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TV REVIEW : Tulips, Roses on View in Debut of 'Gardens'

January 21, 1993|BARBARA SALTZMAN

How unfortunate that the debut of "Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn" (at 8 and 8:30 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28) comes a day after her death. But the timeless beauty of the rose in the first episode is a fitting symbol of her elegance and style.

KCET decided to go ahead with the six-part PBS series because it is "a beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady." And though she appears slightly wan, she is a memorable tour guide through "Roses and Rose Gardens." ("Tulips and Spring Bulbs," which airs at 8:30, was unavailable for review.)

(Hepburn became ill while making the series, so Michael York was brought in to contribute some of the voiceover narration.)

The world's favorite flower is brought into beautiful focus in gardens that we might never get to see any other way. Caught at the peak of bloom are La Roseraie de l'Hays les Roses in Paris; Monet's Giverny; Siena's Villa la Pietra; Florence's Villa Gamberaia; the Private Rose Garden of Walenberg in the Netherlands, and the Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

Few sites, however, equal rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas' at Mottisfant Abbey in that fleeting once-a-year moment when his astounding collection of old roses briefly bloom.

"No flower has been so renowned, loved and cultivated as the rose," Hepburn begins, and anyone who has ever been captivated by their fragrance, wild or finely refined beauty would fully agree. Executive producer Janis Blackschleger does the flower full justice.

Other episodes scheduled are "Formal Gardens," "Flowers and Flower Gardens," "Country Gardens" and "Public Gardens and Trees," but it is hard to imagine any more compelling than the half-hour spent wandering through some of the world's most enchanting rose gardens with one of the world's most enchanting women.

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