Skip to content

Gardener's Question Time second successful year at Ness

After last year when it seemed the sun shone brightly on the day for the first time that summer, it was difficult to guess at the outset just how the weather - and the day itself - would pan out. As it happened, apart from a couple of very light showers through the day, the sun came out and everyone had a great Summer Garden Party. It was, again, the biggest audience attended event that BBC Radio 4 have put on so far this year - anywhere in the UK - with the audience heralding mainly from the North West.

BBC Radio 4 gardening experts including Eric Robson, Peter Gibbs, Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Toby
Buckland, Bunny Guinness, Matthew Wilson, Matthew Biggs, Anne Swithinbank, Alison Pringle and James Wong took up residence in the Gardens, offering wise gardening advice on all sorts of subjects. Bob Flowerdew talked about useful garden tools and Matt Wilson discussed creating gardens that don't shun wildlife and don't look like the contents of a washing machine - empty in the middle with all the plants squashed around the edges. Ness experts - including those from the University of Liverpool - also contributed with their own demonstrations on budding and grafting and propagation techniques and others illustrated how to produce spectacular floral displays at this time of year. As one guest put it, it was a show "by gardeners for gardeners".

The two Radio 4 show recordings completed on the day - the Summer Garden Party show and the Ness Gardens show - will be broadcast during the next two weekends in September (13th /15th and 20th /22nd).

Kevin Reid, Director of Ness gardens commented "Once again we have shown the gardening world that we can put on a show that may be smaller scale than the Tatton Show in July but which is just as entertaining and educational. The GQT expert gardeners seemed happy to get stuck into our Ness demonstrations as well as their own. Again, we've been overwhelmed by the very positive comments posted to our team by email and social media."

As an example, one party guest commented afterwards: "Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it a memorable day. Please, please can it become an annual event? It is seldom something so good comes to the North."

What was different this year was the separate food stage and the carefully selected food stalls to complement the demonstrations including local producers of honey, chutney, eggs and a market gardener who was selling beautiful vegetables. BBC Masterchef 2010 winner Claire Lara - head chef at The RiverHill in Oxton - cooked with mackerel and a surprise basket of produce from Ness Gardens; Anju Chandna gave us all a glimpse and a gorgeous taste of Indian street food aided by James Wong and Alison Pringle; Yasmin Limbert, Quarter-finalist in the popular BBC Great British Bake Off Show, produced a very seasonal Apple Tray Bake with help from Matt Biggs; and Malcolm William of Little Eye Bakery, West Kirby Wirral showed us all how to create a sourdough loaf.

The food presenters were all delighted with the day: "I had so much fun at Ness" said Yasmin, "It was lovely to get such a warm welcome from the audience and have the opportunity to get some allotment advice from the GQT team and pass on some cooking tips to them."


Notes to editors

For more information or images please contact Jen Lemon on 0845 0304063 Ext 242 or email

About Gardeners´ Question Time: The very first Gardeners´ Question Time took a panel of expert gardeners along to answer questions from members of the Smallshaw Allotments Association, it was broadcast by the BBC on 9th April 1947. Strictly speaking it wasn't called Gardeners´ Question Time at the time but How Does your Garden Grow?, however, it wasn't long till the name was changed - at least not long in the context of its close on 60 years of history. Over the years it has answered well over 30,000 questions. The panel members have been guests of a diversity of gardening clubs and other groups, including Leyhill Open Prison, the Palace of Westminster and a nudist club in Wales.

About Ness Gardens: The Gardens were created in 1898 by Arthur Kilpin Bulley, a wealthy cotton broker from Liverpool. Passionate about plants, he funded various plant hunting expeditions to the Far East for hunters such as George Forrest whose huge Pieris formosa 'Forrestii' from China, can still be seen today. Bulley created a garden of the unusual and the rare and shared it freely with his village neighbours. He also established the renowned Bees Seeds company. The Gardens were donated to the University of Liverpool in 1948 by Bulley's daughter. They now attract over 60,000 visitors a year; there are in excess of 7,000 Friends of Ness Gardens who have provided financial support for over fifty years and more than 200 volunteers work across the Gardens.

Memebership of the Friends of Ness is open to anyone.  For more information email or visit Friends of Ness Gardens