Review: The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

The word ‘complete’ has never been so accurately used.

What I love about Monty Don is that while the rest of us are fussing about with design, technique, “interest” and focal points, he cuts through all of the clatter with style and a calm understanding of the soul and spirit of gardening.

Magically delivering on all of the components that make a great garden and doing it better than any of us in the process.

gardening-books1There seems to be the constant reassuring message of “don’t worry, just do” and somehow you’ll get to where you want to be. And it works, so we can all share a bit of the Monty magic. A sign of someone who has truly mastered his craft.

A must read for any aspiring organic gardener

The Complete Gardener is a few years old at the time of reading and it stands up perfectly to today’s books. I recommend it.

I’m a big fan of the RHS and their precision guidance. Sometimes though, I enjoy simply reading in great detail how other gardeners have succeeded, because nature never plays by the rulebook.

Ultimately it is the seed sown in the first chapter about organic gardening (and what that really means) that is most important. This theme runs throughout the rest of the book. Monty Don makes organic gardening cool, aspirational, achievable and fun.

I rather naively hadn’t realized how organic a gardener Monty Don is – because the BBC must restrain some of this on Gardener’s World. This book though, Monty unleashed, has forever changed my mindset on the subject and I will always strive to be completely organic as a result. I wish I had read this sooner.

The urge to grow vegetables and herbs

Where this book differs from so many, is that you feel as though you are sitting there in Longmeadow listening to Monty imparting his knowledge directly. Giving tips on why things do and don’t grow from his successes and mistakes. In many ways, this is so much more useful a read than the prescriptive “plant in full sun, 10cm apart… bla bla” back of a seed packet advice.

The guidance on ornamental borders is excellent. It is the advice on vegetables, fruit and herbs that made me long to get gardening however. There’s something wholesome and romantic about the idea of having your own productive orchard, herb garden and veg plots – The Complete Gardener has altered my views on supermarkets and health permanently.

The only slight frustration for us currently is that we have a patio in Clapham… and that’s it (our own fault). Herbs will find their way in. I’m now on the hunt for a nearby allotment or field to rent!

Summary: The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

I’ve read two of Monty Don’s books so far. The Complete Gardener and The Jewel Garden, a book about the setting up of Monty and Sarah Don’s Longmeadow.

The Jewel Garden is interesting because it explains in diary format the pain of their jewelry business collapse, leading to their gardening future. It reminded me of my father losing his London based design business in the same recession, with three young children, both of my parents pushed onto a new path in childcare nurseries and holiday cottages in Yorkshire. It sets the scene for the gardening passion.

If you are an amateur gardener like me, and interested in gardening even slightly, start here. Every sentence of The Complete Gardener is thoroughly enjoyable and life enriching as you learn. It’s a personal account of how to be a good gardener with rafts of real advice and guidance from one of our greatest gardeners and garden commentators.

Score: 5/5

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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