A Man About the Garden: Joe Swift at Hertford Theatre
Love a bit of Gardners’ World on the telly? GQT on the radio? Have to admit, gardening shows are a bit of a guilty pleasure here at Muddy Towers — although my predilection for gardening is more about voyeurism than actual doing of things. I like admiring other people’s perfect plots — and, occasionally, watching Mr C while he’s doing a spot of weeding. (You’ve missed one, my muddy love…)
Joe Swift, on the other hand, is all about getting in there and getting on with it. And he’s in town soon, at Hertford Theatre, with his one-man show A Man About the Garden,. (ooo, sounds promising — although it’s probably more Chelsea Flower Show than Lady Chatterly).
He’s a busy man, mind you. He’s presented Gardeners’ World, Garden Invaders and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show — and written all sorts, including The Plant Room and Joe’s Urban Garden Handbook. He’s also a gardening good egg, working with school and community gardens, being an ambassador for the National Garden Scheme (which raises squillions for charities all over the country), and is patron of the Horniman Museum in London.
He wasn’t always a high-flying gardening hero, though. He dropped out of art school — so hip — and then headed off to a kibbutz to, er, find himself (as you do). But instead, he found gardening: “I just loved working outdoors so when I came back to London with one art A-level to my name, I started working for this landscape gardening company. It was for this guy who was half-actor half-gardener, and I worked beside this hippy gardener called Antonia who was amazing and taught me so much. I started at the bottom, mixing up cement for the landscaping guys and later I went to Australia to landscape in Melbourne and Sydney. I had experience behind me so when I came back to the UK I studied garden design properly.”
He’s not put his trowel down since then — and he’s accumulated lots to talk about along the way. The show sounds great, even if your fingers aren’t quite as green as you’d like them to be. He won’t be telling you how to keep your ailing plants limping along — his advice stops at, “just dig it up and put something else in and take responsibility: you killed it!” — but he’ll be entertaining the audience with tales from behind the potting shed and beyond.