DVD
The Eden Project
The Gardeners of Eden

Narrator: Alan Titchmarsh
Acorn Media
RRP: 19.99
AV9465
Certificate: E
Available 06 March 2006


Alan Titchmarsh narrates two documentaries about the Eden Project,
The Gardeners of Eden and Growing Pains. In The Gardeners Of Eden we follow the team of 60 botanists, gardeners and architects as they go about their daily work managing the project and the visitors that enjoy it. Growing Pains looks at the long term impact of the project, exploring its role as a tourist attraction as well as a centre for ecological and scientific research...

The Eden Project: The Gardeners of Eden consists of two 1-hour documentaries about Cornwall's Eden Project. While both films are entertaining, I couldn't help feeling that one documentary would have been enough for most people. They both skirt along similar themes, and to be honest I think this would have worked much better if the two had been edited down into one one-hour feature.

The first film, The Gardeners of Eden, follows the Eden horticultural year and its 60-strong gardening team. Filmed both inside and outside the biomes, in the large and fast-maturing gardens, it follows Eden's extreme gardening - abseiling, aerial pruning and jungle plant management, its vast planting and display projects like Bulb Mania and the appliance of science in cutting-edge pest control and quarantine techniques.

The second film, Growing Pains, is an intimate and engaging portrait through one of the most important and ambitious years in the life of Eden, timed to coincide with the grand opening of its new biome. The film demonstrates how Eden has achieved its iconic and inspirational status and reveals the dilemmas and challenges it faces for the future.

The first film is entertaining enough and there are plenty of interesting facts about the origin of the Eden Project, as well as it's ongoing operating problems. But it was the second film that really impressed me. Towards the end of Growing Pains, the DVD producers started to uncover some problems with the running of the attraction. A lot of the staff were unhappy about the way that it was being slowly being turned into a Disney-like amusement park.

It's a shame that more wasn't made of this angle. Tim Smit, director of the Eden Project, comes across as a used car salesman. I've actually had dealings with him in the past - when his project was getting off the ground - and I didn't think much to him. I certainly wouldn't want to work for him. And towards the end of this film he reveals that he doesn't like surrounding himself with people he doesn't like; that being good at your job is not necessarily a plus point in his organisation. That speaks volumes. In fact it's hinted at that he is running a dictatorship. What a shame more wasn't made of this side of the documentary.

Considering that Smit openly admits to not like horticulture, and that he was in the music business before setting up the Eden Project, is it possible that his promises of turning it into a horticulture centre of excellence are nothing but rubbish? That he always planned to turn it into a music venue, but as a registered charity he can offset large amounts of tax, as well as receiving Lottery funding? Listening to him, it's blatantly obvious that he really doesn't give much of a fig about the plants.

The DVD also touches on the irony of an environmental project that uses huge amounts of electricity for it's light and music shows.

Extras are very thin on the ground and are all text based. We get Essential Eden Facts; Eden Timeline and directions on how to get there. Not really what you'd call exciting.

This is one of those releases that I am divided over. While both films are entertaining and informative, it's doubtful whether you'll watch them more than once. Not only that, but both movies would have easily fitted onto a single disc, so I'm surprised that these weren't released on one DVD with a reduced price (say £15.99). For the most part, though, this is entertaining.

Darren Rea

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