Byline: KATHRYN KNIGHT
EVER since she installed her first water feature on national television five years ago, Charlie Dimmock has attracted many labels: latter-day fertility goddess, horticultural Viagra, modern Moll Flanders and garden centre Botticelli among them.
There is, however, one label that she can't attract - and that's the kind that haute couture designers put in the back of their dresses.
'People assume you're being bombarded with free clothes for these award ceremonies and dinners but I never get sent anything,' she says.
'Designers make clothes only in a size eight to ten, so if you're not that small you can forget it.
Once I was going to an awards ceremony and my agent got in touch with a few designers to see if I could borrow a frock, and they were fine with it - as long as I was a size eight. They don't want to see a normal-size woman wearing their clothes. It's funny because it's so ridiculous.' If Charlie has a big event to dress up for she's far more likely to be found shopping locally in her home town, Romsey, Hampshire, than in Bond Street. 'I love dressing up, but I find the posh designer shops intimidating. Assistants look down their noses and nothing fits you.' This sartorial irritation is, however, a small blip on the radar screen of what has generally been a cheerful love affair between Charlie and the British public, who took her to their hearts from the moment she bounced - literally - on to our screens in the first episode of Ground Force.
Her own love life, meanwhile, has been rather more complicated following her split from her long-term boyfriend last year and a fling with a Ground Force sound technician. But here, in her first interview since the affair, the 35-year-old says she is happy to be single and isn't looking for Mr Right.
Certainly it's not for lack of offers. Charlie is a veritable horticultural poster girl, her image marketed in calendars, books and on websites.
Today that famously unrestricted bosom is encased in a grey T-shirt, worn over her trademark jeans, and her reddy-blonde curls are typically long and loose. In the flesh, she is pretty in an accessible way, which is perhaps why men like her. In contrast to the neuroticism of many female TV personalities, she comes across as great fun, a 'what you see is what you get' kind of girl.
The pressures of celebrity, however, have taken their toll, not least on her love life. Last year Charlie's 13-year relationship with John Mushet, whom she met during a summer apple-picking in his native New Zealand, broke up after he discovered she was having an affair with Ground Force sound technician Andy Simmonds.
At the time Mushet, who moved out of their shared rented cottage following the break-up, said he was ' devastated'. Her relationship with Simmonds, who claimed he did not realise she was still living with Mushet, also subsequently ended. The whole episode has made her understandably cautious and now she says she is 'not looking' for love.
'I'm single at the moment and I'm not looking. I'm not! Seriously, I'm quite happy on my own, pootling around, not doing much, going out to dinner with friends, things like that. It's good fun.' What about children? 'I don't know.
I'm not a broody person. I mean, everyone is suddenly getting married and having kids. I've got several friends who have had babies recently and they're all right, but babies per se are not totally my thing.' I ask her whether it irritates her that people assume she must be secretly searching for Mr Right. 'Are you trying to tell me I'm on the shelf?' she laughs. 'No, but it does make me giggle that people can be a bit like, "Wow, so you still go out to dinner even though you're single." In fact it's fun going out as a single person. When I go to charity dos now they sit me next to a much older gentleman who's there to look after me. They are so …