All this talk about HGTV got me—well, maybe not intrigued—but at least mildly curious in an irritated way. I had to know what the deal was, so I taped a whole bunch, steeled myself, and watched—two of them. (So far.) This is really not my kind of thing; I like cooking shows much better, especially Iron Chef America, Hell’s Kitchen, and Top Chef. Note that these shows have a competitive edge (ranging from friendly to downright vicious in tone) that all the gardening shows lack.
I am deliberately publishing this on a Sunday morning, so if you want you can watch them right now! Or not.
Ground Breakers: stupid show; interesting projects
I can see why Susan doesn’t like this and I agree with her reasons, but I did rather enjoy watching the episode I saw because of the sheer magnitude of the project. The homeowner basically had a lightly forested ravine behind her house. Her plans: to install a pool, deck, outdoor kitchen, and koi pond that would include the nearest trees and as much of the existing rocky landscape as possible. The truly asinine boy-toy host was mainly interested in whether dynamite would be necessary to blast out the hole for the pool (it wasn’t, and he was mightily disappointed). I did enjoy all the use of existing and imported boulders (I love a big rock), and they did use stilts so that the deck would reach out into the sloping area and include the trees. Otherwise, it was mainly the installation of acres of hardscaping—and unfortunately the koi pond was delayed. I must say the pool was gorgeous. Easily a 250k job.
Gardening by the Yard: good information; too bad most experienced gardeners don’t need it
I watched two episodes of this. In the first, host Paul James gave a thorough and thoughtful explanation of why even organic pest controls—much less toxic chemicals—can have bad effects in the garden. Then he talked about desert plants. Then, he answered questions from viewers. Do ferns need fertilizer? No. Is mint easy to grow? Yes. All this is excellent, fascinating, useful, and informative—but not so much for the seasoned gardener or true plant geek. At the end of the second episode, he brought up the Endless Summer hydrangea, which has been the subject of some controversy over at Cold Climate Gardening, but which he extolled (without giving the zone information). I understand that gardeners in colder zones have been having problems with this; it would have been helpful to note that issue.
Finally, the cutesy special effects and folksy tone of this show aren’t my thing, but that doesn’t bother me unduly. James clearly knows his stuff and he gives up-to-date information. It’s a good show but it’s not for me.
What I’m looking for is the Iron Chef of gardening shows—something to either aspire to or watch in admiration, knowing full well you’d never be able to duplicate what’s being created. Something that is fast-moving, with a decent amount of entertainment value, and geared toward the geek as well as the novice. Of these two HGTV shows, oddly, the bad landscaping show—and it is bad—came closest; it was kind of fun to watch the professionals throwing boulders around. Neither, however, will make me an HGTV regular. My gardening mentee Ron tells me that DIY has some interesting candidates. I’ll check them out. Some day.
In the meantime—here’s some advice from me. If you’re thinking of Endless Summer, consider another new-wood-bloomer Limelight (shown above) instead. I hear it’s hardier and it has—to my eye—more interesting blooms.