The Ivington Diaries by Monty Don
My sister wanted to find the perfect birthday present for me last December; I was reaching a half century milestone and she hoped to make it memorable. At the end of the year, I kept reading about The Ivington Diaries, a new book by Monty Don, the former BBC gardening host and Observer columnist. I had seen his name many times in my garden reading but had never sat down with one of his books so I greedily suggested a gift for myself. My sister promptly ordered the book and we waited...and waited.... and waited. The book was available in England but didn't arrive in the States until July. It turned out to be fortuitous timing because we were going on vacation the first week in August and I needed a good book.
The Ivington Diaries is a compilation of entries from Don's gardening journal from 1994 to 2006. Don and his wife, Sarah, were rather famous costume-jewelry designers in London. Their business collapsed in the late 80's and they began a new life, centering around gardening, at Ivington Court, a medieval farmhouse they bought in Herefordshire, England. The property had no gardens when they began living there in 1991. The book is the personal story of the creation of a garden. He writes that "the context for this is a profound hunger for a sense of place and an urge to make a home." The entries are in date order but they jump from year to year. It has over 50 informal, yet lovely, photographs taken by the author.
The book has about 20 entries per month. Many of the passages are predictable and have plant titles like 24 March 2001 Clematis, 1o June 1995 Roses and 26 June 2004 Eremurus. Others are more interesting: 24 February 2001 Danger, 13 April 2005 Whiff, 10 July 1999 Flux and 11 August 2002 Stasis. There are also funny entries like 14 September Pretentious? Moi? and 20 September 1999 Slugmare. One of the more provocative entries is titled, 3 December 2000 Sex. In that piece Mon maintains that "neither pure femininity nor unalloyed masculinity make good gardens or gardeners. You need a balance of both." Something to ponder the next time you visit a garden you admire.
The Ivington Diaries is a book best read in clips and pieces in many sittings. My first time through, I read the titles that interested me most. I raced through these passages. Then I leisurely read the titles I was less gravitated toward. I was surprised how well I like these entries. Finally, throughout the gardening year, I will reread and savor the passages during the time of year the entry was written. The Ivington Diaries is a book one can read over and over again. It will never fail to satisfy.