January 25, 2017 -- This isn't just a collection of great pictures of a classic garden and orchard (AKA a castle farm) it is also a manifesto about food and the art of gardening. There are long running conversations about these things, about life and the world, mostly between two men, friends, garden boss and pruner, working together in the garden.
The two men spend a huge amount of time pruning and thinning a variety of crops in the large, 500-year-old garden. It had gone to seed before Daan van der Have, garden boss of the Dordwijk estate in Dordrecht, hired pruning master Jan Freriks to revive it. It took Freriks and the owner 20 years to get it into the fine shape it appears to be in this film. The two men have become good friends. The two men talking while they work make up most of the conversations in the film.
Jan Freriks, now 85, talks about his concerns over who will carry on his knowledge of gardening after he dies. He notes that all it might take is a case of the flu, and he will be gone. His knowledge of gardening goes far back beyond the beginnings of this garden in 1630, to the time of Louis XIV. He talks about the loss of vegetable and fruit varieties because of the practices of monoculture farming.
No chemical fertilizers or insecticides are used in this old garden. There are no weeds to be seen, evidently due to lots and lots of hand work. There are insects and other pests, fought with the use of screens and organic pesticides. The film begins in January, the first of the winter pruning, and continues to the last harvests in December, and preparations for the next year.
There seems to be endless pruning and thinning. Freriks is very exacting, so many twigs, so much fruit per centimeter, right down to counting the number of grapes in each bunch to promote maximum growth. They have pruned trees and other wall plants into classic espalier shapes. They spend a lot of time in the greenhouse and orangery.
This all looks like a lot of work, but Freriks says it is not work at all because this is what he loves to do. The owner's brother, Evert van der Have, is a chef, who helps his brother set up a big meal under the pear arbor in the garden. Freriks is invited, but he says, “that is not my thing.” He goes on pruning. This film rates a C+.
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