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The realities of having your garden on local TV

Trevor Nottle

Trevor Nottle

November 2, 2015

Will my garden get in the media? Probably not. Why would you want it to? Let me tell you what this frequently involves. This is a warts and all account, a personal exposé of graft and cheating. No sex changed hands at any time during this episode. Bad Luck.

Having reached the very apogee of domestic horticulture you are approached by a TV production company to permit filming in your garden for a popular local gardening programme. You eagerly agree, thinking Fame has arrived at last. The date is set and changed several times according to the availability of the star of the programme.

Filming in progressWhether or not you agree, arrangements are changed without consultation and regardless of your own commitments and family needs. Well, you will be recognised as a ‘true’ gardener won’t you, so fitting in with the maestro and his film crew is part of the deal isn’t it?

The appointed day arrives before which you have spent many hours and probably a fortune in getting everything in top-notch order for filming. A virtual child arrives and announces herself as the Production Assistant. The garden doesn’t look as she expected it would. She expresses her surprise and shows apparent disappointment. Never mind the camera-man will fix that with some clever shots and a lens misted with Vaseline. Meanwhile the star and crew will need power points, hot water, parking spots, umbrellas, cold drinks, chairs and somewhere to have lunch. No, they won’t eat with you, Thanks Very Much. Can you recommend a good restaurant not too far away? Never heard of it! Do they have macro-biotic chia and energised almond water? Oh, in Sydney we do…

Eventually the star arrives along with the camera-man, the sound man, and the producer. A start is made by the star making a few introductory comments. A plane drones overhead. The scene has to be shot again. A distant neighbour starts up his leaf blower. Do it again. The star fluffs his intro lines.a line. Do it again. A cloud blocks the sun changing the light and the shadows. Do it again. The star snaps off a branch that is blocking his entrance. Bloody Hell. Your dog wanders across the shot. You guessed it. Do it again. The camera-man squats on top of a rare plant to get the angle he wants for a shot. Bloody Hell. The sound-man backs into a big pot and sends it tumbling and shattered. The PA, from her chair under the umbrella, says she’s getting too hot. Poor thing. Double Bloody.

And so it goes all day. When it is your turn to appear you fluff your words, you stammer, you don’t talk to the star but stare into the camera, you wave your hands too much obstructing the star’s face, you say too much distracting from the star, you waffle off subject irritating the star, the star needs to touch base with his office and PR consultant; time is running out aggravating the star and the producer, a cloud passes angering the camera-man and the star again. The star is getting hungry and hot. The star needs to use your toilet. He’s never seen so many gardening books in his life (in the family room). Have they all been read? Amazing. He’s never read a gardening book in his life. And so it continues until it is all a wrap up.

The astonishing thing is that the segment, when it appears on the show, lasts only 2.5 minutes. You never appear and the star does most of it (face) to camera. And he gets your name garbled!

Ah, well maybe you won’t get any offers to buy the house anyway, and it doesn’t really matter if the dates of your open garden fund-raiser were wrong on screen. Remember you have got your wish and you have been ‘done’ by the horticultural media. And you asked for it.

Image courtesy Ross Bateup

There are some rather unexpected spin-offs too.

Scene 1.
A doorbell rings as a family sits down for a Sunday birthday lunch.
Host: Good afternoon. What can I do for you?

Stranger: G’day, the name’s Kev. I’ve brought Mum and the family down to see yer garden. The wife wants to have a look too if yer don’t mind.

Host: Well, it’s not really convenient now. We are just about to sit down for lunch. It’s my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday.

Stranger: We come a long way to see yer, left ‘ome before 8.30 we did. We won’t be long. Just a quick squiz an’ we’ll be gorn before ya know it. Ya don’t even hav’ ter come with us. We c’n show ourselves aroun’. Mum saw yer garden on TV with that guy who used to be a wrestler ‘n that’s why she’s real keen to come down an’ see yer place. Yeah we can’t come down any other time ‘cos of the sheep and the harvest yer know so we come down terday hopin’ it’d be OK, right?

Host: (after a longish pause) Well, alright. It will be $5 a head for entry. That goes to the local pets rescue service we support when we have Open Days.

Stranger: (after an even longer pause) Jeez mate, that’s a bit rich, 5 bucks a head, but OK Mum’s really been getting’ on me wick about comin’ to see yer place. (hands over $15) I’ll just knock when we’ve finished so’s you‘ll know we’re goin’.

An hour or so passes…………….

Scene 2.
A knock at the door.
Host: Finished looking?

Stranger: Yeah, not bad mate. ‘ow’s the birthday goin? Good? Great. Me Mum’s pretty chuffed. Maybe it was worth the $15 after all. Yeah, we’ll be goin’ ‘ome now. Should be there in time to get the cows in. Yeah, it’s a long drive. Mum and the missus will snooze off I bet, the kids too. See ya. (a pause hangs on the air) Oh, by the way Mum left little orange ice-cream sticks by the plants she wants bit of; no need to dig ‘em now but, we knows youse busy. Dig when yer can and send ‘em up. Here’s the mail box number ‘n all that. Thanks. See ya.

And that really did happen – to me.

So do you really want to have your garden in the media?

And do you really want to have the media in your garden?

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helen mckerral
helen mckerral
5 years ago

Hahahahahaaa, Trevor! Pure gold!

Deryn Thorpe
5 years ago

Ah yes, the fame game……. Hope they replaced the pot!

5 years ago
Reply to  Deryn Thorpe

Not likely. Oops what was that………….

Anne Vale
5 years ago

Oh Trevor, it all sounds only too familiar and I have been naive enough to agree to have our garden open on Mother’s Day 2016 for the new Victorian Open Garden Scheme!

5 years ago
Reply to  Anne Vale

Don’t worry Anne – for every pratt there are 50 lovely people who will charm you, love your garden and respect your privacy. Just fit the shed doors with heavy locks. We had a friend who had several antique Rolls Royce’s inherited from his wife’s family. On his open day, years ago his teenage son found perfect strangers inside the shut garage sitting in the driver’s seats, turning the steering wheels and playing with the gear and brake levers etc. When confronted by the 17yr old lad the ‘garden guests’ said that for $5 entrance fee they were entitled to see the cars too, as well as the 15 acres of garden! (ie They knew the cars were there even though garaged away out of sight.)

I just have a long memory for crazy stories.

Alison Aplin
5 years ago

Hello Trevor
You obviously had a couple of bad experiences which is really disappointing.
I opened my garden, as you may recall, in the Clare Valley many times. Only rarely did we have an issue, and none like your experience with the farmers.
Garden Club groups tend to presume that they can take cuttings of whatever they want. For this reason they were always discouraged. This to me is a point of bad manners.
As for film crews and photographers for magazines etc, I found them all very friendly and accommodating towards me. Maybe I intimidate and they’re all terrified of me? If so, it worked.
We now have another garden open to the public, and once again I have found the general public to be friendly and interested in what we are showcasing as a true example of a sustainable landscape.
Yes your experiences weren’t good, but mine were, as I remember, happy occasions.

5 years ago
Reply to  Alison Aplin

As a writer it helps to remember the more interesting events.

I always remember the beautiful Malus triloba in your Mintaro garden. I am sure your new garden is lovely – and most likely in a more generous climate.

5 years ago

Had a great laugh! 😀 My gosh.

…did you end up sendin’ ‘er them plants?

5 years ago

I just loved your description. No wonder you are a garden writer, you made my day or evening to be precise. I am one of those compulsive garden visitors 🙂 but I would NEVER dream of taking cuttings or bits and pieces from somebody’s garden oh, dear people do that???

5 years ago
Reply to  Barbara

We have had people pulling up plants: “Only trying to get a cutting.” We have had people let their children run riot. We have had people tease our dog. I am always generous giving cuttings etc provided I have a big enough plant, and the time when I am ASKED. But I do expect to be asked first, not when people are caught stealing red-handed. Earlier this year we had 5 very big (and expensive) pots stolen over 3 weekends in a row; our neighbours had a pallet of pavers stolen too – a free home landscape project do you think? Such things can be very dis-heartening. (We replaced the stolen pots with awful cement things but no-one has taken them – yet.) Yet we go on with welcoming people to our garden. Most people are appreciative, mindful and pleasant and we like meeting them and sharing our interests in gardening.

helen mckerral
helen mckerral
5 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Interesting, Trevor, and it’s a very personal thing, isn’t it?

I have a friend who can’t wait to open her garden to the public, and of course as a horticultural journalist I’ve been welcomed into the gardens of numerous people, but I’m unwilling to open my own garden not because I don’t like people or fear theft, but because I view my garden as my *private* space: I wouldn’t be comfortable having a group of complete strangers in my house, either, and the thought of a stranger popping into my garden unannounced fills me with horror. My personal friends, on the other hand, are always welcome to drop by, and I also like having small groups of gardening friends and acquaintances visit.

Fortunately not everyone feels as I do, and are generous and open enough to share their gardens so others – including me! – can enjoy them.

Liz Chappell
5 years ago

Tommy Garnett’s piece on open garden visitors was my favourite – with an open weekend coming up – I quake, although my previous garden visitors have always been pleasant, at least within my hearing. The most memorable was a preschooler who took great delight in jumping over the ha-ha wall. Is that fence electrified? enquired his sanguine mother, after his third excursion. Liz Chappell

4 years ago

Hi Trevor, Doing a little research and found your site. I had an Open here in Port Lincoln last weekend, which went very well, but I don’t think that we get the numbers over here that you do in Adelaide. No-one stole anything, or broke off pieces to take home. Cant believe they’re that bold (Helens comment above), maybe because everyone knows everyone over here.