A Cure For The Wintertime Blues

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

Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk.

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.

Kaboom Moments: When Gardens Go Bang!

I’m kicking myself — again.  This time, it’s all because I forgot to bring my camera to a July 4th fireworks show.  It would have been a great opportunity to play with the fireworks feature on my camera.

That’s what I was lamenting when I noticed these white begonia blooms.  Kaboom!


The begonia story actually began last summer, when they were planted in a narrow strip along the north side of the house.  Fast forward through a hurricane, freezing winter temperatures, a blizzard that dumped three feet of snow, and spring, when I noticed small green leaves poking up in a bed of dead begonias.

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A Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

How are things where you are?  I know it’s been a while since I last wrote to you, but I have run out of options and I am turning to you and your elves to make this little gardener’s Christmas wish list become a reality.

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to keep up with your reading, but a few posts ago, I wrote about the lack of G on HGTV.  Far be it from me to tell  you how to do your job, but you may want to consider a stocking full of coal for the network’s naughty executives.  They have not been kind to the gardening population — and, in fact, they have not responded to my letter requesting more G shows.

But if you would like to avoid coal, might I suggest sprinkling them with some inspiring Christmas magic so they may wake on Christmas morning like a renewed Ebenezer Scrooge?   To help you, here are a few ideas for gardening shows that I, for one, would love to watch on a snowy winter morning.

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Celebrating The Good Old Summer Time

Aaaahhhh.  The Summer Solstice.  For me, it’s a reminder of just how little we are.  Just think about it.  As we go about our ordinary lives, our giant orb revolves and rotates in a celestial dance, rewarding northerners with the longest day and shortest night.  (Of course, the pessimist in me says, “Great, now the days start to get shorter, the nights longer, and winter is just around the corner.”  Quite a jump, I know.) 

The Three Village Garden Club held their judged flower show at the Neighborhood House in Setauket, Long Island.

In any event, it’s no wonder that ancient Druids to modern-day beachgoers celebrate this day.  That’s why I took up my friend Rachel’s invitation to attend a judged flower show, hosted by her Three Village Garden Club on Long Island and scheduled to coincide with the Summer Solstice.

Although I do consider myself a gardener, I am of the backyard variety.  Garden club members, though, are a whole other breed of gardener.  I mean, I like to garden, usually for myself and Joe.  Garden club members take it to a competitive level, and the Three Village Garden Club is no exception.  These gardeners know latin and common names, and they carefully drive their entries, each in small glass vases, to the competition.  I get upset when my grocery bag with the milk falls over when I make a left turn — can you imagine if my hydrangea entry took a spill?

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