Few places in England are as well known or beloved as the Monty Don Gardens. The designer and creator of many of today’s most popular gardens are Sir John Sainsbury. His life was a colorful one, as he traveled throughout much of England in his career, visiting and designing at many different institutions and learning from many others. He also created the popular Monty Don gardens in London.
When he returned to his home in England, Sir John kept his many design ideas for gardens and lawns that he had learned during his travels. These he put into action in the gardens around his home in Guildhall. While they were small in size at the time, they have come to comprise some of the most famous gardens around. They are famous not only for their beauty but also for their architectural designs.
As he traveled to create more of these masterpieces, Sir John expanded on the traditional English garden. He came up with ways to use plants and shrubs not just to surround the lawns, but to create unique ‘monument’ style gardens. The result is a spectacular array of colors and forms. These can still be seen in some of today’s most famous gardens such as those at Wuxley Park in London. There he added a tram line that ran through the park to the edge of the village and then back up again.
The work of the designer continued even after his death. In 18 64, he was posthumously awarded the knighthood. Many of the plants and shrubs from his visionary works have survived to this day, and they still delight visitors and neighbors alike. Many gardens still display some of his remaining works of art.
Much of his work came about as he talked with local botanists about the various species of plants and flowers in their local area. These he used as inspiration for his famous ‘Lookout from Here’ designs. His interest in local wildlife prompted him to design many beautiful gardens in his backyard. Many of these are now protected by the National Trust. They show a sense of the wild that is still evident in many of his pieces.
Though Sir John knew of the benefits of designing a garden, he never felt constrained by this love of plants. Instead, he wanted to take all of the joys of gardening into his own hands. As a result, he designed gardens that were not only beautiful but also practical. As well as creating beautiful walls and buildings for his home, he designed outdoor pergolas, benches, arbors, water features, and ponds. He also created outdoor lighting, built walking paths, and built a host of paved paths to help people get to his home from his gate.
Even his lawns helped to create a more beautiful garden. Instead of using herbicides and pesticides, he encouraged natural processes by mowing, watering, and raking his lawns. As well as having spectacular flowers and plants, his lawns had the advantage of being the most weed-free part of his garden. As a result, it was simply impossible for Sir John to have another garden pest problem!
All of this work served an important purpose. However, it would be unfair to say that his garden was simply a reflection of his personality or style. Instead, he placed great emphasis on creating a garden that was practical and made his plants and flowers thrive. This led him to gain a reputation as a great designer and his gardens became more recognized than ever before.
As his reputation grew, Monty Don deliberately worked to make sure that his name was remembered as the place where great gardens were created. He started to display his gardens in leading garden centers and was particularly proud of the fact that his Risborough Gardens was displayed at the famous Exmoor Horticulture Show. His work began to define a new type of English garden design that would set the standard for future designers to follow.
It is fair to say that the work of Monty Don did not die with the creation of his first garden. Instead, it has become part of English garden culture. His designs are still seen in luxury gardens around the country. His influence has allowed the design of some modern garden buildings such as the Hampton Court Palace. His love of all things natural will likely continue to help him design new gardens and buildings.
As well as his gardens, Monty Don also enjoyed working with his owner, Mrs. James Whitacre, who was also a qualified gardener. Together they experimented with many different types of flower seeds until they came up with the idea for their famous ‘cherry-grape’ garden. This resulted in Monty and Mrs. Whitacre planting a number of the same bushes in their garden, with each one offering its unique beauty and fragrance. It is fair to say that the work of Monty Don has been credited with helping to create some of the most stunning gardens in the world and this alone, he has had a major hand in the shaping of modern garden design.