It would be fair to say that Kew Gardens is one of the most visit worthy places in Britain. Even if you don’t like gardens or horticulture or history, it’s still a good day out and a nice long walk. We had booked this visit in a long time ago, it was on our gardening bucket list if you like, not that we have a gardening bucket list. August, hence the rainy skies and cold biting wind but it made for a more dramatic picture.

The first thing which took us by surprise was the entry price and the charming way the lady in the kiosk made a comment about her surname being the same as ours and would we like to add a voluntary contribution to the overall mortgage inducing price. “Oh yes” we replied as we puzzled about how we may be related but probably weren’t.

The next thing which surprised us was the lack of seating in the cafe we scurried to in the rain. Not because it was busy but because there weren’t many seats. Coupled with a quite extraordinary price for a muffin, we needed a seat to get over the stinging feeling in our wallet. But hey, it doesn’t matter, we were having a day out and this was a treat so let’s pay nearly £5 for a cake and to hell with it.

Thankfully nature smoothed things out and the rest of the day was spent wandering and exploring and generally marvelling at the scale of everything. Which I think is the whole point, showing off with plants.

The Great Broad Walk captivated us with its’ colour, grandeur and sheer sassiness. Yes we can do huge because we have the room so let’s do huge. When you visit a garden on a grand scale you are being given a glimpse into another world and often another time, an era when this was the norm for a lot of people. Well, ok maybe not a lot but a fair few. These days it seems unnatural and despite your best efforts, it’s never going to be possible to recreate any sense of this no matter how much you try. My only consolation is that you can plant hunt and get some nifty ideas for new things you haven’t seen before. This visit was no different. Glenn enjoyed the carnivorous plants which are a new found growing interest and I snapped a lot of textures and patterns for various arty projects.

So did we enjoy Kew? Yes we did. Would we recommend it? Yes we would. Is it value for money? Probably, we could have spent the same on a day out to Alton Towers but this way I didn’t vomit.


A Bolt From the Blue (linen)

“It’s ok,” we told ourselves. “It’s just a film crew and Monty Don coming to our house this afternoon.”

We hadn’t slept. We had new clothes. The house was clean. There was cake. Something was clearly not normal.

The previous couple of weeks had seen us doing a lot of research; into garden design, Monty, what to wear on TV, what not to say or do in order look sane and likeable. Yeah, we were cool, it was fine, we weren’t nervous. The fact we hadn’t slept, couldn’t sit down all morning, kept looking at each other and grinning inanely wasn’t anything to do with anything.

The crew arrived and set up, so smooth and calm and friendly, we felt relaxed (ish). Our main worry was that we were going that get the Come Dine With Me treatment. Taking our highly sophisticated humour, wit and charm and turning it into Gogglebox material. Very sneakily they started filming us whilst we were chatting so we didn’t have a set moment when it all kicked off. A bit like being lowered into a cold swimming pool, or having a series of injections. If they keep you talking you don’t realise they are taking sweeping long shots of what you are wearing until afterwards when they have gone and you then spend months dreading the final edit (‘Glenn and Zoe have run through TKMaxx with a credit card and no taste control’).

Then there he was, in our garden, Monty Don. We had to stay inside to preserve the big first hello moment (take three). Not only that, he was admiring the view! He liked it! He was taking pictures! Of our view! Things were looking up. All we had to do now was show him around the garden, run the plans past him, get him to talk plants, easy.


OK, so what followed basically breaks down into key moments. We meet Monty, Monty is lovely. We chat comfortably and laugh. Monty drinks our tea, eats our cake, sits in our house. We film the garden with Monty, we chat, we laugh. We show Monty our plans as nervy as expectant parents who have created a new life, we wait for approval and maybe even some vaguely condescending praise.

Monty tells us we have undersold ourselves, it isn’t ambitious, we have taken the easy road that all new owners of houses take by going with the existing landscape, we can’t have the features we want, our planting is too complex, we don’t need ANY grass and we should terrace the whole plot from one side to the other with a path down the middle. Our little horticultural faces were smarting with an advice slap we hadn’t banked on. Naivety in the extreme. Do not underestimate this man, he is all smiles and crumpled artisan workwear with a calm, easy manner and boundless tales of TV gossip on the outside but underneath lurks the deeply frank and forthright cut of a gardener possessed by aesthetic ideals.

Suitably squashed, the crew and Monty left us to it with instructions to get going and they would be in touch. So we picked up our spades. Join us now on a photo montage of our first few weeks of gardening mayhem.

Our first plan, dashed to dust by the Don
Rising to the challenge. Plan B


Early stages of preparing the ground

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Uphill Gardening