This is the time of year when I feel the most out of step with my fellow gardeners and the readers of this blog. You see, this is the start of South Florida’s growing season — the orchids (above) are currently blooming in my garden. Nurseries are overflowing with plant selections and cold fronts bring delightful weather rather than snow and ice.
While there aren’t any wintertime blues here (I had to go back years to find the snow photo below), many other gardeners are buried in ice and snow, just waiting for my weather to reach them.
As a former northern gardener, I understand cabin fever and having to madly hunt for a gardening fix. That’s why I embarked on a search for quality gardening shows that offer more than a host ambushing a homeowner in a parking lot, smarmy comments between cast members, an army of workers transforming a yard into an over-the-top creation, and the homeowner’s surprise.
If all gardeners are like me, they crave real gardening shows, sort of like the classic “A Gardener’s Diary,” which aired on HGTV long before it became overrun with home buyer and home makeover shows.
The answer to my quest came in the form of Monty Don, Great Britain’s favorite gardener and gardening author. Many of this blog’s readers from England are already familiar with him, but he’s a new discovery on this side of the Atlantic — at least for me. I found three of his series on Netflix, and each is a binge-worthy cure for the wintertime blues.
Big Dreams, Small Spaces
“Big Dreams, Small Spaces” is the show that gave birth to my bromance with Monty — although I’m not sure it really counts as one since we’ve never met. Unlike American garden makeover shows, this show requires the homeowners to do the labor, with Monty not only guiding them but also rolling up his sleeves.
With each episode, Monty is able to slip in helpful and practical bits of knowledge about plants and pruning, design and landscaping, while the homeowners are sent on inspirational field trips to get even more questions answered.
More than anything else, though, it’s Monty’s enthusiasm that’s charming and infectious. I often found myself rooting for the homeowners to finish their work before the big reveal to Monty — and I couldn’t help but be as proud as Monty of their accomplishments.
Monty Don’s Italian Gardens
When I discovered this show, I thought Monty would bring that same “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” format to Italy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Monty Don’s Italian Gardens” is like going on a whirlwind tour of some of Italy’s most enchanting, historic, and beautiful public and private gardens. With Monty as the guide, his enthusiasm brings garden and history to life.
A good rule is to keep a pen and paper nearby so you can make a list of travel destinations. One such place for me is Ninfa, the remains of an Italian village that has been transformed into a garden.
Monty Don’s French Gardens
Similar to his trip to Italy, “Monty Don’s French Gardens” is a homecoming for Monty since he once lived and worked in France. Each episode highlights a specific aspect of French culture, with public and private gardens used as an illustration.
One show, for example, celebrated French cuisine, with a visit to some extraordinary gardens where potagers and espaliered fruit trees were on full artistic display. My personal favorite, though, was the episode on French artists, with a visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny.
In addition to hosting these wonderful gardening shows, Monty Don is also the author of several books. Whether you curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot tea to read his words or to watch his shows (on Netflix or YourTube), Monty is a cure for the wintertime blues — no matter your gardening zone.