Around the World in 80 Gardens is a BBC series that follows broadcaster Monty Don as he travels all over the planet searching for world-class gardens – ancient and modern, large and small, grand and humble. In total, exactly eighty gardens are featured during his 10 journeys, and include the Alhambra, the gardens of the Taj Mahal in India, the gardens of the Villa D’Este in Italy and many important botanic and royal gardens from Thailand to Bali, from New Zealand to Europe and from China to Mexico.
Part 1: Mexico and Cuba
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens. In Mexico, Monty visits the ancient water gardens of Mexico City and a surrealist fantasy garden hidden in the rainforest. In Cuba, Monty discovers a green revolution sprouting out of crumbling colonial lawns.
Part 2: Australia and New Zealand
This week he travels to Australia and New Zealand, two of the youngest gardening cultures in the world. But it is not just about dreamy climates and wonderful plants. Monty sets out from the aptly named Botany Bay to uncover a story of culture clash and plant invasion, where the gentle habits of the indigenous people and the extraordinary natural landscapes have been dashed aside in favour of imported plants and a surprisingly English style of garden. By the time he finds his feet in New Zealand he’s soon gasping for native plants and sets off in search of the wild heart of New Zealand, where he revels in a magical rainforest garden created entirely of native plants.
Part 3: India
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens. In India, Monty visits the majestic tomb gardens of the Mughal emperors and the pleasure gardens of the Hindu Maharajahs. He looks at the quaintly British gardens of tea country and visits the famous architectural gardens at the Taj Mahal. Finally, Monty visits a little known rock and sculpture garden. It was created in secret by one man out of found objects and rubbish and it turns out to be Monty’s favourite Indian garden.
Part 4: South America
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens. This time he is in South America, a continent twice the size of Europe and the home of more than 50,000 endemic plant species. In Rio de Janeiro, Monty visits the private garden of Brazil’s most famous artist, Burle Marx. He views the ingenious floating gardens of the Amazon. He visits a crumbling estancia (ranch) in the windy Pampas. He ends his journey on the Pacific coast of Chile in a garden that sits harmoniously in its landscape.
Part 5: USA
Monty Don continues his extraordinary journey to see the world through 80 of its most inspiring gardens with a visit to the richest and most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America. He meets garden guerrillas in New York, visits a Virginian garden that reflects the birth of the nation, and finally travels west to California to see if gardens there reflect more than the glitz of the movie industry.
Part 6: China and Japan
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens, this time in China and Japan, two of the world’s oldest gardening cultures. In China he visits the ancient scholars’ gardens of Suzhou and the awesome Yellow Mountains of Huangshang that inspired them. He visits the Imperial Summer Palace Gardens of Beijing. In Kyoto, Japan’s city of gardens, he tries to understand the Zen garden.
Part 7: The Mediterranean
Monty Don continues his extraordinary journey in the Mediterranean – the cradle of European civilization. In Italy, Monty visits some of the elaborate high Renaissance gardens of stone and water which have hugely influenced western garden design. He also visits the remains of Emperor Hadrian’s palatial retreat. Monty then looks at the artistic achievements of the Moorish culture. He travels to Marrakesh, where he visits The Aguedal – one of the oldest continuously maintained gardens in the world; and in Spain he visits The Alhambra, thought by many to be the most perfect garden in the world.
Part 8: South Africa
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens. At Cape Town’s famous Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens he sees the King Proteus, South Africa’s national plant. In the Drakensberg Mountains he sees some native flora in its natural environment. His favourite garden is a school vegetable patch in Thembisa, one of Johannesburg’s townships. Monty is intrigued by how gardening styles have changed here since the Dutch first settled in the 19th century.
Part 9: Northern Europe
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens: this time, in Northern Europe. Monty is spoiled for choice in an area he knows so well. He views the floral wonders of Britain’s Sissinghurst Castle and the vivid palette of impressionist painter Monet at Giverny. He enjoys the quirky individuality of the garden of one of his favourite Belgian designers. Finally, Monty goes to Norway to see what can grow 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Part 10: South East Asia
Monty Don visits the world’s 80 most inspiring gardens, this time in South East Asia. Since the nineteenth century, Western gardeners have loved tropical garden. Monty visits the archetype – the mysterious Jim Thompson’s Garden in Bangkok. He seeks something more authentic in the Royal Palace gardens and the floating gardens of the canals of Bangkok. In Bali, his preconceptions are challenged again. Is the Western picture of the exotic garden a construct?