Monty Don has revealed how perusing gardening at 17 helped his “fairly wayward” past self to flourish.
The Gardeners’ World presenter got candid about his teenage years and opened up about his past with Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett on their Dish podcast.
Speaking about being brought up in the countryside, Monty, 68, began: “I’ve always loved being outside. I was brought up in the country and I was, you know, incredibly lucky.
“It was a little village, half the village was my family, I have a big extended family. So I was always playing with cousins and people and in people’s houses and that…”
Angela, a restauranteur and former protege of Gordon Ramsay, cut in before she asked: “And did they garden your parents? And grow stuff?”
The BBC star replied in the affirmative before stating that despite the family having a “big garden” he didn’t initially “enjoy” spending time out there.
“We were all given jobs,” he said in explanation for his dislike. “You absolutely had to do jobs. And if you were lucky, it was sort of chopping the wood or washing up or things, you know, and if you were unlucky, it was sort of turning the compost or seeding the strawberries or whatever, but you had to do this job.
“So I associated gardening with chores really. I’d garden so I could stop gardening and then I could go and play and do other things.”
However, Monty revealed that when he was 17 he had been expelled from a “few schools” and only then did he truly start to enjoy partaking in horticulture.
“I was sort of fairly wayward, and I remember coming home from school, having a cup of tea, and going out into the garden, because that’s what I did by then, to sort of- and I remember I was sowing carrots, and I had this incredible, ecstatic moment of feeling the sunshine, of smelling the earth, of holding the seed in my hand, and it was a kind of beatific experience of just knowing that this was everything I had ever wanted, this was the whole world in this moment,” he told the Dish hosts.
“And then I was sort of thinking, ‘Well that’s a bit strange,’ because up until then sex, drugs, and rock and roll were very high on my list, and gardening was not on there, yeah!”
He added that after sowing the carrot seeds, he later went to bed and had a dream that his fingers and hands “grew like roots into the earth”.
“But I mean really, you know, 10 feet. And I woke up feeling completely calm and sort of satisfied.
“And ever since then, that connection with the earth – all the words we use – rooted me, grounded me, you know, got me back down to basics. And that’s true,” he added.
Elsewhere in the conversation, Monty laughed that in his 34-year career as a horticulturist, he is always asked for help.
“Can I tell you that the one aspect of my life that is the same wherever I go in the world is people say, ‘Could we, could you just come and help me do this? Can you tell me how to do that?,” he admitted.
Nick, 39, jokingly replied: “It’s killing me not to say, ‘While you’re in town’”.
“If you had produced a pot and some compost, I would not have been surprised,” said the author. “It happens all the time.
Series 4 of Dish from Waitrose & Partners, hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett, is available on all podcast providers now.