Saturday, 25 April 2009

Old Dogs, New Tricks

The local library has a selection of DVDs which can be checked out for free, just as a book. They tend to be “how to” types: paint a watercolour, learn ballet, yoga, etc. Bill and I watched the whole series of Jamie at Home in this way and thoroughly enjoyed it. Another subject in which we are both interested is landscape gardening, though to look at our gardens one could be forgiven for not realizing it. I picked up City Gardener, a TV series starring Matt James, a rather handsome but campy young man who seemed to gain a bit of weight between the beginning and the end of the series.

His shows, much like the River Cottage series, were in a set format in which the beginning and ending of each were the same, which I suspect is true of most any TV series and one doesn’t notice if they are watched once a week. The middle part of each that was so predictable it went from interesting to soporific. If we were still awake at the last of the series, it was because our teeth were gritted. We quit watching River Cottage on Sunday nights because Bill found the repetition so annoying, even for just once a week.

I liked Matt’s shows in part because each was set in a different UK city, so it was sort of a quick tour around the country, the beginning being Matt walking through some landmark area of each city. Then he met the homeowner and discussed price and maintenance goals – no one claimed to have any gardening skills – and reviewed the characteristics of the gardens. Then he’d go shopping at the local nursery, outline the areas of the garden design with spray paint, and supervise the friends and neighbours drafted to do the labour. The ending was a party in the new garden, followed by a check back one year later.

One was even set in Newcastle and I paid particular attention to this one as the back yard was long and narrow like ours. The main thing I remember from that was to draw the eye diagonally across the narrow width to (hopefully) make the area feel wider.

However, just as TV cooks have to do the act where they chop a vegetable into perfect slivers with woodpecker-like speed, TV gardeners apparently have to throw around a bunch of Latin names while they caress the plant and tell you its characteristics. Young Matt spoke a bit too quickly for me to take notes of any use, even if I could spell in Latin. (That said, I just found the website that gives a bit more info about each show, so notes aren't necessary).

One thing I did catch, however, which I found quite interesting: did you know that variegated plants grow more slowly than fully green species? This then makes them a better selection for small spaces or lazy gardeners. The reason they grow more slowly is that the smaller green parts of the leaves allows for less photosynthesis to occur, and being on a lighter diet, the plant grows less quickly. Makes perfect sense when you think about it.

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