TV preview: Monty Don’s French Gardens

If you want to know about gardens, you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone as well-qualified than Monty Don.

Monty Don’s French Gardens (BBC2, 9PM)

The self-taught horticulturalist and presenter is best known for his work on Gardeners’ World, which he fronted from 2003 to 2008, when he was forced to step down following a stroke, and again from 2011 onwards.

For his latest series, Don travels the length and breadth of France, where he’s already shown us stunning outdoor spaces which demonstrate the country’s historic displays of money, power and passion.

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For this week’s edition, he focuses on the plots which are closest to the French people’s hearts - or at least their stomachs - beginning by visiting a number of ‘potagers’, gardens in which both vegetables and flowers are planted together in elaborate and beautiful, yet productive and functional displays.

The marrying together of romance and gastronomy in this way seems uniquely Gallic. However, as Monty learns when he talks to a number of gardeners about this technique, it is actually something which has since been reproduced the world over.

Monty - president of the Soil Association - finds out why the French attach a great deal of importance to the soil in which they grow their food, and the ways in which it can affect the end produce. He also spends time among a few of the country’s allotment holders, who teach him the best ways to harvest asparagus and treat him to some of the finest natural produce France has to offer.

The three-part series draws to a close next week with a look at the country’s most famous artistic gardens, but tonight’s edition is a wonderful blend of programming, taking in elements of cookery shows and travelogues along with the obvious horticultural content.

Monty has already toured the world on similar missions, tracking down some of the finest gardens in shows such as Around the World in 80 Gardens and Italian Gardens.

“All through my twenties I used to take a week’s holiday every year with my wife and spend it just visiting gardens,” he says. “All my life I’ve visited gardens - I did Around the World in 80 Gardens, and I visited 40 gardens in Italy. All of them had had an influence. I’m constantly impressed by gardens and I visit them all the time.”

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June 2005 was a successful time to launch a British panel game. Mock the Week made its debut, turned comics Dara O Briain, Russell Howard and Frankie Boyle into household names. And Jimmy Carr hosted the first episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats. The show still pulls in around two million viewers each week. This week it’s business as usual as Carr welcomes regulars Jon Richardson, Sean Lock and more special guests to answer questions based on UK-based opinion polls.

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