Don in 2007
George Montagu Don
8 July 1955
|Alma mater||Magdalene College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Television presenter, gardener, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Sarah Erskine (1983–present)|
Early life and education
Don was born George Montagu Don on 8 July 1955 in Iserlohn, West Germany, the youngest son of British parents Denis Thomas Keiller Don, a career soldier posted in Germany, and Janet Montagu (née Wyatt). A family dispute over his name caused his parents to remove "George" from his name and his birth certificate changed to Montagu Denis Don. At age 10 Don added his mother's maiden name of Wyatt to it. Both of his paternal grandparents were Scottish, through whom he is descended from botanist George Don and the Keiller family of Dundee, inventors of a brand of marmalade in 1797. On his maternal side, he is descended from the Wyatt family, who were a prominent dynasty of architects. When Don was one, the family moved to Hertfordshire, England. He had a twin sister and three other siblings; his twin suffered a broken neck and blindness after a car crash at the age of 19. Don describes his parents as being "very strict".
Don was educated at three independent schools: Quidhampton School in Basingstoke, followed by Bigshotte School in Wokingham, where at seven, he was asked to leave school for being too boisterous. He then attended Malvern College in Malvern, which he hated, followed by a state comprehensive school, the Vyne School, in Hampshire. He failed his A-levels and while studying for retakes at night school, worked on a building site and a pig farm by day. During his childhood he had become an avid gardener and farmer. He was determined to go to Cambridge out of "sheer bloody-mindedness", attending Magdalene College, where he read English and met his future wife Sarah Erskine, a trained jeweller. He was a Cambridge Half Blue for boxing.
In 1981, Don and Erskine started Monty Don Jewellery, a business that designed, made, and sold costume jewellery. In 1986, they operated from a shop on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge, London and the company grew to have 20 employees, hundreds of outworkers, and 60 outlets across the US, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Liberty, and sold their products to Boy George, Michael Jackson, and Princess Diana. However, the 1987 stock market crash caused an almost complete bankruptcy as it cut off American sales, their biggest market. The situation prompted Don to embark on a career in writing and broadcasting. Reflecting on the experience, he wrote: "We were lambs to the slaughter and we lost everything, [...] we lost our house, our business. We sold every stick of furniture we had at Leominster market". He was unemployed from 1991 to 1993, and spent all of 1992 on the dole. Some of the jewellery is kept at the V&A Museum in London.
Don's first TV work came as the presenter of a gardening segment on breakfast show This Morning. He featured as a guest presenter for the BBC's Holiday programme. From 1994 to 1995 he appeared from time to time as one of the presenters for the weekly science programme Tomorrow's World on BBC One. He went on to present several Channel 4 land and gardening series: Don Roaming, Fork to Fork, Real Gardens and Lost Gardens, and wrote a regular weekly gardening column for The Observer between February 1994 and May 2006 and for the Daily Mail and Mail Online since 2004.
Don had never received formal training as a gardener. He commented, "I was – am – an amateur gardener and a professional writer. My only authority came from a lifetime of gardening and a passion amounting to an obsession for my own garden."
He is a keen proponent of organic gardening and the practice of organic techniques often features in his published and broadcast work. The organic approach is most prominent in his 2003 book The Complete Gardener. This has led him into some controversy with those advocating non-organic techniques, with some criticising his position of influence presenting Gardeners' World and exclusion of non-organic solutions to pests and diseases in the garden.
Don was the main presenter on BBC Two's Gardeners' World from 2003 to 2008 succeeding Alan Titchmarsh. He was the first self-taught horticulturist presenter in the show's 36-year history, stepping down only after suffering a minor stroke. During his tenure viewing figures fell from 5 million to 2 million, this fall being most frequently blamed on the change in format after Don.  After viewing figures for Gardeners' World fell below two million for the first time in 2009, in January 2010, changes were announced to the programme in an attempt to entice viewers back. In December 2010, it was announced that Don would be returning to the programme as lead presenter for the 2011 series, replacing Toby Buckland. Reaction to the announcement was divided on the programme's blog. Since March 2011 he has been presenting the programme from his own garden, Longmeadow, in Herefordshire. He was frequently seen on screen with his golden retriever Nigel until the dog died in May 2020, shortly before his 12th birthday. In 2016  Don had also introduced viewers of Gardeners' World to a new golden retriever called Nellie and in April 2020 introduced a Yorkshire terrier called Pattie.
Don featured in the BBC programme and book, Growing out of Trouble, in which several heroin addicts manage a 6-acre (2.4 ha) Herefordshire smallholding in an attempt at rehabilitation. He also presented Around the World in 80 Gardens (BBC Two 27 January – 30 March 2008) and in December 2008, narrated a programme about the cork oak forests of Portugal, for the BBC's natural history series Natural World. He presented My Dream Farm, a series which helped people learn to become successful smallholders (Channel 4, January 2010) and Mastercrafts, a six-part series for BBC Two, which celebrated six traditional British crafts. He has twice been a panellist on the BBC's Question Time (February 2009 and March 2010) and his family history was the subject of the fourth programme in the seventh series of the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? (August 2010). In April 2011 he presented Monty Don's Italian Gardens, a four-part BBC2 series which was accompanied by the publication of a book. In February 2013, a companion series, Monty Don's French Gardens, was broadcast.
In 2013 Don presented an episode of Great British Garden Revival. In 2015 he presented The Secret History of the British Garden, a BBC Two series, in four parts, charting the development of British gardens from the 17th to the 20th century. Since 2014, Don has presented three series of Big Dreams, Small Spaces on BBC Two, where he helps amateur gardeners in creating their own 'dream spaces' on a domestic scale.
At home and abroad, Monty Don is the paysan manqué. Where an arts presenter might eschew the little black Armani suit and the dazzling white shirt for the crumpled linen, Don’s gear retreats into the manly rumpledon of a workman’s cotton drill. He is not quite the Mr McGregor of the Potter books: real-life ancient gardeners wore mighty cords and moleskins, tweeds and flannels – and sacks if the weather was bad enough. The Don affectation is one tad more painterly than that. ... I guess that this is where we come up against the row within Monty Don, between the lightly earthy garden enthusiast and the grimmer unworldly hippy moralist. Well, we all have an inner cheerfully accepting Cavalier, and it does battle with our gloomier Roundhead.
In 2005 Don himself dedicated a whole column to this subject, commenting:
I get lots of emails, lots of letters. A few are crazed, quite a few astonishingly demanding... quite a surprisingly large chunk of letters and emails are about one specific topic that is at first appearance only tangentially about gardening. These are the ones asking me about the clothes that I garden in.
In January 2018 he presented the two-part BBC series Monty Don's Paradise Gardens, travelling across the Islamic world and beyond in search of paradise gardens and considering their place in the Quran. In February 2019 a similar two-part BBC series Monty Don's Japanese Gardens gave similar treatment to gardens in Japan. A Monty Don's American Gardens series was shown in 2020.
Don and Sarah married in 1983; they have two sons, Adam and Tom, and daughter Freya. The couple lived in Islington, north London, while Don pursued postgraduate study at London School of Economics and worked as a waiter at Joe Allen restaurant in Covent Garden and later as a binman. He completed two unpublished novels, The Clematis Affair and An Afternoon in Padua, which he later described as "excruciatingly bad". The couple then moved to the De Beauvoir Town area of Hackney where they made their first garden. In 1989, they relocated to The Hanburies, a large country house in Herefordshire. The making of the gardens there and the subsequent loss of the house in the aftermath of the crash of their business was the subject of his first published book, The Prickotty Bush. Since 1991, the family have lived at Ivington, Herefordshire.
Don has two dogs: golden retriever Nellie, and Pattie a Yorkshire terrier. The coppice at Longmeadow holds the graves of Dons' other dogs, marked by headstones: Beaufort, Red, Poppy and Barry, and cats Stimpy and Blue. Don's dog Nigel, also a golden retriever, died on 11 May 2020. Don told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Nigel had been more than a companion and had helped him with his struggles with depression. Don also has a sheep farm, on which he keeps 500 ewes.
Don has written of his struggle with depression since the age of 25 and Seasonal Affective Disorder. He describes in his memoir "great spans of muddy time" in which there is nothing but depression. He noted "'Earth heals me better than any medicine". He has had cognitive behavioural therapy and took Prozac before favouring a lightbox, now a recognised aid for Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers. He had peritonitis in 2007 and a minor stroke in 2008. Shortly before he fell ill with his stroke, Don had launched the Monty Don Project, a charity to help persistent offenders and drug addicts heal themselves by working the land.
In July 2006 he appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, choosing an eclectic mix of pop and classical records; the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" was his favourite disc, his book choice was Collected Poems by Henry Vaughan and his luxury item the painting Hendrikje Bathing by Rembrandt.
In May 2016 Don revealed that years of gardening had left him with "dodgy knees", from which he was "almost constantly in pain". But he dismissed any suggestion of replacement joints, saying: "Listen, when you get to 60, you ache. Just take it."
- 1990: The Prickotty Bush, Macmillan, ISBN 978-0333-5118-86
- 1995: The Weekend Gardener
- 1997: The Sensuous Garden
- 1998: Gardening Mad
- 1999: Fork to Fork (From the Garden to the Table: Growing, Cooking, and Eating Your Own Food in US, 2003)
- 2003: The Complete Gardener
- 2004: The Jewel Garden (Hodder & Stoughton), with Sarah Don
- 2005: Gardening From Berryfields
- 2006: Growing out of Trouble
- 2006: My Roots: A Decade in the Garden
- 2008: Around the World in 80 Gardens
- 2009: The Ivington Diaries
- 2010: My Dream Farm
- 2010: The Home Cookbook, with Sarah Don
- 2011: Great Gardens of Italy
- 2012: Gardening at Longmeadow
- 2013: The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey
- 2016: Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs, Two Roads, ISBN 978-1473-6416-93
- 2017: Down to Earth: Gardening Wisdom
- 2018: Paradise Gardens
- 2019: Japanese Gardens: A Journey
- 2003-2008, 2011-Present: Gardeners' World
- 2008: Around the World in 80 Gardens
- 2011: Monty Don's Italian Gardens
- 2013: Monty Don's French Gardens
- 2014: Monty Don's Real Craft
- 2014: Chelsea Flower Show (Season 32)
- 2014-2017: Big Dreams, Small Spaces
- 2015: The Secret History of the British Garden
- 2018: Monty Don's Paradise Gardens
- 2019: Monty Don's Japanese Gardens
- 2020: Monty Don's American Gardens
- Anderson, Hephzibah (25 May 2008). "Green fingers, silver tongue". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- "He gave up his jewels but found gold in the garden". The Sunday Times. London. 29 October 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
- Horton, Helena (15 June 2019). "Monty Don reveals his family's 170-year-old feud with the Royal Horticultural Society" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- "Monty Don | Who Do You Think You Are? | Ancestry.co.uk". www.ancestry.co.uk.
- Garfield, Simon (6 April 2003). "And quiet hoes the Don". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- "My Secret Life: Monty Don, gardener, 54". 3 October 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "He gave up his jewels but found gold in the garden". The Times Online. London. 29 October 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2010.[dead link]
- Sale, Jonathan (2 December 1999). "Passed/Failed: Monty Don". London: The Independent. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "Meet Monty Don". UKTV Gardens. Archived from the original on 30 March 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
- Kellaway, Kate (8 March 2009). "The interview: Monty Don". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- "The likely lads, Telly gardening is set for a huge shake-up this spring. Sarah Raven meets Monty Don, " The Daily Telegraph, London, 1 March 2003. Retrieved on 8 February 2016.
- Don, Monty (13 August 1990). "Goodbye to all that". The Guardian. p. 16. Retrieved 6 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Grice, Elizabeth (21 August 2004). "Needs sunny situation". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- Don, Monty (28 May 2006). "Through the garden gate". The Observer. London. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
- "Monty Don in row with BBC over pledge he will 'promote non organic gardening'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- "TV gardener Monty Don has stroke". BBC. 22 May 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Smyth, Chris (12 January 2010). Gardeners’ World going back to its roots after gimmicky makeover, say producers. The Times. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- Richardson, Tim (12 January 2010). Gardeners' World: BBC goes back to basics. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- Singh, Anita (7 December 2010). Monty Don returning to Gardeners' World.The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "Buckland to host Gardeners' World". BBC. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Pasco, Adam (7 December 2010). Monty Don returns to Gardeners’ World. Gardeners' musings (Gardener's World official blog). www.gardenersworld.com.
- Cavendish, Lucy (8 March 2013). "Monty Don: My garden has come into itself, for better or for worse". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Don, Monty [@TheMontyDon] (11 May 2020). "I am very sorry to announce that Nigel has died. He slipped quietly away with no pain or suffering and is now buried in the garden with lots of tennis balls. Rest now old friend. See you in the sweet bye and bye."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Rodger, James (11 May 2020). "Monty Don announces death of dog - days after Gardeners World appearance". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- "BBC official Gardeners World Facebook page". 4 March 2016.
- "BBC Gardeners' World TV presenter Monty Don backs grower | Horticulture Week". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
- "Natural World: Cork – Forest in a Bottle". The NatureWatch. 2008. Archived from the original on 6 March 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
- "My dream farm". Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "My Dream Farm, Channel 4, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 January 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- "Mastercrafts - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "The Italian Job" by Monty Don, Daily Mail Weekend magazine, Weekend Gardening section. 12.03.2011.
- "Monty Don’s Italian Campaign". The Daily Telegraph, by Monty Don, 11 March 2011.
- "Monty Don's French Gardens". BBC programme website.
- "The Secret History of the British Garden - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "BBC Two - Big Dreams Small Spaces - Episode guide". BBC.
- "Monty Don: "I still feel like a black sheep-ish 25-year-old"". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
- "Staff, Patrons, Trustees and Volunteers". Retrieved 8 July 2017.
- "Pope's Grotto Preservation Trust – Patrons: Monty Don OBE, Sir Donald Insall CBE, Kim Wilkie". www.popesgrotto.org.uk.
- "Monty Don, in peasant blue, on grand French gardens". Richard D North. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- Monty Don. "Dirty Dressing". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "NIGEL: MY FAMILY AND OTHER DOGS written and read by Monty Don - audiobook extract". Hodder Books. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
- "Monty Don's Paradise Gardens - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Wollaston, Sam (20 January 2018). "Monty Don's Paradise Gardens review – a heady tour of earthly delights". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Peskett, Matt (19 January 2018). "Monty Don's Paradise Gardens review – More Than Just Gardens". Grow Like Grandad. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "BBC Two - Monty Don's Japanese Gardens". BBC.
- "BBC Two - Monty Don's American Gardens". BBC.
- "The Jewel Garden - Monty Don, Sarah Don, Monty Don & Sarah Don - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Time and place: Monty Don". The Sunday Times. 6 March 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
- Bloomsbury.com. "The Ivington Diaries". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "Dogs". Monty Don.
- "Monty Don: There's a hole in our lives after death of beloved dog". Evening Standard. 13 May 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
- "Monty Don thanks fan for support after his dog Nigel's death". Evening Standard. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
- "Digging Monty Don: TV's favourite gardener on turning 60". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- Don, Monty (22 February 2004). "Now we are 10". The Observer. London. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
- "'I think I'm dying': Monty Don speaks for the first time of the stroke". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
- "Desert Island Discs: Monty Don" 14 July 2006
- "'I'm ignoring it' Monty Don reveals how years of gardening has left him with 'dodgy knees'". 17 May 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- "No. 62310". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 June 2018. p. B11.
- "Monty Don on French gardening leave". The Independent. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2014.