We recently sat down with beloved gardener and Gardeners' World presenter Monty Don at the DK London office, to chat earthen inspiration, Nigel's naps, and why gardening is a bit like Tai Chi. Monty is the author of the brand new gardening book Down To Earth.
I was inspired to write it by two things: The first was a period of three days when I started to jot down some thoughts about gardening, in a quite random way, that became a whole notebook full. And I don’t know why or where that came from, but I wrote longhand for the three days almost without break.
It was that, combined with my desire to write a gardening book that was simple and straightforward, but based upon the belief that there was no right way to do things. What really mattered was that you enjoyed it. So it was meant to inspire you to give it a go, rather than to instruct you to do it properly.
Because it engages with life as it is lived outside any kind of human reference. And yet, as a human you are intimately, directly involved, when you are gardening. So it’s not like watching otters or seagulls or Patagonian seals.
You the gardener are as much a part of the garden as the plants are. But you’re not more a part of the garden than the plants are. So there’s a kind of humility and modesty involved in it. Plus, full engagement, full involvement, and a connection with weather, with seasons, with food, with colour, with design, it’s all part of it.
When in doubt, do nothing.
Yes! In so much as it’s not my favourite but one of my favourites. We as a family eat a lot and make two things: one is pesto, from basil we grow. Really fresh. And two, the sort of standby that never goes wrong, is tomato sauce.
Well I attempted to create a fourteen-acre garden. That involved a lot of earth moving and landscaping. But whether I overcame it or not is another matter.
My whole philosophy is, you don’t fight nature. You don’t tackle challenges and overcome them. You recognize challenges and go with them. It’s the Tai Chi of gardening.
Well Nigel is woken up (he never wakes naturally) at about half past six in the morning. He goes outside and sniffs the air. And then he goes back in and has another delicious hour or two of sleep. What makes it particularly good is he then moves to another bed, which is far too small, so he has to curl up in a tight ball to fit into it.
And then he has breakfast, which is his main meal of the day. And after that, on a filming day, he will go outside, escort me outside, and help me make the programme. He will bark wildly with excitement seeing all these chaps from the film crew. And he hangs out all day just exactly catching the light in the perfect spot. Just stealing every scene quietly.
Yes. Nellie will do the first two things, but she hates filming. She thinks it’s boring. There’s a lot of hanging around, so she will run away and get bored.
Nigel is different. He tends to go for a walk at the end of the day. Nowadays, it is very much a walk, not a run, as he’s becoming old. But Nellie will cover miles, in great arching swoops.
And then, in the evening, Nigel will have another nap, before going out at about ten o’clock, when he will have a couple of large biscuits, and then settle down to a good night’s sleep. It’s a good day!
A bloody prickly one! No, I would be an oak tree, because I would want to feel that I would be deeply rooted in the English landscape, and that I would endure. Time would come and time would go, but I would last.