Friday, 23 April 2010

My camellias and Monty's roots

I know I've already shown you a picture of my camellia, but I couldn't resist posting another. It's never been as full of flowers as it has this spring.

A friend gave me this plant for my birthday a few years ago, and what a wonderful present it has proved to be. Sorry I've lost the label and can't tell you exactly what variety it is, but the flowers are double ones as I hope you can see.

For more about camellias, their history and care I just found a good article by Monty Don here. By co-incidence this week I've been reading Monty Don's book 'My Roots'. It came out in 2005 and is a selection of Monty's articles for The Observer newspaper from 1997 onwards. (A previous collection 'Gardening Mad' covered his earlier pieces.)

I've always seen Monty Don as one of those gardeners who has soil in their blood, rather like the late (and still missed) Geoff Hamilton. So, I was surprised to find out from 'My Roots' that originally Monty wanted to be a writer. As a child he wrote stories, plays, poetry and a journal.

Maybe this is why he always communicates his passion for gardening so well. Several of the pieces in 'My Roots' are ones I cut out of The Observer because they were just so interesting or poignant that I knew I'd want to read them again.

One of those moves me every time I read it. It's about Monty's elderly farmer friend. One year he planted daffodil bulbs with his granddaughter, telling her when he was up in heaven she would be reminded of him looking down on her at daffodil time. Tragically the granddaughter died at nineteen, and it was the grandfather left looking at the daffodils, thinking of her up in heaven.

Another really sad piece is about Monty burying his dog. But I don't want you to think it's all doom and gloom as there is so much joy and humour too. Monty's chickens constantly seem to be escaping and ruining precious plants. He describes so beautifully those fleeting moments when everything in the garden is peaceful and right. I get the sense that Monty's wife and children are at the heart of everything he does. His son's sheds, his daughter's sweet peas, and the trampoline they all bounce on are as much part of Monty's garden as his hundreds of tulips or his box topiary.

His footnotes often poke fun at himself, when, with the benefit of hindsight, he disagrees with whatever he said in his articles. "Pure pontification" is how he now sees one point he made, and another is "terribly O.T.T.". At the time Monty was writing for The Observer, garden makeover shows like Ground Force were all the rage. Monty was pretty scathing about those, and quite a few other things. Again his footnotes add perspective, recalling how he upset lots of people including the B.B.C, the National Trust, the R.H.S, garden centres and bat lovers.

I discovered Monty and I share a favourite gardening book, 'Derek Jarman's Garden', and I also learnt some new things, especially about fruit trees.

Monty's slot at The Observer is now occupied by the equally excellent Dan Pearson, but it's great to have so many of Monty's articles gathered together in 'My Roots'.

Ooooh, I'm so looking forward to Gardeners' World Live!


Hannah Stoneham said...

They look absolutely beautiful

Bon weekend!


Donna said...

Monty Don has done good TV progs too. Fork to Fork; & Real Gardens. The recent one on crafts was interesting as well.

Suzanne Jones said...

The camellia is beautiful. And I think I'm going to have to get those Monty Don books - I really like volumes of collected articles.


Old Kitty said...


Oh I miss those lovely early days of Gardener's World with the late great and much missed and utterly brilliant Geoff Hamilton! I really do.

I have to admit to scowling and not giving Monty Don a chance when he was the replacement! LOL! How silly was that?

After reading your piece I am now reconsidering my silliness and maybe I ought to dip into Don's book "My Roots". I realise now he had such big welly boots to fill after Geoff Hamilton and it must have been difficult.

Oh Ground Force. I never understood that and for a decade that was all the rage wasn't it? Instant garden/house/body transformation in 20 minutes without any understanding of the need for patience and growth!

Now I wonder what he did or said to offend bat lovers of all people??


Take care

Joanne Fox said...

Just not keen on bats, Old Kitty! You know, it's amazing how often I go to garden shows and hear people say they still miss Geoff Hamilton. One in a million, that man was.

Teresa Ashby said...

Geoff Hamilton was special wasn't he.
I quite like Monty Don too, but had never heard of My Roots, but I'm off to Amazon to put it on my wish list for the future - it sounds lovely.
And your camellia is beautiful!

Joanna said...

They are beautiful camellias. My mother loves gardening and misses Geoff Hamilton. But I think she still misses Percy Thrower too. I remember her watching him, hanging on every word he said, and reminding my father that 'Percy said this' and 'Percy does it like that'.

HelenMHunt said...

I didn't know any of that about Monty Don. Very interesting.

Joanne Fox said...

Joanna I remember often driving past Percy Thrower's nursery on the way to Wales. Maybe every generation of gardeners has one person who really stands out for them.