Book Review: American Gardens

By Monty Don

photos by Derry Moore

Published by Prestel

Hardback 223 pages

ISBN: 9783791386751

Published autumn 2020

£35

Such a lot has changed since Mum and I sat, side by side, watching Monty Don’s American Gardens television series over the winter. Little did we know corona virus was on the way, and we wouldn’t see each other for most of the spring and summer. One of our simple pleasures in life is to watch the gardening programmes mum has recorded the week before. Enjoying our home-made cake and cups of tea, we would um and ah over the gardens- much more fun than watching alone. We were unanimous in our admiration of glorious, colourful, plant-filled gardens, and sternly, dismissively critical of others. And laughter. There was much laughter. Such fun. Just watching in companionable silence too. I miss those moments. Mum has to be extremely careful. So our fledgling visits to each other’s gardens have been cautious and metres apart. Indoors, and television -watching, is rationed. I touch nothing and keep a distance. This is how it will be until we have faster, easier corona virus testing. Or a vaccine.

Just as I’m mulling over all the changes to our lives, and trying to solve a few impossible problems, Monty’s new book arrives. And I sit down and read it. From cover to cover. Monty Don asks, ‘What is an American garden.’ Well, if he can be as bold as to attempt to find the answer to that question, I’m sure I can overcome one or two tricky dilemmas of my own. I clearly remember Monty saying “The belief you can do anything, if you believe in it enough, is what defines the American Garden.” Reading his new book transports you to another place where anything is possible. And that’s certainly a message we all need right now.

Here’s some of the gardens I picked out to show you, and ones I enjoyed in his new book.

The Federal Twist garden, Stockton, New Jersey is one that stands out.

I’m still chuckling over the quote from owner James Golden, who says,”I forgot to mention that I hate gardening.”
Monty notes “It was probably a well-rehearsed line but, given the extraordinarily beautiful garden he has created and the deep pleasure that it clearly gives him, an effective show-stopper. Why? I asked. ‘I hate getting my hands dirty. I hate struggling to separate roots and then digging a hole. I have someone to do that for me. I place the plants, pull plants out. I’m constantly working out what I need and where to move things. I don’t feel it necessary to dig or plant to be fully engaged with the garden.’ I suspect that the British, and in this I include myself, fetishise the actual process of gardening too much, sometimes to the extent that the hardworking, skilful means justify the rather dull ends.”

A revealing portrait of the gardener, and of the garden visitor, Monty Don.

These are my i-phone photos of the book taken in the potting shed, and do not do justice to the clarity of the stunning photography by Derry Moore.

Federal Twist.

Federal Twist.

The swimming pool at the Bob Hope House, Palm Springs.

Inside the Amazon Spheres in Seattle.

Climbing fig (Ficus pumila) in the orangery at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC.

Vizcaya, Miami, Florida. The house reflected in the Tuscan-inspired pool.

Prairie Garden Trust, New Bloomfield, Missouri. A field of coneflowers.

Central Park, New York City. The two towers of the San Remo apartment building designed by Emery Roth in 1930.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Monty sitting under a banyan tree. He looks lost in thought. The sheer scale of the trees and the landscape. It’s mesmerising.

You’ll have to read the book to see what conclusions Monty arrives at. I found it a joy to read in these troubled times. If humans can create gardens such as these, surely it gives us hope. Anything is possible. And at the end of the day, that’s what we need most of all at the moment. Hope.

Links:

Leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page, and Prestel will select one reader to receive a free copy. Sorry, uk addresses only at the moment. I’ll run another draw when the book is published in America. It would make a wonderful Christmas present. It’s certainly a ‘wow’ production, with glossy double page spreads of photographs and thought-provoking writing.

Prestel publishing: https://prestelpublishing.randomhouse.de/book/American-Gardens/Monty-Don/Prestel-com/e570814.rhd

Federal Twist garden: https://federaltwist.com/

I’m @kgimson on twitter and on instagram https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en.

Thank you for reading.

18 thoughts on “Book Review: American Gardens

  1. Karen hold on to those wonderful memories of watching gardening shows with your dear Mother. You will see them again with her to comment on them and laugh together accompanied by a tea and a cake. Monty Don’s book is magnificent, I love it. All the photos of the American gardens are divine, I love the gardens that you have chosen. It is literally a weighty book in every way: I really like it. Karen I totally agree with your reflections on the wonderful effects of gardens on people and how they make you forget the Covid and help you and give you strength to fight against the pandemic. Karen for your whole family, Mr B and for you a lot of health, a lot of strength, a lot of hope and a lot of love. Stay safe. Loving caresses for Grace, Meg and Monty. All my love for everyone and best wishes for your dear Mother. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen hold on to those wonderful memories of watching gardening shows with your dear Mother. You will see them again with her to comment on them and laugh together accompanied by a tea and a cake. Monty Don’s book is magnificent, I love it. All the photos of the American gardens are divine, I love the gardens that you have chosen. It is literally a weighty book in every way: I really like it. Karen I totally agree with your reflections on the wonderful effects of gardens on people and how they make you forget the Covid and help you and give you strength to fight against the pandemic. Karen for your whole family, Mr B and for you a lot of health, a lot of strength, a lot of hope and a lot of love. Stay safe. Loving caresses for Grace, Meg and Monty. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your review Karen but not a book that appeals to me. As soon as you mentioned the weight I shuddered! Please do not enter me in the draw. I will be looking out for Monty’s other new title though. I admire James Golden’s honesty. Hope that it isn’t too long before you and your mum can watch garden programmes together again with a cuppa and a slice of delicious homemade cake. Oh for a return to those sorts of simple pleasures that we used to take for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, wasn’t it a wonderful programme. Mum and I watched it together. All the more poignant now, as we are separated again by covid fears. I really miss just simple things such as sitting watching the gardening programmes mum has recorded. Not so much fun watching alone. No-one to hum and ahh over things. Yes, I’m making my Christmas list. This book would be a good one to have. Substantial is a good description. Weighty! Weighs 3.14lb. Nearly cut the blood circulation off in my legs! Definitely need a table to read it on. Recommended.

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  4. Looks to be a fantastic book. I enjoyed Monty’s programme and was intrigued a with the Seattle information. which was my home town. I’d love to win this, as I am still enlivend by information on the range of gardens, climates and gardeners in the USA. Well done Prestel for producing such a beautiful book!

    Liked by 1 person

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