We gardening types are currently being a bit spoiled at the moment on television. Thursday evenings are Gardening with Carol Klein at 7pm (Channel 5) followed by Your Garden Made Perfect at 8 pm (BBC2) if you watch your tv old school when programmes are actually broadcast. I confess this is something I rarely do these days especially if they might have adverts in them. I tend to record both of them so that I watch them when I am feeling in the gardening mood (which is all the time).
Of course your first question to me should be - do I have to choose a team and why cannot I choose both? Well dear reader, variety is the spice of life and of course you can enjoy (or dislike) both with equal measure. These two programmes are not competitors for your attention as they are not aiming to do the same thing. It would be like comparing apples with oranges as they say.
Your Garden Made Perfect has possibly not the greatest title in my world as I do not strive for a perfect garden, well, I suppose I want it perfect for me but that means it is a far stretch from perfection. The premise of the show is now a fairly standard format that revolves around garden makeovers with a reveal at the end. In this case the presenter is Angela Scanlan, providing continuity and narrative. At times Angela takes on a 'Doctor Who's companion' role by asking the questions that the audience need to know the answer too. This is always an effective ploy.
Garden 1 has a family/person has a budget with which to have their garden transformed into garden design heaven. The budgets can be very big and this is the extravagant part of the show that shows what can be done if you have sufficient resources. There are two designers per episode from a team of four: Pip Probert, Helen Elks-Smith, Tom Massey and Manoj Malde. The programme says they live in a secret garden. In my mind this is some sort of dormitory for Garden Designers, a Youth Hostel type set up or maybe it is like the house they live in The Apprentice. Please do not break my heart by telling me they are not all living there really......
The two designers compete for their design to be chosen by showing the homeowner their plans through augmented reality. You can see the computer generated plans overlay the garden, trees grow, borders disappear and appear and water features burst into life. As someone who can struggle to convert a plan in my head into what it will look like, I rather like this approach. Whilst this is being revealed, the 'other' designer watches the plans being explained by their 'competitor' and comments on it. I quite like this as they provide a narrative that explains and supports what the other designer is doing. I find it gives me extra insights. The design is chosen and built and then revealed. The results are always high quality, whether they suit my taste is another matter and also totally irrelevant. It is not my garden, I do not have to like it. I might sometimes fast forward a bit to get to the reveal as the bits I am interested in are the discussions about making the best use of whatever the particular space is and then seeing the end result ..... I have a fleeting attention span. I do like that they tackle some of the most difficult issues when someone has a garden space that they do not know what to do with. It is quite common to have a garden with a tree or large shrub that is in the wrong place or that you do not actually like. It is hard often to remove these trees/shrubs as we feel an element of guilt in removing something that has clearly been living there so long. In episode 1 there is a Monkey Puzzle tree in the middle of the garden. Designer 1 proposes removing it and replacing it with an acer in a different position, Designed 2 proposes designing around it. The owners of the garden like the Monkey Puzzle tree but do plump for Design 1. I think this surprised all of us yet it was a good and brave decision. I thought this a really useful thing to show.
Garden B has a family/person with a limited budget and get no choice over what they get. There is no competition, the cheery Joel Bird breezes in, does a bit of bish bash bosh (in a very high quality manner obvs, this is the BBC) and creates a good budget design. What I really like about this part of the programme is they tell you the cost of what they are doing. This is the perfect foil to the big-budget gardens, it does show that you do not need to spend that much to get big impact. For me personally I would be happy to watch a series just of the budget format as it feels like it would be more accessible to the accidental/uncertain gardeners out there. The ones who bought a house and it came with a garden that they like but just don't know where to begin. Again I do not always like the design, but as said above, for me that is not the point of why I watch. I am firmly of the opinion that when I am watching this type of programme it is not necessarily the final outcome that interests me so much as the thought process and detail about how they plan the design. That is the bit I really listen to.
Carol Klein's programme started a week or so after the BBC2 programme. It is a totally different beast. This is Carol talking to us one to one. She is explaining what she's doing, she is talking us through plants, environment, care and propagation. It is not about design, it is about gardening. I admit bias, I am a huge fan of Carol's. I love her approach and I could listen to her read the phone directory if she had such a whim. One day, when (if) I grow up, I want to be Carol Klein. Actually I also want to be Uma Thurman, I am sure Uma does a lot of gardening too in between movies......
Why do I like Carol's programme so much? Because it is straightforward and it is personal. Carol is very definitely talking to me. You may think that as you watch her she is talking to you and of course she is, that is the joy of this programme, Carol is talking to us as individuals in our own spaces, not talking at us. This is a personal programme as it is from Carol's garden and she shows us photographs of her cottage when they first moved in and how the garden has changed. You might think that this sounds a little like another major gardening programme where the garden owners takes us around their garden explaining what they are doing. You might think that Carol Klein would be an excellent first female main presenter for such a programme when there is an opportunity for that to happen. You might think this, I could not possibly comment.
Both programmes are beautifully filmed, -articularly at the moment I think we need these glorious moments of gardens and colour. Much as I love my garden seeing other peoples' really seems a treat at the moment. It is the case that neither programme is a new exciting format; I am not sure how many new exciting formats there are to be had and to be honest a bit of familiar is also rather good at the moment.
So, take your pick: are you Team Your Garden Made Perfect or Team Gardening with Carol Klein? Or are you sticking with Garden Rescue with Charlie Dimmock and the Rich Brothers? See - I told you we were being spoiled.
Oh and Gardeners World is back on the 19th March - which I think deserves a whoop!
Stay safe and Be Kind.