Monty Don presents Gardeners’ World from the informal Eden that is his own garden in the English county of Herefordshire. The beauty of his garden owes much to an informality only possible through thousands of hours of manual work. Abundant growth and and a profusion of colours fill the frame of the camera shots. The planting provides month upon month of blooms and foliage. Even to someone whose knowledge of gardening extends to being able to identify six flowers and three trees, the beauty of Longmeadow is undeniable.
If you stood with a clipboard in a high street and stopped those out doing their shopping and asked the simple question, “do you believe in beauty?” most of those approached would probably shy away, think it was an odd question, fear you were trying to sell them something, or that you were from some strange religious group.
Peruse the shelves in WH Smith and the enthusiasm for beauty is apparent. Magazines on gardening, on interior design, on fashion, on health, sell in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. A striving after beauty, however that beauty may be defined, seems deep rooted in human nature. There is an extraordinary human capacity to find beauty in even the most extreme of places or situations. The beauty most readily identified by writers is nearly always that of flowers, trees and shrubs, whether it is Victor Frankl’s account of a woman in a concentration camp finding delight in two blossoms on a branch visible through the window of the grim hut in which she was spending the final days of her life, or in the war poets who, surrounded by death and destruction, were able to find in natural beauty a momentary avenue of escape from the grimness
Henry Reed was a linguist called up in 1941 who became a translator in the Pacific War, he finds beauty in the midst of that war, or perhaps it was that the war was in the midst of natural beauty:
“Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.
They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have the naming of parts.”
Henry Reed would have found boundless delight in Monty Don’s garden.