In 1991 CHCH-TV gave me the go ahead to produce a half-hour gardening program called Gardener’s Journal. It started out as low budget. I had one day off from news reporting, shot the show, edited it that night and it was on the air two days later on Saturday mornings.  There were no hair, makeup or wardrobe expenses, and I think I made lunch for the crew. We shot 26 episodes per season, which meant we sometimes shot in spring blizzards, and in the fall when all the leaves were gone.

The show sprouted. In 1995 a new thing called HGTV started up in the US and they were ravenous for programs. They bought every episode they could of Gardener’s Journal, and suddenly the wonderful gardens of Hamilton were on display coast to coast in America.

Gardener’s Journal stayed on HGTV US and Canada, producing new episodes until 2002. Then reality TV came in like a tidal wave, and the gentle world of roses and rudbeckia hit the compost pile big time.

All along though, people were pining for good gardening shows on TV.  I’m happy to report Gardener’s Journal is back on the air on a new subscription streaming service called HortusTV (hortustv.com).

My friend Liza Drozdov came up with the idea. “I wanted to be able to watch really good garden shows on TV again, and they’re nowhere to be found, so I thought why not have a streaming service like Netflix?”

So she beat the rose bushes for shows to license  and found a bunch. Burlington’s Haig Seferian’s show Garden Architecture is on HortusTV, so are episodes from David Tarrant’s Spring series, and 52 episodes and counting of Gardener’s Journal, Classic UK shows including excellent ones produced for BBC round out the offering.  Drozdov will continue to add more episodes to HortusTV, and would eventually love to shoot new series.

“There’s a whole new generation of gardeners now, who’ve never had any kind of garden TV programming,” Drozdov says, “Visit a nursery on the weekend and look around, there are many young families who need information and inspiration”

The monthly subscription fee for HortusTV is $6.99, but you can watch it for a week on a free trial. I predict it will be a cozy companion for the winter ahead.

Written by: Kathy Renwald

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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