In 2008, the landscape of British television gardening seemingly changed for ever when the much-loved Monty Don stepped down as presenter of the BBC’s flagship horticultural series Gardeners’ World after suffering a minor stroke.
Despite vowing he would never go back, on Friday 11 March the Don (and the BBC will hope the ratings) returns to the show, much to the delight of many green-fingered armchair fans – but as he reveals in the latest issue of Radio Times, this time it’s on his terms.
“The BBC said I could film in my own garden,” he says, “and that made all the difference.”
During Don’s first tenure fronting the series (2002–2008), the 55-year-old had overseen a garden called Berryfields in the Midlands that the BBC had acquired after Alan Titchmarsh (and his garden) left the programme.
“I was told my garden was too mature,” explains Don, who suggested his own garden in Herefordshire as the subject of the programme in 2002, yet was told by the BBC “that we wouldn’t be able to make enough changes”.
“But the truth was,” he adds “that after leaving the familiarity of Alan’s garden, the BBC saw an opportunity to create the programme’s own garden from scratch.”
Although this time around Don will present the show from his own 19-section garden, he still remembers how he struggled dividing his time and emotional energy between two gardens.
“You develop such an intimacy with your own garden and I missed it. I went to Berryfields for five years, and in all that time I gardened less personally than I do at home. It was like living in a rented house: I was planting with a view to things growing quickly – in the next year or two – whereas at home, I think about my children and my grandchildren.”
You can read more about Monty Don’s return to Gardeners’ World, his personal highs and lows and the garden he calls home in this week’s Radio Times, available now.