Monday, October 27, 2014

Top 10 movie gardens

I couldn't resist a little diversion here. Who doesn't love a good movie garden? You know, the kind you could lose yourself in. The kind that makes you watch the movie over and over, even though the movie is pretty ordinary. I've put together my ultimate list of movie gardens. Some of the movies aren't exactly Academy Award winners (mind you, some are sensational) but, oh, the gardens. They're just so divine.

1. It's Complicated (Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin)
This is a fairly cringeworthy viewing, but it's worth watching for the garden alone. And the house. And Meryl Streep, of course. This veggie garden sent waves of oohing and aahing around the horticultural world when the film first screened, but true green thumbs were dubious. It was just a little too perfect to be true. And it turns out, they were right. Apparently all the plants were grown in a greenhouse and then the best and most beautiful were selected and transplanted straight into this gorgeous plot. But, really, who cares? It's Hollywood, after all



2. The Great Gatsby (Leonard DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan)
I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to The Great Gatsby. Cos who could possibly do justice to F.Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, I ask you? When it comes to the films, if I had to choose, I'd opt for the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version. After all, it's Robert Redford. But, our own Baz Lurhmann sure does know how to put on a show. Here, it's all about the location. Apparently, Sydney's St Patrick's Seminary was used for the exterior shots of Gatsby's estate (they hung faux ivy on the first two floors, installed a temporary fountain in the courtyard and added the turrets digitally). But who'd want to live in Gatsby's mansion, or even Daisy's Georgian red-brick manor, when they could take up residence in Nick's oh-so charming cottage with its climbing white rose and stepping-stone front path?





3. Practical Magic (Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock)
Let's be frank: this film is a shocker. But when it's full of so much loveliness of the garden variety, who cares. If I could live in this grand old white Victorian house, complete with fenced veggie patch, lawns sweeping down to the sea, picket fences and, yes, a conservatory, I'd quite happily settle for the dead guy buried under the lawn. Hmm, should that be a spoiler alert?







4. Return to Me (Minnie Driver, David Duchovny)
Awwww, I hear you say! Yes, this is a syrupy sweet romantic comedy from Bonnie Hunt and, I confess, I'm rather fond of it. In a nutshell, it's the story of Grace, who has just had a heart transplant, falling in love with Bob, whose wife was killed in an accident and donated her organs...Yes, you can guess where this is headed. But it's Grace's pretty courtyard garden, brimming with flowers, that really steals the show.


5. Howards End (Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham-Carter)
One of my all-time favourite movies, Howards End (based on the E.M. Forster novel) is lyrical and beautiful. The property Howards End is a lovely example of the English country garden complete with meadow, climbing roses, cottage flowers and wych-elm tree. The English country-side (Leonard Bast's wanderings through the carpet of bluebells is to-die-for) is also spectacular.



6. Enchanted April (Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker)
While we're on the subject of favourite films, this little-known gem is a gentle and whimsical movie. Two women in unhappy marriages, living in cold and miserable 1920s England, decide to rent an Italian castle for the spring. To save money, they advertise for two other women to join them. Of course, it turns out to be a heavenly place dripping with lilies, wisteria, hydrangeas and geraniums.



7. Green Card (Andie MacDowell, Gerard Depardieu)
I'm sure this Peter Weir movie is one of the reasons I love gardening so much. I grew up on this film, madly in love with Andie MacDowell's greenhouse and apartment. And Gerard Depardieu. French doors open from the apartment into the greenhouse, which has an old fountain and a stack of glorious begonias, cordylines, aspidistra, heliconia and bromeliads. Then there's the rooftop garden. And the way Andie MacDowell's character dreamily lists the plants in need of attention to the apartment-building's board is sensational. Oh to be able to recite the Latin names of plants like that.



8. Memoirs of a Geisha (Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe)
I am such a sucker for Japanese gardens. Cherry blossom, wooden bridges, stepping stones. Ah, the serenity. There are so many of these tranquil features in this film: the bridge where she first meets the Chairman as a girl and the exquisite cherry blossom festival she attends as a young geisha. You'll be booking a flight to Kyoto before the film finishes.



9. Anne of Green Gables (Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst) Yes, yes, I know: This is not technically a movie. But it just has to be included on any list of gorgeous gardens for the sheer beauty of Prince Edward Island. Glorious roads lined with deciduous trees, sweeping meadows filled with wild flowers, the Lake of Shining Waters and the White Way of Delight (an avenue of apple blossom for those who don't know). Oh my.





10. The Secret Garden (Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith)
This one's a bit of a no-brainer for a list like this. Still, it's definitely worthy. Illustrators, animators, theatrical directors and filmmakers have been conjuring up this garden ever since Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote the novel in 1911. The 1993 film does a pretty good job of getting it right, from the wooden door in the ivy-covered wall to the roses, the hedges, the foxgloves and loads of other glorious flowers.