This is more than a book about a garden, it’s a book about love and steadfastness in the face of adversity.
I’ve admired Monty Don since his garden-to-kitchen series “Fork to Fork”, and possibly before that – my memory fails me. Unknown to him, I’ve always been grateful to him for, quite by chance, giving the beanpole tripods for clematis that I’d erected in a garden I was working in some “street cred” or should that be “garden cred” by doing the same on Gardeners’ World that very same week.
I envied him his house at Long Meadow because it seems so romantic, but now I know the pain endured before he and Sarah his wife bought that property, I don’t think I’d want to swap places.
I was under the impression that television, like writing, earns loadsamoney, but on reading this book, have discovered that, like writing, it does not, and that there were times when the Dons struggled like most families in Britain – and fared worse than many because of the intermittent and random nature of television and writing.
This insight gave an added poignancy to the story of the Jewel Garden. I’ve watched Gardeners’ World and assumed that the “jewel” aspect was just because of the bright, jewel-like planting, but actually there is much more to it than that.
This is an honest piece of work, which means there are times when the pain Monty Don suffered and Sarah endured in the early years resonates with the sympathetic reader. I was intrigued to learn that, like me, Monty Don feels a stab of grief over the mowing down of verge-side Queen Anne’s Lace, and he, like me, feels that melancholic pang as Midsummer’s Night passes and the year starts to ebb even before it has come to fruition.
I loved the photographs. One or two are fascinating; Monty might feel embarrassed about the posed photo on the ladder but I think it’s charming. There’s one of Sarah Don, radiating warmth and love, deep in thought, while Monty looks very tired. There are some exquisite photos of flowers, some perhaps a little too saturated for my personal taste, but this is about jewels. I particularly liked the Miscanthus photos – my kind of picture, those. And the misty photos of Long Meadows in the early morning golden hour are magical and romantic.
There are passages by Sarah interspersed with Monty’s diary excerpts and his narrative, and seeing two aspects of one story works very well. This is indicated in the book by different fonts.
I am so pleased I got this book and would recommend it to anyone who would like to know a little bit more about the man behind the TV personality. It’s a beautiful book, it’s a brave book, and I loved it.