Gardens of the World Review

Gardens of the World was filmed and aired as a miniseries on PBS stations in the U.S. In it, host Audrey Hepburn takes us around the world, from one garden to the next. All together, there were eight installments, each themed to a particular type of garden:

1. Roses and Rose Gardens
2. Formal Gardens
3. Country Gardens
4. Public Gardens and Trees
5. Flower Gardens
6. Tropical Gardens
7. Japanese Gardens
8. Tulips and Spring Bulbs

A few locations were featured multiple times, for example Claude Monet’s beautiful gardens at Giverny and George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. Though you may find a couple of repeats in the series, it never gets tiring. The entire series is beautifully shot and is sure to highlight the gardens in their natural beauty, even putting Audrey herself second to the magnificent blooms. While some Audrey fans who are mainly watching for her may be disappointed, it’s easy to forget any misgivings you may have when you really start to look at the most beautiful creations nature has to offer. Gardener or not, flower fan or not, you will become thoroughly entranced with this series. When Audrey is onscreen, casually strolling through ornate Japanese gardens or the public parks of Paris in her carefully matched Ralph Lauren outfits, you catch her own enthusiasm for the flowers and gardening in and of itself.

It’s not until you get to the third disc with the bonus materials that you realize how much work really went in to this series. Onscreen, it looks so easy and effortless, as if the cameraman and Audrey just happened upon the Jardin du Luxembourg and decided to chat about it on film. The bonus disc alone would be worth the price, since you can finally see Audrey at work before the cameras. There’s plenty of behind the scenes footage of the crew setting up as she carefully choreographs and rehearses every move with the director and kindly asks people in the background to hush before filming, and you can finally see what many directors had talked about: Audrey’s charming way of subtly changing her lines to suit her — changes which ultimately improved the script. My favourite, though, and the part I had been looking forward to the most, was footage from the official ceremony unveiling the Audrey Hepburn tulip. Though short and a bit jerky overall, it was very sweet to see Audrey dedicate the first generation of tulips to her Tante [Aunt] Jacqueline, who burst into tears, and hear Audrey speak Dutch.

Overall, I would highly recommend this 3-disc set to anyone, simply for the beauty of the flowers themselves. They, not Audrey, are the star of this series. If you were interested in this series solely to see her, you may be disappointed, because on some segments she hardly appears at all. Also, not all voice overs are done by her. The majority are actually voiced by actor Michael York (Cabaret, Romeo and Juliet), so if you are not horticulturally inclined, you may want to consider renting this first. Still, it is a beautiful, well-executed series and definitely worth owning.

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