April 9, 2021
Close to the veg: Headline acquire Grandad’s gardening tips
by Tom Clayton
For those lucky enough to have access to a garden or outdoor space during the pandemic, they have provided more than just an escape from the no-so-great indoors. And with many now increasingly working from home, green spaces have moved into our focus like never before: whether growing for pleasure or sustenance, the ritual of sowing, nurturing and harvesting with the seasons has been a reliable rhythm in an otherwise unfathomable and disjointed year.
What’s more, it looks like the gardening boom is here to stay: in both the US and the UK, garden centres and wholesalers have reported huge uptake and increased sales, with many first-timers joining the ranks of the green-fingered.
As ever, publishing reflects the times; gardening guides are popping up like Spring flowers left, right and centre. Monty Don, avuncular host of the BBC’s Gardener’s World (recently discovered by Americans), has this year updated and reissued The Complete Gardener, his account of establishing and developing his own garden, Longmeadow, in rural Herefordshire. He recently signed a multi-book deal with Ebury to continue his publishing legacy.
Along with old favourites, a new gardening star has emerged: Gerald Stratford, an unassuming 72-year-old retiree from Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, whose gentle Twitter content, begun in 2019—usually featuring pictures of his enormous vegetables and signed off with “Cheers”—have been an unexpected sensation, gaining him nearly 300,000 followers on the platform.
It’s an audience which has helped Stratford become a genuine star: last week The Daily Mail reported on his unlikely collaboration with Gucci, as the face of their new sustainable Gucci Off The Grid range; this week The Bookseller reports he has signed a book deal with Headline. Big Veg, a “funny, charming and handy book about growing veg,” will feature tips and tricks from Gerald, along with photos of the man himself—and his garden.
With Spring well and truly underway (he types, through chattering teeth), it looks like another bumper crop of gardeners will be donning the gloves once again—the industry will be hoping they pop on their reading glasses, too.
Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.