Movies about gardens and gardening offer inspiration and, usually, a soothing, quiet charm.
You know you’re a garden groupie when you find yourself watching movies or TV and looking at the gardens, yards and interior plants in the background more than you watch, you know, the story action.
Miami Vice is my guilty pleasure, and I completely lose track of whatever young Don Johnson and his hair are doing onscreen to ooh and ahh when he strolls past a 10-foot-tall bird of paradise with foot-tall flowers, or a pothos vine climbing a palm tree, showing off yellow and green leaves the size of elephant ears. My favorite movie and TV scenes take place in protected courtyards, lush with fountains and container plants, with the solar gain benefits clearly showing in the healthy foliage. One I like a lot is, I’m pretty sure, a studio set creation with a central fountain and a cottage with French doors in the background. It was used in both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Wolf, and probably in other movies I haven’t seen.
Here are a few garden-themed movies that might appeal to you and get your green thumb itching to plant and nurture again once fall temperatures start to cool down our landscapes. Take it to the next level by watching these movies outside on a big screen in your yard, or at least on the screen porch.
Master Gardener was released in 2022. I missed this in the theater, so it’s on my watch list. It’s directed by Paul Schrader, who also directed Taxi Driver and wrote movies like Raging Bull, American Gigolo and The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s the story of a wealthy woman (Sigourney Weaver) who employs a gardener with a dark past. A frothy, upbeat movie this ain’t gonna be, so I’m saving it for a cold winter night when the gardening part of the story will inspire me.
Dare to be Wild, from 2015, starts out as a kind of a Devil Wears Prada-style story for garden designers and florists. Mary Reynolds takes on a junior garden designer job with a tough, celebrity-obsessed designer who uses Mary’s considerable talents, steals her designs and then fires her. Mary, improbably, is later accepted into the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show, the “Olympics of gardening.” Her dream is to make use of the wild in her garden designs and to avoid the unnatural and manicured. There are lots of lush scenes of wild Irish landscapes and sculpted, human-created flower gardens and arrangements. It’s a little incoherent with its editing and scene setups but the point is the plants not the plot. Shots are framed with unfurling ferns and green, green, green natural spaces. A little girl who talks to plants, trees and garden fairies grows up to be a world-renowned garden designer whose work is focused on bringing the wild back into all landscapes, especially one’s own backyard. It’s streaming on several free platforms, including Roku, Tubi and the like.
Greenfingers, released in 2000, is a comedy starring Clive Owen and Helen Mirren, and it’s a lighthearted view of the British criminal justice system. The opening scene of Colin’s (Owen) burglary of a flower shop has him using a rickety bicycle as a getaway vehicle. Naturally, Colin ends up in prison. The men in the prison work program learn to grow flowers and vegetables together, and when a famous gardener (Mirren) takes interest in their work, she gets them an entry into a garden show. This is a breezy take on rehabilitation and the truly healing powers of growing plants. It’s also streaming on several free platforms including Roku, Tubi and others.
A Little Chaos, from 2015, is a fictional account of the creation of part of the astounding Gardens of Versailles and stars Kate Winslet as a 17th century garden designer for King Louis XIV. Hired by renowned designer Andre Le Notre, Winslet’s Sabine builds a fountain system using then-unique reservoirs and pump systems. In a time before Kubota, John Deere and Caterpillar, the enormous amount of physical labor was done by peasants and serfs. The sheer volume of earth moved and boulders placed made me feel guilty about complaining while resetting my 16-inch paver stones. Alan Rickman played King Louis and also directed this film. It has it a feeling of both Dangerous Liaisons and Downton Abbey, given the scale of the buildings, opulence of the settings and royal lifestyles. It is available for rent on Apple TV, Prime and others.
So, gather up your own garden spoils—maybe some home-grown mint for your iced tea and some sliced tomatoes with basil and mozzarella—and delve into these movies that celebrate green thumbs. OS
A native Floridian and lifelong gardener, Belea spends her time off fostering cats and collecting caladiums. You can send gardening questions or column suggestions to her at email@example.com