Sometime in 2011, I discovered a BBC Scotland TV programme called “The Beechgrove Garden”. At the time, I was becoming disenchanted with Gardeners’ World on national BBC and Alan Titchmarsh’s efforts in the first series of Love Your Garden didn’t really enthuse me (subsequent efforts with the addition of David Domoney turned me right off).
I think back lovingly to the days when Geoff Hamilton presented Gardeners’ World and a number of “spin-off” series like Cottage Gardens. The programmes were down-to-earth (pardon the pun) and informative. Geoff promoted organic gardening and conveyed the need to respect and conserve natural resources without preaching; rather he informed, covered both sides of the argument and let us make up our own minds. He introduced me to the joys of using coir instead of peat – and I now grow all my annual bedding in coir and get better results than I did with multi-purpose, peat-containing compost. He introduced me to what he called “hypa-tufa” – imitation limestone rocks – as an alternative to demolishing limestone areas for decorative stone.
Above all, Geoff showed me how to enjoy gardening; how to make mistakes and learn from them. Contrast with Monty Don’s single-minded, Soil Association-compliant preaching which leaves me so cold that I can no longer watch Gardeners’ World, despite the intermission of Carol Klein at some point in each programme.
But back to 2011 and my discovery of Beechgrove Garden. Here was a programme that reminded me of Geoff: a programme which was practical, down to earth, non-judgemental, interesting, entertaining …… I could go on! And as I mentioned the programme to others, the result was more converts. So my opinion was certainly shared.
When the 2011 series ended, we eagerly anticipated the start of the 2012 one and then the 2013 one, now in full swing. Then I came across an announcement that a DVD set would be issued in early summer 2013. The impression was that it would be a compilation of the best bits. I wouldn’t envy whoever was tasked with choosing the “best bits” as I’ve never found anything to criticise in any of the programmes.
But, it turns out, what you’re getting for a few pence over £26 is a six-DVD set comprising the 2010 series from start to finish. That works out at about a quid an episode. They’ve put 4 episodes on each disk but I was surprised to discover that the disks are single layer and, on a large TV, the grain shows up. Good quality video really limits a DVD5 disk to about 90 minutes-worth of viewing. But, I suppose, on the other hand, the quality of the original filming may dictate that using higher resolution disks is pointless. That’s a small gripe but I mention it because some may find the grain a bit irritating.
Another irritation is that there is no within-programme chapter marking on the disks. So you cannot, for example, jump to 15 minutes into a programme to watch a particular segment. You would need to make notes of where something that you might want to refer to again was and then return to it “manually.”
Each disk, though, gives you 4 minutes short of 2 hours of informative and entertaining gardening. The presenters are friendly, talking with you not at you, getting their hands really dirty and, indeed, acknowledging when someone else has done something off-camera in the background. The programme is honest. Knocks the spots of GW.
Overall, this is a set worth watching and, in time, owning as something to refer back to. But I don’t think the current price is justified and I would wait until the price dropped a fair bit below £20 before considering a purchase. In the meantime, I’m renting the set from LoveFilm, Amazon’s rental arm, and making lots of notes.