Alan Titchmarsh beats Monty Don in TV garden war

Trees can be used to decorate your wedding or party and make a great impact One of my most lasting and memorable images of the Royal wedding was definitely those trees.

imageThe two 25ft hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) in the transept and the six field maple (Acer campestre) in the nave dressed up with their lush, fresh, lime-green spring growth were unexpected, natural and beautifully understated.

Their symbolism did not register with me until later, when pointed out by the florist, Jamie Marlar, director of Shane Connolly whose brief included English, natural, seasonal and ethical. Field maple symbolises humility and reserve, while hornbeam represents resilience.

The curved or arched ceilings of churches, abbeys and other religious buildings are supposedly to reflect the branches of a tree, and when you walk down certain avenues of trees, the arched structure formed by the branches really brings that home. If you are decorating a church, room or marquee for a wedding or party, a few trees make a massive impact – far greater than more predictable floral decorations. They also seem to fill the space with vitality and life. And, of course, instead of wilting blooms, at the end you have wonderful trees ready to take hold and transform another space for a far longer time span.

Marlar and Shane Connolly have been using trees for weddings and parties for many years. They have held the Royal Warrant since 2006 and have an impressive list of clients. In 2005, they decorated St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with apple trees in blossom for the Prince of Wales’s wedding. The trees will continue to thrive for longer than most of us after their brief spell in the limelight.

It helps if you can be flexible with your line-up of possibles due to the seasons and the vagaries of our English weather and narrow down your choice of tree at the last minute, especially if you are going for blossom. Quince and medlar are two beautiful trees for blossom if you are tying the knot or celebrating in April or May.

Alan Titchmarsh has trumped Monty Don in the ratings battle of the television gardeners.

Titchmarsh’s new ITV 1 show Love Your Garden attracted an average of 3.9 million viewers 18 per cent of the available audience.

His former BBC 2 show Gardeners’ World, now presented by Monty Don, was watched by 2.2 million a 10 per cent audience share.

Titchmarsh, 62, kicked off his series celebrating the classic suburban garden by showing his green-fingered fans how to make their lawns lovely.

Viewers were spared an X-Factor/Strictly-style scheduling clash with Titchmarsh’s offering aired on Friday in a half hour slot from 8pm before Gardeners World.

Many viewers apparently had their fill of gardening by the time Don, 55, was shown in Monets garden from 8.30pm.

Fellow broadcaster and garden writer Chris Day said that he had enjoyed Love Your Garden.

He said: “My conclusion is that over six million people watched gardening on Friday night, surely a major success.

“It’s not quite the heady days of Ground Force but it’s ‘proper gardening’ at a higher bar.

“I liked the pace and content of Love Your Garden, excellent product exposure and fun with Mr T.

“Those halcyon days of gardening are, for the time being, back on the telly.”

This Friday, the two shows do go head-to-head because of an hour-long Gardeners World special from Dons own Herefordshire garden, Longmeadow.

Titchmarsh, who continues to anchor BBC 2’s coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, presented Gardeners’ World for six years.

He was succeeded by Don, who left the show in 2008 after a minor stroke but returned this year.

Titchmarsh signed a new two-year deal with ITV in February, believed to be worth about £11m and including a further four series of his chat show.

It has been many years since ITV had an evening gardening show.

But the channel says the success of shows such as Countrywide and The Dales with Ade Edmondson persuaded them to make the move.

Alison Sharman, director of daytime and factual programming at ITV, said: “For me it’s about what feels right for an ITV1 audience.”

The BBC claimed not to be bothered by its new rival.

A spokesman said: “We are delighted with the continued success of Gardeners’ World and Monty’s return has proved a real hit with the audience.

“We continue to work with Alan, including at Chelsea, and wish him the best with the new series.”

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