TV gardener Monty Don has admitted he hated gardening as a child, growing up in Hampshire. Don, who was born in West Germany, moved to the county aged one and attended schools in Basingstoke.
Describing his parents as “very strict”, Don became an avid gardener and farmer as a child, even working on a pig farm while studying for his A-Levels. However, in a personal talk at the Chelsea Flower Show, he revealed he didn’t like gardening when he was younger.
The 66-year-old described how gardening became a passion that helped him deal with mental health challenges, but admitted he didn’t always feel that way. He described being “forced” to help out in the large garden of the home he grew up in in Hampshire.
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Reflecting on his childhood, he said, “You were expected to go work in the garden and that earned you the right to go and play, and of course that resented me deeply. I hated fucking gardening, because it kept me from doing what I wanted to do.”
However, he went on to describe a crucial shift in his attitude that happened when he was sowing carrot seeds as a teenager. He described the experience as filling him with “pure joy, ecstasy, this feeling of being in the right place, that everything is fine”.
The BBC Gardeners’ World presenter said writing and broadcasting is his profession, but gardening is his passion because “it soothes a troubled mind. It’s bliss”.
He said gardening and gardens are extremely important for well-being and for bringing people closer to nature. “It’s good that mental illness is gradually being de-stigmatized, but there’s still a long way to go even to start tackling the problem.”
Speaking to the crowd at the Chelsea Flower Show, he expressed dismay at mental health treatment being under-resourced, insufficient research and overworked staff, describing it as a ‘major national problem’ . But he added that gardening can help people heal.
He also said: “So many people discovered during the lockdown two years ago – that first lockdown with that amazing spring – every garden, no matter how small, humble, unassuming, inexperienced, is rich in wildlife. And in the garden, we get this first-hand connection to nature, and it’s as direct and as personal as most people are ever going to experience.”
His argument that gardens are the basis of a healthy and sustainable mind led him to call for every school to have a garden, with outdoor classes, and for every new housing estate to have a communal garden. Don said planners should emphasize allotments with all new developments above a certain size.
“Children need to be shown from an early age that this world, this troubled beautiful world, is here in all its glory on our doorstep, that caring for this planet and each other starts at home, not in the forests. and ice caps. And that blackbirds and blackbirds and cabbage white butterflies, and even worms and beetles, are just as important and interesting as the snow leopard or the blue whale,” he said. declared.
He warned that the vast majority of 18-35 year olds do not feel empowered when it comes to horticulture, that the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Horticultural Society and Gardeners’ World are for them. He added that the most important job of his life will be to “embrace, encourage and welcome a young generation” into the world of gardening.
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