Years ago, when my children were tiny, I used to pray that they were all in bed by 8.30pm on a Friday night. I would sink into the sofa with a glass of wine and a notepad and pen to watch Gardeners World on the BBC and for half an hour I would watch Geoff Hamilton at Barnsdale, his home in Rutland, guiding me through the seasons in the gardens.
I was one of millions who tuned in for good advice, inspiration and to learn from a master. Yet it's twenty years ago this month that he died at the age of 59, and he's still missed by so many.
His gardens became a nursery owned by his son Nick, who took on his father's legacy and today thousands arrive to see the series of individual gardens created here during the television series and which Nick has lovingly maintained and reworked as time has gone by.
On Tuesday , Carol Klein, who now co presents Gardeners World, was at Barnsdale to open the new Geoff Hamilton winter border which has been redeveloped and which is made up of plants donated by his friends, gardening colleagues and family.
She gave a very emotional speech about Geoff's influence, not just on her but on millions of other gardeners and then planted something from Glebe Cottage , her own nursery.
What a lovely atmosphere in the sunshine, interviewing Carol and Nick, and watching them being
surrounded by visitors who obviously adored them. Increasingly though, the clouds came over, followed by a shocker of a downpour after a buffet lunch.
This was the time Nick Hamilton was taking a few of us on a guided tour of the gardens! Our group included the Associate Editor of Garden Trade News, two gardening lecturers, Jayne and Christine who worked on Gardeners World with Geoff Hamilton ,and of course Carol Klein.
It was fascinating...with anecdotes and insights into how Barnsdale developed, about the dynamics of the relationship between Nick and Geoff , and how Nick and his team are carrying on and enhancing Geoff's legacy.
As we wandered through the individual gardens, there was a sense of deja vu, recognising gardens featured years ago on the telly. I really admired the beautiful and vigorous above, Madame Gregoire Staechelin, trailing over the archway....in fact, I need one!
Allotment envy also came to the fore as we walked past Barnsdale's allotment, which keeps Nick in vegetables all year round, and I was taken with the hot box.
So many gardens to see, but so little time.All too soon, it was time for our tour to end, but there's no doubt about it, I need to go back, for a more detailed look at some of my favourite gardens, to take notes and more photographs, and to view the gardens we didn't see. There's so many good ideas here.
So, a lovely day ..and Barnsdale , I will be back!
My full interviews with Nick Hamilton and Carol Klein will be broadcast tomorrow on BBC Radio Leicester on Down to Earth from 12 noon til 1pm, but in the meantime, why not listen to a shorter version here, right now....