Win A Copy Of ‘Down To Earth’ By Monty Don

On Saturday, I attended a pre-publication lunch held to promote Monty Don’s new book, ‘Down to Earth‘.  I don’t often accept the various invitations I receive through the blog but this sounded marvellous … and with free food and drink too.

Despite considerable effort spent making myself sort-of-presentable, I still felt out-of-place at the very smart venue – Hams Yard Hotel, Soho – and on arrival half expected a hand on the shoulder and a polite shove toward the exit.    But no.  My name was on the list, the smiley staff were welcoming and I was immediately offered a cold glass of bubbly.  I clasped it tightly and tried not to gulp.

Ham Yard Roof Garden (2)

Four storeys above the hubbub of Soho, the roof terrace was cool and tranquil and beautiful, as I double checked my fingernails for mud and scanned the early arrivals in hope of a familiar face.  There wasn’t one, so I tried to look purposeful by photographing my non-gulped wine.

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And then I took a second for no good reason and, still acting purposeful, explored the terrace.

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Monty Don would be arriving soon to sign copies of his new book for this small gathering of twenty or so bloggers and ‘influencers’.  It was as I took the above photo that I saw two very welcome faces indeed emerging from the green: Michelle Chapman and Alison Levey, who write the Veg Plotting and The Blackberry Garden blogs.  I’d met both before and they introduced me to two other bloggers, Sara Venn and Alexandra Campbell – The Physic Garden and The Middle Sized Garden – and I was no longer lonely.

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With Michelle, I walked through a gate to a small but crammed-full veg garden, bee hives,

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and even a green-roofed shed for goodness sake.  But to be honest I was so busy nattering to Michelle that I took less notice of this roof-top oasis than I should have.

Our small group of Garden Bloggers gravitated toward the ‘signing table’ where we were offered a succession of wonderful canapes – and more fizz.  I’d eaten nothing all day and was tempted to grab fistfuls of food at a time; but there was no need.  Chunks of tender beef with béarnaise sauce, small ice-cream type cones crammed with delicious mushroom risotto and prawns speared on to something very-tasty-but-I’ve-forgotten-what, kept on coming with lots of other delicious morsels.  I ate till I could eat no more.  We washed all that down with gin cocktails in glasses the size of goldfish bowls, leaving us all rather jolly if not overtly raucous.  I think.

Time for the main event.

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Monty Don appeared as if by magic straight off the telly and gave a short introduction about his new book, its journey from initial musings on a beach in India and its purpose:  his personal thoughts on what is important about gardening, with tips and pointers to make one’s garden grow well.

Then, each guest was handed a Hessian goodie bag (no, really) containing a handsome mug (mine with the inscription ‘For True Gents’), a small pretty plant, a tube of posh hand cream, a roll of posh twine, a pack of posh teabags and The Book, which Monty would sign for us.  I hadn’t expected a free copy and queued up dutifully.

When it was my turn to meet Mr Don, my mind went blank and rather than launching into pithy, witty, sparkling repartee nor even mentioning my blog (my son groaned and sank his face into his hands when I told him later about that omission), I recited my smuttiest limerick.

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Which went down well.   (I didn’t really recite a smutty limerick.  Though in retrospect, I rather wish I had.  As, I’m sure, does Monty).

Down to Earth by Monty Don

I’m sorry to say that since the lunch, I’ve barely had time to open Down to Earth, let alone read it.  But the publisher, Dorling Kindersley, who kindly laid on the lunch and to whom I offer my warmest thanks, have offered me a second (unsigned) copy to give away.

The book is published tomorrow and if you would like the chance to win your own copy, here’s all you need do:

say you want to enter in the “Any Thoughts” box below


(if you don’t do so already) follow ‘The Anxious Gardener’ blog; or follow me on Twitter; or like The Anxious Gardener Facebook page.  Or all three!  The relevant follow buttons are in the sidebar of this page.

You can also enter via Twitter or Facebook – check my Twitter feed and Facebook page for details.

Please note that the prize can only be posted to a UK postal address.

The competition will close at midnight on Sunday 15th October 2017.

I’ll draw a name from my hat, contact the winner and add the result to the bottom of this post.

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Good luck!


The competition is now closed.  Thank you to everyone for taking part … and the winner is Rej via the blog.  Congratulations.

I Capsize The Island

Three or four years ago, I planted a little corkscrew willow on a little island in the east pond.  Which isn’t news; I’ve written about it before.

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May 2015 (with Despondent behind)

The little tree liked its little island-home, flourished and grew quickly – as corkscrew willows (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) are prone to do anyway.  And it formed a nice feature on a pile of bricks and a bit of earth in the middle of an expanse of clear water.

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April 2017

And I was pleased.

But then.

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at The Priory and began my day with a walk about the grounds.  I like to wander about first thing, clean my boots in the dew and check what’s what: has my Gunnera manicata finally become an Amazonian-sized monster? (nope); have deer chewed a favoured shrub or tree? (probably); is the rose-tunnel stunning? (rarely); do the long borders look good? (sometimes); have rabbits broken into the garden? (not for two or three years actually); any mole-hills on the east lawn? (occasionally); do the bird-feeders need filling? (almost always); and I also threw a brief indulgent glance at my graceful and now not-so-little-tree.

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Please don’t mention the summer duckweed. I don’t like to talk about it

Damn.  The willow had pitched head-first into the water and the island, no longer able to support the tree’s increased weight, had tipped over.  Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

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When I’ve got a moment, I’ll haul the heavy boat, Despondent, from where she currently lies on the other side of the garden (picture Humphrey Bogart dragging the African Queen), and paddle out on an adventure.  I’ll saw off the willow trunk and hope the tree re-shoots and grows tall once more  and straight.

And if in a few years time the tree dives into the pond again, never mind.  It will be the perfect excuse to launch Despondent and indulge in some more messing about in a boat.

Silver linings.