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Monty Don is the main presenter of BBC-TV's Gardener's World. He is one of the UK's most respected gardeners and gardening writers. He has been gardening correspondent for the Observer since 1994 and is at the forefront of the environmental and organic gardening debate.
This is not a book about French Gardens. It is the story of a man travelling round France visiting a few selected French gardens on the way. Owners, intrigues, affairs, marriages, feuds, thwarted ambitions and desires, the largely unnamed ordinary gardeners, wars, plots and natural disasters run through every garden older than a generation or two and fill every corner of the grander historical ones. Families marry. Gardeners are poached. Political allegiances forged and shattered. The human trail crosses from garden to garden. They sit in their surrounding landscape, not as isolated islands but attached umbilically to it, sharing the geology, the weather, food, climate, local folklore, accent and cultural identity. Wines must be drunk and food tasted. Recipes found and compared. The perfect tarte-tartin pursued. None of these things can be ignored or separated from the shape and size of parterre, fountain, herbaceous border or pottager. So this is a book filled with stories and information, some of it about French gardens and gardening, but most of it about what makes France unlike anywhere else. From historical gardens like Versailles,Vaux le Vicomte and Courances to the kitchen gardens of the Michelin chef Alain Passard. There are grand potagers like Villandry and La Prieure D'Orsan and allotments and back gardens spotted on the way. Monty celebrates the obvious French associations of food and wine and finds gardens dedicated to vegetables, herbs and fruit. It is a book that any visitor to France, whether gardeners or not, will want to read both as a guide and an inspiration. It is a portal to get under the French cultural skin and to understand the country, in all its huge variety and disparity, a little better.
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 15 April 2010. The seasons in Monty Don’s hands are equally blessed. Capturing15 years of creative gardening at his farmhouse home in Ivington (in Herefordshire), Monty makes milky winter-sun pruning just as pleasurable as the heady thrills of summer gardening. It is an everyday diary but each entry comes from different years within the span – so there’s a story of Weeds on 9 January 1999 followed by Moles on 10 January 2004. But it all reads seamlessly, as seasons do in memory. His writing, like his gardening, is rigorous, solid, honest, beautiful, whimsical. His happiest experiences include being in the garden with his wife Sarah, each on their own patch, simultaneously working out their dreams for the place.
The book to accompany the TV series has all the charm of the gardener and presenter himself. A lovely book looking at gardens from all over the world, with their varying species and styles. The only criticism we can give is that perhaps there aren't as many photographs as you might like but this is still a lovely book.
'TRULY INSPIRING' Mail on Sunday Now familiar to millions of Gardeners' World fans as Longmeadow (the home of Nigel & Nellie), this is the story of Monty & Sarah Don's early days there. THE JEWEL GARDEN is the story of the garden that bloomed from the muddy fields around the Dons' Tudor farmhouse, a perfect metaphor for the Monty and Sarah's own rise from the ashes of a spectacular commercial failure in the late '80s . At the same time THE JEWEL GARDEN is the story of a creative partnership that has weathered the greatest storm, and a testament to the healing powers of the soil. Monty Don has always been candid about the garden's role in helping him to pull back from the abyss of depression; THE JEWEL GARDEN elaborates on this much further. Written in an optimistic, autobiographical vein, Monty and Sarah's story is truly an exploration of what it means to be a gardener.