Friday, 13 October 2017

A Date with Mr Don....

I mentioned in my last post that I was writing on a train to a book launch in London, so now some more about that.
I was somewhat surprised to be invited to the launch of Monty Don's new book, titled Down to Earth, but was at the same time thrilled. Monty and I may have an interesting relationship what with #shoutyhalfhour but having worked together with Ross on Big Dreams, Small Spaces last year, in reality we actually have quite a lot in common. I have always been an enormous fan of his writing, which touches my soul in a really deep and emotional way. In fact The Jewel Garden:A Story of Despair and Redemption is one of the books I return to over and over and has pulled me out of moments of real crisis. What thrills me about Down to Earth is that it is a book about why we garden. For most of us, whether we garden for pleasure or for a living, or of course as with so many of us for both, we recognise that why we garden is as important as how we garden and those two things feed each other. I have been thinking about why I garden quite a lot lately and this book and the few words Monty said at the launch about why he wrote it, have really supported me to have that internal conversation. I will come back to that. It will not be an easy thing to write but I will get there.

The seating areas at Ham Yard Hotel were surrounded by beds filled with Cosmos and Mexican Fleabane, cool and calming colours in such an urban space.

Now back to the book. I haven't read it all yet. It's in the pile to read in the dark of December and January. But I have read the introduction several times and on first read I can't deny that the tears fell. There are two quotes that really made me think.
The first is "....good gardens are as much about the people that make them as the plants growing in them. You are an integral part of your garden. Without you it will not exist."
The second "Life is short and absurd and run through with pain and sorrow. But in the face of real suffering, gardening can make our days shine with joy."

I could spend my time discussing those quotes but needless to say my feelings about them are wrapped up in the role I play now, supporting others to garden, and in the deep connection that my mother had with her garden and with me through that space. Gardens have supported me through more loss than I can even describe, including the loss of mum, but through many a crisis, both mental and physical. For me, and for others I am sure, to find someone willing and able to annunciate those words is a joy. The writing is empathetic and deeply touching. And kind. And that is what I really think Monty is. It was lovely to be greeted with a warm welcome from him, the comment that it was lovely to be welcomed by a friendly face, and the feeling that the words were sincere. Our conversations went from how Ross was doing to Big Dreams and led onto a short but meaningful conversation about Gardeners World, initiated by Monty. And no, I am not going to tell you what was said dear reader, but the words were kind, considered and understanding. My critique of the programme has never been about Monty, and always about the programme which, and I am saying this now in public, has I believe begun to really improve now it is an hour long and taking on board a lot of the criticism and shortcomings that have been mentioned over the years.

The beautiful bug hotel on the edge of the veg patch. there are also two bee hives on the roof which will explain the amazing crops up there!

And all of this happened in a garden. A garden in the top of the roof of the Ham Yard Hotel in central London. With the bustling life of Soho below us, we wandered around this extraordinary space, with it's seating areas, flowers and beautiful vegetable garden, delighting in the garden and in the use of the space. I deeply believe that green roofs and gardens have a vital role to play in cities and to see such a wonderful space and be within it, whilst being surrounded by the roof tops and spires of Soho was entrancing and joyous. Even better was that I got to share it with other garden blogger pals, whose blogs and vlogs about the event I will post links to below.

I do just have to comment though on the sad folks who thought that it was ok to troll me on social media after the event. I didn't post a photo of me with Monty on Twitter because I knew what it might lead to, but someone did, and the trolls came out in force. Of course they are completely ignored but it's a sadness that people think that the point of #shoutyhalfhour is to personally ridicule someone. It never was, and it never will be. And in fact some folk will tell you that I have spoken to them personally if it has ever looked as if the criticism was becoming personal.

So in essence I think what I am saying is go out and buy this book. After the intro there are sections on a whole host of things, including urban gardens, small gardens, wildlife gardening and all have the usual down to earth, practical advice you would need to create a garden in the way you might want or need to. The book is peppered with photos that are stunning and my feeling is that not only is it a fabulous edition to your gardening library, but that it would also make a fabulous gift for someone who either is becoming interested in gardening, or who is just starting out in a garden, how ever small. But I also think it's the perfect book to inspire people to understand that horticulture, gardening or whatever you want to call it, is therapeutic. It's a thing we do as much for our souls as for the aesthetic and the power of those two creative elements joining can lead to the creation of some incredibly powerful spaces. Not all those spaces will appeal to everyone of course, but as long as you, the creator, loves it and it makes you happy, anyone else's reactions are by the bye.....

Other blogs about the day........


  1. I do think people find it hard to separate a person from the project/film/organisation they belong to. So when you criticise one, people inevitably think you are attacking the other. Monty sure does have a way with words, such an ease to express how we all feel when we garden :)

    So glad you're liking it so far, I found mine in my local bookshop earlier this week. I will first finish Charlotte Mendelson's Rhapsody in the Garden, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

  2. I was really sorry to miss this launch, it would have been wonderful to hear about the motivation behind the book and enjoy such lovely surroundings. I'm about half way through Down to Earth and it has really moved me too, I love Monty's conversational style of writing and the way he always makes his knowledge feel accessible no matter what level your gardening experience.