Reality TV For Gardeners

Thanks to the blog pbmGarden, I have discovered a British TV show called Love Your Garden, which is available on Netflix. It’s a show that has its flaws, and yet Judy and I are hooked.

love your garden2
Alan Titchmarsh (2nd from left) and crew.

It’s telling and a little sad that garden TV shows exist in Britain but not here in the USA – at least, not anymore. In Britain there are garden celebrities with a real mass audience. Here there are at best gracious living celebrities who do a bit of gardening as a sideline. I would not consider them real gardeners.

When we lived in Wisconsin there were a couple of gardening radio shows on the air, but in Chicago there’s not even that.

Anyhow, Love Your Garden features Alan Titchmarsh and a team of helpers who transform the gardens of families struggling to cope with harsh circumstances (in the episodes we watched, a severely ill child or spouse).

The family is whisked away for a few days while Alan and his gang work a total transformation. Unrealistic, sure – and yet so gratifying in its fantasy fulfillment. Similarly, money is no obstacle in this show, and yet I think the average gardener with a budget can get a few useful ideas out of it.

love your garden 3
The Love Your Garden crew at work.

One of the things I like about Love Your Garden is how Titchmarsh talks to the family about what they want from their garden, and then comes up with a design that meets their needs and wants in a personalized way.

I also enjoy how the show moves from design concept to hardscape elements and specific plants and plant combinations. There are also visits to other gardens that exemplify the effects that Titchmarsh and his team are aiming for.

You do have to wonder how they manage to stay so clean while installing the new garden, especially the garden designer and horticulturist, who sometimes wear dresses (though with boots) as they dig holes for planting.

Also, I found myself squirming at times with the show’s attempts to generate sympathy for the families selected. Not that they don’t deserve sympathy (they do), but their treatment seemed at times intrusive or even bordering on manipulative.

Will these families be able to maintain the new gardens they’ve been given? The show emphasizes low maintenance design but it’s still not clear to me that the gardens shown were really sustainable for these families.

Nonetheless, the families’ delight with their new gardens is undoubtedly genuine. I challenge anyone to find the pleasure they express to be anything less than heartwarming.

For the audience, Love Your Garden is soothing, enjoyable, and reasonably informative.

Have you seen this show? What do you think of it? Are there other gardening TV shows (British or otherwise) that you would recommend?

66 Comments on “Reality TV For Gardeners

  1. Here are some British gardening shows I’ve watched and loved: Gardener’s World, Around the World in 80 Gardens (although I think he gives short shrift to American gardens and gardeners), The Secret History of the British Garden, and Life in a Cottage Garden. Thanks for the review of Love Your Garden, I’ve noticed episodes of it on Youtube and wondered what it was about. I think you might also like Big Dreams, Small Spaces (also a British show).

  2. Ha! I always wonder how they stay so clean on these shows. No, I haven’t seen this one; I’ll have to check it out! Thanks. I tend to watch Create TV quite a bit–it includes several gardening shows, including P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, Growing a Greener World, and Garden SMART. You can check the website (createtv.com) to see if it’s in your area. It looks like it’s available as a public TV station in the Chicago area.

  3. We have watched Love Your Garden and enjoyed it for the reasons you mentioned. However the many series of Gardeners World with Monty Don is our absolute favourite ( we only get it on re-runs on cable and/or UTube) and it has carried us through many a winter evening. Monty talks about his own garden every week & there are also visits with other presenters to public and private gardens … Very interesting.. 👏👌

  4. I haven’t seen it, but I’ll definitely look for it, sounds wonderful. I know what you mean about being manipulative, I always thought the house makeover show – whatever that was called – did that, too. I also wonder if I inherited such as garden if I could keep it going – I’d feel a sense of responsibility if I couldn’t. I’m so surprised there aren’t more American garden TV shows – there probably were before I got interested in gardening. We’ve just moved to Bend, Oregon, so we have a challenge ahead, gardening here – there can be a frost at any time during the summer. Anyway, thanks for this post!

  5. I have been watching “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” that someone recently told me about. I will add this one to my list. It is sad that there are virtually no U.S. garden programs anymore.

  6. That is an important premise, and what I used to say about my garden column. Such shows should be done by horticulturists, not by actors.

      • I do not know. Gardening shows are taken more seriously there, as well as in Australia and New Zealand and a few other places. Even if he is only an actor, the show likely maintains better standards than what is done here. Most of the popular shows here are done by bad actors. Much of the information is horticulturally incorrect. It is all about entertainment, whether or not it is true.

      • Oh yes. The most prominent ones are in Philadelphia and Seattle. The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show used to be something special, but I do not even know if it is still going.

  7. Glad you’re enjoying this show. The finished gardens provide immediate reward and joy to the owners. They look fairly high maintenance, but they provide respite

  8. We don’t get any real gardening shows in Germany either, so I occasionally look at the weekly programme “Gardeners’ World” on youtube. Alan Titchmarsh is sometimes in it, but the other presenters are excellent plantsmen and women and I can recommend it!

    • What is it about the English and their gardens? Are they the only country in Europe that pays so much attention? I wonder if France or Holland have gardening TV shows.

  9. Oh, I so agree with you on the gardening shows. That was one of the reasons I loved PBS and TLC when it first came out in the 90’s and it was still the “Learning” channel. I lived off of shows like the Victory Garden & Gardening Naturally (I’m glad that I taped the latter onto VHS!). It also seems like magazines are following suit – we only have one Canadian gardening magazine left and I just heard that it’s closing up shop.

  10. Gardeners World is the best in my opinion. I watch on youtube. You can’t watch the current show which is on Friday evening until the following day. There is a whole lot of garden shows connected with Monty Don on youtube that are older yet nice to see.

  11. I second Alison’s recommendation of “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” with Monty Don. He talks with amateur gardeners about their dream gardens, and the challenges unique to their space & budget, guiding them gently in the right direction. Of course, their gardens turn out beautifully, with the homeowner(s) doing most of the work! 🙂

    I liked that they spotlighted tiny urban gardens; it gave me some great ideas for my own small space. Though, my fur bristled at his suggestion, in one episode, to only include 7 major plants in the garden…. fortunately, the female gardeners agreed with me, and snuck more plants in! Haha!

  12. They have truly gotten rid of every gardening show ever broadcast. I wonder why, but I’m guessing it is audience. The younger generations must enjoy watching celebrities pretend to make over homes. I have watched this show a couple of times, but it has been years so I thank you for the reminder and the other suggestions. One thing stuck in my mind when I started reading this and that was watching them drag all the gardening supplies through the center of the house when the houses were attached. I just couldn’t imagine the havoc that would create. Good post – thanks. 🙂

  13. Every Friday there is Gardeners World (its been going for 50 years. You can find it on You Tube by typing Gardeners World 2018 into the search. There have only been 2 shows so far this season but it will continue until the end of October.

  14. Yes there are lots of garden shows on You tube but you often need the ‘right’ words to find them. Monty Don paradise gardens was a gem.

  15. Fabulous to know Alan Titchmarsh has a new show. I have his books and followed him since I first started watching him in UK on Ground Force. I think I have always had a little crush on him!

  16. Goodness, I can remember the first time I saw Ground Force, must have been 15 or more years ago. Loved it! Don’t know where the idea that Titchmarsh is an “actor” comes from, as he left school as a teenager to be a gardener and later studied for his hort diploma at Kew. He even hosted Gardener’s World before Monty Don took over. Gardener’s World is a great favorite and Monty also has a number of terrific specials (several that have been mentioned earlier). In addition to gardening shows, I also like the BBC show Escape to the Country, a real estate program about families abandoning the urban hubbub for a quieter life, because it offers a look at the various counties in the UK with highlights of local sites and activities. While you’re cruising youtube, look for Garden Provocateur hosted by Titchmarsh, a very enjoyable remembrance of Christopher Lloyd by many of his friends, with a nod to the work that Fergus Garrett and others continue at Great Dixter.

  17. I have to admit that the manipulative, tug-your-heart-strings approach to Love Your Garden really puts me off. Yes, Alan Titchmarsh knows his stuff, as does Frances Tophill (I don’t know about the others), but I still don’t like it. Gardeners World (which others have already mentioned and which Alan T used to present) is the best gardening show on UK tv (I think!) and Monty Don’s other programmes about gardens (Paradise Gardens, Around the World in 80 Gardens, Big Dreams Small Spaces) are also all fab. He’s a genuinely passionate and knowledgable gardener. If you can find them, Real Gardens and Fork to Fork (which were on Channel 4 here) are definitely worth watching too. There was also a series called Royal Gardens, which looked at the royal parks and gardens, and one called The Queen’s Garden (I think) about the gardens at Buckingham Palace. So much to watch!

    • I suppose I can find all these on Youtube. But if I watch them all, I may not have time to work in the garden. Though given how cold it’s been , that may be just as well.

  18. Nice analysis of programme. Alan Titchmarsh is our most respected gardening commentator and has a lifetime of real gardening experience. Roy Lancaster is the other genuine gardener to look out for. But that’s about it although we have a myriad of gardening programmes in the UK
    It horrifies me what many of the celebrity gardeners pontificate

  19. I tend to want the serious vs. the fantasy shows so I watch Monty Don and Gardeners World which you can sometimes find on Youtube. He has done a number of garden history programs all of which are excellent. I also like “Rosemary and Thyme” an amusing UK mystery series on Youtube that always centers on gardens and landscape issues with a murder thrown in.

  20. Gardeners World as mentioned above. I would be interested to hear what you think of the show. It is almost revered in the UK and it is certainly good but. Well let us know what you think

  21. A bunch of people mentioned Big Dreams, Small Spaces which I just finished, glad to know there’s another garden show for the queue. And thanks everyone in the comments for the tip about Gardener’s World, never heard of it but definitely checking it out! Why doesn’t American television make gardening shows?

  22. I haven’t seen this show, but may have to check it out. I miss the days when HGTV had so many real gardening shows instead of the house flipping shows it features today.

  23. I watched this and I really like the idea. They do have to take some shortcuts with the limited time they have available. As for other shows, I like “Beechgrove Garden” which is a UK show based around gardening in Scotland. It’s pragmatic and regularly features small-scale trials of seeds, soil, methods, fertilisers etc and they feature other private and community gardens around Scotland.

  24. I have seen this show on Netflix and was thinking of giving it a try. After reading your review, I definitely will. I also really like Monty Don and Big Dreams, Small Places. From that show, I got several ideas for my garden.

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