Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DVD Review: The Art and Practice of Gardening, with Penelope Hobhouse



Do you live alone in a stone manor house on a windswept moor?

I hope so.

Otherwise you'll have to forswear your family and friends when these two DVDs arrive at your door.

I can't stop watching.

I thought I was past my swooning Anglophile phase, but seeing the words Mottisfont Abbey puts me in a trance.

Penelope Hobhouse, the influential English garden designer, shows us a variety of delectable gardens.

A visit to the grounds of Barnsley House in Gloucestershire, home of Rosemary Verey, is wonderful. Taking a garden tour there with the charming Mrs. Verey, and watching her discussing her creation, is simply stunning. Mrs. Verey has passed away since this was filmed, so the footage is a treasure.

Such good structure and strong branching--I'm talking about the DVD menus, not the plants in the gardens. Menus allow you to choose English gardens or American gardens, gardens by style, or gardener's name--you wouldn't be interested in David Austin's own rose garden, would you? And while one is looking at these options on the screen, there isn't some repetitive drone of irritating music on a 20-second repeat, but the chirping of birds instead.

If one turns away from the screen, and hears only the fluting tones of Penelope Hobhouse interviewing a gardener, an American listener can be forgiven for getting a whiff of Monty Python.

After a good day's work in your own garden, get out the strawberries and cream, and take a relaxing tour of some beautiful English and American gardens. The problem is, they raise the bar so high you may be rushing outside with a flashlight to plant your own laburnum walk, just like the one at Barnsley House.

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21 comments:

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hello Daff Planter.

Hobhouse is a national treasure even if she sounds a little school ma'am. She's apparently not at all officious, just quite posh but with a heart of gold.

I bought a couple of her books, 'In search of Paradise' and 'Garden Design' and cannot put either down.

cheers
Rob

Daffodil Planter said...

Rob, It's good to hear that her books are such a delight; I look forward to reading them on your recommendation. I quite like her on the DVDs, and she has such sincere enthusiasm for plants and design.

Janet said...

I love the photo at the top of the post. So inviting and the colors are great. Sounds like something to check out and watch.

RainGardener said...

Now I need to get a DVD of her so I can go through some beautiful gardens. Since there is nothing about gardening on TV anymore.

Heather said...

You know now I am going to have to get my hands on these. I love to 'tour' gardens and gather great ideas. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

Yesterday a friend said she was on her way to London to the Chelsea Garden shows and a tour of English gardens. You can imagine how I wanted to shrink myself into her carry-on luggage! Ah, dream vacation...gardens, flowers, hostas...

Maranta said...

I'll have to try the DVDs; I'm slogging through Hobhouse's "Gardening", a not-so-brief history of gardening on Planet Earth. It is half fascinating and half high-school-textbook, bang-your-head-against-a-brick-wall tedium. I could use some of her fluting tones to help me through the dry spots.

SusanGardenChick said...

I'll be the odd woman out here.

A few years ago I reviewed my gardening book collection looking for ones to donate to a horticultural program's book sale. Penelope's was one that went.

More and more I prefer looking at attainable landscapes that feature plants I can really use or garden styles that don't look like they require an army of gardeners to maintain. English gardens doing interesting things with ceanothus and ornamental grasses? Bring 'em on. Endless, complex perennial borders? I'll pass.

These days, my international inspiration is coming from Mediterranean style gardens in Italy, France and Spain with an occasional peek at what is happening in Australia and South Africa.

EB said...

I soooooooo want to see this. Mottisfont is my idea of heaven on earth.

Daffodil Planter said...

Janet, I like that photo too--a door into a walled garden. Hmm. Maybe we read The Secret Garden as children?

Raingardener and Heather, These gardens are very "tourable"!

Welcome Anon! Absolutely a dream vacation for your friend. Hope that garden books come back in that carry-on bag.

Maranta, The DVDs would make the book a heaven or a hell, depending on how you like the actual authorial voice. If it grates, you could be in for centuries of irritation.

Susan, Although you might not use most of the plants or designs in Northern California, the DVDs are certainly a great aesthetic experience.

Daffodil Planter said...

Emily, And lucky you can get to Mottisfont Abbey without hopping a plane!

Pomona Belvedere said...

I was interested to read this DVD review as I've always thought a garden DVD would be very restrictive (unlike books, where you can jump around as you like). Years ago I reviewed a book by Rosemary Verey (the one on fragrant gardens), and I thoroughly enjoyed her approach: she may have a greenhouse and so on, but she struck me as very likeable and down-to-earth.

But you know, DP, I really don't need one more thing to spend time on...

Daffodil Planter said...

Pomona, Nice to see that you approve of Mrs. Verey. If your book review is on your blog, could you paste in the link?

This DVD set would also be an excellent choice for rainy, winter afternoons, with scones and clotted cream subbing in for the fresh fruit.

Pomon said...

I might just wind up eating the scones and clotted cream...many thanks for asking for the Verey book review link, I appreciate the honor but must decline as this review happened so long ago that not only is there not a link, there wasn't even an Internet when it happened. Hard to imagine now, isn't it?

VW said...

The DVD sounds fabulous. I didn't make it too far through Hobhouse's Gardening history, either, but adding an English accent brightens up the dullest material! And a peek at David Austin's own garden - definitely a temptation for this DA Roses groupie.

flowergardengirl said...

I'm 5 gardening books behind but you make this sound so good. I prefer something I can see rather than read. I like to hear books on audio too. I spend so much of my time covering new gardens and studying new cultivars that I long to see the old and historic gardens. There just isn't enough time to see all the wonderful gardens and a cd is a huge help---plus, you don't lose your luggage en route.

Daffodil Planter said...

VW, If botanists like you and Maranta are having trouble with the garden history book then I will put that at the bottom of my Hobhouse list. She's great onscreen.

Flowergardengirl, Right! No packing problems with this garden tour! I'm sure you'll love it.

tina said...

I've read of those labunum walks. I think they would be so neat and wish I could see one in person someday.

Daffodil Planter said...

Tina, If you click the Barnsley House link and then click the photo on the top right of the screen that comes up, you'll see a great shot of Rosemary Verey's laburnum walk underplanted with alliums.

The eternal problem of garden touring--the laburnum walk blooms in spring, and I never want to leave my own garden in spring! Crossing The Pond is bad, but I don't even want to go to another county.

Town Mouse said...

Can you repost that in February? No way am I even thinking about sitting in front of a DVD player this time of year. Computer is bad enough... With the long days, I want to be outside!

Daffodil Planter said...

Town Mouse, i was so taken with the DVDs that I couldn't wait until winter to post about them. When the rain is blowing, come on back and look for anything with the label "dvd" or "book"--the reviews will be waiting for you, and they won't go dormant!