The Secret History of the British Garden
Monty Don explores the fascinating history and evolution of the British garden, from the seventeenth century through to the modern day.
Part 1: 17th-century
Monty Don uncovers the extraordinary stories behind Britain’s 17th-century gardens. Starting his journey at the sole surviving garden of the 1600s – Levens Hall in Cumbria – Monty sets out to investigate what the gardens of this age would have looked like and what influenced and inspired their creation. Along the way, he sees a long-lost garden that – through archaeology and a German Luftwaffe photograph taken in the 1940s – reveals the hidden messages and religious beliefs of our 17th-century forebears. And Monty heads to Hampton Court, where politics, civil war and religious conflict played a key role in the evolving designs and fashions, including tastes in food, of the nation’s finest gardens.
Part 2: 18th-century
On his journey through four hundred years of Britain’s garden history, Monty Don arrives in the 18th century, an age that gave rise to the landscape garden, created on a scale that had never been seen before. Using Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first commission – Croome Court in Worcestershire – as his base, Monty sets out to investigate what inspired and influenced this gardening revolution. Along the way, he visits the landscape garden of Rousham, designed by the maverick William Kent, and Stanage Park, designed by the marketing genius Humphrey Repton. Monty discovers how these great landscapes were created, from revealing the Georgian clay recipe that revolutionised garden sculpture to discovering the secrets of mowing with a scythe. He also sees how the present Duke of Devonshire is cutting down trees to restore his park to its 18th-century design.
Part 3: 19th-century
Monty explores the extraordinary transformations that occurred throughout the 19th century. As a result of an expanding empire, scientific and technological innovation and social change, British gardens became more exotic, more colourful and more widely accessible than ever before. Monty visits the most influential gardens of the period, from Queen Victoria’s royal retreat at Osborne to the very first public park, Derby’s Arboretum. At Kew and Edinburgh botanic gardens, he uncovers scientific secrets that enabled a wealth of new exotic plants from around the world to flourish back home. And on his journey, he gets hands-on experience of some of the technological advances that revolutionised garden design forever.
Part 4: 20th-century
Monty Don concludes his journey through Britain’s gardening heritage by looking at how the nation’s gardens have evolved over the last hundred years. He looks at the profound effect that two world wars had on our attitude to gardens and gardening. Today, gardening is one of Britain’s most popular pastimes and the horticultural industry is now annually worth over nine billion pounds to the economy. Monty uncovers the stories and reveals the pioneers who led this gardening revolution.
For Monty, gardens are every bit as important as the houses we live in, and in this concluding episode of the series, he explains how this has become as important in the present day as in the 17th century where his journey through Britain’s gardens began.