I have written before about how much I adore Monty Don, also known as “Britain’s favorite gardener.” I have watched so many of his series, and I am alternating between two recently: Big Dreams, Small Spaces and Paradise Gardens (about gardens in the Islamic world).
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to suggest that his show Big Dreams, Small Spaces is the most family-positive, marriage-positive, and community-positive show available now.
Consider these scenarios:
- A married couple went to Norway on their honeymoon. They want to construct a garden that reminds them of Norway, because a shared aesthetic is something critical to who they are as a couple.
- New parents are adjusting to life with a child that was born with Down Syndrome. They want to transform their entire backyard into a “sensory garden” that will provide a safe area for their toddler to learn to process data. They want soft plants, squishy fruits, a fountain to splash in, wood chips, and grasses that sway in the breeze for him to run his fingers through.
- A woman who moved to England from Zimbabwe has decided to convert the front yard of her row house into a community vegetable garden. She doesn’t know any of her neighbors, and really most of her neighbors do not know each other. So she puts several raised beds in her garden, fences for growing peas and other climbing plants, and puts out a sign telling her neighbors that their dinners are on her. Neighbors start materializing out of nowhere to help her build it. Now she has friends.
- A woman lost her sister in a horrific train accident and feels like she gardened through her acute grief. She has come to think of her garden as the living memory of her sister, and wants to make it into something extravagantly beautiful. She brings her mother, also adjusting to outliving a child, into the project. It’s a way the two of them preserve the idea of a family without an essential component. It’s also a way they restore fun and whimsy into their dark worlds.
- A man’s wife is obsessed with beekeeping and he agrees to be along for the ride. They invest family funds into purchasing an allotment for her bees and transform a patch of wilderness into a place that bees can thrive. It’s totally crazy, but it’s his gift to her.
Where else do you see anything like this these days?
As with most celebrities, I find Monty Don’s politics tedious and, frankly, dishonest. If he supported the types of people he claims to like, he would not be making the kinds of shows that he is. (His liberal friends think the parents should have aborted the baby with Down Syndrome, after all. In Europe, they congratulate themselves on having nearly “eliminated” the condition through abortion, an attitude Hitler could respect.) In fact, I feel this way about a lot of lefty friends and relatives these days: You want to be attached to a label that aggressively no longer describes you, but you want the sense of family and community that only a conservative, communitarian lifestyle can provide. If you feel depressed about that disconnect, consider the power of defining your identity correctly and changing the absurd way you choose to label yourself. The problem is not the world you live in.
This is not the first time this sort of thing has played out on television recently either. Consider the Gilmore Girls, a very pro-family, pro-life show about a single mother who raises a daughter well against the odds. Then the writers went off a psychological cliff over politics, creating a sequel where the daughter becomes your typical bratty, directionless millennial with Planned Parenthood posters on her dorm room wall, who is screwing a man that’s engaged to someone else. Seriously, why do this to yourself? It’s like Freud trying to explain how nightmares are actually a form of wish-fulfillment.
Alas, Monty Don is making such shows, and you should watch them.