For the past two weeks, hungry for some summer color, I immersed myself in English garden videos of all sizes and stripes. One thirty minute episode of A Gardener’s Diary a week is not enough to survive the ups and downs of winter.
On Netflix, I ordered The Art & Practice of Gardening with Penelope Hobhouse. Although I enjoyed this show, I still like A Gardener’s Diary better, which is kind of an American version of the televised British garden visit. When I ran out of the first disc of Ms. Hobhouse, I went to Amazon in search of more.
As an aside, why doesn’t HGTV put A Gardener’s Diary on DVD? I would be first in line to buy it. I’d love to take notes on the one gardener who had all of the Japanese maples. I know I could record it, but the teens in this house keep erasing the episodes. For some reason, when the DVR gets full, they think the garden stuff must go. When I ask who did it, three innocent, angelic faces look back at me. Harrumph.
While on Amazon, I bought the Great Gardens of England, which are visits with gardeners all over. Once I got past the accents, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how diverse the microclimates and styles of gardening are across the pond.
I’m also doing some extra research for an article for Oklahoma Gardener magazine on cottage style gardening. Cottage style is my style, but it’s great to see the experts doing their thing too.
In my latest foray, the gardens were beautiful and varied, and I learned something important from my viewing. Many of the gardens, from the smallest plot to the largest estate, were inherited (both literally and figuratively). In Great Britain, many homeowners received a garden when they bought their home. Nearly every featured landscape was in a mature state and many were described as either an “Edwardian garden with Victorian influences” or as a “mature woodland” or an “heirloom herbaceous border.” One man in particular struck my fancy when he talked about his garden being started by his grandfather who was a plant hunter two generations before. Grandfather would take seeds from all over the world and then see if he could grow them at his home. This lovely man was surrounded by mature deciduous magnolias and other plants which were unique. Just seeing how much he cared for this garden cheered my winter weary heart.
I was so touched by this story, that I discussed it with my non-gardening mother. I was telling her about the latest DVD and how everyone tended these gardens from multiple generations, and she, who has visited England, said people there rarely throw anything away. She said they see places as historic instead of as simply old, and they are willing to do what’s necessary to care for them.
I see it as the ultimate in recycling; taking care of what’s already there and seeing what comes from it.
In America, when a family moves into a new home, they want to make it their own so they redo it and its environs as soon as possible. Perhaps, that’s why HGTV is full of redecorating, refurbishing, removing, redoing; well . . . you get the idea. On the other hand, Great Britain has its own garden network.
I think we could learn something from them. Don’t you?
Loved the photos of the Lost Garden! Sounds so romantic! I also enjoyed the post referring to “plant hunters”! I prefer to be listed in that category – it should impress the husband.
Dena E. Bolton/Nashville Gardening Examiner
Love the photo of the unknown magnolia. We unearthed one just like it when we moved into our new home. There were lots of saplings and other stuff at the foot of the hill of our property. After I cleaned it out, I was rewarded with this gorgeous magnolia!
Dena E. Bolton/Nashville Gardening Examiner´s last blog post..Ozark Sundrops
Hi Dena, I have a small magnolia too, and I love it dearly. I took that photo when I visited what I call the Lost Garden last spring. I will probably go there again this year.~~Dee
Just had to come back and say that I found some great gardening books at my local library after being inspired by this post. I searched for the topic online and found a much greater selection within the 6-library co-op than what was sitting on the shelf at the library closest to my house. I’ll have to post a few reviews of my own soon! Thanks, VW
Oh, VW, I’m so glad. Please do post some reviews. I love hearing what others are reading.~~Dee
I really related to this post. As you may know, I am also a rabid anglophile, and I adore English gardens. These will be on my Netlix queue for sure.
And I love my inherited garden. I have kept a lot of it, in terms of structure and hardscape.
Yes, Eliz, we’ll get to England someday.~~Dee
that columbine is divine!
jenx67´s last blog post..Urban Garden: Part 1 Tilling
Thanks, Jen, they come back every years, or actually, their descendants do. 🙂 ~~Dee
Dee, this is fascinating reading your thoughts on English gardens. I think you are using rose-tinted-glasses to a degree. Yes, we do love our gardens, garden visiting is a thriving industry. We do through away an awful lot and our communities are not close any more so it is more difficult to hand on plants. Preserving buildings and gardens is often a commercial exercise, I have just been reading about one beautiful historic garden having to put ‘more colour’ into the garden to attract more visitors! As for TV we have an ongoing battle with the BBC to let us have a little gardening each week.
Best wishes Sylvia (England)
I never would have thought of viewing garden videos. What a great idea! Our family do have a small but steady gene of preserving the old. My mother claims it comes from her side, the Johnsons, definitely Celtic.
As for the Americans way of buying and making the house their own, yes, and I’m seeing more and more this is ‘investment’, not for love of a home.
I moved to Canada from England last year and one thing I do miss are leisurely walks around the long-established gardens of big country houses. One DVD I’ve enjoyed since being here is The Victorian Kitchen Garden, which is a 1980s series based around the re-creation of a walled garden in an English manor house over the course of a year. It’s very slow and gentle, but a fascinating source of information on garden history and the way things were grown in Victorian times.
Amanda´s last blog post..Daffodils from Canada for St. David
The genetics of a Brit are saturated with the gardening experience which seems to make it an integral part of their life. Every time I visit GB, I find myself longing to live in a culture that celebrates the gardening experience as strongly as they do. We tend to treat it as “frosting” in this country…
compostinmyshoe´s last blog post..Soft Touch
I love your quote “We tend to treat it as ‘frosting’ here.” Instead, we gardeners know it’s the staff of life.~~Dee
What an interesting post, Dee. I like hearing about your garden, and the Brit gardening shows. Is your garden greening up now? Mine is still sound asleep under it’s white blanket. And, this morning, I heard we may get another 10 to 14 inches of snow tomorrow!
Sandy´s last blog post..on the windowsill
Sandy, it was really greening up, but we’ve had two bone chilling cold days (this a.m., 17 degrees F) and I fear for all the bits of green.~~Dee
I will have to check out those DVD’s. Do you think that English gardening standards and attitude has anything to do with respect for gardening? The English just seem to have more respect for most things and especially the gardener. Here we are into disposable but perhaps with this economy, that will change. I think Americans view gardening (present company excepted) as a means to an end rather than an ongoing, exciting process. The garden is never ‘done’.
Layanee´s last blog post..Now Open at Our New Location
Layanee, I don’t know, but they do value gardening. I think Americans everywhere are feeling the pinch and have changed some of their habits.~~Dee
If we had such gorgeous old castles and whatnot here in the US, maybe we’d do a better job of preserving them. But especially here in the western US, even the oldest buildings would be ‘new’ by Europe’s standards! And much of our newer architecture isn’t pretty enough to save, in my opinion. And now I’ve been inspired to go to our local library website to look for more gardening books/videos/DVD’s. Though it’s a much smaller selection here in Spokane than in Santa Clara, CA. Oh well, VW
VW, you make a good point. I know that in Oklahoma, we don’t have a bunch of old buildings. After all, the state is only 100 years old.~~Dee
I didn’t realize Great Gardens of England was on DVD through NetFlix. Thanks for the tip. I love your blog title. We have red clay here in Maryland!
Candylei´s last blog post..Surreal Gardening Art and Artist Candylei
Thank you so much. We have very red dirt too. All that iron you know. I actually bought Great Gardens of England from Amazon. I don’t think it’s available on Netflix. However, The Art and Practice of Gardening is.~~Dee
hkki´s last blog post..Law of attraction
I agree, there is not much Garden in HGTV. You can ‘protect’ what you DVR, you have to do it one at a time after it is recorded, I have the same problem here at my house:)
Carla´s last blog post..Camera Critters: Blu-ue-ue-ue-ue
Carla, I didn’t know that. Woo-hoo!~~Dee
Wow, I live under a rock–I’ve not heard of A Gardener’s Diary! I only get basic basic cable which doesn’t have HGTV. I used to have my friend record Gardening by the Yard for me, until she also downgraded cable service. I was able to get The Art & Practice of Gardening with Penelope Hobhouse through my local library, plus two books by her that sound interesting! Thanks for the tips!
Monica´s last blog post..GBBD – At last!
Hi Monica, it’s in reruns on Thursday mornings @ 6:00 a.m. CST. I sit and drink tea and absorb it. So much to see.~~Dee
Dear Dee, you are so smart to spend these last winter days studying the gardens of England, they do know their gardening. I am reading Monty Don’s book “Gardening Mad” with the same intensity, trying to absorb those generations of knowledge that seems to be in the genetic makeup of the UK residents. Cottage gardens like yours are such a pleasure to live in, I hope to see yours in real life someday. 🙂
Frances´s last blog post..Emergence
Hi Frances, I haven’t read that one. Will need to check it out. I, too, hope we get to visit each other’s gardens one day. I really do.~~Dee
Hi Dee – as a UK gardener I have to disagree with your mother. The British have truely become a throw away society and it is only in recent years that recycling has become a big issue here. However, I do think there is a culture amongst gardeners to reuse and make do but I dont think this is peculiar to the UK.
Good points, Helen, and you would know. We plow under entire gardens here. Do you all do that? I hope not. True gardeners wouldn’t, would they.~~Dee
BIG THANKS to you, dear Dee, for guiding passionate souls who love gardening, yet find hours impossible to wrap arms around all that the wondrous world has to offer 🙂
joey´s last blog post..FAREWELL FEBRUARY! ~ BLACK FOREST CHEESECAKE
Why, thank you Joey! I, too, have difficulty finding enough time. I just keep plowing ahead though. 🙂 ~~Dee
I remember A Gardener’s Diary! I haven’t seen it in years and didn’t realize it was even still on. I didn’t think there was any more G in HGTV!
We certainly could learn a lot from cultures who value and use what they have. Old stuff has a lot of character and usefulness, and is so much more interesting than mass-produced and shiny new. I hope the state of our economy will help recast resourcefulness as the virtue it really is.
Our circa 1967 pink bathroom is charming and perfectly functional, and I fight the occasional urge to update it. 😉
linda´s last blog post..Why Do Experienced Gardeners Blog?
Yes, Linda, the reruns are still on, but many of them are still new to me. We didn’t have satellite until three years ago. I think Americans are becoming more resourceful as some resources are in decline.~~Dee
I’d love to see The Great Gardens of England. It sounds like my cup of tea! 🙂
A garden with history attached appeals very much to me. My father came from England to Australia, so I have English blood. Perhaps that’s why I have such trouble throwing any plants away 🙂
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Kerri, I think you’d love it.~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow
I too would love to watch Gardeners Diary. Or most any other garden show. I still drag out the Gardens of the World on tape and watch occasionally.
Lisa, if you have cable, it’s on at 6:00 a.m. CST on HGTV.~~Dee
I make a point of watching Gardener’s Diary every Thursday, and yesterday was treated to seeing one of my customer’s gardens.
In 2000 I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to England on a horticultural tour. Of course I was dazed by the large historical gardens, but what struck me the most was the fact it looked like any open space was fair ground for gardening. Even the most modest of row homes had interesting plants or a back yard vegetable garden. Service stations, pubs and rest areas were full of colorful planters. Here we are lucky to have a green thumb, there it is refered to as having green fingers, far more easy than gardening with one digit.
Les´s last blog post..A Mixed Bag
Wow, Les, I watched that episode too. Was she the one with the “traveling plants?” I loved that garden. It has such great symmetry. I knew she had help. You did a beautiful job. As to England, that’s exactly what I mean. Great Gardens of England celebrated gardens large and small. Some were tiny plots, but everything was growing so beautifully.~~Dee
Brit' Gal Sarah
This is very true about the gardens of England being handed on. When you buy a home in England, if it has a mature and well-established garden, this can be a big selling point. Both my parents are wonderful gardeners, in fact I come from a long line of them and this was a deciding factor for our family home always.
When I was growing up I lived in an Edwardian cottage with a fabulous SW facing cobbled courtyard garden with a gazebo. You would have loved it Dee and that’s where I found my own love for climbers. My mum planted honeysuckles, clematis and roses everywhere. She still has a wonderful garden now, I must send you some piccies.
My parents are divorced now and my Dad lives in the north and he is more of a shrub and vegetable gardener. He lives very close to Chatsworth (google it) where they have some of the best formal gardens.
I think if you’re English you are almost born with a gardening gene, that will always kick-in eventually. I hated it when I was young, but when I got my first home BAM it turned itself on and I have never looked back.
BTW I have a Magnolia shrub (remember I told you I was nursing it gently in a barrel for a few years) that is currently in the garage and covered in budding blooms. I will wheel it out and photograph it and post piccies. It looks very like the one in that piccie.
Brit’ Gal Sarah´s last blog post..Skywatch Friday
Sarah, dear, I thought of you the entire time I wrote this post. In fact, I wished we could discuss the videos too, but alas, you live out west too far for me to simply come for a cup of tea. Still, I love hearing your thoughts. I know about Chatsworth, and someday, I will see it. In fact, OHS is planning a trip to England, and I hope to go.~~Dee
I think we gardeners are hungry for the sustenance of a good gardening show.. Our local public television has a half hour garden show and I find myself resentful that they include 10 minutes of cooking…Have a local cooking show and give us a full program of great gardening. gail
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Hi Gail, yeah ours had the same format for years. It’s better now, but I still long for really good programming.~~Dee
Mr. McGregor's Daughter
You wouldn’t be the first to buy “A Gardener’s Diary”; I’d cut in line in front of you! I used to record them all on VHS. Now I forget that it’s on so I could record them on DVD.
I am so envious of the British and their gardening network, their fab gardening magazines, and their awesome flower shows. Sigh… if only we could try to get half of that here.
Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog post.."Our Life in Gardens," a Book Reivew
MMD, I’m still laughing at you shoving by me to get to the front of the line. I take the British gardening magazines, the ones offered for subscription here. Fun to look at.~~Dee
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
Great Gardens of England… I now need that DVD!! Loved your review, and how true, we do throw away too much “over here” and then ironically, we try to make what is new appear to be old!
Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog post..Queen of the Vegetable Garden: The Tomato
Yes, Carol, I am the great enabler. Enjoy your new DVD, cause I’m sure you bought it. 🙂 ~~Dee
I eye the magazine aisle for gardening magazines every time I’m at the grocery store. Can’t get enough blooms!
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Me, too, Brenda. Spring is a long time coming.~~Dee