On Monday 11 May, Monty shared the very sad news that his beloved golden retriever Nigel had passed away. Nigel was an integral part of Gardeners' World, quietly stealing the show in many an episode. We'll all miss him terribly.
In memory of Nigel, we're sharing this interview with Monty, in which he talks about how Nigel came to be featured on Gardeners’ World in the first place. And he explains how he was taken by surprise at the strength and warmth of viewers' response to Nigel. This interview was filmed in 2017, as part of our photoshoot to mark the 50th Anniversary of Gardeners' World on BBC Two.
Nigel also made regular appearances in photoshoots for BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, and was immediately a firm favourite with everyone on the team, as he was with readers. It was invariably Nigel who was the first to greet the team on arrival for a photoshoot, bounding up with a loud volley of barks to welcome you, that felt almost conversational. He never failed to be amused by tennis balls, and soon worked out that the newest arrival on a shoot would be the one to invariably throw his (usually disgustingly muddy) ball time and again.
Watch the video, above.
Below, we've selected some of our favourite photos of Nigel – including Monty's topiary homage to his dog.
Monty shares the sad news
Monty made the sad announcement that his dog Nigel had passed away, on Twitter. Tens of thousands of responses from fans of the programme immediately began to pour in, and Monty expressed how grateful he was to know so many were thinking of Nigel.
More like this
Thanks to all that have sent so many lovely and kind messages about Nigel. It has meant a great deal.
Memories of Nigel
Gardeners' World viewers immediately fell in love with Nigel's friendly face and large, soulful eyes. And Monty regularly found himself upstaged by his own dog! In our video, Monty reveals there was never a plan to film Nigel - it happened by happy accident. Nigel would simply follow Monty out at the start of the day, and would stay by his side throughout the filming day, patiently waiting for his moment. Then, when the time was right, he would steal the show - he somehow knew how to catch the light, so there was always a golden aura around him.
Monty has owned many dogs in his life, including Nellie, another golden retriever, who has appeared on Gardeners' World many times, and his new Yorkshire terrier Patti. He has other dogs who have never appeared on Gardeners' World. But Nigel was a particularly patient dog, content to sit through filming days without getting bored, making him a firm favourite with TV crew and photographers alike.
The bond between Monty and Nigel was clear for all to see, and that relationship was part of what made Nigel so popular with viewers of Gardeners' World. Monty has talked about how Nigel helped him deal with his depression, explaining that he believes pets are a good medicine for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety. "Having someone to look after, who returns that attention with completely unqualified love is a powerful medicine," he said speaking on the Today programme, on BBC Radio 4, earlier this week (Wednesday 13 May, 2020).
Monty's garden at Longmeadow contains lots of topiary and carefully clipped hedges, so it is only fitting that Monty has created a topiary homage to his dog Nigel, over the past few years.
Monty describes Nigel as a very close friend and a member of his family. "There is a great big Nigel-shaped hole in our lives," he says. Nigel was 12 when he died, and had a lovely life and died without pain. And Monty says he feels lucky to have had Nigel in his life. "We were blessed. That one relationship lightened our lives, we were really, really lucky."
During our September 2019 cover shoot for BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, we filmed a 'dog's-eye view' of Longmeadow, featuring Nigel, Nell and Monty. Enjoy it again here...