Even after four decades, green-fingered expert Monty Don’s passion for the outdoors shows little sign of waning, as he explains why gaining new inspiration is so important.
A lifetime of getting green fingers might be taking its toll physically on the 67-year-old broadcaster and writer Monty Don: aside from his bout of peritonitis in 2007, a stroke that could have killed him a year later, and battles with depression – for which he says gardening has been a better antidote than any prescription drug – the everyday rigours of flowering and weeding, pruning and digging have left his body as weathered as one would expect… not that he cares.
“It’s a strange day when you put the visual appearance of your garden over yourself,” he laughs. “For me, that was quite some time ago, but it all relates back to how passionate you are about a subject or a project.
“It’s a big job to keep Longmeadow how I want it, and to keep going – you do that because it’s important not only for the future, but in respecting the effort you have put in previously.”
Don’s determination to continue dedicating his life to inspiring gardeners Europe-wide is more than a personal resolve: it seems like a selfless act for the entire gardening community.
A renowned writer on all things horticultural since the early 1990s, he’s had over 20 books published and still pens a number of popular newspaper columns.
He became the welcoming, enthusiastic, all-knowing expert on the BBC’s Gardeners’ World programme between 2003 and 2008, before taking on lead presenting duties for its flagship Chelsea Flower Show in 2014.
Well dressed in his ‘painterly’ style and with a sparkling demeanour, Monty’s delivery to camera is composed and natural: charismatic yet down to earth; knowledgeable yet with an easy-going manner that ensures even the most detailed plant propagation can come across as accessible and achievable.
Sure enough, his garden at Longmeadow in Herefordshire has become something of a national horticultural staple, with fans of the gardener sharing in the ups and downs of tending to an expansive plot that continues to throw up new challenges. “We’ve had all manner of issues over the past few years, especially some drainage issues.
“I guess we all have plumbing problems in later life, and this place has been no exception,” he says, referencing a series of sub-surface misdemeanours in the past couple of years.
“Where nature is concerned, you’ve got to expect the unexpected – it’s a fun part of the process… at least, fixing it is!”
A true horticultural hero, when asked about his own inspirations, he admits to having been influenced by the style and aesthetics of French gardener Nicole de Vesian, who passed away in 1996.
“I think what I took from Nicole was the way she had two distinct strands of what she did,” he says. “She had a great feeling for both colour and form, and then for space. Her use of colours could look muted and faded at first, but when her gardens were in bloom they looked fantastic when the sun is shining. And she used the space in between plants and sculptures better than anyone. That’s been a blueprint I’ve used for Longmeadow for quite some time.
“I also have a deep appreciation of Swedish garden design, loving the depth and detail that goes into what can often be a simple design.
“I think it’s important to have heroes and inspiration, no matter who you are or for how long you’ve been in the game.”