- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A soft-spoken BBC radio program that provides listeners with weekly gardening tips has been accused of peddling racism while discussing soil purity and non-native species.

Ben Pitcher, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Westminster in London, is among others who say Radio 4’s “Gardeners’ Question Time” promotes nationalism and fascism that is disguised by using coded language about gardening, The Telegraph reported.

The program “is not the most controversial show on Radio 4, and yet it is layered with, saturated with, racial meanings,” he said as a guest on another Radio 4 show called “Thinking Allowed.”

The gardening show’s experts often warn listeners of the dangers of introducing foreign species of plant to a garden — a seemingly harmless tip that Mr. Pitcher said could be racist code. He also argued that nationalists often use the metaphor of soil to discuss ethnic purity, The Daily Mail reported.

Mr. Pitcher argued that racist people, specifically racist white people, over time have been forced to express their controversial views in other ways, such as talking about gardening, The Telegraph reported.

Lola Young, a former professor of cultural studies, agreed.

“I remember back in the late 80s [to] early 90s when rhododendrons were seen as this huge problem, and people were talking about going out rhododendron-bashing,” she said on the same program. “That was at a time when Paki-bashing was something that was all too prevalent on our streets.”

Bob Flowerdew, a regular panelist on “Gardeners’ Question Time,” called the idea “ridiculous” and asked whether experts on the show “should stop using Latin names to avoid offending the Romans,” The Telegraph reported.

A BBC spokesman said in a statement: “The passing mention of Gardeners’ Question Time was part of a broader discussion about language and race… the comment simply reflected the program’s use of accepted gardening and horticultural terminology.”