Monty Don

by Adam Pasco

News that Monty Don will be returning to Gardeners' World has really got you talking! Hundreds have responded to my blog about the changing presenter line-up.

Monty DonNews that Monty Don will be returning to Gardeners' World has really got you talking! Hundreds have responded to my blog from last Wednesday about the changing presenter line-up when Gardeners' World returns next March. In fact, this is the biggest response to any blog ever posted on

"Fantastic news," posted Liz. "I'll definitely be coming back to GW now."

"At last the Beeb has taken note," said bobdog. "Welcome back to real gardeners, and welcome back Monty Don."

Others were surprised by the announcement. "A real shame to see Toby go," wrote Aaron Abbott. "He is my kind of gardener."

"Why the sudden change?" asked Joe Rose. "I was just getting used to Toby and I enjoyed his style of presenting. Does this mean that the money ploughed into the present site by the BBC is to be wasted?"

It's a difficult challenge producing a single gardening programme that appeals to everyone, from beginner to expert alike. As Gardeners' World developed over the past two years with a new presenter lineup in a new location, and using new production techniques, it quickly became clear that not everyone was happy.

By trying to produce a programme that appealed to a new audience (younger and less experienced), the established and more experienced and committed audience became increasingly unhappy, with many ceasing to watch Gardeners' World. The traditional heartland Gardener's World viewers were vocal in their dissatisfaction, resulting in a detailed review by the programme production team.

As jgd posted on our blog: "it is clear that the Beeb would do well to have more than one gardening programme. There needs to be at least one for veg and one for design/flowers - 30mins a week is obviously not enough to meet the needs of both novice and experienced gardeners."

At the start of this year Gill Tierney, Executive Producer of the programme, said "change is always difficult and sometimes you don't get it completely right. We have listened to the audience and have taken the criticism on the chin, which is why we are making the changes we are making. We are simply going to refocus to satisfy the needs of our core audience."

However, criticism of the programme continued through 2010, leading to the announcement last week of further changes for 2011. This raises many questions, as your comments highlight.

Many people will miss Toby and Alys, who, sadly, will not be returning in the new series. "I enjoyed the banter they had," posted Karen on our blog, "and loved Toby's enthusiasm and Alys's quirkiness". There's no news yet on whether alternative TV projects are in the pipeline for either presenter.

And what's going to happen to Greenacre, the TV garden created over the past two years for the programme? All the BBC production team has said, so far, is that the new series will definitely be coming from Monty Don's own garden in Herefordshire.

In my opinion this is great news, as I think the tradition of Gardeners' World coming from the home garden of the lead presenter made the programme in some way more real and relevant. Now, I accept that Barnsdale started off as a bare field when Geoff Hamilton first started  - much like Greenacre - but Geoff's field adjoined his house. It was also his garden, and not simply a rented piece of land. That makes a big difference to the way presenters engage with the garden.

I'd rather see presenters gardening in their own garden any day, much as we've enjoyed when visiting Carol Klein in her garden at Glebe Cottage.

Monty's views in his piece in today's Daily Mail reflect my own. He regretted that GW did not film in his own garden when he presented the programme a few years ago, and while he became fond of Berryfields, it wasn’t the same. Monty says of his garden "it is not a TV studio but a family home, and I firmly believe the programme works best when it is honest and true and does not try to patronize the viewer by faking things."

"We will not be building any fancy greenhouses or sheds or buying expensive, huge plants. As much as possible will be propagated [...] if something breaks we will mend it."

When Gardeners' World returns it will have a very different feel to it. As Monty says in his article today, "we will be making a simple, straightforward gardening programme from my back garden. I love it with all my heart, and all I hope is that viewers will grow to love it, too."

Well, I for one can't wait!

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Monty Don
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Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2010 at 14:43

I'm interested in how this will affect the style and flow of the show. I'm really not one for veg, nor for Monty's style of gardening (sorry - too "hippy" oriented for my taste) - though I do respect and like the man. Toby was engaging and I learned a lot from his way of presenting things, but I never warmed to him or Alys (whom I felt to be passive aggressive to the extreme - she and Toby did not get on well together, at least on the screen). I really wonder why Carol hasn't been offered the job - I'd love to see her do the show - her enthusiasm and knowledge are astounding. Has a woman ever held the position of Lead Presenter? As far as using a set garden or a presenters own garden, I have to say I like seeing virgin ground turned into something lovely. While visiting the gardens of people like Carol is really special and neat, those gardens are established - most of us do not have established gardens, so it is sort of a case of apples and oranges, IMO. Guess we will have to see how it all falls out...

Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2010 at 14:49

Welcome back Monty. I lost count of how many Toby presented GWs I fell asleep through, literally! Loved Carol's one dedicated to the science of gardening. Joe Swift is more of a design gardener, not to my liking. I loved Alys and her series from her own garden was lovely. I would like to see more like that. I agree that one half hour gardening programme is not enough and tries to cover too much ground. I definitely feel that GW will be so much better for having Monty back. His self taught methods feel more real and less like they came out of a textbook. I didn't dislike Toby, just found him a bit one-dimensional and I could never get interested in anything he had to say. The visits to large gardens didn't do anything for me, too many wide shots and not enough emphasis on individual plants. Also, I think they should have given Carol Klein a chance instead of Toby. I also like Chris Beardshaw.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2010 at 14:58

This tastes of sugar coating. Whether you like her or not losing Alys is incredibly short-sighted. She is young, intelligent and epitomizes all the modern ideas of where gardening is headed. I can understand trying to placate the core audience by going back to the older style of GW but you have to look towards your future audience as well. I can only hope that a new series is in the works so that I too will have something to watch that speaks to my tastes and generation.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2010 at 15:07

This decision caters to a noisy minority. Monty doesn't have the gardening knowledge to cover the ground that Toby did nor does he have the will. He made it clear in interviews afterwards that he has no interest in what he calls 'conventional gardening.' Where then is the progamme for people who do?

Gardeners' World Web User 13/12/2010 at 15:53

I am so upset Toby has been sacked from Gardens World. I havent watched since Geoff Hamilton and our family have so enjoyed Tobys personlity and advise.Good Luck Toby we will miss you.

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