Monty Don, gardener, writer and presenter of the BBC’s Gardeners’ World programme has been gardening the land around his home, on the English/Welsh border, for nearly 20 years now. A year ago his garden, Longmeadow, became the location for the filming of Gardeners’ World and this book takes the reader through a typical gardening year there.
The book starts with an introduction to Longmeadow, with Monty describing how it was a complete blank canvas of farmyard and fields when they first moved there and how he has tried to create a garden that works with nature and sits happily in the landscape. From the beginning of the book you get a real sense that Longmeadow is a very special place to the author. Although viewers of Gardeners’ World see parts of the garden every week, it still felt that the book was giving me an insight into a private space.
The book is then divided into months but it isn’t a book with your typical monthly listings of things to do. Each month focuses on plants that are at their height that month whether they are ornamental or edible, tasks to do and what that month means to Monty and Longmeadow. The plants featured are those growing in his garden and he shares his knowledge and tips and doesn’t mind writing about his mistakes and disasters, which makes any gardener feel much better about their own shortcomings.
I particularly liked the relaxed feel to the book, maybe this is because the author is self-taught and has no hang-ups about how things should be done. A lot of gardening books are written from the perspective of teaching the right way to do things and feel quite strict and a little scary for new gardeners. He manages to combine horticultural knowledge and skill without it feeling like a straightjacket. Monty’s approach is very refreshing and it’s heartening to know that he has created such a successful garden with this attitude. The book is peppered with stories and anecdotes such as the day he went out to buy a few yew plants and came back with 1400 trees! It is this personal element that makes this book so enjoyable.
Monty, currently President of the Soil Association, the main body for organic regulation in Britain, has always been a passionate advocate of organic gardening and working with nature. The sumptuous photographs in the book of kitchen garden abundance and stunningly beautiful flowers could not be better adverts for both policies.
The book covers most aspects of gardening; from the coppice he has established to dry areas and parts that flood, to the comprehensive range of fruit and vegetables, from topiary to his passion for flowers, it’s all there. I liked the added touches of a page where he talks about foraging and how the book finishes with Christmas and what are the best presents for gardeners.
My only criticism is there was a degree of repetition when talking about some plants or tasks if they featured in several months but I think this is inevitable in gardening books. In my opinion, it isn’t a book to turn to for quick reference or if you’re looking for lists of tasks to do but then it wasn’t designed with this in mind and most gardeners have those books already anyway.
I would certainly recommend this book, Monty’s enthusiasm is infectious and you don’t need to watch Gardeners’ World to find this book useful and a good read. For me, the book has captured many of the reasons why people like to blog about their gardens; to share knowledge and a passion with fellow gardeners, to write about seasonal changes and what they’re doing at that moment and to find inspiration from other people’s gardens.
Monty Don’s book Gardening at Longmeadow is available from Amazon and all good bookshops now.
Thanks to Claire at Ebury Press