A Virtual Garden Tour

Take a (virtual) tour through some of the most beautiful gardens of the world! 

Though the weather might not be well-suited for a garden tour right now, with books borrowed or downloaded from the library, you can enjoy armchair travelling from the safety of your home, take pleasure in looking through books with gorgeous color illustrations and photographs of splendidly designed gardens from all over the world, and learn about the people who designed them.

A Garden for All Seasons: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Hillwood by Kate Markert is the first book on the history and design of Hillwood, the estate of Marjorie Post, the businesswoman and the heir of General Foods, Inc.

The gardens were designed with the idea of planting a very diverse range of plants and trees, thus providing something flowering or simply beautiful to look at for every season. The new commissioned photography for the book perfectly reflects the beauty of the garden.

For Rachel Lambert Mellon – best known as Bunny Mellon – plants and gardens have been a passion for all her long life (1910-2014), and she was really remarkable with garden designs. Best known for her redesign of the White House Rose Garden, she planned grounds designs for all the multiple estates her family owned in various parts of the world. She also designed a couple of gardens for the celebrated French couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, and several other gardens of the White House.

The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Holden includes spectacular newly commissioned photographs of some of Mellon’s gardens, as well as her sketches and watercolors.

In American Gardens, Monty Don, an eminent British horticulturist, travels across the US with celebrated photographer Derry Moore, exploring the country’s iconic as well as lesser-known gardens. Best known as a presenter of the BBC gardening television series, Mr. Don did one of the episodes this past year on American gardens; the book complements the series, and includes some previously unpublished photographs. 

The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Gardens and Nurseries in the Northeast by Jana Milbocker describes 120 botanical gardens, historic estates, and nurseries from Southern Maine to Pennsylvania. 

665 luscious photos make this book more than a guidebook; it offers aesthetic enjoyment of horticultural colors and designs.

For those wishing to explore outside North America, the library has the following offerings:

Japanese Gardens: Kyoto by photographer Akira Nakata showcases 96 stunning Japanese gardens of Kyoto. These awe-inspiring works of art date between the 13th and the 17th centuries.

A recognizable aspect of Japanese culture, gardens embody a philosophy about the relationship between humanity and nature through seamless incorporation of living elements with man-made design and the surroundings (such as buildings).

Not to be missed, especially if Kyoto is a travel destination.

Everyday Monet: A Giverny-inspired Gardening and Lifestyle Guide to Living Your Best Impressionist Life by Aileen Bordman will take you to France, to the third most-visited site in the country: Giverny, a commune in Normandy best known for the location of an estate that was once home to Claude Monet, one of the founders of the French Impressionism.

Gorgeously illustrated with photos of Monet’s spectacular garden designs, reproductions of his paintings, and filled with instructions, the book becomes a practical guide for creating a lifestyle inspired by Monet’s works.

As always, these books are available through the library catalog, either in print or digital format, sometimes both. 

Digital downloads are available through Overdrive/Libby with your library card. To obtain a print copy, please carefully read the instructions for reserving and Curbside Pickup.

Anxious Anglophile Therapy: Acorn TV + hoopla

We know you’re out there. Those who flicked on the Queen’s calm, collected, compassionate (and historically rare) televised addresses to her nation on the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who followed the unexpected drama of the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 illness and recovery. Maybe there’s an ancient rootedness, an age-old solidity about the United Kingdom that–despite the recent upheaval of Brexit–appeals to us in our comparatively young and volatile New World. Or perhaps the Brits just have a knack for making us laugh, a good enough therapy in itself. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying Americans’ fascination with and rapacious consumption of British programming!

For Anglophiles, there’s just nothing like Acorn TV. Shows that were once available only on DVD or through subscription streaming are now just a couple of clicks away for Marblehead library card holders. Even better, they’re always available and free. No holds, no waits, no fees. Check out a 7-day pass, and you can blissfully binge-watch until it’s time to check out another pass: no monthly limits or checkout caps. Whether your “comfort genre” is comedy, historical drama, mystery, or documentary, you’ll find plenty to your taste. If you’re the sort who finds solace in schedules (especially in this time of disruption), Acorn TV offers you one, so that you can keep track of offerings that are “Recently Added,” “Coming Soon,” and “Leaving Soon”–you’ll never miss a trick! You can of course browse by category, one of which is currently “Soothing Documentary.” The British really are unapologetic about the value of comfort in these anxious times! 

For those who are already passionate fans of Acorn TV and feel as though they’ve exhausted its possibilities for the moment (though that would take some seriously committed bingeing!), the Abbot Public Library’s newest digital service, hoopla, offers yet more tempting BBC fare. Have  a look at this search of hoopla’s TV category and this one of BBC movies, with 150 and 63 results, respectively. Odds are you’ll find a previously unseen treasure, as there are plenty of titles you may well not have encountered on Acorn – series and films that were popular in the UK but not as widely known in the US.

So, brew yourself a cuppa, butter some toast, and settle in for some seriously brilliant British telly. No therapist’s bills here–just let those plummy accents soothe your stressed-out psyche!

If you’re new to Acorn TV and/or hoopla, have a look at our FAQs page to get started right away! If you need to sign up for a Marblehead library card, you can start here. And do feel free to contact Reference staff at mar@noblenet.org with any further questions.

Recommended Viewing: This Beautiful Fantastic

There are the blockbuster films everyone watches, the ones with “buzz.” There are the films the art-house crowd relishes for experimental cinematics or complex plotting. Then there are the quietly charming, unassuming movies that you just happen to stumble upon, possibly while in search of one of these other sorts. British-made This Beautiful Fantastic (available on hoopla) is just such a gem.

Not least among its attractions is the familiar and hugely talented cast, in some cases playing a bit against type and doing it splendidly. Tom Wilkinson (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel among a host of other films) has long been beloved on both sides of the Atlantic; here he plays a crusty, incorrigible, yet oddly charismatic neighbor to Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey fame. Her character here is a far cry from the self-confident, boundary-pushing Sybil. Instead, Bella is a slightly agoraphobic, obsessive-compulsive library assistant who aspires to write children’s books whilst trying to avoid her anxiety-producing jungle of a back garden. And most surprisingly of all, Andrew Scott–the creepily zany Moriarity of BBC’s Sherlock–plays a brotherly boy-next-door who is a key figure in the rehabilitation of Wilkinson’s and Findlay’s dysfunctional lives.

Thankfully, This Beautiful Fantastic isn’t a standard romantic comedy, however, nor does the boy-next-door become a boyfriend. The twin catalysts of the plot are a garden and a library, with the former forcing Bella to confront her crippling fears and the latter providing a somewhat comic backdrop for a mutually beneficial (and yes, adorably romantic) creative relationship. Gardens and libraries–what better sources for stories! While there is little to surprise the viewer here, there is much to delight. A sort of warm, Edenic innocence–with a touch of fable– envelops us as Bella and her imagined heroine learn to fly (and no, the metaphor doesn’t feel hackneyed).

So, if you’re up for some gentle entertainment as you navigate the new norms of our state’s cautious reopening, join the heroine of this well-told tale as she gradually emerges from her dim, well-ordered world into the strange and beautiful one outside her door.