Standing knee deep in a pond laughing and chatting as the cameras roll is just a normal day in the life of a Beechgrove Garden presenter.
“I love a bit of pond activity, getting in there and scooping out the blanket weed,” says Kirsty Wilson, dressed in waders and clutching a fishing rod.
“It’s a job that we have to do every year and I think it’s so important to have a pond in your own garden for attracting wildlife into your space.”
VIP garden tour
This down-to-earth, off-the-cuff and relaxed format is the reason why three quarters of a million viewers worldwide – and growing – are now tuning into this perennial Aberdeenshire-based BBC gardening show each week.
Invited along for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic garden during filming day, Your Life caught up with presenters Carole Baxter and Kirsty Wilson to get to the root of what makes this long-running show continue to blossom.
“I’ve always loved gardening, I didn’t think of it as a career,” says Carole, an Aberdeenshire-based Beechgrove stalwart who will mark her 40th year with the programme next year.
“When I was tiny I always helped my dad in the garden – we had quite a sizeable garden.
“In fact my dad has just passed away but he was 98, so gardening must be good for you.
“I find it extremely therapeutic; I love what I do and I think with Beechgrove for me, it’s like, well if I can enthuse someone else to have a go then that’s great.
“You don’t always have a success and I do think part of Beechgrove is the fact that we will show our successes but we’ll also show our failures, and it may be a bit of a pun but I think we’re pretty down to earth, we’re quite back to basics.
“We just want to make gardening easy for everybody.”
Where is the garden?
Tucked away off the beaten track at a former council-run garden nursery in Skene, not far from Westhill, is where the magic happens.
To the sound of birds chirping and bees buzzing, I stepped through the gate and into what I can only describe as a horticultural heaven.
From the vivid purple lupins and the electric blue petals of the Himalayan blue poppies, to the fuchsia pink red campions and the bright white Achillea millefolium, the Beechgrove Garden was a sight for sore eyes.
Taken on a tour round the garden by the series producer Graham Mitchell and the show’s head gardener Mairi Rattray, it was fascinating to discover that the three-acre garden is actually spilt into 30 individual gardens designed to replicate different styles of gardens that people may have at home.
Come rain or shine the hardy seven-strong film crew and team of seven presenters – who film on rotation – spend about 10 hours a day filming in the garden, or in the potting sheds and greenhouses if the heavens open.
With Beechgrove now being aired on BBC Scotland as well as on BBC Two, ahead of Garderner’s World on a Friday night, iPlayer and on Britbox North America (US and Canada) it’s no wonder that the presenters are now being recognised in the street.
But Carole has kept her feet firmly on the ground.
“I still think of myself as a gardener, I’m just an ordinary person like everybody else,” said Carole.
“We’re not actors, it’s not scripted, it’s about being ourselves, and in fact I couldn’t do it if it was scripted.
“That’s what I love, I’m talking about what I enjoy myself.”
Inspiring the next generation
Fresh out of filming a piece to camera in the pond – sharing tips on removing weeds – presenter Kirsty Wilson beams as she talks about inspiring the next generation.
“I’m quite passionate about getting younger people into horticulture and gardening,” says Kirsty, who pauses to admire the red squirrel who suddenly appears in the garden.
“I think it’s important to nurture the next generation and pass on those skills on how to grow.”
Juggling filming with her job managing the herbacious collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Kirsty says she’s never been happier.
“It’s just great working on Beechgrove as we work in all weather and I get to work with a great team,” says Kirsty
And a visit to the Beechgrove Garden would not be complete without some top gardening tips.
“Go to the garden centres, write to Beechgrove, get as much advice as you can and look around the neighbourhood and find out what’s growing there and that will tell you what plants are good for that area,” says Carole.
For Kirsty, her key message is “don’t be put off”.
“It can be quite daunting with all these Latin plant names or how to grow certain plants, but maybe start with something easy like edibles or annuals and herbs, things that you’re going to use in your cooking,” says Kirsty.
Tune in to Beechgrove Garden on Thursday July 7 at 8pm on the BBC Scotland channel.