be be inspired!

  19. My only surprise that it has taken GW this long to come over and film your amazing space. It will be splendid indeed though to see all your glorious plants in the flesh.

    1. Thanks, that’s kind Kathryn. I was very surprised they approached me without me so much as writing to them, but it appears I came to their attention through my blog and Instagram. I guess that’s how things work nowadays!

  20. Congratulations, what an amazing honour and recognition for all your amazing hard work. Thoroughly deserved..well done!! I can hardly wait until it airs, and I will make sure I get to see it all the way here, in South Africa.

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