Monty Don confession: How gardener fulfilled life ambition after near-death experience

Monty Don, 64, has become Britain’s best known green-fingered extraordinaire during his time as a TV gardener. Last week, he celebrated the 52nd birthday of his beloved BBC flagship show, Gardeners’ World.

Having presented it since 2003, it has become one of the things Monty is most proud of.

This was made all the more so when, in 2011, viewers around the country were invited into Monty’s Herefordshire home where he has presented from ever since.

A few weeks ago, Monty found himself in our living rooms yet again, this time presenting the Chelsea Flower Show.

It wasn’t, however, anything like the show’s usual running.

With the coronavirus outbreak and current lockdown, participants were forced to present their flamboyant displays from their own homes.

Competitors were left despondent at the news, many having prepared in excess of a year for the big date.

In 2008, Monty suffered an intense health scare.

It led to a hiatus from presenting Gardeners’ World, and a revaluation of the strenuous work he was putting himself through.

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At the time, he told the Daily Mail how he woke one morning with his body’s entire left side numb.

Feeling nauseous and dizzy, he explained: “I turned to Sarah in a panic and said ‘I think I’m having a stroke.

“I’d been feeling pretty rotten since Christmas, which I’d put down to exhaustion because I’d been working so hard, but this was completely different.

“It felt like there was a kind of chasm in my head, as if there was a section that wasn’t working. It was the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to speak if I tried, but then when I did try I found I could.


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“My rational mind was saying ‘You can do this’, but my first reaction to anything, such as moving my arm, was ‘I can’t do this’.”

He later added: “I said to my wife Sarah ‘Hold me because I think I’m dying and, if I am, I want to die in your arms’.”

The episode was later identified as a minor stroke, also known as a transient ischaemic attack.

Coming within death’s grasp led to a period of reflection.

One such meditation was revealed during a Radio Times interview in 2016, when Monty revealed how he relished the thought of becoming a grandfather.

Although, at the time, he conceded that the prospect seemed far away.

Talking about his beloved golden retriever, Nellie, he revealed his heartbreaking wish for grandchildren.

He said: “My children tell me I’m much too indulgent with Nellie, so perhaps when the time comes I shall treat grandchildren the same way, like very favoured dogs.

“There is no immediate prospect of grandfatherhood that I’m aware of, but I’d really like to have small children around again.

“I’d know what to do. I’d be less cross about things that there’s no need to be cross about. And I can always hand them back.

“Most problems in parenthood are to do with exhaustion, trying to do six things at once.”

Monty has since been gifted a single grandchild, a boy, George Jack Don.

The little Don was born on May 28, 2019.

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