Can a Video Attract Garden Visitors?


I’ve long had the notion that somehow short, viral-going videos showing the fabulousness of a garden that’s open to the public might increase visitorship – and thereby support for the garden.  And here in the D.C. area the poster child for a fabulous garden that could use some support is the National  Arboretum, which was hit hard by the last sequester (when WAS that?  And what the hell IS a sequester, anyway?).  Since then it’s been open just 4 days a week, and Arboretum-lovers would dearly love to get that situation corrected and back to normal – open seven days as week and FREE, just like most gardens in this city (museums, too!)

So I made a little video slide show of images from the Arboretum I’ve taken in April of various years, set to three different types of music – first techno, then Vivaldi (the overexposed Four Seasons), and finally some banjo strumming.  Keep watching to see all three.


I’m a beginner, so be nice.  But what do you think?  I’ve heard so far a few reactions like: “Yes, this would make me visit the Arboretum the next time I’m in D.C.” and that’s exactly the goal.  So I’ve avoided close-ups, which appeal mainly to plant geeks, and I’ve included some shots showing visitors, which according to an expert in garden tourism, is what works.  More photos with people coming.

Musically, these examples are up-tempo.  And boy, is it hard to find music that’s free AND legal, and also the exact right length.  So you might have noticed that the music ends abruptly?  I’ve downloaded an audio-editing program so I can learn to fade out at the end.  The video editing programs used here are Youtube’s own in one example, and PhotoStage in the other two, if memory serves.

I’m also trying different effects, which is fun, and figuring out the right export and upload formats, which isn’t.  So if anybody has some experience with videos, I’d love your advice offline.


  1. Susan, I really enjoyed the techno music. It was very upbeat and made the garden seem more modern. Yes, photos with people are such a big deal. I’ve never visited our national arboretum, but if I ever get back to Washington, D.C., I definitely will. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think I’ll make a video of our gardens in OKC.~~Dee

  2. Fun! My advice — more! More of the USNA – conifer collection, herb garden, fern valley, FONA sale, etc. And more blossom close-ups. Who doesn’t love flowers?

    On a technical note, there is text on top of the azalea bonsai that is not readable (green text on green plant) – change to a brighter color or maybe move it elsewhere on the photo.

    PS I’ll be sharing this as our next Video Wednesday pick of the week on the Washington Gardener Magazine blog. The USNA is a national treasure and it is disgraceful that the budget cutbacks have reduced it to being open only 4 days a week.

    • More is right, Kathy! This just included photos I happened to have taken in April, but it needs beefing up with the conifer collection adn so much more.
      So, how about video from your extensive collection of videos? Would love that! More brainstorming offline to come.

  3. Susan, They look good but I think the pictures are flipping by too quickly. You don’t have time to really focus on the photos before they move on. The same goes for the words, I read pretty fast but I was having trouble seeing all the words before they were gone. So my suggestion is, slow the whole thing down a bit.

    The only other thing is some of the photos are poorly framed and should be cropped to make them more appealing.

    If I ever go to DC I’ll definitely have to stop and have a look though.

  4. On the whole, I think you did a fantastic job! You made me want to go there right now! Job well done.

  5. Susan, what a great idea! Who wouldn’t a video to publicize their garden? (As a visitor, I’d love to see an area map of public gardens with clickable icons linked to videos.)

    I liked the techno music the best too, not sure why except maybe it’s more enthusiastic and contemporary. Fun to see the gardens in different seasons. Your use of vistas and people pics makes an appealing invitation. Perfect length, too, I thought.

    Keep em coming!

  6. 1 – the photos DO go by awfully fast. So do the words. Slow them down, make it more like a garden stroll. Maybe a little bit of fade-in/out.
    2 – strangely, the techno music was best-suited IMO, at least until the end where it started sounding sort of a horror-movie-ish. I don’t like techno in general, but it fit better here. I thought that piece from The Four Seasons would, but yes, it’s been done. There are many other pieces from The Four Seasons that would work well (Allegro in Autumn is almost regal, yet suited well to a garden) The banjos were better than the classical. If you’re going classical, how about “Flight of the Bumblebee”? It’s short, it’s suited, and it’s exciting. Or “Joy” by George Winston…
    3 – if you had the equipment, a time-lapse video would be awesome. A day in the life of the gardens, from sun-up to sundown … or by the light of the moon & whatever other lights may be present. Maybe at slightly different angles, too. Isn’t that something we gardeners tend to love about such spaces – the ways they change through the light of each day, season, year, or just from viewing at a different angle? There’s a video that’s gone viral of Sacramento (where I live) – a series of time lapses of many well-known locations. Even those of us who know the area well find it beautiful & amazing. Maybe if you found a student in a videography/art program looking for a great project, this would be good for both the student and the gardens.

  7. Loved it! What a good idea Susan!
    The techno music was my favorite of the 3, it got me excited (I kept thinking something big was just about to happen–maybe a Secret Service guy jumping over the wall or out of the bushes, ha! 🙂 But really, the upbeat music was positive and suggests that things are happening there. I agree that the 4 Seasons have been overdone, but there’s lots of other Vivaldi out there to choose from. The banjo music I felt was a dud; I love banjo music, but in this context it felt like old fuddy-duddy music (or something from a 1970’s public television educational program–goofy and pedantic) and if you’re trying to attract new and younger visitors to the Arboretum, I would go more modern and upbeat. How about jazz? sophisticated, modern, and American homegrown.
    I think your idea is stellar!

  8. Thanks for your encouragement and specific suggestions – keep ’em coming! And hey, photographers/videographers/garden writers and bloggers in other cities – how about doing YOUR favorite garden in a little video to share?

  9. Excellent idea! I liked the banjo best because the photos were moving by more slowly.We have never been to the Arboretum—-that must change!

  10. Yes, we all have to grapple with this one I think – so well done.

    We have a video done for Veddw (

    But although it’s up on our website I never promote it (except I guess I just did now!) because I had the music (plonky piano in sentimental mode) removed because it was so wrong and depressing. And it’s odd with no sound? I can imagine your difficulty in finding anything, and the Four Seasons worked best for me, but probably only because I didn’t like the others.

    I asked permission to use Greenback Boogie, but got no reply. Wonder why that was!

  11. My vote is for techno also.

    I’d recommend not so much movement in pics. Fade in and out, but otherwise, don’t have them move into the frame, especially when there are so many pics. I’d like a bit more description even if it was very brief (and it should be).

    Make sure the print is white or black–colored print will just compete with your pic. And slow down the pics so we can really see them.

    I loved the bit about the columns–maybe more like that? What tidbit would interest the viewer (gardener and nongardener) and draw them in and make then think, “Well, I have to go see that!”

  12. I have just started making garden videos so thanks for all the tips. To get music I use Pond Music downloads can be as little as $5. and you own it to use as often as you like. There are thousands of choices.
    Movies without music are very hard to watch. Also, most people only have patience to watch 5 minutes or less- 3 mins is ideal.
    I am thinking of making a short version and then a longer version, for those who want more.
    Here is a short time lapse sample

  13. Great idea! Love grass roots movements. I agree with the others about slowing it down. Bach was my favorite.

  14. The Techno music was the best for me.. It gave a sense of excitement to the video, which is what I always feel when walking through a new garden. I would enjoy a longer version, starting at the entrance and hitting the highlights of the garden. I was there in the summer so I appreciated the Spring portion. Also it is wonderful for those who will never be able to visit. Some garden websites have videos or photos but you have to know about them. Your idea introduces viewers to places they otherwise would not be aware of. A very worthwhile project. Thanks.

  15. Mr. Pedant says:
    The Four Seasons was composed by Antonio Vivaldi, not any of the Bach family.

  16. Actually, I think you did a really nice job. It might use some tweaking, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

    I did the Greenbelt garden tour video for you. It was fun and hopefully gave some people encouragement to spend more time in their gardens and develop more friendships with like-minded people.

    I planted tithonia last year and was so impressed with the number of insects it attracted, I made a video to turn others on to planting it:

    (Notice how I use photos and video together and try to link these to audio together. I also utilize the live sounds of the environment with music. Transitions, zooming and panning done properly are key in my videos. I will often use the faster portions of the song with the faster motion of the insects, slower music to slower movement.

    All software I use for photo video editing and ripping mp3s out of youtube videos is free.

    I’d be happy to help you. I live near you. Let me know. I’m over there all the time on my nestbox trail at the Ag center.


    • Yes, I’d LOVE your help! Your video of Greenbelt was, I understand now more than then, sooooo good. I’ll email you offline about getting together. Fabulous.

  17. I liked the Vivaldi the best, because it was more relaxing and best matched the emotional tone of strolling at leisure through a garden. The other music choices were too frenetic. Even better would be an adagio — Albinoni’s famous one, or even a largo or adagio from The Four Seasons.

  18. Well, I’d probably visit the Arboretum if I was in DC whether I’d seen the video or not but, for what it’s worth and somewhat to my own surprise, I found the techno music accompaniment the most compelling. The Vivaldi made me think I was listening to the intro to a BBC garden special and the banjo music just didn’t seem to jive with the video. I thought the visuals were well done. Good luck with your effort!

  19. Great idea, Susan. You have some nice images, including the greatest hits of the USNA, but as others suggest, it would be nice to see more if possible to show the depth of the Arboretum — .e.g, view of the red Pagoda and river from Asian Valley, a shot of Fern valley (those lovely rustic benches and bridges and the wet meadow, which you’d have to do in late summer or fall) and the conifer collection. I’d even be willing to take some for your if you’re interested. (I was a part-time gardener at the USNA for 6 years so it’s near and dear to my heart.) Overall the idea of promoting visitation with a video is excellent. Some public gardens do it themselves. USNA needs all the help it can get.

    Four Seasons seemed best music to me; the first one made we want to run and hide. I’m going to ask my husband about music in public domain as he may know of other sources.

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