Panorama from guest room -reduced

Saturday I did You Tube, the light sliding in. Sunday I did detail – and completed Monty Don’s The Ivington Diaries.

Detail - lawn and driveway

I have two disconnected issues top of (horticultural) mind at the moment, yet there is definitely a link. On the one hand there is the infinite and obsessive fascination with my own garden in every season and every mood, and the desire to describe it and record it. And on the other hand there is that rare occurrence, especially when one is skidding down the wrong slope of fifty: I have found me a hero.

Detail Gum and camellias

Over a year ago a dear friend, mother of varsity friends, lent me her copy of Monty Don’s TV series Around the World in Eighty Gardens. I was smitten. Not so much by the gardens, as by the man, and his passionate fascination with what makes gardeners tick, and gardens resonate.

Detail towards Upper Rosemary Border

I could relate. And I could learn. And above all, I could appreciate his intensity. I immediately sought out his  books, finding first  The Complete Gardener (I think –I’ve lent it to a friend.) It is a highly personal ‘how-to’ book. Then Louis gave me the book version of the DVD series, Extraordinary Gardens of the World; an extraordinarily beautiful book. Then I went onto the net and ordered The Ivington Diaries, compiled from 15 years’ diaries of his own garden.

Detail towards Ellensgate Garden

This is a unique account of one gardener’s responses to his garden, and his life. I kept marking pages to get back to. I used extracts in class to illustrate style and structure in writing. I moved with him through the garden as it developed, saying sometimes yes!  and sometimes really?, and all the time I felt as if I’d always known him.

Detail; steps below Mothers' Garden

An example: on 30 September 2001, recalling a conversation about 9/11, he writes: Someone said that things like gardening and cooking seemed unbearably trivial at times like these, almost disrespectful…But I am sure that this is not just wrong but a real misreading of the times…I am sure that certainties will now seem doubly precious. Verifiable honesty matters more than ever. The flash, the glib and all things phoney will be exposed in this new, rawer light as the dross that they are. Growing things, making something beautiful, eating simple, fresh food – these things matter now more than ever. I often think of how Aldous Huxley, after years of intense exploration, came to the conclusion that all religious and spiritual learning could be summarised into two words: ‘Pay attention’.

Purple Beech in the Beech Borders

Pay attention.

I like that!

Monty Don – The Ivington Diaries, 2009, Bloomsbury, ISBN 978 1 4088 0249 6



  1. Thanks for the post. I’m a big fan too of Monty Don, and find something both inspiration and soothing in his approach to gardening, and to the traumas of his own life.

  2. I have never read anything by Monty Don (or seen any of his programs), but this post sent me searching for The Ivington Diaries. It sounds wonderful; thanks for calling it to my attention.

  3. Ingmar Bergman: “The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. Evil breaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog. […] No one escapes. So it shall be. Therefore, let us be happy while we are happy. Let us be kind, generous, affectionate and good. It is necessary, and not at all shameful, to take pleasure in the little world. Good food, gentle smiles, fruit trees in bloom, waltzes.”

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