Today's Washington Post has a great article on Britain's Bob Flowerdew, organic gardener, author, and star on the BBC's radio show, "Gardeners' Question Time." He sounds like the real thing, and in a nation that still takes gardening seriously, that must truly be saying something.
So it got me to wondering: where is our Bob Flowerdew? Does NPR even have a gardening show? If they do, I've never heard of it. If they did, I might finally start listening to NPR. (None of my friends can understand why I don't listen to NPR, since the fact that I'm a frequent viewer of PBS and a news junkie in general would seem to make me an ideal NPR devotee. The reason I don't listen? Those monotone, droning voices! Those NPR parodies that Saturday Night Live did a few years back were just a bit too spot on.)
But getting back to Bob Flowerdew ... I think the reason we don't have a Bob Flowerdew here in the U.S. (and no, as much as I like Paul James, I don't think he has nearly the kind of celebrity status or industry following that it sounds like Flowerdew has) is that Flowerdew has something in the U.K. that nobody in the USA has--a significant audience. According to the Post, "Gardeners' Question Time" has an audience of 2 million in a country of 60 million. To translate that kind of audience to the U.S. (with a population of 299 million), a gardening guru would have to have an audience of 10 million. According to USA Today, that would be equal to the audience of last week's #2 top-rated broadcast TV show (god help us), "So You Think You Can Dance."
There's been a lot of talk in the garden blogs of late, particularly at Garden Rant, that gardening is really a much more popular pastime in the U.S. than is commonly believed. Well, bless them for the thought, but I am doubtful, at least about how things currently stand. There are some hopeful signs, however. People are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of pesticides and the growing demand for organic produce is bound to drive some people into their gardens. But I still see the time crunch that most Americans live with and the ridiculous prices for homes and land in urban/suburban areas to be the main factors that keep most people from gardening.
Is it possible, though, that if there was an American Flowerdew--someone knowledgeable, funny, charismatic, and (it goes without saying) organic--that he could be the pied piper to seduce more of us into taking up the shovel and rake? That he (or she, of course) could actually grow the audience?
Well, maybe. But that's really one of those "chicken or egg" questions, and hen blogging is beyond my purview.