Years Released: 2003-2007
Directed by: Brian Farnam
Starring: Felicity Kendal, Pam Ferris
(NR, 46 min. per episode)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.
Simon & Garfunkel
Why go out to weed your little garden patch, when you can sit back and watch two feisty English dames do it instead? And the magnificent gardens they work with will take your breath away, as well as the gorgeous mansions perched in their midst.
Even if the gardens do suffer from a bit of blight, fungus, or a poisonous plant or two. Things are sure to be “sorted out” by Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal), who has a doctorate in plant pathology. And coupled with her landscaping partner, Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris), a former police constable, they manage to rake up more than their fair share of corpses, too.
But not to worry, these gals attack dark deeds and their evil-doers as forthrightly as they do a trespassing weed.
The series has a tongue in cheek humor that keeps us from taking the murders too seriously, just like its English cousin, Midsomer Murders. Both series, now easily available on Netflix, remind us of Agatha Christie:
Miss Marple's St. Mary’s Meade transported to your big screen, complete with thatch-roofed cottages, and townspeople that still ride bicycles or thoroughbreds through the cobbled streets. And the gardens are to die for. The roses climb the walls of even the most modest cottage like praetorian guards, and spill over into the courtyards with very unmilitary abandon.
The gardens are lovely, but it is the gardeners who steal the show. Rosemary, whose 18-year academic position has been sneakily eliminated by her ex-boss and former beau – a double betrayal – is no shrinking violet. She has the last word – well, not a word, actually, but a final knuckle sandwich, to use an old Yank expression, delivered with precision and passion.
Laura has her own grievances, too, in the form of a 23 year old who has lured away her policeman husband of 27 years. The way the series deals with her abandonment is pitch perfect. We see her public face, defiant, making light of things through humor, but we also see her real tears and deeper wounds as well. That she keeps some of her private hurt masked even from Rosemary makes it all the more real and painful.
And there’s almost a third lead. It’s the 1980 Land Rover Rosemary drives, an army green vehicle that looks like it has gone through the wars, tough as nails, and only slightly temperamental in its loudly complaining gears. She often has to raise the hood to made a few adjustments, bringing back memories of my 1969 International Scout that required periodic blows to the starter motor to keep it moving along.
Along with the lovely English gardens, we also travel to the French Riviera and the Italian seacoast, where warm stucco walls offer the perfect backdrop for a few more bloody corpses.
And the girls find offers of romance along the way. Laura fends off a sweet master at an elite boys school, and luckily escapes being harpooned in the heart along the way. Rosemary stirs the heart of a wealthy financial tycoon but finds his charm more than a little self-serving.
The episodes are filled with eccentrics and red herrings, keeping us entertained enough to miss a few inconsistencies here and there. We also have to turn a blind eye to weedy jungles that seem to require only a few frames of the girls sighing over their shears and shovels before emerging as miraculous makeovers. The girls do it all by themselves, except when the local jailbirds give them an assist, and it’s almost completely the old fashioned way with almost no mechanized labor. Of course, behind the scenes we know whole gardening crews and machines have done the real stuff, but with Rosemary and Laura so charming, we really do not care.
Instead, we wish they could visit our weedy little patch to lend their charm and vision. And of course, afterwards, join us for a little sit down with tea and biscuits.
A great little roasted potato side dish in honor of our two gardening sleuths. Fresh and earthy, just like Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, and just in time for your 4th of July cookout, since it works well on the grill, too.
Roasted Baby Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme
Fresh thyme, chopped
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Cut the potatoes in half and toss them in a little chopped fresh thyme and rosemary, some chopped garlic, and a little olive oil.
Roast on a baking sheet in a 450°F oven for about 30 minutes.