Down to Earth with Monty Don
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...
...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.
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...
... 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.
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.
Down to Earth is a delightful read with a cuppa in a special mug, peppermint in this case.
You may also likeDave 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 ;)