Garden Love | Gardens in Film & Television

The last few years life have thrown disruptions and life changes at us right around the season when cultivating our garden should have been happening. The first year, I mourned it. The second year, I released it and felt that it was only wise to take the pressure off of us. Last spring I wanted to dive back in, roll my sleeves up, and get back to the work of growing and dreaming and creating this space that nourishes my soul so much when I am there. But alas, just as I was plotting and prepping, hot on the heals of a domino of more craziness in our lives, I found myself out of commission with pneumonia. It quite literally took my breath away, and I had no choice but to rest and recuperate.

So I spent those days and weeks, as my body needed additional rounds of antibiotics, soaking in all the gardening I could via other mediums. I started with films and television shows, and they inspired me when I couldn’t be out there myself. So I thought that I would share some my absolute favourites with you here.

The Gardener (click title for trailer) stole my heart! It is a documentary about Frank Cabot’s stunning Les Quatre Vents garden in Quebec. This film was about so much more than just a garden. It encompassed every emotion for me, from dreams and vision, to the relationship that we, through our homes and gardens and spaces, have with nature. Cabot’s garden is unlike anything I have ever seen and there is so much thought and attention to detail, and such a profound respect to the environment in which it finds itself, as well as the imagination and the delight of the people who will get to experience it. Frank Cabot was an influential gardener and horticulturist who founded The Garden Conservancy.

I purchased The Gardener on AmazonPrime last year, which is how I discovered it, however, I found that it is currently available on Hulu.

This Beautiful Fantastic is on my list of most favourite, quirky, charming, perfect movies. The story is so sweet and touching and all of the characters are phenomenal and the acting superb. And I’m clearly not made out for the movie reviewing business because I don’t even want to really tell you what it’s about, because sometimes I find that the best film discoveries are the ones where you don’t know anything about the movie, and then find yourself delighted by the surprises. This movie had me laughing and crying and thinking about life and human connection … and of course, desperately wanting to garden. However, if you *must* watch the trailer to be won over, then click the photo below and be ready to fall in love. I just watched the trailer again myself and being the sap that I am, totally got teared up and will be sitting down to rewatch it this week.

A Little Chaos is another treasure of a film. Set at the backdrop of Versailles and King Louis XIV’s court. The premise is fictional, a 17th century female landscaper hired to create a special garden at Versailles. It is, however, lovely to consider, and there are some meaningful themes throughout, and a glimpse into a time when gardens were meant to harness and impose order and structure to nature, a time when gardening was a philosophy. There are flaws here and there in the film but all in all, I found it lovely, and the cast is stellar! I mean, Allan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Stanley Tucci all in one place!

Currently, it is available on Netflix. (Or for rent/purchase on other streaming services)

In complete contrast to the structured and formal gardens of Versailles, Dare To Be Wild, tells the true story of Mary Reynolds, a gardener and garden designer who yearns to bring a much more natural touch to the garden as she competes at the famed Chelsea Flower Show. The film poses ideas about wild and native plants and sustainability, as Reynolds’ approach is an environmental and biodiverse one. She continues her work today to heal the land and help restore this biodiversity to areas where it has been stripped by development. The movie follows her personal journey and relationships as well, but what I took away from the film as a whole was a rich view into a gardening philosophy of healing and balance.

I purchased this one from AmazonPrime as well, but it can be found for rent/purchase on several formats, including YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play.

This notion of a philosophy of gardening is fascinating to me. I was absolutely absorbed in Frank Cabot’s approach to his garden for this reason. Both A Little Chaos and Dare to Be Wild offer unique glimpses into these ideas as well.

But for a truly fascinating look into the role that gardens play in history and philosophy and thought, Monty Don’s series on Italian Gardens and French Gardens is absolutely essential. You may never look at a garden the same way again. And who better to navigate us through such a fascinating history than Monty Don, an inspiration to gardeners the world over, and someone who clearly has a genuine love for gardens. His own passion comes through every episode of these two series.

I am most devastated to find that neither of these two series are on Netflix, which is how I watched them last year. You can however find them on YouTube still which is wonderful because it is nearly impossible to purchase them in the U.S. If you click on the photos below they will take to you the first episode of each series on YouTube and I highly encourage you hunt down the remaining episodes. There isn’t a single one that isn’t absolutely mesmerizing.

I find myself this year, staring out into my overgrown, falling apart, used-to-be vegetable garden, and I am yet again behind. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see a pandemic coming. And despite this time at home, we find ourselves juggling a whole new set of shifts and changes. Oh, and one of the rainiest springs in a while, so every time I think we are going to tackle the work outside, we find ourselves staring out the window at a torrential downpour and hoping the power doesn’t go out from the severity of the storms.

But some things remain. My hydrangeas are filling in with green, and in height. I hope that in no time we will see them flower. My rose bushes have been blooming with huge, bright red, and fragrant roses, as big as my hand. And the jasmine has taken off, and I spotted flowering on it this week, which means that soon, when I sit outside on the back porch, I will be able to inhale its delicate but stunning fragrance.

There are many more things that I would still like to do, many dreams for adding other touches, and refining our attempts at growing vegetables and herbs. But if there is one thing that I have learned from all these gardens in this last year, it is that good things take time and that I would like to take my time to consider nature and the way in which we could work together to create a space that will be mutually nurturing, healing, and inspiring. Lofty goals? Perhaps. But after the inspiration that I have gleaned from the gardens in these films and television programs, I cannot help but think that each garden we plant, whether for food or for beauty, is an opportunity to cultivate something lasting and moving and nourishing. I’m willing to take the risk of being a dreamer.

Join me for the next installment of this series on Garden Love, where I will share some inspiring as well as practical books on gardening.

Warmly,

Magdalena