The ‘Power’ of gardens

Alan Power, our head gardener at Stourhead is one of three presenters of the BBC Four series, British Gardens in Time. The four part series – which started last week – looks in-depth at four iconic British landscape gardens – Great Dixter, Stowe, Biddulph Grange and Nymans.

Last night’s programme featured Stowe in Buckinghamshire.

The south vista at Stowe. Credit NT Images

The south vista at Stowe. Credit NT Images

Here he reflects on the filming of the series, which he co-presents with garden historian Andrea Wulf and garden designer, Chris Beardshaw.

“Making British Gardens in Time gave me a fascinating insight into the process of making gardening programmes. Interestingly, I was never at a garden at the same time as Chris or Andrea!

“The genius behind the whole process was simply seeing all the threads and joining them together, the editors, producers, runners, researchers – all brilliant at their jobs. Obviously I was new to all of this and would just focus on my section but all the time the producers were marrying this with the other elements of the program. 

“One particular day at Stowe was an early start to catch the sunrise as I climbed a majestic Cedar.  We were all up at 5am and as far as I remember, it was a glorious day so the team wanted to get the most out of the day and me presumably, I was still filming at 7pm that evening.  I was quite tired by then – and I hope the magic of television hides that!

Magnolia in the gardens at Nymans. Credit NT Imagees

Magnolia in the gardens at Nymans. Credit NT Images

“There were loads of highs and very few lows in the whole process. For me the best moments were; experiencing the virgin snow on the ground at Nymans on our first visit; seeing the young Sequoias at Biddulph, planted by a friend who has passed away; climbing the Cedar at Stowe and seeing the work of Capability Brown and William Kent from a unique vantage point and then there was the honour of standing in Great Dixter in awe of the genius behind the place.

View over the Italian Garden at Biddulph.

View over the Italian Garden at Biddulph.

“As for the lows, I remember the cold…. It was freezing one particular day and I should have prepared better, but for continuity I just had to put up with the cold, I don’t think I have ever experienced cold bones before!

“We did have fun, it makes such a difference to a sometimes repetitive process, the team were great.  Even when it got a little intimate: three men 80 feet up a tree, all tied up and nowhere to go for four hours – it was still all really good fun!

“I learnt so much from the process, and I learnt a lot about myself, how I perform in a different role, how my life experiences to date helped and hindered me while working completely differently.  I also became more aware of my love for my home, the people close to me and Stourhead; being away is often a good thing.

“I have always wanted to share my love for gardens with everyone, not just gardeners, hopefully this goes some way to achieving this.”

Episode 3 featuring Biddulph airs at 9pm on Tuesday 22 April on BBC Four.

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