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Gardener's World Sets The Pace

I'm sitting in my favourite reading chair, looking out at my balcony garden. We rearranged things this year so I can better see the garden from my chair, plus we hope the nasty winds coming off the ocean don't batter the plants quite as much. That's a false hope -- four feet further north won't make any real difference. But it's given me a chance to put up some baffles of floating row cover that act as a windbreak. The plants north of these ugly white sails have a lot more shelter.

It's peak season for me to catch Gardener's Flu, that annual affliction where my imagination runs wild, extravagant plans are laid, far too many plants are purchased, all in the hope of a green, healthy, bountiful vegetable garden by summer and fall. It's especially tricky in Victoria, because the weather has been mild for so long, but not actually hot. One can buy tomato plants in mid-April, but they don't really do much until June. I planted them anyway. Two tomato plants in their own pots, a bed of leaf lettuce, a bed of Green Arrow peas and a bed of carrots with one sweet bell pepper in the middle. Nice and restrained.

So far all is doing well. The warm weather crops are protected under more row cover, the peas are up and one plant in particular has shot up, head and shoulder's above its neighbours. The cool, sunny weather is perfect for lettuce and we've already cut the first half of the bed, with the second ready to harvest this week. Only one more trip to the garden centre is needed; somebody left two small planters in the recycling room and I snapped them up. Potting soil and flowers is on the agenda for tomorrow's shopping.

I've really benefitted by the calm, reassuring guidance of Monty Don this year. Monty is the iconic host of BBC's Gardener's World, which I discovered on our trip to the UK. Starting in mid-march, Monty is on BBC2 every Friday evening from his two acre garden, Longmeadow, deep in the British countryside.

Monty always has six or seven jobs to do, cutting back shrubs, planting a new apple tree, laying sod, or seeding sweet corn in the shed. Each task is completed calmly, clearly and confidently. His bench is uncluttered. His spade is sharp. As Monty moves between jobs, his obedient golden retriever following behind, we travel across the country to visit spectacular gardens and imagine what we might achieve one day, if we only gave up every aspect of our lives and moved to the country (ideally in 1992.) And then we're back, Monty smiles, and we start a new job.

The episodes are recorded in real time, so the March episodes are set in cold, wet, early spring. Tulips are blooming magnificently at the end of April. Mid May ushers in the first of the major flower shows. We visit, but I'm impatient. I just want to watch Monty work in his garden.

And we get homework too! Every episode ends with jobs we can tackle in our garden this very weekend. And with the climate in Victoria being close to England's, I can wander the neighbourhood on Saturday morning and see if folks are staying on top of things at the correct time.

I love the romance of Gardener's World. Not the garden tours, as magnificent as they are, but this notion that all of us, together, are checking in on Friday evening and preparing for an excellent weekend in the garden. It's more than a gardening show; it's a weekly ritual as we put away our office clothes and put on our gardening clothes. Monty gives us our marching orders and off we go.

Yes, there is a bit of symbolic divinity here. The Master guiding his apprentice, or the shepherd guiding his flock. I don't care. I love it anyway. It's a throwback to a simpler time, where we all gathered around the TV to get the news of the day and to strengthen our common bond. And yes, I'm watching from a third of the world away, taking my guidance from a place I've barely visited. It's not even my own nostalgia. But that's fine with me.

I only hope that the show continues right through the summer. My Gardener's flu usually fades by July and my garden suffers from neglect. I'm counting on Monty to keep me going at a calm, steady pace right through Thanksgiving.