Celebrity gardening expert Monty Don was notable for his absence from today’s edition of the nation’s most popular garden show. Gardeners’ World returned for the ninth installment of its current series.
Fans of the popular programme, who usually tune in to BBC2 for Monty’s soft tones and calming demeanor, wondered where he could be. In fact, he wasn’t far behind, as RHS’ Malvern Spring Festival was the star of the show.
In his absence, it was left to presenters Adam Frost and Arit Anderson to convey the joys of spring and unveil some of the highlights and joys of the Worcestershire event, which opened on Thursday (5 May) and runs through Sunday.
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Adam an Arit ruled over some of the festival’s outstanding gardens, along with the must-have flowers and plants on display in the Flower Tent.
Outside of the festival, Carol Klein paid a visit to Batsford Arboretum in the Cotswolds. Nick Bailey, meanwhile, unveiled one of the stars of the early summer garden – the peony.
But where was Monty? Fan Katherine Birkett certainly missed him and took to Twitter to express her disappointment. Or it could be Monty’s beloved dogs, who have become popular features of the show during the new series, that she’s actually missed.
“No Monty? TRAGEDY!” She said. However, when prompted by another viewer to give the other “quality presenters” a shot, Katherine responded, “I’ll miss the dogs… it’s okay — I have Kleenex.”
The truth is that Monty works at the Malvern Spring Festival at the weekend, speaking to visitors as one of the horticultural experts. He will be giving a lecture and gardening demonstration on Saturday morning.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is The Longcroft Press, designed by Laura Ashton-Phillips. Inspired by the apple-pressing days of the Forest of Dean, it evokes the old-fashioned community spirit and family values of traditional village life in England.
The garden includes mature fruit trees in front of a press shed with an antique apple press and scraper. It was the carpet of native wildflowers surrounding the shed that caught the attention of presenter Adam Frost.
It’s a case of Back to the Future for Adam, telling viewers, “Some show gardens can give you a real sense of place – they can transport you. The Longcroft Press garden is inspired by childhood memories of a family orchard.
“I know this won’t be for everyone and could be seen as a little scruffy around the edges – but personally I think that’s where we’re going as gardeners. Those wilder areas that bring wildlife back.”
Adam adds: “Since the war we have lost 97 percent of our wildflower meadow. That is why just one square meter of this type of planting has become so valuable. It has a great mix of wildflowers, but the parts that stood out to me are the edibles: They have garlic mustard, sorrel, and wild garlic.
“The great thing about it is that there are so many plants that you can now buy as plugs. Plant in a small area, sit back and watch. And tell you what, you’ll be amazed at how much wildlife it actually brings in. “