Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2008
Regional Report

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Political humorist Mark Russell joins us at the Conservatory of Flowers.

Live from the Conservatory

I produce a gardening show for KRON TV called Henry's Garden, and recently we had the opportunity to do a live remote broadcast for the Saturday morning news show from the Conservatory of Flowers. The Conservatory, in case you haven't been there, is the elegant Victorian greenhouse situated in Golden Gate Park. It has undergone a face-lift recently, and I relish any opportunity to visit.

Oh, So Early!
Our call time was for O'Dark-Thirty to secure parking for the van out front and to establish a broadcast signal to Sutro Tower. The sun was not up yet and there was a light mist over the nearby meadow. The old date palms that flank the building were silhouetted against the pearly dawn. As we drank our coffee and chatted quietly, the Conservatory was glowing from within.

Our docent arrived and unlocked the doors so that we could begin snaking our video cable throughout the building. Although there is such a thing as wireless live broadcast, it has not yet been introduced to KRON TV. We are always attached to the cable, which makes shooting in crowded venues interesting, to say the least. Shooting inside the Conservatory is even more of a challenge because there are ground level beds filled with rare and exotic plants. Dragging a cable over any part of the living exhibit would be unpardonable!

Dean, our cameraman, had to get the video camera into the building 2 hours before we went to air. It takes that long for the camera to adjust to the heat and humidity inside the greenhouse. I wish I could have adjusted as well. It was like walking from Alaska (outside) to Mexico (inside), and back and forth between the two. With an average temperature of 85 degrees F inside the building and the relative humidity hovering around 90 percent, we couldn't take the chance of a foggy lens, especially when we are broadcasting live. There are no retakes.

Details, Details, Details
When setting up for a live broadcast there are lots of details that need to be considered. Where will we set up for each guest segment? How much cable do we have to lay out for the walk-around? Where the heck is our first guest???? Who brought in the props? Do we need lights? Do the microphones have fresh batteries? Are these cables going to be visible on camera? And so on and so forth. Of course, I was busy snapping photos during our set up. How often do you have the Conservatory of Flowers all to yourself? We cleared our signal with the control room, took a white balance, and it was time to roll.

Our first guest finally arrived looking sleepy but elegant. Miss Lisa Van Cleef, director of education for the Conservatory, was dressed in a ski sweater and a faux fur coat. We put a microphone on Lisa, Henry did a preliminary interview, and we got ready for our first "hit."

Live in Five!
"Five, four, three, two, one... you're hot!" Lisa was charming, as always, and walked us through the new Color Exhibit in the West Wing. I made sure the cable didn't drag over any plants or catch on any corners. Five minutes later we were clear and setting up for our next guest.

Political humorist Mark Russell was up next. We put him up in the potted plant room with up-lights to enhance the set. He sang funny political songs and charmed the audience with his glib sense of humor. He said he hadn't seen so many ferns since the last time he attended a funeral.

The morning raced by. Our live segments included a magician, a crazy segment with remote-controlled toys that included a helicopter that got lost among the raphis palms, and a walk around past incredibly valuable plants to the Amazon pond room, my personal favorite.

Before we knew it, we were finished. That's the nice thing about live television. No regrets, no retakes. We rolled up the cables, folded down the lights, put away our props, and bid farewell to the Conservatory, that grand old dame, who looked smashing for her closeups.

Thanks to all at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park for allowing us to share the majesty of a magnificent part of San Francisco.

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