Wong – who has presented several BBC shows, including Countryfile, and serves as an ambassador for London’s Kew Gardens – made the bizarre claim in a series of Twitter posts.
Replying to another tweet that claimed gardens are not allowed “political agency” because they’ll “reveal uncomfortable politics of individual ownership” and “spatial inequity,” Wong wrote, “Absolutely U.K. gardening culture has racism baked into its DNA. It’s so integral that when you point out it’s existence, people assume you are against gardening, not racism.”
Absolutely U.K. gardening culture has racism baked into its DNA.
It’s so integral that when you point out it’s existence, people assume you are against gardening, not racism.
Epitomised, for example, by the fetishisation (and wild misuse) of words like ‘heritage’ and ‘native’. https://t.co/V33PozV2HU
— James Wong (@Botanygeek) December 12, 2020
Wong argued that the complaint was based on “unconscious ideas of what and who does and does not ‘belong’ in the U.K.”
“This is the kind of exhausting shit you have to go through every day if you work in U.K. horticulture,” he declared.
Social media users mocked Wong’s claims, calling them “bonkers” and “nonsense.”
Wong is no stranger to making similar comments about the gardening scene in his regular columns in The Guardian. In June, Wong wrote about “horticulture’s race problem,” claiming that even “in the garden, there’s bigotry to be found.”
At the age of 27, Wong became the presenter of his own television series Grow Your Own Drugs. The award-winning BBC Two series demonstrates a number of natural remedies sourced from plants, and soon became the highest-rated gardening series on UK television.
The show ran for two series, as well as a one-off Christmas special, Grow Your Own Christmas. Wong’s first two books that tied-in with each series of the television show became international best-sellers, with his third title Homegrown Revolution becoming the fastest selling gardening book in UK history.
It is not clear whether Wong’s comments this time are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, or an attempt to satirize extreme views, but regardless of the motive, he has succeeded in bringing controversy to the tranquil world of botany.