Childhood & Early Life
Monty Don was born George Montagu Don, on July 8, 1955, in Iserlohn, Germany, to British parents Denis Thomas Don and Janet Montagu. His father was a career soldier in the British army and was serving in Germany when Monty was born. A family dispute led to the removal of “George” from his name, and he was renamed “Montagu Dennis Wyatt Don.” He used “Montagu” as his first name to honor his mother.
From his father’s side, he was a descendant of popular botanists such as George Don. His mother’s side included many famous architects. When Monty was a year old, the family moved back to England and settled in Hertfordshire.
He grew up with four siblings. One of them was his twin sister. Don mentioned that his parents were extremely strict and that he was raised amidst a lot of discipline, due his father’s army background. Despite this, Monty grew up to be a highly mischievous kid. He was infamous for making mischief in class and also faced suspension from school.
He attended three independent schools during his childhood. He initially attended the ‘Quidhampton School,’ located in Basingstoke. He then attended the ‘Bigshotte School.’ He was asked to leave the school for being too noisy and exuberant. Hence, his interest in academics waned away slowly. He later attended the ‘Malvern College’ in Malvern, which he later said that he hated.
By the time he had stepped into his teenage years, he had started working, owing to his lack of interest in studies. He worked at a pig farm and a building site. His family’s poor financial condition, too, compelled him to start working at a tender age. His grades, too, suffered.
During this period, he gained an interest in farming and gardening. He himself learned many techniques about gardening, which he later described in detail in his books.
Along with farming and gardening, he also gained a keen interest in boxing. While he studied at the ‘Magdalene College,’ he became a famous college-level boxer.
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Don married early, and by the early 1980s, he had made up his mind about starting a business. His wife was a trained jeweler. He collaborated with her to establish their jewelry company, ‘Monty Don Jewellery.’ The company designed, made, and sold jewelry. Their costume-jewelry business grew rapidly in the 1980s. By 1986, they had a huge shop at Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge.
The company grew exponentially, with Monty employing hundreds of outworkers. It had some high-profile clients, such as Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, and Boy George. The company also had about 60 outlets in the U.S.A.
Everything was going well for Monty and his wife, until 1987, when the stock markets crashed in the U.S.A. This caused the company to go bankrupt, as by then, the U.S.A. had become their biggest market and their main focus of expansion. By the early 1990s, the company was completely shut down.
This gave Monty the opportunity to pursue what he always wanted to do. He initially ventured into writing and appeared on TV. However, he later stated that it had been a difficult period, as he and his wife were left with nothing and did not even have a roof above their heads. Throughout the early 1990s, Monty suffered from dire financial issues.
However, things changed for the better in the mid-1990s, when Monty was hired as a TV presenter for the morning show ‘This Morning.’ He was a guest presenter on the show and had earned the job owing to his experience in farming and gardening. He was later invited as a guest presenter on the ‘BBC’ show ‘Holiday’.
In 1994 and 1995, he made more TV appearances. He was seen on the ‘BBC One’ science program ‘Tomorrow’s World.’ He appeared on the show multiple times throughout the year. Hence, his popularity continued to rise, and he began receiving more offers to present talk shows and other programs on TV.
He was later hired by ‘Channel 4,’ and with them, he appeared in many gardening and farming series, such as ‘Don Roaming,’ ‘Lost Gardens,’ and ‘Real Gardens.’ Don later said that he had never had any professional training in gardening and had earned the shows purely due to his writing skills and his passion for gardening.
He also wrote and published several books. He became a staunch promoter of organic gardening. He wrote about the techniques of organic farming in many of his books, including ‘The Complete Gardener.’ However, he also faced a lot of criticism from supporters of non-organic farming. His critics believe that he does not mention the non-organic solutions to deal with pests and diseases in the garden and runs some sort of organic-farming propaganda instead.
In 2003, Monty was hired by ‘BBC Two’ as the main presenter of the show ‘Gardeners’ World.’ He remained associated with the show until 2008. He was the first horticulturist presenter of the show without any formal training in horticulture. He left the show in 2008, after he suffered a minor stroke.
Following his ouster from the show, its ratings dipped and ‘BBC Two’ was forced to bring Monty back. Since 2011, he has been hosting the show from his own garden in Herefordshire.
Additionally, he has appeared on many other British shows, such as ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens,’ ‘Natural World,’ ‘Question Time,’ ‘Great British Garden Revival,’ and ‘The Secret History of the British Garden.’
In 2008, he was appointed as the president of ‘Soil Association,’ a charitable organization focused on gardening and farming. He stayed in the position until 2016. He currently serves as a patron of Bees for Development’s Trust.’
In 2016, he lent his voice to the audiobook titled ‘Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs.’
Some of the other books by him are ‘Gardening Mad,’ ‘Growing out of Trouble,’ ‘My Dream Farm,’ and ‘Great Gardens of Italy.’
Family & Personal Life
Monty Don married Sarah Erskine in 1983. They were classmates at the ‘Magdalene College.’ They have three children together: two sons and a daughter. The family currently lives in Ivington, Herefordshire.
Don is an ardent dog lover and currently has two dogs: a Golden Retriever and a Yorkshire Terrier. One of his dogs, Nigel, passed away in 2020. Nigel was very close to Monty, and he often mentioned him as a companion who helped him sail through depressing times.
In 2016, he stated that he had been suffering from permanent knee pain, owing to years of gardening.