Monty Don: How ‘life-changing miracle’ lit up TV gardener’s career

Monty Don has become something of a gardening legend. He has presented the BBC’s Gardeners’ World since 2003, a much sought after job in the world of horticulture. Eight years later, in 2011, the green-fingered expert began hosting the show from his sprawling home in Herefordshire.

A self-confessed workaholic, Monty took on the additional role of becoming one of the main hosts of the famous Chelsea Flower Show in 2014.

With this year’s show cancelled, contestants presented their displays from their own homes, with Monty presenting a slew of programmes across the one-week festival last month.

He has carved a career out of broadcasting – but that was never his main goal.

Yet, television, as Monty has admitted several times during interviews, has been the making of him.

Since the turn of the century, Monty has enjoyed a lucrative career as one of the country’s best-known TV gardeners.

It hasn’t always been as plain-sailing as it might seem, though.

In the Eighties, he and his wife Sarah set up a costume jewellery business.

Disillusioned with London living and the weight of a business, Monty and Sarah jumped ship and bought a house in Herefordshire with land.

This was the beginning of their troubles.

Their previous London home had not sold, and there was still a business to be run.

The business fell apart and Monty, almost ignoring the world around him, gardened their New Hereford home so relentlessly Sarah described him as having been “married” to it.

A loan to buy a farm and subsequent crash of the business left Monty and his family in severe debt and near-bankruptcy.

For two years their unemployment was deep rooted.

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At the end of a jobless season, Monty struck gold and managed a slot on a TV gardening segment in the early Nineties.

This, combined with a job writing a column for the Observer, although small, proved a pivotal and life changing moment for Monty.

Talking to the Observer’s former deputy editor during a 2016 Guardian interview, Monty revealed just how much the writing job had been a before and after moment.

He said: “I remember the Observer calling and saying they would like me to do the column.


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“The editor explained it wasn’t unfortunately a ‘life-changing’ contract, with a bit of a laugh.

“I think it was £250 a week.

“But the fact was that to me at that moment it really was life-changing.

“We had a young family, we had lost our house and everything.

“The idea that somebody was saying we are going to give you this cheque every week was like a miracle.”

Monty has since had a fairly quiet life, apart from a brief health scare in 2008 which saw the broadcaster experience a mini heart attack.

He recalled the moment he realised something was wrong to the Guardian in 2009.

He said: “I remember waking up feeling strange and dizzy and saying to Sarah, ‘God, something funny is happening; I may be having a stroke’.”

“We weren’t thinking: this is a disaster. I said: ‘Hang on, I can move my fingers.’ I remember thinking: Oh, get a grip, you’re fine.”

Continued spells of dizziness and off balance forced Monty’s family to urge him to visit the hospital.

Seeing a neurologist, a brain scan confirmed a minor stroke.

He said: “Fortunately the damage was slight and the brain can repair itself to a degree.”

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