Friday, 13 November 2015

The Secret History of the British Garden

This garden tour reveals the soul of our nation

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but it’s when he steps outside into the plot of grass and flowers he calls his own that you’ll find the essence of the nation’s soul. The Secret History Of The British Garden (Sunday, BBC Two, 9pm) traces the tale to long before Percy Thrower ever wielded a spade. Our most civilised and erudite guide is Monty Don, who combines the solidity of a practical man with the learning of a scholarly horticulturalist.

In the first of three episodes we begin with the 17th century, when the gentry would turn to the day’s bestseller, The Gardener’s Labyrinth, to seek inspiration from the intricate, beautiful patterns replicated in its pages. As Don explains, this was an era when the way you laid out your garden expressed far more than simply your liking for, say, geraniums: at Hampton Court, Charles II created the three-quarters of a mile Long Water channel as a way of telling the world in no uncertain terms that the monarchy was back in power after the Restoration.

The sights of the era are captivatingly impressive, but there’s also a delightful sense of continuity between the past and present in the nation’s gardens, and no more so than at Levens Hall in Cumbria, where the layout has remained essentially since 1692. Admittedly there has been one alteration: the bowling green is no longer a bowling green but instead accommodates croquet. Call me radical, but I’d say we can live with the change.



Celebrity Antiques Road Trip Tues, BBC2, 7pm
John Simpson and Martha Kearney are among the stars hitting the road in search of curios (above).

The Fisherman’s Apprentice With Monty Halls Tues, BBC4, 8pm
Marine biologist Halls braves the Cornish seas to discover life as a fisherman.

Doctor In The House Thurs, BBC1, 9pm
GP Rangan Chatterjee moves in with a family to give them the benefit of his wisdom for an intriguing TV experiment (above).

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