Monty Don helps people transform their gardens. He advises on creating a garden for a special needs child and helps a newly single woman with her fresh start.
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Do you dream of having your own special outdoor space?
A small garden that you can admire, enjoy and call your own?
And then you stop and think, "I have no idea how to make it."
Well, you're not alone.
Monty Don has travelled up and down
the country visiting amateur gardeners with bold ambitions.
He's scrutinised their plans
and pushed them out of their comfort zones.
We are going out into deeper, darkest, unknown territory.
It's not been easy.
I hate it.
But everyone's worked incredibly hard.
Both of us want to sleep for a week, pretty much.
-You've had your tea break.
And the transformations have been extraordinary.
It's just incredible, it really is.
I declare this garden open.
I do believe that everyone, however small their garden,
can cultivate a big dream.
This week, Monty's meeting two sets of determined amateur gardeners...
-Let's do it.
-Let's do it. Yeah!
..who are in desperate need of feel-good spaces.
-Is the garden out the back?
-No, there's nothing out the back.
So, I've walked through it?
From a half-converted parking space...
..to an overgrown jungle.
He's looking a little bit shocked.
Wow. That's awesome.
Will they succeed in building their dream?
I don't like it, so what's the point of having it?
This is insane. I hope today is the worst day we have in the project.
When Monty comes,
if he thinks that all these things are in the wrong place...
Just lock the gate. Don't let him in.
Our first garden is in the seaside town of Brighton,
where full-time mum Helen and computer games producer Dax
have their hands full with their two-year-old twins Hester and Chip.
Chip was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
And this determined duo have spent the last year getting the inside of
their family home just right for him.
But it's left the garden a complete tip.
It's going to be a very big project, but we've got twins,
-we can handle that.
-We've got so much spare time
-you wouldn't believe it(!)
Undaunted, as they look for that new surge of energy,
they are dreaming of the perfect space.
Chip needs a lot of additional care.
We have appointments every single day, pretty much.
I think it's really important that he has access to somewhere outside
that he can just be, and move around in whatever way he can.
Helen has always loved gardening but for Aussie Dax,
it's a new experience.
And he's already setting the ground rules.
I'm not going to get too involved with the design.
I'll just be the hired muscle.
We've had some just incredibly difficult moments
since the kids' birth.
Whatever life throws at us from here on out, we can take it.
I mean, what do you think is going to be the hardest bit?
-Yeah, that's my bit.
Just keep the tea coming.
I can keep the tea coming.
-Let's do it.
-Let's do it.
Our second garden is 80 miles away in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
It's a new home for retired airline manager Valerie and her three dogs.
They moved in 18 months ago,
after rather dramatically deciding to throw out the old
and bring in the new.
I got divorced.
I got divorced because I'd been out to Australia and nursed my sister
who was dying of cancer, and it made me realise that life,
you only get life once.
Finding herself in a much smaller house was one thing,
but Valerie also had to say goodbye to her precious garden.
I love where I'm living now.
I love my house. The one thing that makes me really sad
is that I don't have a garden. And I'm now going to cry.
That's the only thing to say.
I'm really sorry, but I really miss it.
I really miss it.
Standing by to mop up the odd tear and generally lend a strong hand
is Valerie's best friend Lynn.
I'm not very good at making decisions, so when a decision needs
to be made and I'm dithering, you're quite good at saying,
-"Let's do that."
-There's no way she'd do a project like this
without me. I wouldn't let her.
-See what I mean?
-It's so exciting.
Even with Lynn by her side,
Valerie is going to need all the help she can get
to turn this 15 square feet parking space into her new dream garden.
I've got no idea, really, how you grow in pots,
what you can grow in pots,
what your limitations are in pots.
Oh, dear. It sounds as though some extra special help
is just what she needs.
I'm a huge Monty Don fan.
It's like meeting, I don't know, the pop star of the gardening world.
Fabulous. Wonderful. Can't wait.
It's May and summer should be on the way.
But it hasn't reached Brighton yet, where Monty is on his way
to meet Helen and Dax.
It's a warm welcome, but Monty soon finds he has some competition.
So, what are you wanting from the garden?
There's a lot of things that we want from the garden,
but I think I'm going to give these guys some food
and put them down for a nap
-and then we can talk.
-Very sensible. I've come at a bad time.
Look after the children. That's the important thing.
I'll have a look at the garden.
-Can I go out?
-Of course, please, please.
He's looking a little bit shocked.
I know that this garden would terrify a lot of people,
because it would just seem impossible,
but, actually, moving all the rubbish and cutting back
would be the work of a weekend at most.
And once you've got back to ground level, literally and figuratively,
then you can start to create.
Well, there is some cheery news for our harassed couple.
With the twins asleep, Dax and Helen can begin dreaming.
I want there to be lots of colour, lots of texture,
some really gorgeous smells to explore.
I'd like it to be a space that Dax and I can enjoy in the evenings,
as a place of calm. And then, finally, to have an area
-where we can grow our own vegetables.
-So, no pressure.
-Well, OK. No, no, that's fine.
What sort of budget are we talking about?
We have £1,500 for the garden.
-So, it's a good wodge.
So far, so good,
but Monty is about to bring these dreamers down-to-earth.
What you've described would consume that money like that.
I've had a little wander around
and I noticed that there is a sort of concrete pad
which looks like a building.
Yeah. It was an old garage.
What do you want to do there?
What I would love to do is dig all that up, shift it out,
and put some topsoil down and have raised beds there.
But I don't think that we've got the money to do that.
If you're prepared to do that yourself,
you can hire a jackhammer for a day
and you're not talking a lot of money. You're talking 50 quid.
-Is Helen driving this?
But there is one thing Aussie Dax has been dreaming about.
I can't hide the fact that I would love a barbecue area.
-A barbie. Of course you can have a barbie.
Barbecue agreed, Dax heads off to look after the twins,
while Helen shows Monty the rest of their plan.
Helen and Dax want to create a large flower border
on one side of the garden and build raised vegetable beds
on the existing concrete footing on the other.
They also want a lawn with a winding path
leading to a children's play area, and at the far end of the garden,
they'd like an area of grasses for the twins to explore.
But Monty immediately spots a problem.
If you've got a play area,
-Chip and Hester are going to want to go there, aren't they?
So, they are going to go absolutely in a straight line.
If you're going to keep the grass, I would make your path there.
Their plan has a lot going on.
The garden may be 111 square metres, but something has to give.
Lawn or tropical, which way are we going?
Yeah, well, this is it. What do I do with this space?
That's a good place for the tropical planting, but I would think about
-pulling it across as well.
-In some form.
So, you're picking up, if the theme is changing,
there is some barrier there.
It could be a thick, deep hedge, it could be a wall.
Whatever it is should be replicated on that side.
-And that will unify it.
Monty believes Helen and Dax need to remove the concrete slab
and make the raised beds accessible from all sides.
He suggests replacing the winding path with a straight one
and adding some form of barrier to define the space.
Underneath this chaotic jungle,
Monty has spotted some old established shrubs.
Helen could take some cuttings from them for the new garden
and, importantly, this could be a cost saver.
But first she needs to learn how to do it.
Cuttings in May almost entirely are softwood cuttings.
New growth. Lots of vigour, lots of growing hormones,
but absolutely no resilience.
If you leave it in the sun, it will die in minutes
and certainly within hours. So, it's a real race for softwood cuttings.
So, if you can keep it alive, it's very likely to form growth.
-And the way to keep it alive is to keep the area around it moist.
-So, what we are involved in now is an A&E emergency rescue.
With her teacher on hand, Helen has a go.
If we can find nice, strong straight growth that's flower free...
But Monty warns it may not be all plain sailing.
I take hundreds and hundreds of cuttings every year and I would say,
on average, 60% strike.
-So, there's a 40% failure rate.
-Don't worry about it.
With that tip and a dream plan in place, Monty leaves them to it.
This is a very happy, dynamic, positive family.
And I'm sure they'll tackle the garden with all the energy that
they're tackling everything else.
Monty's reaction to the budget was fairly unequivocal, wasn't it?
-He was just...
-You've not got enough money.
-Yeah. It's not going to happen.
To do all they want with £1,500 will take ingenuity
and lot of hard work, but I think they will do it.
And I think they'll do it really well.
I'd start right now. I probably will start in about five minutes' time.
-I'll be out there, yeah.
The sun has finally come out and Monty is in High Wycombe
to see if he can help Valerie create her dream outside space.
And the sense of anticipation is almost too much for her.
-Hello, Monty. Pleased to meet you.
But their first encounter does not quite go to plan.
-Is the garden out the back?
-No, there's nothing at the back.
-So, I've walked through it?
-You've actually walked through my garden
-and missed it, haven't you, Monty?
-That's a good start.
-I was aware of there was a garden,
but I didn't realise it was really so small.
-Yes, that's all that is.
-OK, well, that's interesting.
-Shall we go and have a look at it?
-We want to tour the estate, I think.
This is my small space.
What you see is what I have.
And it doesn't get any better.
So, what direction are we facing?
You're now facing south.
Ah, that's a pity.
So, this was an entrance off the road, was it?
-For someone to park a car?
-I think that's what they planned.
-And do you know what's underneath here?
So, concrete, north facing, noisy.
OK, that's what you've got. What do you want?
Do you need to use those gates?
-So, they could be blocked?
Yeah. I want some height.
I quite like the idea of maybe at least one tree.
Right. I mean, you can do trees in pots.
-Trees and shrubs in pots.
-Trees, shrubs, climbers, you can do.
With respect, this looks cluttered.
Because there's lots of different little things in it.
The great secret of all small spaces
is you have one or two really big things.
How experienced a gardener are you?
I came from a garden that was big, it had a lawn, a patio, a stream,
-Fine, fine. So, it was a proper...
-Sounds a lovely, nice garden.
-Yeah. I loved it.
-So, you've downsized dramatically.
-So, life has changed.
So, it's important to see this as a really interesting small garden,
not as a sort of replacement that, sort of, vaguely,
-makes up for the lost garden.
-That's a very sensible thing.
Lynn's been saying that.
You've just said it. That's absolutely right.
At last, Valerie's hero has brought a smile to her face.
To help her further, Monty wants to see her plans.
I love that we are all having to put our glasses on.
-Calm, green oasis.
You see, that's really clear.
And Monty has a big idea.
We didn't really discuss the possibility
of just continuing the brick wall across where the gates are.
-How do you feel about that?
-I think it would look better
than having gates. A warm, south-facing brick wall gives you
a fabulous growing opportunity in a very small garden.
Valerie wants a variety of containers with a mixture of shrubs
or trees to give height to the garden.
Monty suggests breaking the garden into zones,
encouraging Valerie to think about height and greenery
in the shaded area, flowers with strong scents around the seating,
and a new brick wall to give privacy and grow sun-loving plants.
Valerie has a healthy £3,000 to splash on the garden
and Monty immediately offers advice on how to spend it.
I would not find it at all extraordinary
if a third of your budget actually went on pots.
Terracotta, should they all be the same style?
-They don't have to be the same style.
-Mix it up?
It's your choice. I can direct you where you might look,
but in the end I can't choose.
Today was a dream come true meeting Monty Don.
I am actually weaning myself off my old garden.
I think this is going to be quite therapeutic.
If I could just get a stream running through the bottom of the garden,
-we'd be well away.
-If you buy bad drainage pots, you will.
Over the next few weeks, I don't think it matters
if Valerie does no gardening at all.
What really matters is that she involves herself
in the decision-making process.
When I next see her, I want her to be telling me
what we're going to be doing.
In Brighton, Helen and Dax have thrown themselves into their project
with their usual gung ho spirit.
We've been really busy over the last couple of weeks.
We've done a lot of the clearing and really opened up the space.
Today, they've set themselves the task of removing
the 15 square metre slab of concrete that Monty advised them
to get rid of to make room for raised beds.
-Just in time, help has arrived.
-Hi! How you doing?
Their friends Jim and Lou have come to lend support.
Little do they know what's in store for them.
I don't suppose you've got any idea how thick this is.
None at all.
Personally, I was just looking forward to a relaxing weekend.
Not much chance of that.
Even the elements are conspiring against them.
Dude, we are in so much trouble here.
This is insane.
Despite the weather,
Dax has followed Monty's advice and hired a jackhammer
and the boys are pretty excited about their new toy.
This is going to do some damage, right?
Yeah, you don't get much better than that, really.
It's a huge job.
I don't think I had any sort of idea about the scale of the job.
It's clearly significantly bigger than I thought it was going to be.
Helen and Lou forget all about the tea reinforcements
they were supposed to provide
and watch as layer upon layer of concrete appears.
It looks worse than when we started.
I think the whole point was to clear it.
-And it's not cleared.
It's got to get worse before it gets better, I think.
I'm just a bit worried that we've bitten off a little more
than we can chew with doing this.
It's a tough first lesson for the couple.
I just can't see this being a garden at the moment.
Chin up, Helen.
Well, it's a rock garden.
I don't like rock gardens.
I hope today is the worst day we have in the project.
-If they are all better than this, I'll take that.
In need of a morale boost, Monty has invited Helen and Dax along
to one of the highlights of the gardening calendar.
As a lifetime first for both of us,
we find ourselves at the Chelsea Flower Show.
-Which is extraordinary.
It's huge. I've wanted to come for years.
It's also the first time the couple have been out alone
since the twins were born two years ago.
-Comfy? You look comfy.
-No! Not particularly.
-Yeah. We're going to get one of those.
-One of those.
It's a visual feast with over 500 exhibits of show gardens,
arts and crafts and award-winning flowers to explore.
So, it's lucky there is a friendly face to show them around.
Hello. How are you?
-How's it going?
-Nice to see you, Monty.
-Nice to see you.
I haven't got long, I'm afraid,
but I've got some things to show you that I think will help.
-So, if you're happy, let's go and have a look.
Monty takes Helen and Dax to view a garden
created especially for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.
Designer Chris Beardshaw has created a calm,
restorative space using simple planting in deep borders.
What here makes you think again about your garden?
I think there are a couple of things.
There are a combination of plants
that I wouldn't have thought would go together and, of course, they do.
They're really stunning. So, it's a real eye-opener in that respect.
And also the height levels.
Do you know what it's actually doing while looking at this?
I'm thinking, why don't we just ditch that whole grasses idea
at the back, when you can have planting like this in that space?
-I'm so glad you said that.
-Was that the point?
Because that, I'm just like, why don't we just do this?
-The most important thing is simplify.
We were talking about symmetry, weren't we?
-And currently the plan is flowers on the left of the path
and raised beds on the right.
And if you were to replace all of the raised beds...
-It would look lopsided.
-It would look really...
I like symmetry, because it's...
You're looking for harmony in a garden. You're looking for balance,
but it doesn't have to be mirror image.
What you want is the feeling of balance and there's no reason why
you couldn't have raised beds on both sides.
I'm undoing all your plans, aren't I?
You are! I'm mentally redrawing everything.
Monty also leads Helen and Dax to Jekka McVicar,
who's designed a garden full of plants that promote wellbeing.
-The kids are going to love this.
-What is friendly for them, I suppose, and what isn't?
Well, this whole centre section is totally friendly
and I'd love you to touch this one here.
And then smell your fingers.
That is from Corsica.
-That is rock mint.
Rock mint or mentha requenii. This one here, smell that one.
I almost like that more than the mint.
That's double-flowered chamomile.
It's very low- grain chamomile, but it will give you
-the white daisy flowers.
-So, you can make tea from it.
Jekka explains that these herbs are tough enough
to be planted in or around pathways,
to create scent as you move along the path.
Other herbs that would work include thyme and oregano.
If you go to Chelsea, I think you should definitely have Monty Don
as your guide. It's like the parting of the Red Sea.
Chelsea is always an overwhelming experience,
particularly if it's your first time.
But I do think it's worth seeing different ways of doing things
from the masters and mistresses of the art.
One of the key take-outs has been just this idea of simplicity.
You don't need to do everything.
All of the design work that we've done so far,
I think we need to go back and ask ourselves, "Could this be simpler?"
-Because if it can be simpler,
-I think that would make it better.
It's June - gardens everywhere are starting to celebrate summer.
And in High Wycombe, Valerie has taken her first big decision.
Monty thought it would be a really good idea
if the wooden gates came out and we put a brick wall in.
Now that I'm going to wall myself in, absolutely great,
I can do what I like. I could run around the garden naked
if I wanted to - which I won't do.
Advice from her hero has made Valerie positively skittish,
but there is one snag.
I would say, probably, 90% of the budget has disappeared on the wall.
So I'm either going to have to
reduce the size of my dream, which I don't want to do,
or just up the budget.
But as the wall goes up, Valerie has a wobble.
I hate it.
It takes me a while to get used to things.
It's too late now, it's done, isn't it?
It's done. Lovely.
God, I hate it.
In Brighton, Helen and Dax followed Monty's suggestion
to remove the concrete slab to make way for raised beds.
But it wasn't quite the few hours' work he predicted.
It was really hard.
It ended up being pretty much three days of jackhammering, picking,
shifting rubble, digging.
It was relentless.
By the end of the third day, we could say, "Yeah, Monty was right."
With the slab finally gone, they've spent the last three weeks
preparing the soil for planting.
At no point could they call it plain sailing.
We had a rogue piece of flint that came off the pick axe,
smashed one of the huge plate glass windows in the kitchen.
I dug up a bumble bee nest.
And then I uncovered a World War II hand grenade.
The bomb disposal squad came down, really massive van,
to confirm it is indeed quite dangerous
and a live World War II hand grenade
and it would have had a 30 metre blast radius if it had gone off.
Which was actually a little bit terrifying.
Ultimately there's only one way
that you can really look at it,
which is that Monty Don tried to kill me with a hand grenade.
Well, at least his advice has gone down well on the planning front.
Since we came back from Chelsea,
quite a lot of the plans have changed,
that we originally thought we were going to do.
They've effectively been simplified.
Their new plan is inspired
by the Great Ormond Street garden Monty showed them at Chelsea.
It's just such a lovely space to be in.
And we came home and we just thought, you know,
"That's what we want from the garden."
They will now have a straight path running through two deep borders.
And the raised veg patch will be moved
to the children's area of the garden.
Shade-friendly planting replaces the grasses at the rear.
If it's half as good as it looked at Chelsea,
then I think we'll be really happy.
Well, there's a big dreamer for you.
They may move at rapid speed in Brighton,
but for Valerie, change happens at an altogether different pace.
She did follow Monty's advice to build a flint and brick wall
to create privacy, but once up, she didn't like it.
Two weeks on, Valerie may have come around.
I thought it was a big mistake.
Now it's been up for a while, I actually love it.
Best thing I ever did.
But then I always change my mind.
Now that's in place, the next task is filling the space.
We haven't actually bought anything.
We've listed it. We've done a lot of thinking,
but not a lot of doing at the moment.
To open Valerie's eyes to the potential of her new garden
and encourage her to spend her budget wisely,
Monty has suggested she and Lynn
visit Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire.
Here, pots are designed, thrown,
decorated and fired on site with their own mix of frost-proof clay.
Founder and head designer Jim Keeling knows pots inside out.
It's beautiful. It really is.
What will interest you is that this was actually a car park.
Well, that's an encouraging start.
Don't despair about the concrete,
because actually... Just think, this is a marvellous flat base to go.
OK. Cos I haven't got a clue. I've never had a container garden.
-I've had a proper garden.
Well, you've got a lot of fun in front of you, then.
Injecting a bit of fun is just what Valerie and Lynn need to hear.
That's a very good example
of how you've got your structural plants in place
and they've got really contrasting leaf shapes,
really contrasting colour, and then you're using a flower to, oh, zing!
Jim also explains that she can use pots to display just one plant
as a centrepiece, or try a mixture
to get a flower arrangement effect in one pot.
There's a lot more to container gardening than you actually think,
isn't there? It's not shoving a few plants down.
No, it's not.
Jim demonstrates how to place pots on top of each other,
or onto bricks, to create different heights within a garden.
So, you get your big ones in place.
Three big ones. And then all the others are a movable feast.
Much more variable than if you've got beds.
Right, so when are you coming round, then?
You're going to really enjoy it.
You've made me feel far more positive
about having a piece of concrete.
-It's a great liberation, I can tell you.
Talking to Jim about what you can put in pots has probably made us
have yet another think about how we're going to use them.
-But then gardening is constantly evolving.
Maybe not quite so easy for this big dreamer.
You know me. I hate change.
So, yeah, great.
Give her a glass of wine, she'll be fine.
After weeks of research and list-making,
Valerie and Lynn are finally getting their hands dirty.
We need to move the lady.
Yes, OK. I'm frightened her head is going to drop off.
They're following Monty's advice to split the garden into zones.
So Valerie's bought a hydrangea and a fatsia to give height
to the shaded end of the garden.
And she has an ingenious device to make the job easier.
-We should use the pot lifter.
-Yes, go and get a pot lifter.
"First, pull the D ring away from the handle in order to form a loop."
Hold that. Hold that!
Maybe it's not so clever after all.
-Shall we just lift it? It would be quicker.
We'll figure that out some other time.
Pot lifter binned,
Valerie and Lynn are keen to use the tips they picked up at the pottery.
Actually, you standing behind, it looks lovely.
-It adds some interest.
-And the verdict?
I don't like that fatsia.
I don't like it, so what's the point of having it? I shall look at it
and think, "God, I really don't like it, why did I put it there?"
Nothing for it but to bin it.
That's an expensive mistake.
So it's back to the drawing board and, over the next few days,
Valerie and Lynn do lots of toing and froing
over what should go where.
When Monty comes,
if he thinks that all these things are in the wrong place
and we've spent all day lugging heavy pots around,
I think my response might be, "OK, Monty,
"well, you move them and show us where they should be."
-..just lock the gate.
-Don't let him in.
In Brighton, weeks of clearing, ploughing,
sifting and soil moving have finally paid off.
Today, Helen's brother in law, Lee, is helping Helen and Dax
to lay the lawn which will form the foundation
for the children's area of the garden.
I've seen the plans that Monty has gone through with them,
and the changes that he's made.
Yeah. He's a great man
and I think the garden is going to be better for it.
So, after a quick how-to video on the internet...
-Don't lawn yourself into a corner of the garden.
..it's time to unroll.
As the garden begins to take shape,
the couple can finally start to see their dream realised.
And Aussie Dax has had a surprising change of heart.
The barbecue question has been coming up quite a bit.
And...to be honest, it's less important to me now.
This is more about the whole garden,
not just a little corner for me to burn some meat in.
But for an Aussie to kiss goodbye to the idea of a barbie, yeah,
that's a big moment.
And I won't be telling my dad about it.
Well, honey, this is like the first bit of the last bit.
-Are you talking to me or Helen there?
-You're my other honey.
I feel like we've got a garden now.
-Or at least...
-A garden that we can't walk on for two weeks.
It's been two months since the nation's favourite gardener
first visited this driveway in High Wycombe.
Now he's back to see how Valerie is getting on.
When I was last here, I was very aware that I was coming up
with lots of ideas and suggestions
in order to find out what Valerie wanted.
And it was hard, really, to reach that,
so the key thing is that she has made decisions.
They don't have to be ones that I approve off or like,
they just have to be hers.
The thought of Monty coming back today is probably doubly scary.
It's worse because you want him to like what you're doing
or what you've done, and if he doesn't...
But would he say to our faces?
I hope not.
-Good morning. How are you? Oh, dogs.
-Hello. Look at you, lined up.
-Look at you.
-Well, big changes.
-Yeah, absolutely fantastic.
First of all, doesn't that look better?
Little does he know how hard that was.
Do you like the result?
-I do now.
-Now that I've lived with it for a month or so, I absolutely love it.
-It's great, actually.
-It's the best thing I ever did.
That's a sweet garden.
Boy, have you been buying pots?
-The hydrangea is perfect. Absolutely ideal.
You've got a shady wall.
-It will love that.
-Can I overdo climbers in this garden?
Don't be tentative about climbers.
You can have climbers covering every inch of the fence.
You can have climbers climbing up climbers.
I love the idea of climbers everywhere.
That to me is...heaven.
I would, then, go for heaven.
The first thing I would do, if you like the idea of climbers there,
you need supports on the walls
because there's nothing for them to climb onto.
That is something I would do, really, straightaway.
Good for you. Thank you very much.
Without further ado, Monty gets cracking.
-I can't believe I've got Monty Don
drilling bits of stuff into my fence.
What a waste of a Monty Don!
Monty shows Valerie that wire strainers are a useful bit of kit
as, over the years, the wire can be tightened up
under the weight of the growing roses.
You never knew so much fun could be had from wire and tighteners.
Wire supports up,
Monty shows Valerie how to repot and train her rose to climb the fence.
Look at that. Perfect.
He suggests that Valerie makes three parts of compost
to one part grit to help with drainage.
There we are.
And packs compost around the sides.
That will be OK. If we took this and trained it along there,
that would encourage lots of side shoots to grow up
and it's the side shoots that produce the flowers.
Monty explains that five to seven framework shoots
are all you ever need. The rest can go.
It's fine. It's perfectly OK because what we're trying to do is get rid
of any growth that isn't structural.
And he has a final tip.
Never tie the end right down.
By leaving the end sticking up, we're encouraging it to grow faster.
Monty explains that climbing roses flower on new growth,
so the side shoots can be pruned back to one leaf in the winter.
-Have a try.
It's time for Valerie to demonstrate what she's learned from the expert.
See, I'm so frightened of snapping it.
Nothing will snap. And there you are.
It looks much better than a black plastic bucket, doesn't it?
Monty also wants to help Valerie pot her hydrangea
and get to grips with that tricky problem with pots - drainage.
The biggest danger of container plants is they get too wet.
The second biggest danger is they get too dry.
So, ideally, we'd raise that up off the ground.
So that will help drainage.
Valerie helps Monty by smashing up some small pots.
He then puts the shards in the base of the pot
to stop soil falling out of the holes.
You could use polystyrene chips.
You could use stone. It's just a drainage layer.
He mixes equal parts compost and grit for drainage
and to help the roots move through the soil,
and tops up with a lighter grit mix of compost.
Let's push that round the back, shall we?
Get it around there. Give it a good, good drink.
Just giving it a couple of watering cans full to start with.
I want to see the water running out the bottom, actually.
And then I know the drainage is working.
With the hydrangea happy, Monty leaves Valerie
with some final food for thought.
If you knew how...sort of imperfectly I garden at home,
and that's how you learn,
so you don't try and get it right every time,
you just try and do it every time.
If that's good enough for Monty Don, it's good enough for me.
He goes and you actually feel quite confident...
Yeah, that you can move on.
That you can do this, and I can prune
-and I can plant and I can just...
I can just do it.
The secret is to give yourself to it, let go of the past,
enjoy the process in the present and it will come good.
In Brighton, it's time for Monty to check on Helen and Dax.
Since his last visit, seasons have changed,
the twins have had a birthday,
and the garden has undergone a huge transformation.
But there's a bit of a cloud on the horizon.
The budget has basically pretty much been blown on work tools.
It hasn't left a huge amount for plants.
But the ever positive couple have come up with the answer.
We've just asked everyone that we know, we've asked for cuttings,
people have donated things,
so that's been really kind and incredibly helpful.
It feels quite a while since I was last in this garden.
Of course, I did see Helen and Dax at Chelsea Flower Show and I hope
what they saw there inspired them and helped them make decisions,
because this garden has to perform quite a lot of different functions.
So it will be very interesting to see what decisions they've made
and how far along the line they've got in implementing them.
This has changed beyond all recognition.
-But you haven't. How are you?
-Very well. How are you?
You've been busy. You have been busy.
And just how busy, he's about to find out.
-Digging that up must have been fun and games.
Neither fun nor games.
It was four solid days of jackhammering.
-Your prediction was an afternoon of pretty hard yakka.
It was seriously hard work over four days.
But how fantastic to do that
as part of the preparation for the garden.
I can remember your plan, which was, like so many plans are,
had lots and lots of ideas.
I don't know whether you changed your mind then
and you got rid of some of these things,
or whether it was going to Chelsea that changed you.
-Chelsea was massive.
-It was amazing.
-For me personally, that's when this project went from
something that I didn't feel like I had a lot of interest
or investment in to being really quite obsessive about.
The gardens at Chelsea, they all just had a singular idea.
All the best gardens, without exception,
are fundamentally very simple.
And that's the hardest lesson.
-So you've learnt it. Fantastic.
-Now we just have to do it.
But I am here to help you today.
We have got a beech hedge, so we'd like to get that in.
My mum is here with three of her friends.
-Oh, that's good, so they will dig for us.
-Yes, they will dig for us.
Well, they'll dig for you, Monty.
They're following Monty's advice to create a barrier,
defining the planted and children's areas of the garden.
And Monty knows just how to motivate the digging team.
Not only are they strong and fit and healthy,
but they're all beautiful, too.
-So that's good.
While they set to work prepping the soil for the hedge,
Helen wants Monty's help with pruning an apple tree
that she's retained from the old garden.
I would start by taking off some of the lower branches.
I always travel with a little saw.
-Well, it's useful.
-Little does Helen know what's about to happen.
So we could probably start with this.
I might need a bigger one than that.
Always start with an undercut.
And that will stop it tearing.
And then I can do a cut like that.
And that will come off cleanly.
-The advice I was given,
imagine a pigeon approaching your tree - can it fly through?
Can it come in one side and go out the other?
-And that will mean there is enough light and enough air.
If a pigeon hit that, it would crash into it.
A robin would have trouble flying through that.
So I think we should still continue to be more ruthless.
Meanwhile, the hedge team have hit a problem.
I'm slightly concerned about the foundations holding this wall up.
The roots of the hedge are going to go
right up to the edge of that concrete.
This is the sort of aspect of gardening I know nothing about.
Luckily, the country's favourite gardener
is on hand to set them right.
-You can get close to the concrete.
-The hedge will grow to fill it.
Even though there won't be roots directly below it...
No, the hedge will go sideways.
-You just don't cut it.
-Isn't that clever?
As the ladies take a well-deserved break,
Monty is getting ever more enthusiastic
about tackling the old apple tree.
-Well, it's nice up here.
-Good view. Can you see the sea?
Yes, I can.
We could probably cut that back.
Right, I want you to take my weight, tree.
I'll look after you, you look after me.
That's going to be fine. This is the bare minimum.
This is absolutely your number one haircut.
Oh, no, Monty, it's practically bald.
There's always a risk, a risk that you're going to go too far.
I think we've probably got away with it. And I've had fun.
Destruction over, it's time to put something back.
-I give you, ladies and gentlemen, our beech hedge.
One team do one side and one team do the other side
and we just go to it and see where we meet.
Monty explains that you can buy bare root hedge plants, or whips,
for less than £1 and grow a hedge from scratch. But for instant hedge,
these bigger, far pricier clumps
will give Helen and Dax's garden structure now.
With the earth prepped, they dig a shallow ditch
for the hedge to lay in.
Just make sure that below it is not compacted.
So the roots have got a chance.
If we need to cut this one...
You just use a spade, then be bold. Ready?
-And that's how you do it.
-No half measures.
That certainly seems to be the lesson of the day.
I hope they're not too shocked by the apple tree.
They're very polite about it,
but it's what I would have done if it was mine.
He took a lot more off than I thought he was going to.
When he started, in my mind,
I was thinking we were going to lose maybe 3%, 4% of that tree.
Looking at it now, there's only about 4% left.
He just knows exactly what he's doing.
Since Monty's visit,
Valerie and Lynn have been trying to get the layout of the garden right.
And they've finally got the pot lifter figured out.
-One, two, three.
-Mind your toes.
Mind your toes.
Hold on, I've got an acer up my nose.
But with less than three weeks
until Monty returns to see the final garden,
Valerie still isn't happy with the position of the pots.
I think she thought a few pots here and there
and the garden would be done,
but actually I think the process for Valerie has been harder
-than she thought it would be.
-It's a lot of pressure
because you feel that it has to be right for Monty.
In Brighton, reinforcements have arrived all the way from Australia
in the form of Dax's dad Jeff and stepmum Glenda.
I'm more concerned just about getting a sense for how this feels,
the width, the depth of it.
Dax has tasked his dad with helping him build an arbour
for the centre of the garden.
You and Helen want to sit shoulder to shoulder within it, perhaps?
-You pretend to be Helen.
Yeah, it works.
It's been a long time since I've had an opportunity
to hang out with my dad, as an adult,
and work on a project like this.
-Oh, Dax, you'd weep if you saw this.
-Oh! That's what you get
-when you put the guns on the job, that's what you get.
While the men congratulate themselves,
Helen is quietly getting on with the planting
and the reality of what they're trying to achieve is sinking in.
There's so much more to do, and Monty is going to be here in, what,
three weeks? We've got a herb bed to plant, a raised bed to build,
a kiddy planting area to do.
But she's got two very good reasons
to complete the garden they dreamed of.
When we were first planning this garden, we were thinking about it
in terms of Chip being in a wheelchair
pretty much most of the time,
but the progress that he's made over the few months, the last few months,
has been quite extraordinary, actually, and, you know,
maybe he won't be in a wheelchair all the time.
He's coming on amazingly.
It just feels like it's all part and parcel
of a really kind of positive time for us, actually.
It will be a real place to celebrate.
It looks like the men have already started celebrating.
What a job! What a job!
It's early September.
And Monty is on his way to see Valerie's garden
in its finished state.
Valerie's is a very small garden,
so there are limits to what she can do with it.
But the real limitation that has been holding her back
is doubt and worry
and, frankly, the inability to make decisions.
So what I'm hoping to see is a garden
that she has arrived at comfortably.
In other words, that it is her space.
I never thought it would be such hard work doing a container garden.
It's been stressful, but I love it.
I'm really happy with it.
-It's turned out how I wanted it to turn out.
Only four months ago, this was an exposed
and uninspiring concrete parking space
with a few mismatched pots and plants.
Now it's a cosy enclosed space with plenty of flowers.
There are dozens of pots which have been carefully arranged
to lend height and interest on all sides.
The new warm brick wall hides the garden from the outside world
and creates a perfect backdrop for climbers of all shapes and sizes,
as Valerie had wanted.
The hydrangea and a willow give height
and are happy in the shady end of the garden
and the rich mix of greens offers a cool and calming vista
for Valerie as she sits and enjoys her handiwork.
And look at that. It looks great.
-No, really, really good.
Gosh, it's changed and come on.
I love the way that you've gone for it.
-You've unlocked the door.
-We did it!
-The secret of small space...
It's true, it's true.
I'm really impressed
and I'm learning from the way that you've used space.
You've got all these pots, and how many are there now?
I think there are now 47.
You've got 47 pots to water.
I started off with a watering can.
After about a week, I thought, "No."
So I got a tiny garden hose.
There's so much to do now in this garden.
It is a garden, you see.
I've used the term "garden" as opposed to "driveway".
Yeah. Really important to hear you say it.
Has this process helped all that business of acceptance and moving on
and all that jargon that people spout?
It has. This is like the final bit of the puzzle.
This was the bit that was missing.
-I'm sorry, I'm going to get emotional!
-No, get emotional!
-Yeah, this was the bit that was missing.
-Yeah. I can see that.
There is a real feeling of, to me, of...
You know, turning a corner, opening a door,
-of just saying, "Well, we're here. "This is good."
-Yeah, this is...
My life is complete now.
I am a really lucky girl and this was the missing bit.
Monty is keen to know whether one particular problem has been solved.
Can she make up her mind?
I think she can.
The beauty of a container garden like this is you can move,
literally change everything, you can move it all around.
-And we have!
Now, remind me what your budget was.
And what did you end up spending?
On the pots and the plants, I ended up spending £1,230.
Right. And the wall?
I decided that the wall was going to be house improvements
and nothing to do with garden improvements.
So lots of money to go and have a really good party.
And with that, Valerie throws open her new garden
to friends and family.
-I have to say, I admire your wall greatly.
-Thank you very much.
-It's a lovely piece of work.
And the flint work's great, it's good to see that skill being done.
Glad it's all turned out nice, it was all worth it in the end.
I'm proud of both of them for what they've done, actually,
they've done a very nice job.
All the plants that Valerie didn't want, we now have at home,
so it's a lot better for us as well, rewarding!
It's really inspiring to see what can be done
with pots and containers and an unlimited budget.
-So I'd like you to raise your cups of tea...
..and toast Valerie's new garden
and its shining future.
-To Valerie's new garden!
Thank you, Monty.
I suspect that Valerie began this garden
as much out of a sense of duty as any real desire.
-The duty was that she felt she
-to make something of it,
but her heart wasn't 100% in it.
But I think for the process of doing it, with Lynn's help,
she has arrived at a garden that feels like home.
This is her garden and this is her future
and I hope, and I'm very confident, that she will love it.
Wouldn't change this now for soil beds,
which I never thought I was going to say that.
I like my pots. I really like my pots, yeah.
-To hell with proper gardens!
Give me a pot any day.
In Brighton, there's a frantic last push to get the garden ready
for Monty's arrival, and there are jobs for even the smallest hands.
Smell, how does it smell?
The twins love it, don't they?
They are out here every day.
I'm really happy with it and I really hope Monty's happy with it.
And there's been one last-minute addition.
It was our eighth wedding anniversary last week
and I thought, "What better gift for the whole family
"than a barbecue?"
So we went big and we bought a serious family-sized barbecue,
and today will be its maiden voyage.
So if Monty doesn't like the garden,
we can just ply him with enough hamburgers and booze...
-It'll be fine.
-It's a good strategy.
Helen and Dax have had a tough two years.
And making the garden, I know, had worked in a very positive way
that they hadn't expected. But, also, there was a lot to do.
They were running out of money fast,
so I only hope that they've reached a stage with their garden
where they can all sit back a bit and enjoy it.
Only four months ago, this garden was nothing
but piles of builder's rubble,
overgrown brambles and unloved shrubbery.
Oh! Look! This is fantastic, it's a garden!
It's a garden, finally.
Now, harmony and symmetry have replaced chaos
and the garden is transformed.
An aromatic herb-lined pathway cuts through deep borders
of fragrant planting, inspired by Chelsea.
The arbour, with birdhouse perching atop, creates a striking centrepiece
that leads the eye through the gently curving beech hedge
to the children's play area.
Here, the raised vegetable patch, a twin-sized bench,
and living willow archway give ample opportunity
for gardening adventures.
I love the structure in the middle.
-Can we go on down the garden path?
-Yes, let's do that.
I think we should put small people down.
The borders are looking great. And the hedge has survived,
-which is always a good start.
-Always a good start.
On my first trip here, I remember we did a few little cuttings.
-Did any survive?
-No, not a single one.
-A complete failure, I'm really sorry.
Cuttings, any time from September-ish,
are much more likely to take.
-So don't stop.
I won't. I won't.
-Remind me what the budget was.
-The budget we had, £1,500.
-Right. And what have you spent?
-Not including the barbecue...
We've spent £3,000.
For this to cost £3,000 shows you spent your money very wisely
-because it could easily be double that.
The tenacious couple have put so much into this garden,
but it's given back tenfold.
To have this garden come along and just be so demanding of us,
of our time, there's something really positive about that,
because that meant we could just let go of all of those other worries
and concerns that we had and throw ourselves into making this great.
The thing about gardens is they have an incredibly healing quality.
It's extraordinary how that happens.
Have you got anybody else coming to see this garden?
Everyone that has helped.
Yes. We'd better fire the barbie up.
Ooh, let's do that!
Come on, lead me on!
Hi! Hi! Come on in!
If you whoosh over it, it just smells amazing.
I think it's fantastic.
It looks spectacular.
I also like the apple tree, which I think is great, isn't it?
-Very well pruned.
-Very well pruned.
-Very well pruned.
Fantastic, absolutely amazing.
Yeah. What they've achieved in that period of time,
having the twins as well, is extraordinary.
A beautiful space.
I know the party's still going, but I have to go, I'm afraid.
It's so nice to see what you've done.
Thank you for letting me share it.
-And good luck.
-Thank you. Thank you.
-Good luck to both of you.
-Thank you so much.
-I feel ecstatic.
Monty Don said that we'd made a nice garden.
..that's pretty cool.
He's certainly given me a very different way
of thinking about what this space means to us.
Monty has definitely left his mark.
Let's see if I can get, like,
a little blue plaque for the apple tree.
It will be forever known as the Monty tree.
As the Monty tree, yeah, Monty Don climbed this tree.
I like lots of things about Helen and Dax's garden.
I like the fact that it's been such a palaver.
With unexploded grenades, and great depths of concrete,
let alone the domestic stresses and strains.
I like the fact that they've tackled it with such gusto.
But most of all, I like the fact
that this is a garden made with love.
Monty Don comes to the rescue of two sets of gardeners in desperate need of feel-good spaces. In Brighton, determined duo Helen and Dax have their hands full with twins, one of whom has special needs. Their current garden is a building site, but armed with advice from Monty they attack the challenge head on. With so many requirements from one small space, it feels their garden might burst at the seams. A trip to the Chelsea Flower Show soon has them focused on what's really important, but do they have enough energy left to get the work done?
Meanwhile in High Wycombe, newly single Valerie is looking for a fresh lease of life, but her 'concrete driveway' of a garden has brought her plans to an abrupt halt, as she has no idea how to plant in or on it! A visit to an inspirational pottery puts her back on track, but with so many choices can Valerie decide on the right ones?