Three National Trust gardens are set to feature in a new BBC Four series uncovering the rich social and horticultural history of four British heritage landscapes with the first episode airing tonight at 9pm.
The four-part series, British Gardens in Time, explores the grand Georgian landscape at Stowe in Buckinghamshire (NT), Biddulph Grange, a superb example of a Victorian garden in Staffordshire (NT), the romantic turn-of-the-century Nymans in West Sussex (NT) and Christopher Lloyd’s dazzling 20th century garden, Great Dixter in East Sussex which is privately-run.
With expert contributions from garden designer Chris Beardshaw, historian Andrea Wulf and National Trust Head Gardener Alan Power, the series will take a detailed look at these iconic gardens created during four very different eras – each garden giving us a fascinating window into a different century, the people that created them, and why.
Alan Power, the Trust’s head gardener at Stourhead said: “All four gardens are very special places, rich in social history with powerful stories of escape, social ambition, heartbreak, downfall and disaster, written into their landscapes.
“What I found fascinating was really getting under the surface of the gardens we visited. I had the chance to read and research the places and then spend some real quality time there filming and talking to the people that care for and love these places. I came away from the experience with even more respect for the wonderful gardens that have been created in times past.
“I also got to climb some of the tallest trees at both Nymans and Stowe which gave me a unique view of the garden layout and a new found appreciation of what the designers were aiming to achieve.
“We hope that by taking the viewer on this journey we’ll unravel the myths and bring these four glorious gardens to life, allowing us to see them through fresh eyes and gain a greater understanding of their true significance.”
Andrea Wulf said: “Gardens are much more than just lawn, trees and flowers. Of course the gardens at Stowe, Biddulph Grange, Nymans and Great Dixter are beautiful and truly enjoyable places but they also tell a great many stories. As a historian, I use gardens as a window into a wider world of science, politics and culture. They are a prism through which to understand the time in which they were created.
“It’s fascinating to unpeel these layers and to understand the making of these gardens. For me the fun bits are to learn from the garden but also to look at the letters and diaries in the archives. If you bring this together, the gardens but also the world in which they were created come alive.
“These gardens tell more than just a story of botany and horticulture, they also show how gardens have become part of the English imagination. They are part of English history – and they are barometers of social change, reflecting manners, ideas and the culture of a nation.”
Fellow presenter Chris Beardshaw commented: “Sometimes we forget just how privileged we are in the UK by the richness and diversity of gardens that are now open to the public. This series is the perfect example of how it is possible to tell the story of not just gardens but of the social, industrial and political developments that have shaped, or themselves have been shaped by their external environment.”
The series was made by KEO films.