I went to Gardener's World Live last weekend (on which more later) for the Saturday show, when mostly the party is over and the celebs have been tidied away (so much for my hopes of seeing Flo Headlam!). I'm assured that I saw both Joe Swift and Carol Klein although I was so excited by the presence of an affordable Clivia I barely noticed (sadly it was the old dude on the stall, not the dewy darcy-esque nurseryman in the clip, but DAMN what a flower).
I did manage to remember it was the 50th anniversary of Gardener's World on the day (there were a few colossal hints about the place so no great boast there) but it didn't really hit home until I watched the show on Sunday (I'd saved it both to avoid show spoilers and because there's nothing more satisfying than being given jobs for the weekend way too late to do anything about it) and they got together all the people who'd presented Gardener's World in the through-the-decades show garden to wave champagne around and smile nervously at the camera.
Except that no whoah hey, they really hadn't. A whole bunch of really quite significant players were conspicuously absent from the party, while a set of vaguely familiar pale males in variable states of beard had been added in, irrelevantly. So, let's briefly celebrate the missing, the absent, and list the crimes for which they were forever absented from the sphere of the "Nation's Head Gardener" as apparently we must now call Monty.
Monty came from a non-horticultural background, and originally experienced gardener and promising young presenter Chris Beardshaw was brought in to add some expert chops and blue-jean charm to the show. They made for a memorable two-header (you can see some clips here -- How to build a raised bed really captures the spirit of those shows) carving up DIY jobs between them with very realistic tension and occasional biting sarcasm. An episode where they built a rustic pergola together was something of a turning point and later Chris was sacked - officially for breaking the terms of his contract with the BBC by appearing on a C4 reality show whose subject matter was a bit too garden.
The Raven came in during Monty's outreaching years as a foil to Carol Klein. Where Klein was the great plant-pincher, propagating obsessively, pricking and taking cuttings and dividing, the Raven grew flowers straight and tall and chopped them down again; the wire mother to Carol's earth mother. Her straight lines, stern approach and floral obsessions recalled the old guys, the Percys of this world. But the mistress of the cutting garden's days were numbered. In the aftermath of Monty's stroke, the women took over the show for a memorable, marvellous and sadly brief run. When it was rebooted with the Hobbit in charge (Toby Buckland, who was disappeared in person but mentioned and shown in a black-and-white photograph, as if he were sadly deceased) the Raven was booted orf. Her burgeoning commercial empire of floral delights was cited as the official reason, but looking too professional next to Buckland may also have been a contributory factor.
Possibly the most comprehensively disappeared of all the co-presenters, you would struggle to find out that Alys Fowler had ever appeared on Gardener's World at all, were it not for the sad peeps from the forum ghosts that miss her chaotic hair and enthusiastic approach; at once intellectual and possessed of a hands-on vigour that defied her slender frame. She was also young (a fabulous rarity among presenters in general) which gave her a nervous edge familiar to anyone who has taken on a new allotment and has been surrounded by the leonine eyes of leathery veg-veterans staring, waiting for the perfect moment to skewer your first-season efforts with a devastating barrage of monosyllabic so-called "advice". Her crime was at once the most simple and the most profound; she was the man behind the curtain, the head gardener's actual head gardener - pardon me, botanical researcher - and the living embodiment of the old adage, a woman's work is invariably claimed by a man. Hoiked out in front of the camera by Monty, she was hoiked off again as Monty returned post-recovery, presumably to the dulcet tones of The Human League: don't forget, it's me who put you where you are now, and I can put you back down too-oo-oo-oo.
The irritating Telegraph term for the anchor of Gardener's World, the Nation's Head Gardener, was repeated with SEO-optimised monotony throughout this slot in the programme. There is a patrician obnoxiousness about the title, placing your viewers as your undergardeners, and displacing the person who actually does that job, who won't call themselves the head gardener, because this particular moneybags wants to be able to boast to the other moneybags, we decided not to get in a head gardener, and did it all ourselves.