Kent Online – Viva the house plant

Turn on your telly to watch a gardening show next week and you wind a new face blossoming among the hardy perennials of Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don. Kent’s own Tom Hart Dyke is among the starsof new BBC2 series the Great British Garden Revival.

Lesley Bellew caught up with him.

Plant hunter and gardener Tom Hart Dyke thought the BBC producer had called the wrong number when he asked him to present a programme in the new Great British Garden Revival series.

He wanted Tom to join the nation’s top gardening talents to highlight how Britain’s rich horticultural history is being lost.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Tom, and before he knew it a production team was in his World Garden, at Lullingstone Castle, in Eynsford, to ‘do a bit of recce and outtakes’.

The first of 10 programmes goes out on Monday, December 9, with Tom taking on the issue of the nation’s falling out of love with house plants and cacti on Wednesday, December 11.

Tom, having collected plants from across the globe, including a serious collection of cacti and succulents, is just the man to help bring back the love.

Tom, 37, said: “It was fantastic. I was whisked off for five days, travelling all over the country. We set up a mock office near Tottenham Court Road in London, complete with a desk, chair and phone, and filled it with house plants. It was all a bit chaotic with roadworks everywhere, everyone rushing about and this office in the middle of it all.

“You could see passers-by looking and thinking ‘what the flippin’ heck is going on?’

“I had to stop workers who were popping out for a break and ask them if they had many plants on their office windowsills.

“It was brilliant trying to persuade them to take part. So many people were just in a panic to get back to work – such is the pressure these days. I was almost dragging them in.

“One guy said he would get the sack if he was late but agreed he would talk to his boss about introducing house plants. I’d never done this sort of thing before but I loved it. Television is great fun.”

Almost everyone Tom spoke to revealed that their parents might have houseplants, or their granny, but they didn’t bother with them at home or in the office.

Tom said: “It is all rather sad. People have either no time or no confidence. That has been the problem so I will also be demonstrating how easy it is to care for the plants and take cuttings.

“It is not the money. You can buy a really good houseplant in places like Homebase for very little outlay.

“We even had a psychotherapist with us who explained how plants in the office can increase productivity and wellbeing because they clean the air and benefit your health.”

Tom was then taken to meet the biggest online supplier of cacti in the UK, in Mayfield, East Sussex, and to Wales to meet Lynn Dibley who holds a collection of Cape primroses.

This was the payback for Tom.

He said: “Lynn has the most beautiful collection of Cape primroses, or streptocarpus. I have admired them for a long time and was just wowed.

“I have seen these plants in their native South Africa and they are stunning. I hope that comes over.

“House plants have definitely had an image problem but I hope I can spark a revival to inspire viewers to put them back on windowsills in kitchens, bathrooms, offices – anywhere would be fantastic.”

If Tom has his way, everyone will be flocking to buy house plants as Christmas presents and with his infectious, boundless enthusiasm they could soon become the next ‘must-have’ home accessory.