Archive for the ‘Monty Don’ Category

For me, the great tragedy of 2021 was the loss of the community garden plots which brought me so much pleasure in 2020.  They were always intended as temporary – developers get a tax break when community gardens use their empty lots while they wait on permits and whatnot – but the permit process went horrifically fast in this case and our lot lasted only one year.  The one time the city approved things quickly, damn them!

My gardening was restricted to a few containers this year but my dreams are never restricted and they are continuously fueled by garden books.  I had been hearing for years how wonderful The Ivington Diaries by Monty Don and finally tracked it down thanks to the inter-library loan system.

I can attest that it is, as promised, wonderful.  Consisting of diary entries written in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Don’s focus roams widely through the garden and his home life.  He is a gifted broadcaster (the only thing more comforting than actually gardening in 2020 was watching Gardener’s World) but he is an even better writer, with a lovely turn of phrase.

Arranged by month, this is the perfect book to dip in and out of as the year passes.  It’s no good trying to write more about it – I loved it, the end – so I’ll leave you instead with a few favourite passages:

“Greening” 12 May 2002:

As May slips in, there is the most astonishing greening of the world.  It shouldn’t surprise me – I’ve been here before nearly fifty times – but every year it shakes me to the core, scrambles the sediment that has silted up over winter and sends me spinning into a green space.  It is like falling in love, like recovering one’s sight.  I suspect that all gardening, all life perhaps, is built up from just a few moments like these.  Not many days in all, not a body of achievement.  Just the dew days each spring when you transcend your lumpen self.  All lyric poetry, all mystical expressions, all the most sublime music strains towards what every leaf does as carelessly each spring as it falls in autumn.

“Onoprodum” 22 June 1997:

I increasingly feel that the secret of a good garden is to choose your spreaders carefully so that you are swamped by loveliness.  I know that this goes against the grain of many gardeners’ buttock-clenching desire to control every flicker of colour and millimetre of growth but there are no transcendental moments to be had down that route.  The garden must teeter on the edge of anarchy to unfold fully, and disaster and joyous success will therefore be separated by a few days or a few square feet of accidental combinations.  The best gardeners hold the centre together by stealth and coercion rather than by strutting their horticultural stuff.

“Roses” 30 June 2002:

One of life’s lesser ironies is that flowers – one of the best and most beautiful things on the planet – are invented daily by people who have the aesthetic judgement of the average town planner on a day off.  And one of the confusing aspects of gardening is that enthusiasm for horticulture can evince itself in fanatical love of a plant, with lives literally devoted to its cultivation, amassing extraordinary depth of knowledge and yet without any development of aesthetic judgement.  It is as though after forty years a great art historian were unable to tell the difference between a Bayswater Road daub and a Matisse and yet knew everything about the provenance of both.

“Cricket” 11 July 1998:

Twelve is a fine age for a boy, an age where sex is not yet a blanket of miserable yet irresistible fog and, short of being able to drive, there is liberty enough to do most things you want.  We live in the country and Adam is a country boy.  His idea of happiness is days riding his mountain bike in the fields and woods with friends.  Always with friends.  He does things alone solely in order to be better at doing them when he sees his friends again.  As his nearest one lives five miles away, this means he can only see them if I drive him or their parents drive them.  The greatest service I can offer this holiday is to be a cross between a twenty-four-hour taxi service and a chauffeur with access to unlimited petty cash and chocolate.  Actually the cash side of things get not so petty as soon as mountain bikes enter the equation, so a chauffeur brilliantly working the futures market from the seat of the waiting vehicle, equipped with a fridge for chocolate, would be best.

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