I’m an early riser. Always have been. I set the alarm if I have to catch a train or a plane but I almost always wake up before it goes off. Between 6.30 and 7.30am I am up and at 'em. But quietly. I’ll make Mrs T a cup of tea around 8am and have a quick look at The Times on my iPad. I am not a radio or TV chap at that time of day. I enjoy the silence and the chance to come round at my own pace. Programmes that "set the agenda for the day" are all very well, but frankly I’d rather set my own and I can’t stand all that hectoring…

Between 6.30 and 7.30am I am up and at 'em. But quietly. I’ll make Mrs T a cup of tea around 8am...
Alan checking bird feeder
Morning top-up of the the bird feeders

If the sun is shining the garden beckons me and therein lies my quandary: being a writer as well as a gardener and, being a lark, rather than an owl, I write in the morning. I’ve been self-employed for 45 years now so self-discipline has become a part of my life. After my early morning shower, a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea with the Polygon word puzzle from the paper, at around 8.30am I’ll top up the bird feeders (I’ve identified 53 different species so far, not including LBJs – little brown jobs) then head across to the long, low, stone-built barn that sits about 20 yards from the house and switch on the laptop. Yes, I’d rather be in the garden on a sunny morning but that will have to wait. The barn is where you will find me right now. Not that my surroundings are anything other than pleasant.

Watch Alan's tour of Highgrove

Join Alan for a tour of The King's garden, in Gloucestershire, where he'll meet the gardeners and find out how they make a garden fit for a king.

Inside the King's garden at Highgrove
Alan with spring blossom
Enjoying the blossom of Prunus 'Fugenzō' in a sea of camassia

We restored the derelict barn when we moved here more than 20 years ago. It’s long and low with a slate roof and built of a kind of chalk known as Selborne clunch. As well as being home to the potting shed it houses my library of around 6,000 books. I know! Who needs that many? But they are cherished and cover subjects as diverse as art and botany, architecture and natural history, royalty and classic fiction. I’ve loved – and collected – books since I was in my teens. They are constantly referred to, and those on architecture and history were a great help when I wrote my last book about the gardens at Chatsworth. There’s great satisfaction in researching with books rather than the internet, and the information is usually more reliable, too.

Alan by wildlife pond
By the wildlife pond, enjoying a break from writing

My writing table in the barn loft looks out across the wildlife pond that is enveloped by the wildflower meadow I sowed about 15 years ago. I watch the moorhens paddling to and fro, but try to keep my head down and tap away for at least a couple of hours before toddling back across to the house and rewarding myself with a cup of freshly ground coffee. Then it’s back to the laptop, to the column for this magazine, or the latest book. I write a new novel every two or three years and the current one is now underway. Each one takes around six months and has to be fitted in around everything else I do.

Alan with tulips
Potfuls of vivid colour from container-grown tulips

I can write (in silence – no music) until around 1pm by which time I’m pretty spent and have usually managed to tap out around 2–3,000 words. If I’m writing a novel I will always stop just before the narrative grinds to a halt, so that I know the starting point the following day. And I always print off what I have written – I do like an insurance policy against technology! After a light lunch – cheese and biscuits or a bowl of soup – I get my reward for a morning’s work: the garden is mine for the afternoon, and I hope that the weather holds!

More like this
Alan with glasshouse and tulips
Time for a quick walk around the garden before going to make a broadcast

If it’s a broadcasting day I’ll have to content myself with a quick walk around the garden before driving to the location for ITV’s Love Your Weekend. We record three programmes in two days, so every third week I travel 20 minutes to a village just 10 miles away where I get to interview all kinds of folk from farriers to shepherds, actors to writers, dog owners and vets to farmers and wood carvers – around 20 or 30 interviews in two days. Challenging! It’s a programme that celebrates the countryside and those who cherish it and its livestock, and I love the experience. My contribution to Alan Titchmarsh’s Gardening Club is filmed every couple of weeks in my own garden. Having filmed BBC Gardeners’ World and Breakfast Time in our previous garden over a space of 20-odd years I have done little filming here over the last 20 years so it’s nice to share it again – just occasionally!

I’ve come to realise that I’m never happier than I am in my own garden. This year I’ll have been gardening for a living for 60 years. You’d think after all that time I’d be rather weary of it all... You’d be quite mistaken.
Lily-flowered tulips
Lily-flowered tulips provide a welcome splash of vibrant colour in late April

I’ve come to realise that I’m never happier than I am in my own garden. This year I’ll have been gardening for a living for 60 years. You’d think after all that time I’d be rather weary of it all, that there would be no surprises left. You’d be quite mistaken. April in particular fires my enthusiasm: the camassias and tulips will be in full bloom and the glorious ‘Shirotae’ cherries I planted 20 years ago will make a snowy canopy above my head which, when seen against a forget-me-not-blue sky can move me to tears. The cowslips will turn the meadow butter yellow and I’ll try to spot the skylark up in the blue singing its heart out. I’m always moved by the beauty of spring in the British countryside.

Alan and cowslips
The beauty of a British spring: cowslips in the meadow

The borders were fed with blood, fish and bonemeal in March and mulched with a carpet of compost from one of my three heaps. The climbing roses on the house wall have been pruned. ‘The Generous Gardener’ is a favourite, as is the soft yellow ‘Alister Stella Grey’ which I’ve trained up an old cherry tree. I cut it hard back last autumn and now wait to see if the intended haircut has given it a new lease of life.

There are seeds to sow now in the newly spring-cleaned greenhouse. I have a lot of pelargoniums – many of them scented-leaved – and I’ve just had a blitz and a clear-out ready for spring. I usually take cuttings in summer and renew the plants each year, but a trip to the gardens at Parham in Sussex last year, where they pot on their plants and, as a result, have larger specimens, spurred me into trying the same. They’ll not dry out as fast in larger pots, too, and peat-free compost dries out so much more rapidly than the old peat-based mixes. I love mowing to produce stripes on the two lawns next to the house (I have a ride-on mower for the meadow rides) and the veg patch needs constant attention now – whether it’s planting the spuds with my grandfather’s spade or sowing salads and climbing French beans.

Alan mowing lawn
Mowing one of the lawns next to the house

I know postmen wear shorts all year round, and in summer I’ll do the same, but in spring cotton trousers, slip-on waterproof ankle-high boots and a woolly pully will do me on cold days, often with the addition of a tweed or fleecy gilet. I tend not to wear gloves except for pruning since I like the feel of the earth and of stems and foliage. It does mean I have to be a dab hand with the nail brush of an evening and that my fingers and thumbs are susceptible to splitting at the tips, and I always forget to put that cream on until it’s too late…

I could happily garden until the sun goes down but I generally stop for a G&T at 6pm followed by supper at around 7.
Alan in meadow area
By June the meadow is awash with wildflowers

I could happily garden until the sun goes down but I generally stop for a G&T at 6pm followed by supper at around 7. We might go to the theatre once or twice a month, or else it will be a TV supper with trays on our laps and to bed at 10pm. We often join our offspring for pizza on a Friday evening, and weekends are a chance to catch up properly. I have never for one moment regretted my choice of career. When I hear my grandchildren running through the meadow laughing I do not have to remind myself how lucky I am to be a gardener.


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