Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The End of the World in 80 Gardens...


Monty Don from the BBC website.

Last night Monty Don finished his tour of the world ‘in 80 gardens’. He finished in Bali, after skimming through Thailand and Singapore in search of the perfect tropical garden.

Was the show successful? I watched every episode, but I’m a director and self-confessed ‘groupie’ of botanic gardens. Many people I know who aren’t directors of botanic gardens and have only a passing interest in gardens generally watched and enjoyed it.

Personally I found it a little short on plants, and stories about plants. Perhaps my own tour of the world would be ‘in 80 plants’? Still, Monty Don was clear about what he was doing and it wasn’t really about the plants themselves – he doesn’t particularly like ‘collections of plants’ and isn’t a great fan of botanic gardens.

We were lucky the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney got some attention. Apart from Kirstenbosch, a lovely alpine garden in Norway and us, there weren’t too many other botanic gardens featured (oh, and the wonderful Alice Springs Desert Park of course).

At the time (Show Two) I was disappointed that the focus was on flying foxes and the absence of Australian plants in our garden. Contrary to what Monty Don said, the flying foxes are quite transient on this site and there is no evidence they were on this site at the arrival of the First Fleet – the present camp has been here 20 years after a 70 year absence. And of course the Royal Botanic Gardens are packed with rainforest trees from eastern Australian and nearby islands.

Monty Don is enthusiastic, but a little too much for my taste. A rather large number of gardens were the best he’d ever seen. He also read a little too much into some of the gardens, rather than just enjoyed them. His fear of plant collections is a little too precious and his reaction to some of the tropical gardens as somehow not ‘authentic’ I think was condescending at best.

But as I said, I watched every episode. I enjoyed being taken for a tour through lots of different garden landscapes. Any travel show is fun, and one featuring gardens can’t be too bad. I particularly liked the show on Japan and China, with the views of the Green Mountain(s) unforgettable and clearly linked to the art from China.

Interesting that my most memorable part was the ‘natural landscape’, and a pine sticking out the side of a mountain. Perhaps there is room for a series on Around the World in 80 Plants, or Around the World in 80 Plant Landscapes. Not quite as catchy a title, but it would be fun – to make, and watch.

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