Monty Don, England's most beloved gardener
January 5, 2019 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Good news! England’s beloved gardening guru Monty Don, is now streaming on Netflix with his make-over show Big Dreams, Small Spaces. [...] Unlike the outdoor make-over shows that HGTV’s programming has devolved to, it’s the right kind of make-over show, produced by people who really know gardening and aren’t trying to fool anyone about how easy it is. (Garden Rant) ‘Big Dreams, Small Spaces’ Is Like A British ‘Queer Eye,’ But With Plants (Decider) But who is Monty Don (personal website), and why to the British love him?

Per Wikipedia, Monty Don's first profession was making and selling costume jewelry (Pinterest) with his wife, Sarah. Their company collapsed in the early 1990s. After a period of unemployment, Don's first TV work came as the presenter of a gardening segment on breakfast show This Morning. From 1994 to 1995 he appeared from time to time as one of the presenters for the weekly science programme Tomorrow's World on BBC One, seen here in a segment on forgeries and laser printers.

He went on to present several Channel 4 land and gardening series, and wrote a regular weekly gardening column for The Observer between February 1994 and May 2006 and for the Daily Mail and Mail Online since 2004. Don was the main presenter on BBC Two's Gardeners' World from 2003 to 2008 succeeding Alan Titchmarsh, which the two of them discussed briefly in 2017. Don also succeeded Titschmarsh as the lead presenter for the BBC's flagship Chelsea Flower Show coverage, seen here in 2018.

For all his renown, he only describes himself an amateur. "Well, I'm still an am amateur gardener - I'm self-taught and I haven't done gardening for a living since I was 23," he says.
"I'm a professional writer and broadcaster, not a gardener. Anyway, my advice is just try it. Buy seeds and grow something you'd like to eat, that you'd take pleasure in. The process is not important - we get too hung up on the process. Don't worry about getting it right. Just do it."
If you want a bit more motivation from Monty: Parting wisdom from Monty Don take off your gloves, feel the soil, and make your garden.
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

Well. WELL. I know what I'm watching this month- filthy light thief I could kiss you!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:00 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

/me blushes

Coming up later: a post about stumperies, inspired by Monty. I only wish he had a show on desert landscaping, to further motivate me in my own yard redesign :)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:10 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]

British TV's greatest Monty since Python.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:37 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

Everything of his on Netflix is the most pleasant tv out there. His French Gardens show really perked me up when I was super sad early this winter and Big Dreams, Small Spaces is fantastic for letting me be nosy about a variety of interesting real people and watch them do things I would never attempt without them being unbelievable. It gives me 90s PBS Victory Garden vibes without any forceful retroness.

I love when he sticks in and hauls trees and rocks around with people, and I love when older women are all a-tizzy about this very handsome lovely gardening man who has come to their home to help them plant flowers, and I love when he gives funny toasts about people and they drink out of silly teacups or coconuts or whatever.

I especially love when he approaches challenges about disability accommodation with straightforwardness and respect without making it overly precious - the way he helps people make gardens for wheelchair users or toddlers with sensory challenges is the same way he helps people build faux ruins or colorful container gardens, with passion and interest and obvious personal care. I don't know how much of this is the producers or him but it's great either way.
posted by Mizu at 9:00 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]

Just finished the first episode of Big dreams, Small spaces and wow that was pleasant. Just... so nice!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:51 PM on January 5

Around The World In 80 Gardens is one of my favorites. It makes me happy to know he has French and Italian series as well. He's a little too excited sometimes for my taste but I still enjoy travelling with him. I would love to see him tour the major botanical gardens of the world.
posted by irisclara at 11:46 PM on January 5

I watched and read a lot of Monty Don a few years ago with a friend to whom doing so was helpful to her depression. The other things it's probably worth mentioning are his seasonal affective disorder and his project working with heroin addicts.
posted by paduasoy at 12:55 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]

British TV's greatest Monty since Python.
British TV does actually have a third - and even more rugged Monty - Monty Halls - marine biologist, ex-Royal marine and collie-cross whisperer - here he is in action when he spent a year on a Scottish croft. Would also recommend.
posted by rongorongo at 3:57 AM on January 6

A US/UK language query; one of those articles says
Note: in England, “garden” can mean both a yard and a garden, and in this show, it kind of doubles as both.
So what is the distinction for Americans? What I would call front garden vs back garden?
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:06 AM on January 6

An English person would/ could use "garden" to refer to the entirety of their outdoor property, which an American would call their "yard," while a garden would be a specific portion of their yard given over to a specific horticultural pursuit.
posted by JPD at 5:54 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]

His voice is so sure and trustworthy, he could probably tell me to fold my phone in half and I'd just nod along trying to make sure I got the angle right.
posted by lucidium at 6:00 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]

In American, the garden is the section of the yard (front or back, or side) with plants that are not grass/not meant to be stepped on.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:08 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]

An English person would/ could use "garden" to refer to the entirety of their outdoor property, which an American would call their "yard," while a garden would be a specific portion of their yard given over to a specific horticultural pursuit.

posted by Bloxworth Snout at 6:59 AM on January 6

I found Big Dreams, Small Spaces when someone on twitter mentioned it, I don't even garden, but I found it and his funny blue corduroy suits so comforting in a strange way.
posted by missmerrymack at 9:18 AM on January 6

I've been watching Big Dreams, Small Spaces and loving the fact that it's a reality show about work, not magical transformation. Of course, there're the singing violins at the end doing the before-and-after, but the majority of the show is normal people doing the work themselves and often having a hard time of it. American reality shows kick people out of their own homes so they can scream with delight and surprise for the ending. The work isn't even done by the American hosts, it's actually done by a team of faceless laborers behind-the-scenes, which, on shows ostensibly about that type of work, it's weird the work itself isn't really shown at all.

Big Dreams, Small Spaces shows ordinary people in ordinary spaces doing very hard work because they had an idea. It's such a wonderful process to show people running into problems, working it out, asking experts, seeing amazing spaces as inspiration or education, and then getting back to it. I'm always so proud alongside the garden-makers at the end -- they did that! Not in a few magical reality show days, but over an entire summer. It's also appreciated how dang small some of these gardens are. It's not just aspiration porn -- these gardens are possible, they're homemade, and they show how our creativity can be channeled to produce something of lasting value.
posted by missmary6 at 9:43 AM on January 6 [9 favorites]

Lovely! I happened to binge-watch two or three episodes of Big Dreams, Small Spaces yesterday, since I finished the latest season of GBBO the other day. I heard about BDSS from this New Yorker article.
posted by suelac at 2:19 PM on January 6

I love Monty Don! I also love the fact that he looks like Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil in a wig.
posted by ericthegardener at 5:18 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]

Sometimes while watching Monty Don on Netflix I realize that I am grinning. Actually grinning, sitting all by myself in the basement.

I tried to get my GBBO-obsessed 6 year old to watch Big Dreams, Small Spaces with me, but he refused. However, at bedtime he started telling me, “I hope you have sweet dreams about gardens and gardening with Monty Don,” so I think he gets it.
posted by Maarika at 5:47 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this, filthy light thief.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:22 PM on January 6

An English person would/ could use "garden" to refer to the entirety of their outdoor property, which an American would call their "yard," while a garden would be a specific portion of their yard given over to a specific horticultural pursuit.
And a corollary is that, for American visitors, trying to compliment a green fingered (not thumbed) Brit by saying "You have a beautiful yard!" - is a faux pas. Unless you are talking to the owner of a farm, industrial unit or some such.
posted by rongorongo at 10:55 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

Watching Big Dreams, Little Spaces and Monty is great.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:07 PM on January 11

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