“It’s made me revalue what a garden is”



Calling all UK readers: have you watched Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens? I won’t be able to until it’s on DVD or makes it to BBC America (the former option is the likelier of the two). What I have seen are the early previews and reviews of this new series, in which Don, who took over from Alan Titchmarsh on the popular BBC series Gardeners’ World, travels to 80 gardens throughout the planet.

One of the most perplexing statements came from Britain’s Telegraph: “And so the episode went on: at times tantalizingly suggesting that we were about to get some history of a non-gardening kind, but soon plunging back to matters botanical.” Um … isn’t this supposed to be a garden-centric show? There does seem to be much ambivalence regarding Monty Don as a garden show presenter: seems you either slightly despise him as the replacement for Titchmarsh or you kind of like him for his passion about gardening. I’ve also heard that while Titchmarsh might be considered the Roger Moore of the gardening presenter dynasty, Don is the Daniel Craig. Wow—glamorous comparisons for men who talk about seeds and plants! That wouldn’t happen on this side of the Atlantic, I fear.

As far as I can tell, Don is trying to explore gardens worldwide that express their cultural context; he’s not after the Sissinghurst of Peru or the Longwood of Siberia. Feedback from the first segment is interesting. There is a visit to Cuba, which reminds me of my earlier post about the dacha gardens of Russia. Apparently, urban allotment gardening is huge in Cuba, just as it is in the post-perestroika Russia. And not such a bad thing either, though the Telegraph thought otherwise: “To the layman, the sight of millions of people too poor to buy food (and with little food to buy if they weren’t) seemed quite a sad one.” Yeah. God forbid you should grow, not buy, your food.I must admit that I am more interested in the ancient floating gardens of the Amazon and the leftover Edens made by eccentric Englishmen in the north of Mexico than in contemporary Cuban gardening-by-necessity, but hell, I’d love the opportunity to judge for myself. This sounds like a cool show. BBC America, are you listening? Here’s Don,talking about his aspirations for the series.:

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Haven’t seen it but before I left the UK I had a drunken conversation with a BBC bod who was dating a friend of mine and pitched an idea involving TV tours of the world’s great gardens revealing their historical and cultural significance (the example I gave was Singapore BG and Kew and the Rubber theft and Quinine transfer and the resultant impact on the world’s development). I was told just such a show was already in the pipeline (thereby dashing my dreams for my show and with it the presenting job for me and inevitable fame and fortune).

    I presume this is it so I’m intrigued.

  2. It sounds very interesting. I do wonder if it will make its way across the pond. And while we’re discussing gardening shows, why can’t HGTV show some? Desperate Landscapes, although fun to watch because of its host, is really just landscaping. I always wonder if the people will even water the plants once he leaves. Where have all the gardening shows gone?~~Dee

  3. You don’t have to live in Britain to be able to get the BBC, living in the Netherlands will do the trick just as well, if not better.

    Personally I breathed a sigh of relieve when Alan was replaced by Monty (and wept buckets when Alan replaced sainted Geoff) as Monty is very much in favour of growing things organically and so am I. He’s easier on the eyes too IMO. 😉

    Come to think of it, he’s very much up Garden Rants street. You should hear Monty rant about all things horticultural that are wrong. Turns you grrrrls into ranks amateurs on the ranting front. 😉

    I liked the first episode a lot, those floating gardens were really something special; people have been growing plants on them for at least a thousand years. And they never used any chemicals or fertilizers either. They never need to water the plants either as that is done by osmosis. Who or what can beat that?

    Love the fact that all those people in Havanna were able to grow enough food for themselves and their community. What came across was their love of gardening and how proud they were to be mostly self sufficient in growing their own veggies, fruit and medicine too. Many plants are grown for medicinal purposes because it’s much cheaper than buying all those pills and stuff from abroad.

    BTW There’s going to be an episode about a famous Dutch garden (no, not designed by Piet Oudolf this time) of Palace Het Loo (rhymes with hello not do). Been there myself several times and it’s great. Will blog about that soon.

    It’s a pity you all have to wait for the DVD to come out, because this is promising to be one heck of an interesting series!

  4. I was supposed to be a gardener in Britain. Something went wrong.

    You can download the 80 gardens programs from the BBC site, but only in the UK!! Wah!

    Any Brits out there who would do it and send it to me? I’ll send you the latest Christopher Lloyd book in exchange! Or pay you. Whatever it takes–within reason.

  5. The Telegraph is a right-wing newspaper so the remark about Cuba and “so sad to see people having to grow their own food” is a reflection of the anti-Cuba policy promoted by the USA and Bush especially. It is an entirely stupid remark given the allotment movement’s history in the UK.

  6. Ok, the YouTube clip has me interested. You’d think, in this day of digital downloads, that we’d be able to buy the show on iTunes or something. That’s what I do when my DVR goes on the fritz.

    I checked Netflix and it didn’t come up.

    There was another intriguing unavailable-in-the-U.S. garden-touring show produced in Canada a couple years ago that I was trying to find a way to watch. Now I can’t remember the name, but it looked good… way better than the often tepid or horrific fare on HGTV.

    Anyway, thanks for telling us about this one. It looks good!

  7. Caught the tail end of this programme including the Cuba bit and it was great: Monty’s a hero!

    Can you start a petition to get PBS to run it or something? Can’t think of any way around the problem with BBC iPlayer though – you really do have to be in the UK, it seems.

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