Alan Titchmarsh: ‘The Prince isn’t a fan of slugs’

Alan Titchmarsh talks about his visit to Highgrove to chat to the Prince of Wales about his magnificent gardens, which screens on BBC2 on Thursday, Sept 23…

What sort of gardener is Prince Charles?

“He gets stuck in! He will come home from a day of official engagements and the first thing he does is wander into the garden. You’ll always see him walking around in his suit with a handful of weeds!”

So he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty?

“He’s incredibly down to earth and the most hardworking man I know bar none – totally passionate and dedicated to all kinds of causes.”

What did you talk about?

“As gardeners, we swapped ideas and opinions and shared common predicaments and moans. Slugs and snails are not a particular favourite of his! You can tell a lot about a man by his garden and Highgrove is the Prince’s creation. There are lots of different areas – the wonderful wild flower meadows, the stumpery with old tree stumps and the walled kitchen garden. It’s how he wants it to be.”

Wasn’t the Prince something a pioneer of organic gardening when he established the Highgrove gardens in 1980 ?

“He stuck his neck out when organic gardening was regarded as being slightly dodgy. Only odd people went organic, people with grey socks and sandals and a beard, but many of the Prince’s original ideas are now accepted practice. Gardeners respect him greatly.”

The gardens are open to the public, but are there any bits that remain private?

“Yes. There is one small area that remains forever private – ‘The Sanctuary’ – a round building, hidden away among the foliage. The Prince is seldom alone, and that’s one place where he can go and be solitary. We all need time to ourselves. My career is half broadcasting, which is very sociable, but also half writing, which is a very solitary pursuit. I couldn’t do the one without the other. I enjoy the downtime.”