Monty, oh Monty


“Among the things made by man, nothing is prettier than an English cottage garden, and they often teach lessons that ‘great’ gardeners should learn.”

William Robinson, “The English Flower Garden,” London 1883

It’s official. I am old. I’ve got a crush on Monty Don!

In a desperate attempt to turn the mud pit in our backyard into a beautiful English cottage garden with seasonal interest, I have been devouring old episodes of Gardeners Word, eagerly jotting down notes on planting advice and pruning instructions.

With spring another good two months away (thank you, Sweden), and planting tulip bulbs off the menu – not recommendable unless you want to invite deer to munch it all off – all that’s left for me to do is, in fact, planning and pruning.

Swedish gardens are typically made up of lawn, mature trees and deciduous shrubs that turn a depressing shade of poop brown in winter. If you are lucky, you might find a rose or two, or – if you are very, very lucky – a couple of hydrangeas.

When we moved to Sweden one and a half years ago (can you believe it’s been that long?!), I thought that gardens in Sweden were kept relatively bare because the climate didn’t allow for more abundance. Now I know that although the growing season here is much shorter than in the UK (184 days (6 months) in Sweden compared to 252 days (8.4 months) in the UK), you can – in theory – plant almost everything. The problem is that a) you have to make sure that deer won’t devour your treasured horticulture and b) you are going to have a hard time finding the plants you are lusting after, as Swedish garden centres’ choice is limited. As much as I love the fact that society in Sweden is in general more equal, I think the Swedes have taken it a bit too far when it comes to consumer choice. I don’t want to have the same car as my neighbour. Or the same bathroom. Or garden!

Luckily, I have found garden centres in the UK who are happy to ship up North (e.g. David Austin roses), and I have made the acquaintance of a lovely gardener chap with connections to Germany’s growers world. Beofre you get all excited now – he’s got nothing on Monty.

A list of deer proof, winter hardy plants (H5). In case google is what brought you here, dear fellow gardener in despair. 

  • lavender
  • chives
  • garlic
  • mint
  • peonies (YAY!)
  • hydrangeas (be still my beating heart…)
  • ivy
  • holly
  • hellebores (double yay!)
  • prickly roses
  • snowdrops
  • daffodils
  • narcissus
  • some clematis
  • in general, they tend to avoid anything that’s very perfumed and/or poisonous*

*which could make you think they were clever. Given that they love to jump right in front of cars and then stop to stare into the headlights, I’m not too sure about that.


  1. Good luck. I always feel that gardening is a battle with nature, rather than a walk hand in hand, which is a shame. I would enjoy it if I had more time to do it, I think.

    I used to like Alan Titchmarsh – really down to earth advice. Monty is lovely too.

  2. Sounds a bit like gardening in Chicago. We are told not to plant anything till May 1 and it’s always interesting to see which perennials have made it through the winter.

  3. Sigh… My garden is a disgrace. It’s a perfect day for it, but Sweden temperatures. I will just admire you from behind my computer…

  4. We have a deer problem too – I’ve found that putting a lavender border around my beds has, let them look quite English cottage garden-y, and keeps the deer out. Also they don’t seem keen on buddleia which is good because they seem to be the one thing that enjoys growing for me

  5. I can’t wait to see more photos, we got into gardening more last year ourselves-we’ve had a gardener for years but I got my hands dirty and I loved it (with gloves of course!) Those roses *swoon x

  6. Good luck with the gardening. We have a really adorable stream in the garden but every time I do a ‘tidy up’ of the garden and put down mulch (those woodchip things) and stand back to admire my handiwork the stream floods and it all goes to pot and becomes a pigsty with broken bits of plants all over the place….which means I have sort of decided to let the garden run wild…and pretend that’s the look I was going for. Yes here in Baltimore everything grows very fast with lilies up to your eyeballs.

  7. I love David Austen roses! I have an absolutely beautiful peach one in the garden. Also love Monty and hydrangeas. Of the trio, I’d say hydrangeas are the easiest x

Comments are closed.