South East gardens star in new BBC series

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Latest update 02.04.2014 11:38

The landscape gardens of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, and the romantic gardens of Nymans in West Sussex are to feature in a new BBC documentary series. The 4-part series, British Gardens in Time, starts airing on BBC 4 on 8 April, and hopes to uncover the rich social and horticultural history of four famous British gardens.

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 iconic gardens created during four different eras - each garden giving an insight into a different century, the people that created them, and why.


Stowe is regarded as one of the most remarkable creations of Georgian England. Created on a vast scale with 36 temples, 8 lakes, and a dozen avenues, Stowe launched the career of Launcelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Stowe, featured in programme 2, was chosen by the producers to represent the 18th century.

Rather than being a garden of flower and shrubs, Stowe is a garden of ideas, and its grottos and classical monuments spell out a coded political manifesto. The series explains how Stowe’s creator, Viscount Cobham, dreamt of climbing to the pinnacle of political power and establishing a long-lived dynasty, but less than a century after his death his family became one of the most scandalous bankrupts in the history of England.

Kerry Foster, our General Manager at Stowe, says: ‘The gardens were one of the country’s first ever tourist attractions. When they were first created in the 18th century, their size and scale attracted visitors from far and wide. This series will explain the significance and hidden meaning of the gardens which we hope will be of particular to local people who have one of the country’s great heritage gems on their doorstep.’


Nymans is one of Britain’s greatest 20th-century gardens and is featured in programme 4. The gardens are set around the romantic ruins of a fairytale gothic mansion in woodlands. The beloved family home of the Messels, plant lover Ludwig Messel created a magnificent garden with plants collected from around the world. The beauty of the grounds have inspired many people, from The Wind in the Willows artist E.H. Shepard, to the great stage and costume designer Oliver Messel.

Nymans is full of surprises and delights, from wildflower meadows and vast views, to delicate blossom and colour-packed borders. The programme captures the beauty of the gardens throughout the seasons, following the work of the garden team, and featuring interviews with Ludwig Messel’s great-grandson, Alistair Buchanan.

Nymans’s head gardener, Philip Holmes enjoyed working with the production crew: ‘It was great fun working with team. We filmed from February to November so viewers will be treated to a beautiful package that reveals the diversity of Nymans’ planting and its landscapes, including my favourite spot, the Wall Garden. The programme gets under the skin of the garden, and explores some of the fascinating stories about the people who loved, and were inspired by, Nymans.’

More about the programme

The other gardens to feature in the series are Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire (another National Trust property) and Great Dixter in East Sussex. 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. You can find out more about the programme on the BBC website.