Last week, when some respected garden bloggers* (see below) took cable TV channel HGTV to task for not airing more shows about gardening, I didn't plan to comment. I figured that a TV network decided on which shows made the cut by the ratings, and that tuning in to what was available would speak louder than words.
But the idea of how TV covers gardening -- and how much -- does interest me. I've done regular TV segments about gardening and tended to find the approach a bit frustrating.
On one hand, you can show so much -- such as the proper way to prune a rose -- that's harder to convey in print. On the other, the demands are often along the line of "Next, Judy Lowe will tell us everything she knows about roses" -- when you've been given less than two minutes to do so.
What are your favorite garden shows? Mine tend to be visits to gardens -- half-hour visits, if possible. I want to see as much as possible and hear the people responsible for the garden talk about it.
Because I'm interested in the subject, I want to spend more time on it, not get a superficial look at whatever's being covered. I'm usually watching to learn something, not be (just) entertained.
But that isn't the way TV does things. And, I assume, the way it's being done is what the majority of the audience is used to and wants.
There's also the issue of the viewer's level of expertise. What I want to see is going to differ markedly from what's enjoyed by someone whose connection to gardening is planting a few marigolds in the front yard. (And there are many more casual gardeners than serious ones, as far as numbers go.)
If you could produce your ideal TV gardening show, what would you have in it? I think mine would sometimes have three 10-minute segments.
Maybe one would be a visit to a wonderful garden, to find out how it got that way. Then someone might explain and demonstrate some gardening technique that isn't well understood -- the reasons behind it and how to do it.
Or maybe someone in the know would discuss and show a group of worthwhile gardening plants, such as viburnums or hydrangeas.
For that, I'd give up 30 or more minutes of my precious weekend time. I'd love to visit a wonderful perennial border throughout the season (as the old "Victory Garden" used to do) and find out what goes into creating one and keeping it looking good throughout the season.
Speaking of the "Victory Garden" (which I'll have to confess I rarely watch any more), I loved its regular segments on regional gardening. What works in California probably won't in Vermont.
So maybe the solution isn't trying to get national TV to cover more gardening, but to encourage regional programs that can produce what the people of its area really want and need.