The Secret History of the British Garden episode 4: Monty Don concludes his journey through Britain’s gardening heritage by looking at how the nation’s gardens have evolved over the last hundred years. He looks at the profound effect that two world wars had on attitudes to gardens and gardening.
Today, gardening is one of Britain’s most popular pastimes and the horticultural industry is now annually worth over nine billion pounds to the economy. Monty uncovers the stories and reveals the pioneers who led this gardening revolution.
For Monty, gardens are every bit as important as the houses we live in, and in this concluding episode of the series, he explains how this has become as important in the present day as in the 17th century, where his journey through Britain’s gardens began.
The Secret History of the British Garden episode 4
Monty Don was born in West Berlin to British parents Denis Thomas Keiller Don, a career soldier posted in Germany, and Janet Montagu (née Wyatt). Both of his paternal grandparents were Scottish, through whom he is descended from botanist George Don and the Keiller family of Dundee, inventors of a brand of marmalade in 1797. On his maternal side, he is descended from the Wyatts, who were a prominent dynasty of architects. Both parents died in the 1980s. Don has a twin sister, an elder brother David, and two other siblings. His twin suffered a broken neck and blindness after a car crash, at the age of 19. Don describes his parents as being “very strict”.
Don was educated at three independent schools: Quidhampton School in Basingstoke, Hampshire, Bigshotte School in Wokingham, Berkshire, and at Malvern College in Malvern, Worcestershire, a college he hated. He then attended a state comprehensive school, the Vyne School, in Hampshire. He failed his A levels and while studying for re-takes at night school, worked on a building site and a pig farm by day. During his childhood he had become an avid gardener and farmer. He was determined to go to Cambridge out of “sheer bloody-mindedness”, attending Magdalene College, where he read English and met his future wife Sarah (née Erskine). He was a Cambridge Half Blue for boxing.