Alan Titchmash reveals why he’s cut saucy sex scenes out of his latest novel

Sex has often been fertile ground for green-fingered heartthrob novelist Alan Titchmarsh – until now.

The TV gardening guru has pruned the rumpy pumpy from his latest book but left the ­romance to blossom.

So why has the ­digging ­woman’s crumpet had such a radical change of heart about the birds and the bees?

Well, it seems Britain’s best loved gardener is just too ­embarrassed to read the saucy scenes aloud.

This from a man whose ­waxwork in Madame Tussauds apparently needs extra attention from the cleaners to wipe away lipstick kisses left by fans.

Alan’s charm has even been recognised by the Queen.

When awarding him an MBE in 2000 she said: “You give a lot of ladies a lot of pleasure.”

The problem arises for Alan when he has to record his books.

Speaking in his soft Yorkshire accent, the 69-year-old said: “My first book was a bit of a romp.

“But when you come to record the audiobook – that’s when you get your comeuppance.

“When you’ve got to sit in a room on your own, with a sheet of glass between you and a very large, bearded man twiddling knobs, and say the words.”

The Gardeners’ World legend still seems haunted by 1998’s Mr MacGregor, his first effort as a budding novelist.

It is the story of a TV gardener with a fatal sexual magnetism. Not too dissimilar to Alan, some might say.

There is plenty of descriptions of “slipping” and “sliding” and hands running down bodies.

This foray into fictional slap and tickle won him an award – second place in the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

The winner, Sebastian Faulks, didn’t show up so the gong was given to an ­embarrassed Alan.

There was also an awkward moment for him on Michael Parkinson’s TV chat show when the naughty bits were read out by fellow guests model Cindy Crawford and singer Ronan Keating.

But Alan need not have worried about the episode stunting his growing reputation as a writer.

If anything it gained him an even bigger legion of ­female fans and his reputation as a sex symbol took even deeper root.

Sex in Alan’s latest novel, The Scarlet Nightingale, is cut back to just one sentence.

The story is a Second World War thriller about a gutsy heroine ­going behind enemy lines to carry out a daring mission to defeat the Germans.

In it, the former Ground Force host describes two of his characters as ­making “the gentlest of love”.

He said: “There are love scenes but they are tender rather than sordid.”

But although the sex is notably absent from his 11th novel, the romance is not. The great gardener knows how to ­protect and nurture more than just plants and shrubs.

Alan, ditching welly boots for a pair of dapper tartan brogues, said: “I’m a huge romantic. I like to think romance, care and ­consideration are vital parts of life. I’ve been around women in the workplace and at home, more than I have men.

“So I’m a tuned, I hope, to what women value, and endeavour to do it right.”

He has been married to Alison for 43 years and they have two daughters, Polly, 39, and Camilla, 37, and four grandchildren.

And while other women may moan that their husbands forget special occasions, the former Songs of Praise presenter doesn’t miss a trick.

He gives lucky Alison bouquets of flowers at every ­opportunity. He said: “It’s not just buying flowers on Valentine’s day. It’s about how you live your life.

“I think being romantic is ­better translated as being ­sensitive, and for as much of the time as possible rather than just a gesture on birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

“I hope she thinks I’m reasonably romantic and fanciable. She ­did marry me.”

Yet The Scarlet Nightingale is actually dedicated to another woman who, ironically, is known as the queen of the raunchy read.

His friend author Jilly Cooper was the first to encourage Alan to write fiction after admiring his writing style in his gardening books. When he penned his first chapters she sent him notes and edits – all written in red ink.

It has been a friendship that has helped them both, with Alan suggesting the title for her 1996 novel Appassionata.

He said: “Dedicating this book to Jilly felt right. I’ve read most of her books, certainly Riders, Polo and Rivals. I like Riders.

“Jilly is a storyteller. She writes romps. I take inspiration from her writing, but only in terms of readability and how to grip a reader.”

Alan’s roots are in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, where he started working life as an ­apprentice council ­gardener. To say his ­career bloomed since would be a colossal understatement.

On top of a hugely successful TV career, including Popstar to Operastar with Myleene Klass, he has over 50 gardening books, four volumes of memoirs and nearly a dozen novels under his belt.

But life has not always been rosy. Two years ago he was suffering agonising pain. He feared he was having a heart ­attack but the problem was with his gall bladder, which had to be removed.

Earlier this year he ­admitted that he had to have his knees replaced because of the damage kneeling in his garden had done to them over the years.

But as he ­approaches his 70th birthday, Alan remains ­philosophical about the future. He said: “It is ­ridiculous, I feel about 50, or 40 even. Age is just a ­number.

“You get a joint that hurts every now and then, so your stamina recedes and bits wear out. But every day I’m still here, I crack on. I count my blessings.

“I could quite legitimately be accused of playing the ‘glad game’, but I have a ­happy family, four lovely grandchildren, great friends and I’m blessed – I’m lucky to find what I love doing and make a living out of it.

“There comes a point where you either age like a wine and get better, or like a cheese and get up people’s noses. I hope I age like a wine.”

We’ll be raising a glass to Alan for many years to come yet.

  • The Scarlet Nightingale in hardback is published by Hodder & Stoughton

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