Five Seasons Thrice

One way or another, I’ve managed to see ‘Five Seasons’ three times.  Once as an online ‘review’ copy, and twice at the cinema.

Firstly, I’ve just got to say how amazing it is to live in a day when it’s even possible that such a film could exist.  The Times They Are a ’Changin’, and the change is, astonishingly, plant-driven.  In my several visits to The High Line in New York, I’ve been delighted and astonished to see hundreds of visitors genuinely engaged with viewing the planting, crouching down and composing photos that are not only about plants, but about combinations of plants!  One can only assume that it’s this recently discovered appetite that has also fuelled the movie, and allowed it to screen for weeks on end, even here in Melbourne.

Then to the film itself.  I’m no film critic, and I’m not going to pretend to be one.  But I loved that opening time-lapse sequence of Piet Oudolf’s old nursery area, showing the flowering perennials, (which were tucked into a grass matrix) in their annual ebb and flow – rising, flowering, seeding, decaying.  The changes were all so subtle that you couldn’t at any one point detect the shift.  From that moment I was hooked, and was for the whole duration of the film leaning forward in my chair, trying to see and mentally record as much as I possibly could.

I admit that I had to continually remind myself that the film wasn’t made for the likes of me – a gardener/designer who wants to know how it’s all put together, and how it all works.  It left me (as the most life-giving experiences should) with more questions than answers.  But I fully understand that this film is about the aesthetics, not the mechanics, or the logistics of this kind of planting.

Having said that, I loved that sequence showing the cutting back of the area mentioned above.  First the scything, and then the mowing.  I loved watching it all being pulled back into order, ready for the seasonal re-launch.  The fabulously coarse and apparently rough cut-back process sat in delicious contrast to the soft, subtle, romantic effect of the planting’s floral and textural peak.

It would seem that the shooting spanned several growing seasons, but it left me wishing they could have stretched it one more summer so we could have seen Durslade Farm (designed, planted and opened in the film) in its second season, when the plants had bulked up and started to reveal PO’s full design intentions.  Looks like I’ll just have to visit the real thing instead

What did you think of Five Seasons?  Would love to hear!

If you’re interested in knowing more about planting, dividing and cutting back perennials, along with their other seasonal requirements, join our Perennials masterclass on July 21.  Details here.


  1. I took my Mum to see the film on mother’s day after your last post on this film. It was mesmeric; the combination of music and swaying grasses was such a relaxing way to enjoy an afternoon after a lovely lunch. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. great word – mesmeric

  2. Just wish it had come to WA.

    1. You mean you didn’t fly over for it?

    2. Agreed. It was aired in Melbourne just after I relocated to WA. I dearly hope to see it, somehow, in the near future.

    3. Well you would move to the most geographically (and apparently horticulturally) isolated city on the planet!
      DVD perhaps?

  3. Loved it. Saw it the very first weekend it was on as I had thought it was only on at that time. So glad it stayed on for weeks. Got so much from it. Bought two of his books in the following week and have poured through the images and writings. We’re at the planting part of our own project – such a long slow process for a couple who work full time and only have weekends, weather permitting. But we’ll get there and we look forward to being able to look back and see the growth over time.

    1. You could pour over the pics in those books for years, and still learn something every time you looked.

  4. I was tempted to fly down from Brisbane.
    Do hope it will be shown here at some stage.

    1. I know someone who flew from Adelaide to Sydney for no other purpose…

  5. Only two measley screenings in Sydney, in a tiny cinema – one already booked out – the other on a date I’m away! WAAAAAAA!!!

    1. You should have seen it while you were in Japan, or Scotland, or Canada, or Thailand, or England, or one of the other places you seem to have been in the last six weeks!

  6. Michael,

    I loved seeing the film, enhanced by the fact that I saw Durslade Farm when it was first planted (while the exhibition of Piet’s sketches was on) as well as the High Line. The pace was appropriately slow for the passing of the seasons, but it was certainly meditative. The visit to some of those wild areas was fascinating for Piet’s observations of change over time, reminding me of Rick Darke’s presentation to the Landscape Conference some years ago. And the design process, setting out those swirls of colour on the page, so simple but so intricately complex and interwoven with colour, texture and time.

    1. Oh, I remember that amazing presentation of Rick Darke’s, taking a pic everyday from the bridge on the way to work at Longwood! Fabulous.
      Sounds like you have to return to Durslade now too…

  7. I tried to see the film at my regional cinema but the session was booked out and I couldn’t come to a later session. My local librarian wanted to order a screening at the local library but it costs $700 for a screening which our little country library cannot afford as they can’t charge admission. Apparently a DVD will be available sometime soon so I may get to see the film eventually as it sounds very amazing!

    1. Hi Ingrid. I’ve just become aware that it’s going to be screened on July 21st at Burnley if you can possibly make it there. Otherwise it looks like it’s DVD. Watch this space for any announcement of its availability!

  8. I saw the movie here in the Blue Mts west of Sydney. So thrilled that it came up here for a couple of screenings. I , too , was thrilled by the scything, then mowing. It seemed such a shame to cut it down , I always leave my grassy things to the very last minute, as did he, I think. Yes, the time-lapse was amazing and really showed that his gardens look wonderful at any given time as they segue from one season to the next. I thought The High Line footage was terrific. I hadn’t seen it quite that way in other shots. And The High Line Volunteers! I am a volunteer gardener in a National Trust garden up here and love it. How fabulous it must be to work on The High Line. Thank you, Michael , for alerting us to this movie. I booked as soon as I read your post. I hope it comes out on a DVD.

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