We shouldn't be ashamed of our colonial gardens, says Monty Don

We shouldn’t be ashamed of our colonial gardens, says Gardeners’ World host Monty Don

  • TV gardener Monty Don says ‘we shouldn’t be ashamed of our colonial gardens’
  • Don, 65, says we should be inspired by gardens to create a ‘better world’ 
  • British collected plants from all over the world to be appreciated in UK homes

Every British garden is linked to our nation’s controversial colonial past – but that is nothing to be ashamed of, presenter Monty Don claims. 

The TV gardener, 65, insists we should not feel guilty about growing and enjoying plants plundered and brought back more than 200 years ago. 

Instead, he says, we should be inspired by them to create a better world. This is because rhododendrons, pines and lilies ‘improve the state of mankind’. 

Writing in Gardener’s World magazine, Don says ‘every garden in Britain bears witness to our colonial past’ as ‘from the late 18th century, the British collected plants from all over the world at huge trouble and expense’ to be appreciated in gardens at home. 

Every British garden is linked to our nation’s colonial past – but that is nothing to be ashamed of, presenter Monty Don claims. The TV gardener, 65, insists we should not feel guilty about growing and enjoying plants plundered and brought back more than 200 years ago

‘The plants they found that now grace our gardens – rhododendrons, pines, lilies, lupins, clematis, cornus, acers, primulas, the list is long indeed – are a joy. But how would we feel if a colonising force sent people to plunder our wildflowers and take them from remote, perhaps precious sites without any permission? 

‘Bringing back plants from countries you have conquered… is not only a visible sign of money and power, it’s a statement of control and colonisation.’ 

However, Don says he feels ‘deeply uncomfortable about retrospective moralising based on modern sensibilities’. 

The Gardeners’ World host – who is also a columnist for the Daily Mail’s Weekend magazine – believes we should continue to grow these plants, adding that gardens can heal social divisions. 

‘Everything has context,’ he says. ‘Do we tear down Stonehenge if we find it was built using enslaved labour? Do we condemn a great man or woman outright because they were badly flawed? 

‘When we enjoy our gardens filled with plants that were gathered as an act of colonial rule, we should not feel guilt so much as feel inspired by a sense of responsibility to create a better future. I believe that gardens can help to heal social hurt.’

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