Reviews The Veg Plot

American Gardens by Monty Don & Derry Moore

Due to the current virus-ey climate, packages that arrive at TTG HQ bearing London postmarks tend to send our emergency COVID response into overdrive. Our current procedure is to incinerate any offending objects before brushing the charred remains into the garden border with a long handled broom, but this particular delivery was spared from fiery death due to a Zippo malfunction at the crucial moment. Fortunate indeed, as the contents of its cardboard shell revealed itself to be Monty Dons latest tome, ready for a good ol’ read.

Sunnylands cactus garden, Palm Springs, California. Pity the poor gardener who has to weed this prickly plot. Photo © Derry Moore.

‘American Gardens’ is a collaboration between Monty and ace photographer Derry Moore and is intended as a papery companion for the BBC television series of the same name. Together they attempt to dissect what characteristics define an American garden, and do so by embarking on a voyage of discovery across America visiting gardens, estates and urban areas.

Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. Built for Edgar J. Kaufmann between 1936 and 1939.
Lucky old Edgar. Photo © Derry Moore.

Derry’s masterly photos are the perfect accompaniment to Monty’s intimate commentary and are used lavishly throughout the book. Production values have been ramped up to the max, with a liberal use of full-bleed dps photos that help portray the scale and vibrancy of the subject matter.

We get the feeling that Monty* is a slightly reluctant traveller and would rather be at home messing around within the cool confines of potting shed at Longmeadow, but there’s a real sense of personal engagement with every garden covered in this book, right from the weedy yet abundant spaces of New York’s Target Bronx Community Gardens through to vast, verdant spaces of Palm Springs and beyond. 

Right: A great saguaro cacti, Sonoran Desert, California. Left: Don, for scale. Photo @ Derry Moore

For anyone keen on the history, development and direction of tamed American landscapes, there’s a lot here to love, and at a time when most folks’ travel plans have been significantly curtailed, Monty and Derry’s American adventures makes for a warm, welcome escape.


American Gardens is published by Prestel and available to buy here.


* Keen followers of Monty’s sartorial style will be pleased to note that he manages to sneak into a few photos. His trademark scarf is very much in evidence, along with a hat that hints of stetson without going full ‘John Wayne’. Fans of Nellie and Patti (Monty’s dog companions, as seen on Gardeners World) will have to settle for two pictures; the back of one solitary Yankee doodle poodle and a stone statue mutt.


If this book piques your interest for all things American, we’d highly recommend a visit to the American Museum and Gardens. Read all about it here.


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