Has Alan Titchmarsh Really Discovered Permaculture?

Maddy Harland
Tuesday, 30th November 2010

The BBC comes to film Maddy and Tim's permaculture garden. Is this the start of a real shift of consciousness towards permaculture thinking?

Earlier this year Tim and I had a call from a BBC producer. Would we like to appear on another programme that wanted to feature permaculture? We are always interested in deepening understanding of the subject, but also wary. It is so easy to trivialise permaculture and wrap it up as an alternative form of organic gardening. We asked how long we would get and what was the angle?

The programme Tim and I are on (with guest appearances from other garden residents) is tonight's episode of ‘Alan’s Garden Secrets’, BBC2 at 8 pm Tuesday 30th November). It is on YouTube (a shorter link). The producer promised a full five minutes air time to present about permaculture and how we have applied it to our garden (and we hope a little more of the wider context). Her words were: “One day, we are all going to have to garden like you, with sustainability, self-sufficiency and biodiversity as its basis.” What Tim and I have developed is a semi-wild forest garden forage system that combines edible landscaping with nature conservation. Nearest the house is a more conventional organic raised bed system with annuals and perennial vegetables, salads and self-seeders. What characterises the garden is, however, the extraordinary level of biodiversity – reptiles, mammals and insects – and the pest/predator balance. We use no sprays at all or any form of insect traps. The bats, slow worms, common lizards, toads and beneficial insects do the work.

Filming a long shot of the garden from an upstairs bedroom


We were worried about being on TV this year. The cold winter, rainy spring and drought in summer had made the annual patch in particular look less abundant and the wildflowers had peaked by the end of July when the Blue+Butterfly.jpgproducer/director and cameraman came to film. We needn’t have worried. Nature turned out in force to help us. The insect kingdom like chalkhill blue, common blues and fritillary butterflies – plus an abundance of solitary bees and ladybirds – were breathtaking. I hope they will be the stars of the show.

The show also features Sissinghurst, famous for its naturalistic planting. Alan discusses how it works with head gardener Alexis Data and shows how to create a wild flower meadow. “The Sissinghurst nuttery would become famous as one of the first wild gardens. This new philosophy would ultimately lead to today's perma culture gardens. Alan shows you how to create one in your own garden.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wfdw4 We hope we have done a good job in presenting permaculture to a new audience and more seriously that we were articulate enough on the day. We wish we'd been invited on to the One Show or Alan's own chat show to elaborate on the subject beforehand the screening. At the moment the links between habitat preservation and restoration, food, permaculture and sustainability are not understood. We are doing all we can to change this. Permaculture is not a garden fashion or a fad. It is part of the jigsaw of earth restoration – a design system for a post-carbon age. It forms the basis for much of the transition movement's thinking. One day I hope we will be given the chance to climb out of our happy, biodiverse and abundant garden box and explain more of the wider picture. But for now, enjoy the garden.