TV gardener Carol Klein shuts nursery after compost dispute

To her legions of fans, television presenter Carol Klein’s award-winning north Devon nursery is as much a place of pilgrimage as the adjacent garden. To some of her neighbours, however, it is a smelly eyesore that became a battleground – and has been forced to close.

Glebe Cottage has been Ms Klein’s home for more than 30 years and the Gardeners’ World presenter’s nursery, Glebe Cottage Plants, has won six gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, thanks in part to her rich compost.

But while Ms Klein believes compost is the key to a great garden, her new landlord is not so keen. Businessman Len Tanner, who bought the property in February last year, has decided not to renew the three-year lease for the nursery, granted by previous owners on what had been part of their garden.

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He said yesterday: “From my back door to the compost heap in the corner of her nursery is about 20-25 yards. That isn’t very far. The compost heap is also above our courtyard, because we’re on the side of a hill.

“Carol Klein also has a potting shed and if it was that bit that we saw, it wouldn’t be so bad. But all the polytunnels and so on are at the other end of the nursery. Up by her house, there’s nothing, but I’ve got all her rubbish in my backyard.”

Ms Klein has now been forced to close the nursery. The move means the garden’s open day for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), which raises money for cancer charities, has been cancelled.

Yesterday, a statement on Ms Klein’s website said: “Our nursery is sadly closed. For many years we have run a working nursery adjacent to the garden on land rented from our neighbours. Our new neighbours Len and Zara Tanner have given us notice to quit in retaliation for my writing about their felling and disfiguring many trees.

“It is with great regret that the nursery and garden are now closed. We have also had to cancel our planned opening on 7 September for the National Gardens Scheme. Beyond that we just don’t know – but we will keep you updated on future plans.”

Mr Tanner said: “She’s trying to make out that I have given her notice in a fit of pique, but that’s not true. She’s been in her house for 30 years, but the nursery has only been on this bit of land for three years. She’s been on notice to leave for nine months.”

Ironically, Mr Tanner wants the land back to create a vegetable garden. “My wife is a keen gardener and watches Gardeners’ World. Had Carol Klein kept her nursery in a better state and I didn’t have all her compost outside my back door, maybe things might have been different.”

Carol Klein was not available for further comment yesterday.

TV star Carol Klein of Gardeners’ World is caught up in a stinking row

How much actual gardening is carried out by TV gardeners is a matter of speculation. Are they like TV chefs, who have underlings to do the chopping, peeling and washing-up? Or, when compost is required, do the stars themselves pick up the the barrow, even when the cameras are not rolling?

Earlier this year, I played a bit part in the series Giles and Sue Live the Good Life – so small a bit that it was consigned to the cutting-room floor. On a bleak north London allotment, Giles Coren and Sue Perkins were supposed to be acting out the theme of self-sufficiency propounded in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life. Giles half-heartedly waved a hoe around and slung in a few potatoes, while Sue made off as soon as I arrived. The actual gardening was done by others.

In their defence, Giles and Sue do not claim to be experts. By contrast, some years ago I visited the much-lamented Geoff Hamilton in his garden at Barnsdale in Rutland. Although he had help, some of it from students of agriculture, there was no doubt he did most of the work himself.

The first TV gardener to let viewers into the secrets of his own patch was Percy Thrower, the launch presenter of Gardeners’ World, who designed the garden of The Magnolias in Shropshire with television in mind. Previously, he had hosted Gardening Club, for which a garden was created by shifting a ton of topsoil into a former wrestling arena at Gosta Green, near Birmingham. The set was dismantled every week. Unknown to viewers, the greenhouses were without glass, which would have caused reflections in the cameras. Once, when a door was stuck, Percy put his hand through a glassless pane and the secret was out.

It became apparent that real gardens work better than ersatz ones. Since The Magnolias and Barnsdale, most of the main presenters of Gardeners’ World have used their homes as a base. Alan Titchmarsh had Barleywood and Monty Don, the current main presenter, operates from Longmeadow in Herefordshire. Soon, if Carol has her way, we shall watch her rising above adversity by replanting at Glebe Cottage.

All the same, I hope she and Mr Tanner will make their peace. Carol says to grow plants successfully, we have to regard them as people. “By understanding their needs,” she says, “you can enable them to be themselves and develop their true characters.” I do urge her to try that treatment on her neighbour.

Michael Leapman’s book about his allotment, ‘One Man and His Plot’, first published in 1976, has just been reissued by Faber Finds (

Carol Klein

  • Carol Klein is one of the most familiar gardening experts working in the media today, most famous for her role as regular presenter of Gardeners’ World. Her natural, down-to-earth approach has made her popular and trusted figure. As well as covering all the wonderful shows from Chelsea and Tatton to Hampton Court, Carol has fronted many series, including Grow Your Own Veg and Open Gardens.
  • Carol originally trained as a fine artist and spent many years teaching art in schools and colleges. She started gardening and running a nursery from her home in Devon, and her hobby eventually became a career. She began exhibiting at RHS shows in 1990 and went on to win gold medals at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Westminster and Malvern.
  • Carol first appeared on Gardener’s World in 1989 when Geoff Hamilton did a feature on her garden, Glebe Cottage. Following regular appearances as a guest presenter for both the BBC and Channel 4, she wrote and presented her own six-part series Wild About the Garden in 1998, and two series of Real Gardens. Other television work includes offering gardening expertise on Time Team and Garden Doctors, and appearing as a guest on Water Colour Challenge (all Channel 4).
  • Her extensive writing work includes not only her books – Grow Your Own Veg was a six-month top 20 bestseller, with over 200,000 copies sold – but also her weekly double page spread for Garden News and contributions to the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, Gardener’s World magazine, Gardens Illustrated, English Garden and Horticulture.
  • Carol’s recent series Life in a Cottage Garden, which was filmed at her own gardens at Glebe Cottage has also been made into a book of the same title to accompany the series.

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Revealing the new names on our expert line-up

New faces, fresh inspiration

We’re excited to announce that Mark Lane and Arit Anderson from the BBC Two Gardeners’ World presenting team join our line-up for the first time this year.

We can also reveal two brand new stages! Bringing the outside in, the Blooming Interiors stage is furnished with talks from the biggest names in houseplants including Jane Perrone and demos from the British Florist Association. Plus, Lee Connolly (aka the Skinny Jean Gardener) hosts the Gardeners Unplugged stage, joined by bright sparks including Michael Perry and Jack Wallington plus many more too – see below and to see the full line up.

Jane Perrone

Jane, presenter and producer of indoor gardening podcast On The Ledge, delves into the hottest trend of 2018, house plants on the Blooming Interiors stage. Jane has written for a range of publications and is well known for her title as gardening editor of The Guardian until 2017.

Michael Perry

Michael, with his impressive horticultural heritage, has fairly bust onto the gardening scene in the last few years with numerous TV appearances and is now one of the UK’s best-known gardeners. Catch him on both the Gardeners Unplugged and Blooming Interiors stages.

Two Thirsty Gardeners

Digging and swigging their way through the seasons, Rich and Nick merge the arts of allotmenteering and drink making. Find out more at the Gardeners Unplugged stage.

Jack Wallington

Award-winning urban garden blogger, Jack is now writer for The Guardian amongst other major titles. He’ll be sharing tips on the Gardeners Unplugged stage.

Life at No.27

Award winning blogger, Annabelle Padwick has made a name for herself through her passion for GYO and encouraging every generation into the veg patch. Catch her energy on the Gardeners Unplugged stage and Let’s Talk Allotments area.

New culinary stars

Head to the BBC Good Food Show Summer to see a host of new faces including health food guru Melissa Hemsley and cult hero of the Birmingham food scene, Lap-Fai Lee. Remember, all tickets include free entry to this tasty Show!

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or better still, for a day out packed with wall-to-wall gardening ideas and inspiration.

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“I discovered that about three per cent of people with spina bifida occulta go on to have lower back and peripheral nerve problems,” says Mark, who lives with partner Jasen, 52, in Canterbury, Kent. “That’s what happened with me.”

In 2006 Mark underwent the Wallis ligament procedure. An implant was inserted between the vertebrae but within days it was clear it hadn’t worked.

“The surgery didn’t do anything at all,” recalls Mark. “Soon after, I started getting peripheral nerve sensations across my body. From my toes up to my head, it felt as if someone had plugged me into an electric socket.

“It was a very quick deterioration after the operation. Within a month I had a gradual loss of feeling in my legs. The consultant had warned me the operation would either work or make it worse. I felt as if someone had put bricks on my back. I could barely move at all.”

Mark had returned to his work as a publisher part-time a month after the operation but within a few weeks he was in too much pain to carry on. Four months later he was also diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy (ME).

“I could no longer get upstairs at our three-storey barn. If I tried to exercise, I was bed-bound for two or three days,” he says.

A month later, again disaster struck when Mark was involved in a car accident. “I didn’t need hospital treatment but the crash didn’t help my pain at all.” One last attempt to alleviate Mark’s pain with a four-hour spinal desensitisation operation, in which nerve blockers were put into the spinal area, also failed and Mark was told he had run out of options.

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