Hardy and can stand up to wind . . James Stirling

First published in New Zealand TV Weekly, July 11 1966.

WNTV1's gardening expert is an enthusiastic Scot

Every week fan mail pours through to the NZBC's gardening experts. Now meet your favourite man of the soil.

James Stirling, WNTV1’s gardening expert, is setting something of a record on New Zealand television. His weekly programme is now in its fifth year-and shows no sign of flagging. Unscripted, unrehearsed, he projects a real personality across the camera. Anyone interested in horticulture finds him irristable-and even on non-gardeners he exerts a magnetic pull. His rich Scots accent, undiluted even after forty years in New Zealand, throbs with the fervour of one to whom gardening is not just a hobby but a passion.

If only I had colour

My one regret about getting into television is that I will be too old when colour television comes along. Doing a gardening programme in colour, you will really have the public at your mercy, he says.

On his WNTV1 programme, he works in a studio camouflaged so successfully that even when he planted some potatoes, close colleagues swore that it was being done in his own garden.


When he first started the programme he was so overwhelmed with letters that he had to ask his viewers to stop the inundation. I just couldn’t answer them all. I had piles this high (he waved at a waist-high imaginary heap of letters).

Disconnect telephone

It got so fierce that my wife had to disconnect the telephone “and go out for the evening.

A fourth generation gardener, Mr Stirling, comes from the county of Angus, near where the Queen Mother comes from.

He has been in horticulture all his life. His chief work, as head of the Ministry of Works gardening section, has been to landscape big road cuttings near Wellington, and to fill vacant government-owned building plots with attractive gardens.

Too much wind

Wellington is a marvellous working city-but I would not like to retire here. there is too much prevailing wind. I am keen on growing fruit and vegetables when I retire. It gives me a lot of pleasure to give them away. I would like to go to Tauranga or Hawke’s Bay-but I suppose I will have to do what my wife says

No notes

Asked how, he achieves his remarkable spontaneity, Mr Stirling says that he gave WEA lectures for 27 years. I never spoke from a note after seeing people beginning to nod at my first lecture when I was reading from notes.

After being used to giving two-hour lectures on gardening, it’s no problem to fill a 15-minute television show.

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