How do you even begin describing Monty Don’s relationship to the gardening community? Needing no introduction, for years we have watched him present the long running BBC Two programme Gardeners’ World. The first self taught horticulturalist presenter in the shows 36 year history, millions of viewers would tune in each week to get Monty’s advice on growing vegetables, raising beds and just about everything in between. With several bestselling gardening books and television programmes under his belt, the secret to his success seems to be his likability factor – he has the ability to make every viewer warm to his passionate, friendly nature. Somewhat gardening royalty, I was honoured when Monty agreed to answer my quick fire questions for Hotcourses.
So Monty, the obvious place to start, how did your love affair with gardening develop?
Slowly! I was made to garden by my parents from the age of about seven as one of many households chores that we were expected to do and it was another ten years before I took any pleasure in it at all. But from the age of 17, I realised both that I was getting huge pleasure and satisfaction from it and that I was pretty good too. I got my first garden of my own when I was 25 and after that there was no stopping me.
Your career has taken many forms: businessman, presenter, gardener and writer. Which of these roles brings you the most pleasure?
I never think of myself as having had a career except as a writer. Gardening is private and writing and filming about it stops me from doing it, which is what gives me limitless non-work pleasure. I am a rotten businessman because I have no interest in money itself and I have learned that the most successful business people genuinely find making money compelling. The one thing that I have always wanted to do as a job and have always done is to write and that is how I think of myself – as a writer who does bits and pieces of other stuff too.
In 2005, you set up a smallholding where a group of persistent offenders worked on the land. How successful was this project?
Blimey. There is no short answer to that question (but you could read my book ‘Growing out of Trouble’ for a longer one). In many ways it was a huge and lasting success. Individuals transformed their lives and are now thriving. I met and still know some amazing people as a result, but hundreds of thousands of still are entrapped by addiction.
I’ve also got to ask about your ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’ work. Which garden, if you had to choose, did you find most inspiring?
It’s impossible to single one out. I loved the garden of Juan Grimm in Chile, that of Jacques Wirtz in Belgium, of Fernando Caruncho in Madrid, and the Rock Garden in Magaliesberg, South Africa.
You’ve been president of the Soil Association for years. What does this involve?
It is a purely titular role, insomuch that I can do as much or as little as I wish. I see the main job as representing the Soil Association to the wider public both in general and also on specific occasions. I feel that the future of our food production and the way that we treat this Earth is the most important legacy to leave our children.
You are an advocate of organic food and growing. What advice do you have for keen gardeners?
It is easy! Just watch and listen to what is going on and do not try and impose yourself too much. The big thing to remember is that every action has a reaction. Just because you cannot see or do not know what that is does not mean that it is not significant.
Finally, what is the best piece of advice that you have received?
Two bits of advice I have always tried to stick to are to get up early and never wear uncomfortable trousers.
Brilliant advice - thanks Monty!
If you dream of following in Monty’s highly successful footsteps, why not dig out the gardening gloves and get yourself booked onto a gardening course? With over a thousand to choose from, we can’t promise you will be Gardeners’ World ready by the end of your first class, but you will definitely be one step closer to have a garden to brag about.