LA Times on the “It’s Complicated” Garden



photo credit:  Melinda Sue Gordon, Universal Studios

Great piece from the LA Times on Meryl Streep's character's garden in "It's Complicated." Director Nancy Meyers is known for her real-estate-porn-for-middle-aged-women approach to set design (remember Diane Keaton's house in "Something's Gotta Give"?)  Well, she took the same approach to this character's Santa Barbara garden, an abundant potager that magically blends warm and cool-season crops.

From the film's production designer:

The vegetables were grown in a greenhouse for two months before the  garden scene was shot, and any plant that looked a little scrubby was not used.

There was also a little enhancement. "I probably shouldn't tell you this," Hutman said, guiltily, "but those tomatoes were wired to the vine."

and Remodelista has more photos and some "Steal This Look" tips.

Has anybody seen the movie?  Is it worth seeing for the garden?


  1. I just interviewed a longtime gardener who was complaining bitterly about the unreality of that garden.

    “White women and their problems” was her assessment of the movie.

  2. I tend to prefer gardens that look like gardens in films/tv but if I’m suspending reality for a film I can usually suspend it for the garden for a bit. I find the affair plotline alot more distasteful than the fake garden. But I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to fidelity.

  3. I actually posted on this a few days ago and it sparked quite a conversation on Twitter.

    I have not seen the movie, but worried that the fake garden would be akin to the way that super models (photoshopped on magazine covers) made us all feel inadequate.

    Does a fake movie garden inspire? Or does it make us feel bad about our own garden? (Because we assume it is real and ours will never look that good.)

    I would be interested in what GardenRant readers have to say.

    Here is my original post:

  4. Who among us hasn’t sat around imagining just such a garden? It’s like the kitchens in all of her movies….I certainly can dream of such things, although I well-know the reality of laminate counters and dirty pots. It’s a pleasant fantasy. The only folks I feel bad for are those who take up gardening after watching this and expect those results. Again, that would be like thinking your budget kitchen remodel will come anywhere close to a movie one.

  5. I am writing this half in jest (but only half).

    Okay, we spent our teens and twenties being bombarded with images of female bodies that were in fact impossible to obtain without surgery, photoshop, glue, and a mild dose of insanity.

    Now, they are doing the same to our gardens in our thirties and forties.

    I’m sorry, but this may be war!!!

  6. The, It’s Complicated, vegetable garden looks like a CHEMICAL COMPANY ad circa 1962.

    I wouldn’t stretch to call it a potagere. It looks like all vegetables. Where are the herbs, perennials, flowering shrubs, annuals??????

    Most importantly, Where Are The Weeds & Butterflies?

    The design is lacking in scale & flow. It looks more like a garden in a Flower Show. Nit-picky neat & everything in orderly layers of height.

    More deeply, yes I asked myself, What’s wrong with this garden?

    It lacks romance.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  7. I saw the movie and found it hilariously funny and very entertaining. I loved Meryl, looking almost her age.

    I actually didn’t pay much attention to the garden. It’s a movie, not a documentary!

    (No, Amy, don’t see it for the garden. And you’re probably a tad too young to fully appreciate some of the jokes. See Avatar instead, very interesting plants!)

  8. The garden is really no more fake than the (to-die-for) house in the movie is, which is no more fake than every house in every movie is. Maybe what we should be focusing on is the idea that the homey, earth-mother type of woman who would have such a garden is once again considered sexy. Isn’t that an improvement?

    I also thought the movie was hilarious.

  9. Enjoy the movie for what it is – laugh-out-loud funny. I haven’t laughed that much at a movie in years. And Meryl Streep is, as always, dynamite. The garden is just part of the movie fantasy. You will never look at Skype the same way again.

  10. This is why I rarely watch American movies or television any more unless they are independant films. In the last 20 years mainstream Hollywood movies have actors, houses, locations and now gardens that simply look unreal – 95 percent of the world (inclduing the US) simply does not live or look like that.

  11. Houses and gardens in movies are always fantasies, slightly more fantastic than the photos in garden books, but I take it all as entertainment. Am I showing my age when I say I would never expect anything of mine to look like that. I live way out in the country and most likely will not get to see the movie til it’s available on Netflix, but I did see Meryl Streep in the theater in Julie and Julia. Loved Julia and Paul, hated Julie. I’d like to see a good list of Garden Movies – the Secret GArden, Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Enchanted April . . . what else?

  12. I remember a moment of irritation when I sized up her garden. After seeing where the addition was going, I wondered where that big vegetable garden actually was. Same thought when the bobcat got started on the addition: where the hell is that vegetable plot.

    Reminder: this is a made up story!! REally, would sex be that great with your ex? I have not heard an audience laugh as loud in years. I can’t remember the last comedy that got such a reception. I laughed until my stomach hurt

    Wait Wait! What about the croissant scene? Did any of you figure out how long it would take to mix that up and let it rise? Do croissants need two risings?

    Nevertheless, don’t judge a movie by its tomato


  13. I saw the movie with my Mom, and I liked it, but she liked it better, because it is about someone her age.

    The garden is only in the movie for, like, five minutes.

  14. Yes, the garden may look dreamy and “perfect”, but do I want to spend so much time investing weeding and cultivating that top layer of soil so it looks dark and fluffy all the time? Besides, cool and warm season crops at peak, all at the same time? PUH-LEEZE!

    Besides, if I spent that much time in my garden, I think the only time I’d have to relax and enjoy it would be spent in my chiropractor’s office getting the massage therapist to work out that lower trap that is so knotted up, it’s migrated up my neck and created a migraine (yes, that has happened to me).

    Besides, after spending all last spring/summer/fall pulling together a 6,000 sq. ft. garden at my daughter’s preschool, plus 100 sq. ft. of paver path (plus bender board, drain rock and sand), mostly by myself, I can tell you making gardens look that pretty all the time would require the employment of a couple full time laborers. I left the school garden get overgrown with weeds in some places and it looked beautiful. It helped reduce evaporation and draw in a whole host of butterflies, birds, lady bugs and bees. If anyone doubts that native bees can pick up the slack of honey bees, you should have seen the bees go nuts for the 800 sq. ft. pumpkin patch, plus squash, watermelons, beans, cucumbers, corn and more we had growing (plus flowing weeds). It was bee heaven.

    Perfect gardens are unrealistic for most people of average means.

  15. The movie is insulting, pandering and fake, as is the garden! Plus Streep had absolutely nothing to do to flex her acting muscles. Yes, the tomatoes looked “wired on” to me. This film is what is thought to be “what women want”?! Ick, ick, ick.

  16. Actually, an interesting garden-themed movie is “Greenfingers,” a British one about prisoners designing a garden, which I think makes it to Chelsea! Can’t remember if that garden looked fake or not, but the theme was more interesting than “Complicataed.”

  17. It’s a very funny movie. However, garden-wise it isn’t too accurate. In one scene she comes bopping in from outside with a bunch of freshly cut delphiniums, presumably from her garden … in southern California. Then at the end of the movie it rains in the middle of the summer … in southern California.

  18. First, how do you WIRE a tomato to a vine? Second, were the flowers in the Wizard of Oz fake too? Third, duh!

  19. I certainly don’t look that sexy when I’m out working in the garden, and I am only in my early 40’s. Let’s just put it down to fantasy. Can’t have the house, the garden, the kitchen…thank goodness I can’t have that man either :).

  20. The house, grounds and gardens were absurd — definitely in the realm of fantasy. And how funny that she kept talking about how, with the help of her architect, she was “finally” going to get her dream kitchen (her original “unsatisfactory” kitchen is huge, sunny and absolutely amazing).

    I snorted out loud when, late in the movie, she went out to harvest tomatoes in her unbelievably perfect kitchen garden. Too much!

    I kept thinking that I’d love to be her fulltime gardener.

    The movie itself is very shallow.

  21. There a GARDEN growing FOOD in a movie that people are going to.


    Just maybe it will prompt some to start their own garden this year with the help of a designer or garden coach – me! LOL!

  22. The movie was hysterically funny. The garden was fake. The tomatoes looked not only wired to the vine, but like they’d been pumping iron for the past two months. I’m always amused at what Hollywood thinks is “normal.” The house, the croissants, the garden, the sex all fake, but the movie was escapist fun.~~Dee

  23. I find the complaints on the “reality” quality of the garden to be so silly. Would we really want to see a movie that had MY garden in it – with it’s less than perfect radishes, crazy sized sweet potatoes, tomatoes with crazy vines all over the place, and a big whole that my dog dug?

    Movies are all about fantasy and this was a fantasy garden that most of us dream of having in our backyard!

  24. I get the whole airbrushed garden/female bodies argument and couldn’t agree more with the reality vs fake thing, but my god, I cried when I first saw that garden.
    I am struggle daily with hot aussie days, fruit bats,king parrots, rampant weeds, lack of water, lack of mulch, and lack of truly elegant attire to garden in. Plus, the added indignity of having to use old battered bowls to collect my produce, opposed to chi chi wicker baskets slung carlessly over my arm.
    Regardless, I loved the movie. Loved the house , loved the garden. It was a bit of escapism, which is all I look for in movies and more importantly inspiration.
    I have already told my husband that our house will be repainted white, he will have to make some spiffy tomatoe stakes and we NEED a timber fence around our vege patch.
    The poor bloke cracked when I asked if I looked like Meryl Streep. I think I went too far on that one.

  25. Sure I was smitten by that garden. It’s total visual candy. But am I the only one who wants to know where to get Meryl’s straw gardening hat?

  26. I saw the movie three times and two of those times I went just to look at her house and garden!!! I know, it’s way too perfect but it was just so beautiful and one can fantasize right? Just found this blog because I was looking up ITS COMPLICATED garden. We still have so much snow on the ground but I am starting to plan my spring/summer!!!! Anyway, liking the blog::))

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