Down to Earth with Monty Don

Monty Don introduces his new book, Down to Earth

Some days are destined to be extra special and the last day of September was one of them. Not only did I get to swan around a secret garden in the heart of London, I - along with twenty or so other garden bloggers - had the good fortune to meet Monty Don and preview his latest book, Down to Earth.

What a perfect setting the Ham Yard Hotel turned out to be...

Just a fraction of the beautiful roof terrace at Ham Yard Hotel

...nestled close to Piccadilly Circus and whisked up to the fourth floor, there's a different world waiting to be explored. It's a beautiful, productive roof garden complete with a bug hotel, bee hives and a green roof on the shed. It was a great space to explore with my blogging buddies and unlike my poor tomatoes, the hotel's were still going strong with not a hint of blight. I also envied the huge aubergines and curly chillies in the display.

The covered area in case it rains

There was plentiful space for entertaining, though we were too busy chatting and enjoying the warm afternoon in the garden to move onto the inviting sofas. Then Monty appeared, welcomed us all and briefly introduced his new book. The emphasis was more on us having the opportunity to meet him with a celebratory glass or two to hand.

Soon it was my turn for a chat and have my book signed. I also had a confession to make, something I've never told anyone until that day...

Meeting Monty Don

... Monty Don is largely responsible for the existence of this blog.

I read My Roots 10 years ago and it was the first time I found a deeply personal account of someone's gardening process. It resonated so strongly with me, my own stories kept writing themselves in my head while I was at the allotment. I can remember the first one clearly; a melancholy piece about the  realisation summer is truly over when it's time to remove the pea canes and netting.

When I decided to make my career break permanent a few months later, I had so many stories demanding to be written I decided to start my blog on the day I wrote my resignation letter. I never wrote up that first article as I needed a more cheerful virtual space to escape to at the time.

Monty 'got' what I was saying immediately and said the My Roots articles were just like a blog in their style and approach. Then we got talking about whether qualifications are needed to be a good gardener. Neither of us trained as one, but we agreed that regard for some rules is needed - whether you acquire them through training or just lots of gardening - so you know when you can bend or break them.

It feels like I've come full circle now I've met my blog's inspiration. Veg Plotting's the repository for what I've learned about gardening along the way*, just like Down to Earth is about what Monty's learned over his 50 years worth of gardening. Even his writing process sounds familiar; he started jotting down notes which came to him whilst he was in India. There wasn't even a whiff of a book, just lots of thoughts which needed an outlet at the time**.

* = I was also studying a RHS Level 2 correspondence course when I started Veg Plotting, but found I enjoyed and learned far more by researching for and writing my blog posts.

** = I wish I'd asked him if this was his usual way of writing.

The tweeted version of the day

Here's how I summed it all up on Twitter: much more succinctly than I've managed in today's blog post.

My thanks to Viv at Dorling Kindersley for the kind invitation plus all the thought she and her team put into making the day extra special. We each received a lovely goody bag; I've never had one with my name on it before and it cried out to be photographed as a flat lay.


My goody bag as a flat lay

Down to Earth is a delightful read with a cuppa in a special mug, peppermint in this case.


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Dave and Alison have written spiffing accounts of their day,  plus I found an unusual bench to share over at Sign of the Times.

If you're quick, Dave has a competition for you to win your own copy of Down to Earth (closing date is midnight BST on Sunday 15th October 2017).

Annabelle not only wrote a blog post, she videoed one too, so you can join us on our exciting day.



If the embedded video doesn't work, use this link instead. Blink and you'll miss me ;)

Comments

  1. What a wonderful day - how exciting to have met your blogging inspiration!

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  2. Looked like a great day, & you certainly put a smile on Montys face...

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    1. I chuckle to myself when I see that photo June. It looks like Monty's saying "Really?!?!" ;)

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  3. I loved this! I'm also doing a correspondence RHS course... And I'm VERY behind. Did you finish it?!?

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    1. No I gave up - blogging's much more fun! Welcome to Veg Plotting :)

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    2. On a more serious note I found a correspondence course didn't really suit me, and the one I chose wasn't that great. Luckily I don't need the qualification, and if I did I'd go for the one at my local agriculture college - they have a great setup there.

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  4. I've read everyone's post who was lucky enough to get invited to the event - it all looks rather jolly and marvellous. Loved reading about the origins of the VP blog, I'm going to have to get that book out of the library now! So pleased you've had a lovely day out, Caro x
    PS. Blog redesign?

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    1. You would have loved the roof garden Caro! Yes re the blog redesign... luckily Blogger came up with some new templates just as I was about to fork out for a similar one. There are a couple of things I would like - such as the ability to go straight to Edit from a blog post entry - but on the whole I'm pleased with it. What do you think?

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    2. That click click to edit is tiresome at first, but I have bookmarked Blogger.com and login there - now it is on autopilot. And I do like the fresh airy look!

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    3. Thanks Diana - I've noticed it's much faster to load too and my initial fears that people wouldn't click through to read were unfounded. My solution re click click is to have a tab for the All Posts view of the blog. I see Blogger have tweaked the layout slightly since I went live, so fingers crossed the edit button at post level is added soon.

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  5. What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it and for all you've blogged about through the years. I ordered my copy of Down to Earth a few days ago and am eagerly waiting for it to cross the big pond and land in my mailbox. (Yes, I ordered it from Amazon-UK, which was actually less even with shiping than ordering from Amazon-US.)

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    1. Aww, thanks Carol :) Next time try Wordery - they're usually cheaper than Amazon, ship free worldwide AND they pay their taxes! I hope you enjoy the book :)

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  6. Your delight on meeting the inspiration behind your blog comes shining through that photo. It must have been a fabulous day for you. The book is already on my seasonal wish list :)

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    1. Anna, it was wonderful - I'm still smiling inside :)

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  7. Good to read your take on the day, Michelle and interesting that Monty was your blogging inspiration. I haven't read My Roots but someone was raving about it to me the other day (esp. a bit from p134 apparently which had him laughing and crying). I shall need to get myself a copy. I certainly do remember The Ivington Diaries being an inspiration when I started at The Priory. It was a real pleasure to meet Monty at long last (and to see you again, obvs). Dave

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    1. And your take too Dave. I think I'll re-read My Roots again after I've finished Down to Earth, it'll be an interesting companion read methinks. Delighted with your plans to move to this part of the world, so hope it's not too long before we have another chinwag!

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  8. What a wonderful and great day!

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    1. It was Cecilia and welcome to Veg Plotting!

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  9. Replies
    1. ... and so charming on the day :)

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  10. Very much struck with the roof garden. I wonder if blight is less likely when plants live high up - more air circulation and lower humidity???

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    1. More than likely Lucy. I didn't spot any blight resistant varieties on my wander round. If I remember correctly, London tends to have a lower humidity anyway, and the height will help with air circulation.

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  11. I was so sorry to miss this launch, it looks like you had a wonderful time. I'm loving Down to Earth though!

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    1. Me too Catherine - it's wonderfully warm writing :)

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