Magazine article The Spectator

Quietly Enjoyable

Magazine article The Spectator

Quietly Enjoyable

Article excerpt

I feel as if I have been crawling through a desert, lips parched, eyes blinded, when, suddenly and unexpectedly, I have stumbled across an oasis. At last I have found something on the television about garden-- making to enjoy.

I have a certain reticence about criticising the one-track treatment of garden design on television, which has predominated ever since TV executives first discovered the potency of `garden makeover' programmes as a way of raising normal garden programme ratings. Because I am comparatively old, ugly and flat-chested, and therefore have about as much chance of getting myself onto evening television as an antiquarian Wykehamist clergyman, I have not felt that I could pitch in, in case it looked like a whole bunch of sour grapes. I have failed to air publicly the view, therefore, that the complete alteration of a garden in the space of a weekend was not only potentially misleading to viewers but ultimately unsatisfying - especially as the camera had little time to linger on anything except wet T-shirts.

I have swallowed my annoyance that context and setting were ignored, even though I once watched in growing disbelief as a rural garden, with a pleasant backdrop of farm hedge, pasture, cows and trees, was transformed into a little piece of 'seaside' complete with candystripe-painted shed, gravel 'beach' and Perspex fountain. I have consoled myself with the fact that a new, large audience had been created out of nowhere who, thanks to this introduction, just might discover what gardening and gardens really had to offer them.

Since the Friday before last, however, I have begun to feel more cheerful. The Garden with Dan Pearson - A Year at Home Farm (BBC2, Fridays) is not perfect, being rather disjointed and, initially, mystifying, since neither history nor plan of the garden was given, and we were soon plunged into a sequence of rather random practical tasks. However, having now seen previews of several programmes, I can say that each is taken at a very gentle pace, with no false urgency, and with many leisurely and revealing plant close-ups; there is a lot of emphasis on the all-important seasonality of garden-making; there is no gimmickry; and both photography and sober, moody background music are used to create, rather than disrupt, the kind of tranquil atmosphere which all the best gardens offer.

The six programmes concern the development of a large Northamptonshire garden during the course of one year. …

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