GROUND Force presenter Charlie Dimmock has put her gardening tools away for the weekend and is in Majorca, along with a host of top British celebrities, to help raise the profile of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London at the Pirates Charity Premiere event last night.
Dimmock flew in after a two-day shoot for Ground Force in a wind swept New Romney, in Kent, so the warm Mediterranean sun was welcomed yesterday.
Although she is not here for the sun, she is here to help Great Ormond Street. I've done bits and pieces in the past, design work and pictures for charity auctions, she said but this is the first time I've got involved in something like this, I think it's a great idea and will really help boost the hospital's profile and all the work they do for children. This is Dimmock's second visit to Majorca, the first when she was 15. However she would not mind getting her hands on a Mediterranean garden.
The Ground Force team have tackled gardens in southern Spain and one in Italy, but she admits, they have not done too much in the Med.
Nevertheless, there are few places in the world left where Dimmock, who does not appear to ever stop working, has not turned up in her wellies.
Dimmock's gardening skills are not only on show on Ground Force and Garden Invaders, she also presents a lifestyle spot for CBS morning televison in the States, which she films on both sides of the Atlnatic, depending on her schedule.
In fact, lately she has been spending a great deal of time in the States.
Fans of Ground Force will know that a series was made for BBC America which was a first. It was the first series BBC America has actually commissioned, she said.
Americans doing the gardening?
She agrees, it was a daunting challenge. They all love what we do but the problem is they don't do it themlseves, she explained. They all say what a great idea' but then add that they'll get someone in to do it. So, in some parts of the States getting people to do the gardening themselves was challenging. We've had to help them understand gardening and what it's all about, I guess they're some 15 years behind us in the UK, she said. We worked all over the States, in great locations, from the Santa Barbara hills overlooking the Pacific, to inner city New York and the traditional front lawn with one tree and surrounded by white picket fencing, Dimmock said yesterday.
In New York, Dimmock and her team landscaped a community project for Bette Midler.
Midler had bought three inner city plots to be restored for the community and Ground Force took care of one for the actress. It's very satisfying doing the community projects, she said.
Since the series started in 1997, Dimmock has worked on comunity gardening schemes from a retired soldier's home in Jamaica to an orphanage in India and admits that she gets a great kick out of seeing the community using the gardens.
But it is not all glamour and she giggles about her sex symbol image.
That was so silly, I'm no sex symbol, not now, never have been, I've not been sexy all my life, she giggles.
But she did agree that she has certainly put gardening on the front pages.
They also hit the front pages when Ground Force did Nelson Mandela's garden. We did not quite believe it at first, we were expecting to be sent to an office of his and do the garden there, we never really expected to be working and filming at his house, she said.
Ground Force has also attracted its critics. Some people have accused us of not doing things properly and expecting the public to do too much. But, apart from the fact each shoot is only two days, so we've got to pack a lot in, that is the same length of time as most people's weekend, so people have got time to do something in the garden. Obviously not everything we've done is in a programme, but bits and pieces, she said.
And, Dimmock admits that, over the years, more and more people in Britain are either getting out in the garden or showing a greater interest. Especially children, which I think is wonderful. They're really getting into the wildlife side of the programme, which is very encouraging, she said. Also, since chemicals were banned in Britain last year, people are becoming much more aware of what they're putting down on the garden, people have become more aware of the need for a good balance in the garden between nature and plants. What is more, everyone's more aware of the need to save water and use either rain or grey water in the garden. Britain has become much more environmentally aware, Dimmock said.
It was as a child, or rather teenger, that Dimmock first got involved with gardening. When I was 16, I worked Saturdays at a local garden centre. I did my A levels, spent the summers at the garden centre, and then went to College, after which... I returned to work at the garden centre, she explains.
Her first appearance on television came when a TV crew were filming in her home town of Romsey and wanted to film a spot at the garden centre but I did not think too much about it, however six years later the BBC called me up for a new gardening programme, she said.
And now, in a few weeks, time, we're going to film programme number 100, she added.
She said that they are not planning anything special to celebrate the landmark in Ground Force's history, she will be out in the garden working to her basic principles.
She says that patience is the key to a good garden. You can't rush things and it's always better to plant young plants than go out and spend a fortune on fully grown ones, the young ones always take much better and, in the end, grow just as fast. Another important thing is to go with the garden, don't try and change it, work with it and the environment. Keep it simple, don't clutter the garden up with too many features, it's much more relaxing on the eye and easier to look after and keep the various features together, link them all up somehow, create an integrated garden, she said. Oh, and don't get carriud away with great irrigation systems, they'll only break down and spoil things. In the Mediterranean, where soil and water is always a problem, she says that gardeners can never go wrong with aromatic plants, they'll always take and also use pebbles or gravel, they keep the moisture in the soil, she said.
What about talking to plants? No, I don't talk to my plants, they say stroking plants is good for them, although I guess I do mutter and sing to them...
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