What would you want to see in a garden video?


Still on a tear to help promote public gardens, I'm exploring how to showcase the  ones in D.C. throughout the year via short videos – because except for those famous cherry blossoms and assorted spring bulbs, there's not much visitor awareness of the gardens here.  My idea is to visit the gardens throughout the season, and even in winter, to document that YES, there's gobs to see in August, October, even December, and then offer the videos to the gardens for their websites. 

Of course that'll only catch people actually researching the gardens.  What about all the tourists and conference-goers who come here and if they knew there were gardens to see, might stay longer, or bring the gardening spouse along?  See, I think there are tourist dollars to be gained from promoting the most undermarketed resource in our nation's capital – and I bet the same applies to your city.  Gardening is in – why not get on that bandwagon and ride it? 

Heck, there are counties doing a better job of
promoting their gardens than D.C.'s doing, and surely others.  (See The Gardens of Humboldt County [pdf].)  So why not videos of The Gardens of Chicago, of San Francisco, of Memphis?  They could be displayed on the tourism board's website and on hotel room televisions across the city, as additional content for the popular new service that shows visitors what to do while they're in town. 

I'll be making the case to the tourism board here (and to anyone else who might sponsor a project like this) but am hoping it'll lead to work for gardenwriters/aspiring garden videographers in other other cities, too.  Maybe you? 

So to help the gardens and the garden videographers, please give us your thoughts about how gardens could best be presented in a short video.  What information do viewers want about the garden
and the plants in it?  And is that best done with still photos, video,
narration, titles full of Latin names?  Would you like to see interviews with the gardener in charge? 

To  get the ball rolling I've created two short and simple videos of my neighbor's garden for your feedback and please, be kind; I know I'm no Ken Burns.  In fact, I'm aiming for something that could be edited in a half-day or less by an amateur videographer (though not just any amateur – one who loves gardens and knows plants). 

The first video is done with actual video and stills, natural sounds, and titles.

This next is done with still photos and narration, followed by a plant list.


  1. Good job, Susan. I like the second one best. LOVE IT that you have not employed any “talking heads”!! My biggest gripe about garden videos/tv shows is all of the wasted time spent showing us people instead of gardens and plants.

    One suggestion: mix in some “closer up” (no, I don’t mean macro) or “portrait” photos of the plants along with what you have shown here. Or, when you give the specific plant names at the end, put the type over individual plant shots.

    FYI: the first one does not have very good resolution for me…very “chunky” so it was difficult to appreciate the garden.

    OK. one caveat to my “talking head” complaint…I do think there are times when it is nice to see the gardener talking–when we can see their face, or their hands with a plant…but too many shots of people standing in a garden talking is boring and distracting…don’t get a real feel for the garden, the plants or the person. If that makes sense.

  2. The videos are too wide for the size of the column in this blog, so the videos need to edited knowing how and where they will be seen.

    Personally, I prefer the narrated version, although I also like the ambient sound to show how quiet the gardens are. A combination of the two methods would be good, maybe.

    One other point on the narration, (as my former actor husband would point out) speak more slowly than you would in conversation and don’t swallow the words at the end of each sentence.

  3. susan – you are such an idea generator – and sharer. This is my own definition of genius. Your posting comes just as I am about to leap into making little videos. Thanks again for inspiration and encouragement.

  4. I like the narration of the second video and yes, closer shots would be good to include. Also, an introduction of what to expect, when and where the video was taken since bloom time differs in different areas of the country. I’ve often thought of including a walking tour of the garden in video. Now perhaps I can hire you? LOL!

  5. The National Arboretum web site is wonderful. It has virtual tours of the collections and a gardening page that addresses common gardening problems. Added bonus, all plants are identified correctly. Longwood Gardens web page is also great.

  6. I like the idea of a combination of both, but if it is also for public gardens, it is so interesting to me when the development and the history is included since public gardens develop at a certain time in the history of a society. Gardens are made by people, and as Church wrote “Gardens are for People” and as much as we hate to admit this, our hands are all over them. Besides, often the folks who push for such gardens are not remembered, and the designers are forgotten too. Garden designers and landscape architects should get the respect that architects get. I am none of those above, but I respect them all dearly. Besides, if you dig far enough, there are always amazing stories behind a garden’s past. I personally love those just as much, if not more, than all of the plant names.

    Hope this isn’t too far off the topic. I just am less inclined to watch descriptions without more context. I also used to work at a huge public garden and was constantly asked about how it had happened, and why.

  7. No comment on the videos, but what about contacting the airports to show the videos of the public gardens, or have poster type stuff up? I know when I fly out of our regional airport they always are playing “Yeah our community!” videos and have displays in kiosks about local things to see and do. You spend a lot of time in the airports anymore.

  8. Julia, I too think the Arbortetum’s website is unusually good (and they’re about to add a blog!) But there’s NO info there about what’s to see at different times of the year.
    Longwood’s site does this a bit, but only for “Longwood’s seasons”, which means spring, fall and Christmas, which strangely omits June-Aug altogether.

  9. I’m ambivalent about video. Yes, I’ve been trying it out. But I always ask myself, Why does this demand video treatment?

    Maybe because some people want it.

    Often because there’s a need to tell a story without demanding people read words or page through pictures.

    Obviously, your first video has technical glitches. It is possible to shoot video and get it onto YouTube such that the resolution is as good as your second with the stills. I don’t have a recipe. Just keep trying until you get something that’s not so fuzzy.

    But the other problem with video vs. stills is that you decide how long to display each scene, not the user. I know that when I page through other folk’s blogs, I zip through images that don’t do anything for me then linger over the ones that do. When you put them all into a video or self-timed slideshow, it’s up to the user to pause it to view what they really want to see. From that perspective, I prefer stills — and am less likely to click on a video where someone else has control of the pace.

    So if you’re going to display in a kiosk at the airport, by all means go with a video. But on the ‘Net, I want more control and higher quality. Give me good images.

  10. USNAs web site has a “What’s blooming”. The virtual tours for the most part have seasonal changes pictured.

  11. Before visiting a garden, I want to know if the emphasis is on plants or design/hardscape. Personally, I like plants, so if I go to a garden that is really based on artistic design of the landscape (maybe the hardscape is cool or there’s a great fountain, but plants are just eh) I will be disappointed. So give me a heads up.

    Also, tell me highlights from each season. When is the garden at its peak? What unusual plant is blooming during the off season that I should go see?

    Combine photos, video, and narration. Change it up to hold interest. Not too many Latin names–you’ll just start an argument about pronunciation–but use when necessary to clarify (eg. geraniums v. pelargoniums).

  12. Start and end with the “natural” sounds, but you need some narration so that people know what they’re looking at. Also you need to give more description of the plants and their growing conditions–the little piece on the shade grass was effective.

    And I think this was unintended but when you mentioned the “two birders” who live there, I could not help wondering if they were cats.

  13. Hi,
    I’m actually a video editor as well as a gardener! Yes you’ll have to sort out some technical issues but you should be able to get good quality video online. I strongly suggest using a tripod with slow pans and zooms. You get more “interest” and sense of place than out of a flat still, though you lose out on composition at times.

    I liked the use of narration but yes, slow it down a bit. I do like your conversational tone however!
    Also, make sure text stays up long enough to read, and avoid text effects- keep it simple, legible, and with a pretty background.
    Consider your target market carefully, and how you present the garden to that market. Is it for plant specialists? Or people who just like to relax by walking through beautiful gardens? Write the script to entice as many people as possible to come!

    Finally, for a tourism board presentation I’d consider doing a video of one of the public gardens. Ideally shoot video on a tripod. Or if using photos, you can pan around or zoom in on a detail of photos if the resolution of the photo is high enough. Plan it out/ script it in advance, and editing should go fairly quickly.

    Good luck! and hope that helps.

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