How a British Gardening Show saved our lives

It snowed in Texas—Not just a few flakes like we’ve had before, melting as they hit the ground , but blizzards, flurries, drifts several feet deep and ground frozen rock-solid.

Now as it is, it’s difficult enough for us hill country gardeners to grow anything in limestone, caliche, and alkaline soil. We persevere through 100 degree heat for months, and hard freezes in late March We amend our soil with compost and plant agaves and succulents everywhere. We’re tough, but this below-zero weather, no electricity, and broken pipes almost broke us, collectively. We stared disconsolately at our barren frozen xeriscaped lawns and flower beds, and at all the plants the experts told us to plant, now dead sticks. It was almost enough to cause us to give up. Almost, if not for a tv show.

Once the power flipped on so did our televisions, and the show I began watching compulsively, religiously, was/is ‘Gardeners World’. It’s a British gardening show and its host is England’s favorite gardener Monte Don. Monty talks about the eternal life-saving wisdom of gardening, and his dogs, and stands in snow and rain and all kinds of actual weather while assigning us a weekly gardening chore. Real chirping birds begin each episode, and before I know it, the trauma of the nightly news disappears.

But it’s not just me—It seems the entire world discovered ‘Gardeners World’ was the perfect way to get through a pandemic. Viewership was the highest in five years last year. BBC Studios, who produces the show, even decided it was an essential public service. Gardening was one of the few leisure activities the pandemic couldn’t take away. Suddenly we were all aware of our gardens (or lack thereof), especially since so many of us were stuck working from our homes and staring out our windows.

Both the U.K. and the United States experienced a huge gardening boom in 2020. During the pandemic ‘Gardeners’ World’ went from comfort food television to being indispensable to our emotional well being. It’s Great Britain’s longest running television series. The 33-episode season follows the growing season from Monty’s 20 acre almost-out-of-control garden and assorted historic gardens and viewers video’s of their own personal garden projects.

When Monty is filmed working in his garden, we never hear background music—we get lingering close-ups of a flower or trees rustling in the breeze, or his dogs. But the best thing about the show for me this year, was the snow. It snows in England, it snows a lot. And when the sun shines, even in England, the snow melts, the birds sing, and the garden resurrects itself. It reminds us that to plant a garden is an act of faith, and our frozen gardens will come back to life. No weather is forever, no crises lasts, and ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’.