Gardeners' Question Time

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Gardeners' Question Time is a long-running BBC Radio 4 programme in which amateur gardeners can put questions to a panel of experts.


The first programme was broadcast in the North and Northern Ireland Home Service of the BBC at 22.15 on 9 April 1947, and came from the "singing room" at the Broadoak Hotel, Ashton-under-Lyne. Originally entitled How Does Your Garden Grow?, it was inspired by the wartime Dig for Victory campaign. On the first panel were Bill Sowerbutts,[1] Fred Loads, Tom Clark and Dr E.W. Sansome.

Professor Alan Gemmell joined Loads and Sowerbutts in 1950 when their contrasting styles (Professor, Traditional Head gardener and Commercial Grower) added an entertainment element. The success of the format led to the programme's being broadcast nationally on Saturday mornings at 11.00 from 27 April to 13 July 1957 in the BBC Light Programme (under the title Down the Garden Path). In September 1957 the programme was transferred to the Home Service and gained its present title of Gardeners' Question Time as well as the time slot of 14.00 on Sundays which it has retained to this day.[2] The programme marked its 1000th edition in 1972, though the occasion was overshadowed by the death of long-serving chairman Franklin Engelmann just days earlier.

The format and panel remained largely unchanged for many years. In 1994 production moved to outside company Taylor Made Broadcast; the complete panel left the BBC and moved to the new Classic FM station on a short-term contract to present Classic Gardening Forum, sponsored by The Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society. In 2009 the production of the show was taken over by the UK's largest independent radio production company Somethin' Else. In December 2009 panellist John Cushnie died suddenly.[3] The programme's audience figures continue to perform strongly as confirmed by the official audience measurement body, RAJAR.


The programme typically comes from a village hall or other public venue somewhere in Britain, or occasionally further afield, such as in the Republic of Ireland or northern France. GQT often records at special locations throughout the UK including on a moving train, on top of Snowdon,[4] from inside the Tower of London[5] and in December 2016 from the state dining room at 10 Downing Street.[6][7]

There are also regular editions in which the panel answer questions sent in by post or email, known as postbag editions. These editions are recorded in a specially adapted potting shed at Sparsholt College near Sparsholt, Winchester; however, in recent years postbag programmes have been recorded at various gardens around the UK, including at Highgrove with HRH Prince Charles,[8] Kew Gardens, RHS Wisley, Ness Botanic Gardens and East Ruston Old Vicarage.

Each year the programme visits a botanic garden to stage its annual GQT Summer Garden Party. The event includes seminars and talks given by the GQT panel, a chance to receive first hand advice from a panelist inside the GQT Potting Shed plus two programme recordings. A highlight of the horticultural calendar, the event attracts a large audience of keen amateur gardeners. Most recently the Summer Garden Party has been hosted by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh,[9] National Botanic Garden of Wales[10] and Ness Botanic Gardens.[11]

Since 2001, Gardeners' Question Time factsheets have been made available after each episode covering all questions and their given answers. The factsheets can be found by searching for a particular episode and scrolling down the page.

In 2009, the programme launched a podcast edition and a Twitter account,[12] the latter designed to be a place where listeners can share gardening ideas and tips and comment on the radio programme's topics and panelist answers.

The programme regularly attracts an audience in excess of two million and has answered over 35,000 questions in its long run.[13]


The current joint-chairmen are Eric Robson and Peter Gibbs. Current panelists include Matthew Wilson, Chris Beardshaw, Matthew Biggs, Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Bunny Guinness, Anne Swithinbank, James Wong and Christine Walkden.

Past participants have included John Cushnie, Dr Stefan Buczacki, David Burges, Fred Downham, Professor Alan Gemmell, Walter Gilmore, Jill Hicking, Clay Jones, Nigel Colborn, Daphne Ledward, Fred Loads, Bridget Moody, Martin Fish, David Jones, Sue Phillipps, Geoffrey Smith,[14] Sid Robertson, Bill Sowerbutts

Past Chairmen were Bob Stead, Franklin Engelmann, Michael Barratt, Steve Race, Ken Ford, Les Cottingham, Clay Jones, Stefan Buczacki.


  1. ^ Blue Plaque - Bill Sowerbutts
  2. ^ From little acorns: the origins of gardening programmes on the BBC
  3. ^ "BBC News - Gardeners' Question Time star John Cushnie dies".
  4. ^ "Gardeners' Question Time Snowdon Show, 18/09/16".
  5. ^ "Gardeners' Question Time Tower of London, 27/11/16".
  6. ^ "Gardeners' Question Time Downing Street, 25/12/16".
  7. ^ "Telegraph Article - GQT at Number Ten".
  8. ^ "Gardeners' Question Time Highgrove, 01/04/16".
  9. ^ "Summer Garden Party - 2016" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Summer Garden Party - 2015".
  11. ^ "Summer Garden Party - 2013".
  12. ^ "@BBCGQT".
  13. ^ "Gardeners' Question Time Christmas Show, 03/12/14 - Garden Museum".
  14. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - BBC gardening expert Smith dies".

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