Flower Pot Men

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Flower Pot Men
Still from original BBC series, with Little Weed (centre)
Created byFreda Lingstrom
StarringPeter Hawkins
Narrated byMaria Bird
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes26
Running time14–16 minutes
Production companyBBC
Original release
NetworkBBC Television Service
Release18 December 1952 (1952-12-18) –
10 June 1953 (1953-06-10)
Bill and Ben

Flower Pot Men is a British programme for young children produced by BBC Television. It was first transmitted in 1952, and repeated regularly for more than twenty years.[1] A reboot of the show called Bill and Ben was produced in 2001.[2]

The original programme was part of a BBC children's television series titled Watch with Mother, featuring a different programme each weekday, most of them involving string puppets.


The Flower Pot Men was the story of Bill and Ben, two little men made of flower pots who lived at the bottom of an English suburban garden. A third character, Little Weed, of indeterminate species resembling either a sunflower or a dandelion with a smiling face, was shown growing between two large flowerpots. The three were also sometimes visited by a tortoise called Slowcoach and, in one particular episode, the trio met a faintly mysterious character made out of potatoes, Dan the potato man.

Typically, while the "man who worked in the garden" would be away having his dinner, the two Flower Pot Men, Bill and Ben, would emerge from their pots. After a minor adventure, a slight mishap would occur, for which someone would then take the blame: "Which of these two flowerpot men, was it Bill or was it Ben?" the narrator would trill in a quavering soprano; the culprit would then confess, before the gardener's footsteps would be heard coming up the garden path; the Flower Pot Men then would vanish into their pots and the "Goodbye" screen would appear. The final punch-line was, "..and I think the little house knew something about it; don't you?".


According to her adopted daughter Alison Gassier, Freda Lingstrom got the idea for the show after spending time in her woodshed with a flowerpot.[3] She assembled the production crew, which consisted mainly of those who had worked on her previous show Andy Pandy: her associate Maria Bird, puppeteers Audrey Atterbury and Molly Gibson, and opera singer Gladys Whitred.[a] The only new member was Peter Hawkins, who voiced both Bill and Ben, inventing their gibberish language, named Oddle-Poddle. He based the language on select words such as "Slogalog" (Slowcoach the Tortoise) and "Haddap" (Hello).[4]

The puppets were made to look as if they were made from flowerpots. Cupcake holders were used for their hats, which sometimes caught onto their strings.[4] Peter particularly praised Audrey's puppetry for being very precise.[5] The scripts were written in English, with Peter translating them into Oddle-Poddle.[6]


No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"Seeds"18 December 1952 (1952-12-18)
2"Musical Vegetables"25 December 1952 (1952-12-25)
3"Cabbages"1 January 1953 (1953-01-01)
4"The Potato Man"8 January 1953 (1953-01-08)
5"Tiny Men"15 January 1953 (1953-01-15)
6"Stickmen"22 January 1953 (1953-01-22)
7"Shavings Men"29 January 1953 (1953-01-29)
8"Stilts"5 February 1953 (1953-02-05)
9"Steamroller"12 February 1953 (1953-02-12)
10"Scarecrow"19 February 1953 (1953-02-19)
11"Slowcoach Flies"26 February 1953 (1953-02-26)
12"Mud Pies"5 March 1953 (1953-03-05)
13"Bath in Hat"12 March 1953 (1953-03-12)
14"Babies"19 March 1953 (1953-03-19)
15"Babies Grow Up"26 March 1953 (1953-03-26)
16"Live Chicks"2 April 1953 (1953-04-02)
17"Icicles"9 April 1953 (1953-04-09)
18"Boot Race"16 April 1953 (1953-04-16)
19"Acrobats"22 April 1953 (1953-04-22)
20"Bellows"29 April 1953 (1953-04-29)
21"Water Lilies"6 May 1953 (1953-05-06)
22"Turnip Faces"13 May 1953 (1953-05-13)
23"Umbrella"20 May 1953 (1953-05-20)
24"Fairy Queen"27 May 1953 (1953-05-27)
25"Weathercock"3 June 1953 (1953-06-03)
26"Flying Boots"10 June 1953 (1953-06-10)

UK VHS Releases[edit]

VHS Release date Episodes
Bill and Ben - Flower Pot Men (BBCV 4208) 6 February 1989
  • "Musical Vegetables"
  • "Scarecrow"
  • "Flying Boots"
  • "Icicles"
Bill and Ben - Flower Pot Men 2: Tales from the Bottom of the Garden (BBCV 4362) 4 June 1990
  • "Bath in Hat"
  • "Cabbages"
  • "Bellows"
  • "Stickmen"
The Very Best of Bill and Ben - Flower Pot Men (BBCV 5106) 6 September 1993
  • "Stickmen"
  • "Scarecrow"
  • "Bath in Hat"
  • "Musical Vegetables"
  • Cabbages

Confusion with other characters[edit]

The programme is unrelated to another set of characters called Bill and Ben, which have been confused with the Flower Pot Men, including in the initial versions of two obituaries of retired headteacher Hilda Brabban, published in The Independent and BBC's in-house magazine Ariel respectively, and also in Bills, a 2004 episode of the BBC panel show QI hosted by Stephen Fry.[7][8] All three sources later corrected their statements. Brabban sold three stories about a Bill and Ben to the BBC in the 1950's; but other than their names, they bore no resemblance to the Flower Pot Men.[9][10][11] Brabban's stories were broadcast on the radio programme Listen with Mother in 1951; the Bill and Ben of the Flower Pot Men were first seen on the television programme Watch with Mother in 1952. Both programmes were produced by Freda Lingstrom. During her later life Brabban suffered a stroke and later maintained she did invent the characters used in the BBC series; this prompted lawyers, acting on behalf of the estate of the show's creator, Freda Lingstrom, to threaten Brabban with litigation if she appeared on television to propagate this claim.[12]


The show was the basis for a comic strip of the same name in the children's magazine Robin.[13]


The short lived one-hit wonder group, The Flower Pot Men, known for their 1967 song "Let's Go to San Francisco", named the group after the show, although it caused controversies with people suggesting it may have had something to do with marijuana.


  1. ^ There has been no confirmation of Maria and Gladys's roles within the series. Radio Times listings feature Maria as the narrator, with Gladys singing the songs (including Little Weed's "Was It Bill Or Was it Ben?"); however when Bill and Ben appeared on Six Fifty-Five Special and The Time of Your Life, Gladys said she narrated, as well as voicing Weed. In Children's TV on Trial Julia Whitaker (nee Williams), claimed to have voiced Weed uncredited, while obituaries for Denise Bryer claimed that she voiced her.


  1. ^ "The Flowerpot Men (1952)". BFI. Archived from the original on 31 August 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  2. ^ McGown, Alistair (2003–2014). "BFI Flowerpot Men, The (1952-54)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  3. ^ "The 1950s". Children’s TV on Trial.
  4. ^ a b "Six Fifty-Five Special - Puppets". YouTube.
  5. ^ "Andy Walmsley (18th December 2022) "70 years ago today BBC tv airs the first showing of Bill and Ben 'The Flower Pot Men'. Actor Peter Hawkins and puppeteer Audrey Atterbury talk to Jane Markham in 1989" - Twitter".
  6. ^ "Trumpton Riots - Pugwash, Windy and Barney McGrew". YouTube.
  7. ^ "Descendants". QI. Season D. Episode 8. 10 November 2006.
  8. ^ "QI Series B, Episode 10 - Bills". British Comedy Guide.
  9. ^ "Hilda Brabban obituary - a clarification". Independent.co.uk. 5 February 2003.
  10. ^ "The Original Flower Pot Men". 26 March 2021.
  11. ^ Morrison, James (20 October 2002). "Flobbadob! Storm in a flowerpot over who sowed the seeds for Bill and Ben". Independent.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Nostalgia: Flobberdobberdobberdobber... What a fight over Bill and Ben". 13 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men". comicvine.com.

External links[edit]