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BBC’s Mark Lane: Gardening changed my life

29th May 2019

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Blake Roberts speaks to the TV presenter about how he’s using his experiences to help others, the daunting prospect of working with Monty Don and his favourite fruit to grow

“Growing up as a kid, we lived in an apartment, so whenever I’d visit my grandparents, I couldn’t wait to get out in the garden,” Mark reminisces as I sit down to chat with him. “I’d follow my grandfather around in a little blue truck with some string and a blunt pair of scissors. He’d teach me about vegetables, and about the importance of growing your own food; that ethos has always stuck with me.”

For the uninitiated, Mark Lane is a professional garden designer by trade, based in Kent, and best known for his presenting work on the BBC’s flagship gardening show – Gardeners’ World. His rise to TV fame isn’t a conventional one, however. Born with spina bifida, a car accident at the turn of the century resulted in Mark requiring a wheelchair full time, a life-changing incident that obviously took a long time to come to terms with.

A place to escape

“After that kind of accident, you hit a wall and you don’t know what to do, you go to some very dark places,” he reflects. “I’d be in bed for hours and days, looking at the same four walls until one day my partner suggested that I try going outside. “It was quite remarkable, actually. Suddenly getting to feel the sun on my face, the wind through my hair. I was focusing on the birds, the bees, the sounds, the scents; venturing into the garden you get transported to another world. For a couple of minutes, I’d completely forgotten about my worries.”

As a result, Mark found a new passion for outdoors life, and specifically for gardening and garden design. A passion that over the last couple of decades he’s managed to turn from hobby to career. Fast forward to 2015, and Mark made history by becoming the first BBC gardening presenter in a wheelchair. He’s the first to admit what a shock that initial phonecall to present the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was, due to a lack of television experience. However, Mark isn’t one for saying no, and seized the opportunity.

“It was extremely daunting and I was rather nervous the first time,” he says. “When you’re working with people like Carol Klein, Monty Don and Joe Swift, who have that wealth of experience – you start to question whether you can do it, but it’s 4 years later now and I haven’t looked back.”

Mark laughs as he explains that there’s only ever one topic of conversation on everyone’s lips whenever the whole team is together: “As you’d expect, we always talk about plants and gardens. I love getting to share my love and passion with others, though, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do. We’ve become like a small family.”

When he’s not gracing our screens Mark is also an ambassador for a number of important charities – Thrive, Greenfingers and Core Landscapes – that are committed to using green spaces to improve lives. Plus, he’s even finding time to work with disability charity Leonard Cheshire by designing a garden for one of their care homes.

His love for the outdoors shines through in everything he does, but I’m curious to find out if he still manages to set aside time to maintain his own plot. He says: “We grow the odd vegetable, like cut and come again lettuce and some leeks, but time is a bit of a problem. As I get older, I plan to grow more veg, but for now it’s primarily fruit.

“I’m a real fruit fanatic, we’ve got a small orchard! Time is less of an issue for this as fruit trees tend to look after themselves a bit more. We’ve got plums, apples, pears and cherries (though the birds always seem to get those first!) and we also do peaches and apricots, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries,” he continues.

“I eat, live and sleep plants – I really do. I don’t know what it is, I just have this curiosity to always learn more, and with horticulture, you’re always getting to learn more each day. Looking back now, it sounds rather dramatic, but gardening truly has changed my life for the better.”


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