Spread it like Monty, she said!

It echoed through my mind all afternoon as I wheeled barrowloads of compost from compost heap at the top of the garden to the Evodia Bed near the lowest part of the garden and I cursed Monty Don with every step. Poor Monty didn’t deserve the abuse I hurled at him at all for none of it was his fault but, as happens so often with public figures, we feel free to vent our bile on them – anonymously and privately, of course – and care little for their feelings. Thankfully, Monty will not have heard the vile expressions which emenated from my vexed mind.

Starting at the top of the “Evodia Bed”, a nice deep mulch of compost

It was the coincidence of two events which lead to this upset. The Head Gardener had tidied up one end of an island bed in the garden on Friday and suggested I apply a layer of compost as a mulch when who should be doing the exact same thing that evening on Gardeners’ World only Monty Don and as we watched she commented, “You should spread it like Monty! You just stand at the end of the bed and fling it off over the bed. Monty places it around the plants!”.

And continuing…
And drawing a line at where the Head Gardener had stopped work yesterday.

Soooo, my style of compost spreading was no longer acceptable. I would now have to place the forkloads carefully around each plant to a depth of 2inches (in old money, as he said on the programme) – and all because of that blasted Monty Don. And I seethed as I worked and wondered if the Head Gardener also wanted me to plonk my heavy boots on top of the tender new growth of emerging plants – and again, cursed that blasted Monty Don. It is easy to curse the remote celebrity; it is something we do with a vengence at times. These people are distant, faraway and not part of our immediate lives and criticism seems impersonal and inconsequential. And, we Irish have a strong vein of begrudgery, of resenting success, so it comes naturally to knock those who have succeeded. We take special delight in knocking those who are good and who know it – being a bit too full of themselves, as we say. Now, to be fair to Monty, I think he is a very pleasant man. I don’t rate his gardening very highly but admire his presentation skills hugely and really enjoy his presentation on those programmes where he has visited gardens – his Adriatic Gardens of late was excellent, one of several such outstanding series.

There’s more to be done tomorrow, or the next day
And plenty of more compost to do the job – the gap shows what was spread today.

Nonetheless, I cursed him today for vicariously imposing a spreading-of-compost technique on me that I didn’t welcome. It wasn’t a huge imposition if I am to be honest and the Head Gardener approved of the end result which is all that matters. Monty’s not the worst after all.

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27 thoughts on “Spread it like Monty, she said!

  1. I guess garden likes & dislikes are very subjective but I’m intrigued to know what it is about Monty’s gardening approach & skills that you do not appreciate.

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  2. Well, Monty has paid gardening help so I wonder if he is doing all the spreading. You probably have seen the tip that suggests cover each plant with an empty pot while you fling the mulch, so the plants don’t get covered. But in that bed it would require a lot of pots, and some of your plants are already quite tall for that treatment.

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    1. Yes, I suppose we could wonder just how much gardening Monty does beyond that which is needed for filming…but that’s being negative about the man, isn’t it?

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      1. Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that he didn’t do much gardening. I think he gardens all he can. But perhaps the most tedious jobs get passed on to someone else? And in the beginning I think he and his wife did it all themselves. The travel that he does to produce those specials means he can’t do all the gardening that he would like.

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  3. I bet he doesn’t do that off camera – his garden’s too big! When I did it as a job (big style – for weeks during the winter – heavy manure and leafmould), the flingier the better, as far as we were concerned!!! It’s a job you just have to get on and do quickly – particularly if you have huge borders – and flinging, as you rightly point out, is essential on large borders where you don’t want to tread the wet soil too much. Fine for people with small gardens to ‘get fiddly’.
    I actually think quite highly of Monty’s gardening skills, but you’ve reminded me of an (ex), dearly-loved father-in-law many years ago who used to say that he wouldn’t let Geoff Hamilton anywhere near his broad beans (or the rest of his garden). Moan on, Monty will never know!!!! My own celebrity moan in the spring (after a wet winter) is against the dear, departed Christopher Lloyd who first encouraged me to leave all cutting back of herbaceous until the spring. It’s taken me until this spring’s heavy, sodden (there’s another word too) asters to work out that this wasn’t necessarily for me!!! Have a good week.

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    1. Re Christopher Lloyd: I read all his books with great enjoyment; he had a wonderful way with words, but when I exited Great Dixter after our first visit I said, rather too loudly for the lady in the ticket booth, “that f…er just write fiction.” I was so terribly disappointed with the messiness of the garden and found much of it unenjoyable. I also cut back all herbaceous material in autumn – as much to have the garden tidied for the arrival of snowdrops as to avoid the mess which would come with our wet winters.

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      1. And you are so right – of course, for many years before he died he hadn’t had to do it himself. It’s interesting what you say about Dixter. I know it reasonably well and have also found it occasionally disappointing – but never the pots by the front door – always inspiring – and, once, the sight of a huge pot-grown plant of a small Delphinium species (like ‘Butterfly Blue’) – on a table in the house. I’ve been trying to replicate that (with no success) for the last 30 years!

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  4. I used to use a mix of manure and tree surgeons chips 50/50 for all mulching, made it light, fell apart easily when applied etc. But, with acres to mulch, we used wheelbarrows and 50lt pots to place it. The big difference is that the mulch prevented compaction because of all the tree chippings, we mulched first, walked on it as much as needed, no mud, little compaction. I’d imagine garden compost like yours (and mine at home) would compact very easily if walked on, as does the soil if wet. Fling to the centre of the bed Paddy, good for your figure too, and place gently near the edges!!

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    1. The garden compost is quite open in texture, especially so as it dries out on the surface of beds and doesn’t compact at all.

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  5. Oh the agony of how to mulch. I always worry about suffocating the new growth coming through. And then there’s keeping away from the crown of woody plants, if I remember rightly. This year I mulched the gooseberry patch – ends only – because I had left over mulch and just couldn’t summon the energy to tip toe around placing it around carefully plants!

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    1. I would never worry about suffocating plants with compost. It is open enough and they plants will come through it without a bother.

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  6. haha! This made me laugh as my husband has your exact technique of spreading composts! Which is why I try to do most of the compost spreading myself. Or, to help out, he’ll leave it in a heap in a bed for me to properly spread out. There’s a reason why the head gardeners are the head gardeners 😉

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  7. Hello Paddy,
    First I’ve learned about the Irish having a “strong vein of begrudgery,”… well there’s a thought.
    But secondly I concur with your thoughts about the “great” MD. We were once given tickets to hear him speak – we were told it was his first big event at the Hay Festival, and as you say he’s a smooth operator, but I’ve always found his information is very lightweight, and he’s more celebrity than real knowledge based gardener. I was miffed to hear that in the filming of his French garden series they’d used 3 or 4 different identical Citroen Cv’s driven all over the place, for some really trivial reason. Plus what took the biscuit was that in the Q & A that followed his talk, he very dismissively explained that he’d ” never read a blog in his life – a complete waste of time”… so there you have it. ( Told you I was grumpy!)
    I’d fling the compost as you wish, and as you say avoid squashing the tender new growth…
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    1. There you have said it perfectly – “a smooth operator…very lightweight…more celebrity than real knowledge based gardener! Why would I ever listen to him for gardening advise!

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    2. And, yes, there is a general attitude of begrudgery in the Irish especially towards those who get “notions” about themselves, who see themselves as now very important, as significant people and a great compliment to a successful person is to say s/he is still very ordinary in their ways.

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  8. Oh,my goodness,that comment about being an ordinary person takes me back. My mother’s mother is the only one of my 4 Irish born grandparents I knew. She was very fond of pointing out that the American born children of her Irish friends who became doctors,dentists, lawyers and the like remained ordinary! 😂

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