Britain’s rich horticultural history is being lost. More and more front and back gardens are paved over – for development, for parking spaces, or because families don’t have the time or inclination to manage these spaces.
The trend for easy-to-maintain lawns, patios and paving has also led to a decline in traditional gardens full of flowers, plants and trees to the extent that some of our most iconic flora and fauna have all but disappeared.
Step forward the BBC’s most-loved gardening experts, who are determined to turn us back into a green-fingered nation once again. In Great British Garden Revival, 14 of Britain’s top television gardeners – Monty Don, Carol Klein, Joe Swift, Rachel de Thame, James Wong, Tom Hart Dyke, Chris Beardshaw, Alys Fowler, Charlie Dimmock, Diarmuid Gavin, Christine Walkden, Toby Buckland, Sarah Raven and Matt James – have come together on a joint mission to switch us back to being a population proud of its roses and rockeries, hedgerows and herb gardens, water features and wildflowers.
In each episode, two presenters will focus on an endangered aspect of gardens about which they feel passionately, and offer hands-on, practical advice to viewers on how they can restore and look after their gardens. The series will feature episodes on cottage gardens, herbaceous borders, cut flowers, roof gardens, topiary, ornamental bedding, ponds and water features, fruit tress and kitchen gardens.
Nationwide, more people now have paved patios in their gardens than those who have trees. It all adds up to a crisis unparalleled in our history – massively increasing the risk of flooding. With five million homes in this country already at risk and uninsurable in many places, paving over our gardens will only make things worse. Only 5 per cent of rainwater in paved, urban spaces is soaked up – the other 95 per cent of the water is run-off, which overwhelms our drains and gutters.
This rapid and sustained loss of our private green spaces is also having a dramatic effect on our wildlife – particularly on garden birds and butterflies. Starling numbers have fallen from an average of 15 per garden in 1979 to just three in 2012, Mistle thrush has declined by an alarming 28 per cent and House sparrow numbers have fallen by an even more alarming two-thirds in the same period. While there are many reasons for their dramatic decline, paving over their habitats is hardly helping.
So what went wrong? And what can be done to reverse the decline? Can Britain once again embrace the iconic garden features and plants that once made our outdoor spaces the envy of the world?
Executive Producer for Outline Productions, Bridget Boseley, says: “Getting so many talented presenters involved to encourage viewers to re-engage with their gardens and our horticultural heritage demonstrates how passionately they feel about this issue and our ambition for the scale of this series.”
Lindsay Bradbury, Commissioning Editor for BBC Daytime, says: “Gardening is one of Britain’s boom areas – and this format fuses together top tips, nostalgia and an unparalleled team of passionate presenters.”
Great British Garden Revival was commissioned by Lindsay Bradbury, Commissioning Editor, BBC Daytime. It is executive produced by Outline Productions Director of Programmes Bridget Boseley and series edited by Gary Broadhurst.
9 December AT 7:00PM
Wild Flowers (Monty Don) and Front Gardens (Joe Swift)
WILD FLOWERS – MONTY DON
In his revival campaign, Monty Don finds out that you really do reap what you sow. Since the first half of the 20th century, 98 per cent of wild flower meadows in Britain have been lost – a statistic that which Monty finds shocking. He passionately believes that it’s not too late to do something about this and gardeners all over the UK can grow our beautiful native wild flowers. His base is Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk and it’s from here that he shows us how we can all help. If we’ve become slaves to immaculately manicured lawns, there is a much lower maintenance solution, with a mini wild flower meadow, and he shows that we don’t even need to have a garden to grow wild flowers. On his revival he meets kindred spirits who are trying to protect our wild-flower heritage; he tries his hand at making hay the old fashioned way in a Coronation Meadow; and visits the botanical equivalent of Fort Knox and the largest biodiversity hotspot in the world.
FRONT GARDENS – JOE SWIFT
In the past, our front gardens were highly valued and we used them to show off our gardening prowess, but sadly over time, front gardens have been paved over for parking and turned into a no-man’s land between the street and front door. Joe Swift is determined that we return our front gardens to their former glory. His revival campaign HQ is Rockcliffe Avenue in Whitley Bay, an award-winning street, where a sense of pride among the residents about their gardens has united the community. Throughout the show, Joe shares his tips and tricks to transform front gardens in a few simple steps, from disguising ugly drainpipes to creating parking which is practical and hardwearing. He discovers that greener streets reduce pollution and help the environment; and he hits the road to get his message across in his Great British Plant Giveaway.
10 December AT 7:00PM
Topiary (Rachel de Thame) and Roof Gardens (James Wong)
TOPIARY – RACHEL DE THAME
Today, topiary is mostly seen as the preserve of stately homes and formal gardens, out of reach from the rest of us. Rachel de Thame however, thinks that it’s time that this great tradition of trimming and shaping plants returns to all our gardens. Her revival begins at the stunning Leven’s Hall in Cumbria, home to some of the most spectacular and oldest topiary in the world. Rachel charts the rise and fall of topiary from Elizabethan times to the present day. She meets a topiary-obsessed woman in Kent, who has transformed her entire garden using amazing topiary creations, and also learns a few short cuts about this fascinating form of living garden sculpture; and we meet a man in North London whose handiwork with hedges is creating a buzz in the local neighbourhood. Throughout the episode, she shows us that. armed with a pair of shears and with a little confidence and know how, we can all share in the sense of fun that topiary can bring to the garden
ROOF GARDENS – JAMES WONG
James Wong is up on the roof for his revival. Roof Gardens were at their height in the first half of the 20th century but they fell from grace and he now believes the time has come to return them to their rightful place, in a celebration of our gardening heritage. To start his campaign, he heads to the rooftop garden of a bank in the heart of the city, to discover the rewards and challenges of gardening on high. He uncovers the hidden horticultural past of London’s rooftops and meets a woman who has moved her entire garden to a rooftop apartment in West London; he visits Birmingham’s new library with an innovative rooftop addition, which is providing much-needed green space for volunteers who no longer have gardens. Throughout his revival, James shares his gardening tips – he shows us that when it comes to roof gardens, containers are king and also reveals the best plants that are ideally suited to a rooftop garden.
11 December AT 7:00PM
Cottage Gardens (Carol Klein) and House Plants (Tom Hart Dyke)
COTTAGE GARDENS – CAROL KLEIN
As a passionate plantswoman, Carol Klein wants us all to embrace one of the most iconic and quintessentially British styles of gardening in her revival – the cottage garden. From East Lambrook Manor in Somerset – home to one of the most famous cottage gardens in the country – she shares her years of experience and gives us her ultimate guide to the best cottage garden plants along with money-saving tips on how to grow our favourite plants from scratch. Along the way, she heads to the Lake District and visits the home of Beatrix Potter and the cottage garden which features in some of the most famous children’s books ever written, and also encourages the people of Nantwich to get gardening in the Great British Seed Swap.
HOUSE PLANTS – TOM HART DYKE
Plant hunter and gardener Tom Hart Dyke is championing house plants in his revival. House plants were once revered by the Victorians but now they are much maligned, seen as dull and boring, something you would associate with being forgotten on a windowsill or gathering dust on your granny’s sideboard. As a plant hunter, Tom wants us all to fall back in love with the house plant, and hosts his campaign from the Glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley. In his revival, he has a chilling, unexpected encounter with an orchid he last saw up-close when he was about to be executed after being kidnapped on a plant-hunting trip to Columbia 13 years ago; he uncovers an awe-inspiring collection of house plants from all over the globe in East Sussex; and discovers that house plants can have a positive impact on our well-being and productivity at work. Throughout the show he gives us his tips of how to care for house plants and grow our own from cuttings.
12 December AT 7:00PM
Ornamental Bedding (Christine Walkden) and Fruit Trees (Toby Buckland)
ORNAMENTAL BEDDING – CHRISTINE WALKDEN
Ornamental bedding was at its glorious, colourful peak during the Victorian era but high costs and high maintenance meant it ran out of steam and crashed out of fashion. Christine Walkden has always loved this decadent style of gardening and wants it back in our gardens. In fact, it was one particular bedding plant she encountered at school that ignited her interest and ultimately set her on the path to become a gardener. Christine’s campaign begins among the elaborate floral bedding displays at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. On her revival, she meets the passionate people working hard to keep this heritage alive; she discovers the new innovations in plant breeding which are breathing new life into bedding; and, in Bournemouth, we find out how the local council are encouraging the locals and visitors alike to develop a taste for ornamental bedding with their edible displays. Throughout the show, Christine shares her tips and advice, she shows us how to create our own portable carpet bed and how to grow one of the most popular bedding plants – geraniums – from cuttings.
FRUIT TREES – TOBY BUCKLAND
Ninety per cent of all our fruit is imported and with our orchards disappearing, we’re in danger of losing our great fruit-growing heritage. As a gardener with a passion for growing produce, Toby Buckland wants to put home-grown fruit back on the menu. In this episode, he hosts his revival from West Dean Gardens – a beautiful walled garden in West Sussex. On his campaign, he meets a fruit-tree conservationist who seeks out and rescues species that are close to extinction, as well as a Kent-based Iranian family whose passion for fruit has led them to create the largest collection of different fruit trees in the country, totalling over 900 species. Toby visits two ladies who have a life-long love for cooking crab apples, and we see an initiative in Birmingham called the Urban Harvest, which picks fruit from public and private spaces all over the city that would otherwise go to waste. Throughout the episode, Toby gives tips and advice on how easy it can be to plant and care for your own fruit trees. He shows us how to cordon a pear tree, prune espaliered apple trees and how to store the results of our autumn harvest.
13 December AT 7:00PM
Herbaceous Borders (Chris Beardshaw) and Kitchen Gardens (Alys Fowler)
HERBACEOUS BORDERS – CHRIS BEARDSHAW
The herbaceous border is a truly iconic British garden feature. The number of perennial plants required, the intricacies of the designs, space required and extensive maintenance, all contributed to the herbaceous border falling out of favour with gardeners in recent years. Chris Beardshaw believes that this trend can be reversed and that these incredible displays of floral fireworks should return to our gardens once more. Revival HQ is Arley Hall in Cheshire, with its impressive double herbaceous borders. It’s from here that Chris shares his extensive horticultural knowledge and expertise. He gives us his ultimate design tips; shows us how to get the best from our borders year after year; and also advises on how to deal with the gardener’s ‘enemy number one’ – the weed. On his revival campaign he visits a garden which is a true labour of love, originally designed by one of our most celebrated garden designers – Gertrude Jekyll; he meets a mother and daughter who are championing the aster – the must have plant for any herbaceous border; and he tries to teach two non-gardening students the key design elements of the herbaceous border.
KITCHEN GARDENS – ALYS FOWLER
Grow your own has been in full swing for the last few years but Alys Fowler wants to revive the original concept of the kitchen garden, not just the allotment or veg patch at the bottom of the garden. She thinks the garden should be a place of great ornamental beauty that provides us with food all year round. The Kitchen Garden at Raymond Blanc’s famous restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is the starting point for her revival. As well as sharing her top tips and growing advice, she’ll be revealing the secrets of one of Britain’s oldest kitchen gardens on a visit to Tatton Park; highlighting unusual edible plants that will take your breath away; and finding out about the communities up and down the country that are turning unused spaces into super-productive kitchen gardens.
6 January AT 7:00PM
Cut Flowers (Rachel de Thame) and Trees (Joe Swift)
CUT FLOWERS – RACHEL DE THAME
In her revival, Rachel de Thame investigates the decline of Britain’s cut-flower industry. On her campaign she visits New Covent Garden and discovers that 90 per cent of our cut flowers are imported. She also meets a man in Cumbria who has dedicated his life to growing sweet peas. Cut flowers are big business and £120 million a year is forked out on wedding flowers. This is something close to Rachel’s heart, as she recently arranged the flowers for her daughter’s wedding and showcased the flowers she is passionate about bringing back into all our homes. She meets a florist who is dedicated to British floral heritage and who has some surprising additions to the wedding bouquets she creates. Rachel’s cut flower HQ is the walled garden at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, and throughout the show she give us her tips on how to grow, cut and arrange flowers from the cutting garden.
TREES – JOE SWIFT
Today only 2 per cent of Britain is covered in ancient woodland and, in our gardens, we’ve fallen out of love with trees, which is why they are the focus of Joe Swift’s revival. He loves them and as a garden designer, trees are the first things he considers when laying out a garden. On his campaign, Joe visits Brighton to see the magnificent elm trees, which didn’t fall victim to the devastating Dutch elm disease as it swept through the UK in the 1970s. He marvels at the national collection of birch trees in Devon, the legacy and passion project of one man who started collecting and planting seeds in 1971. In a poignant moment, his widow recalls how, whenever she wanders through the woods, she can often sense her late husband, who dedicated 40 years of his life to this incredible collection of birch trees. Basing his revival at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Joe shows us three of his favourite small trees for gardens, guaranteed to breathe life and interest into any garden. He also gives us his top tips on how to plant a tree and prune a tree once established.
7 JANUARY AT 7:00PM
Rock Gardens (Carol Klein) and Herb Gardens (Toby Buckland)
ROCK GARDENS – CAROL KLEIN
Carol Klein shares her infectious passion for a style of gardening that is in much need of a revival. Rock gardens were at the pinnacle of Victorian garden fashion. Carol opens up the horticultural display cabinet to the finest remaining examples across the country. She visits a community in Bolton who have pulled back their local rockery from neglect and also drops in on an old friend in the Midlands, whose rock garden is gold-medal-winning. At Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Carol demonstrates tried and tested techniques for growing success. She shows how to plant up a trough with some of her treasured rock garden favourites and also gives advice on the best alpine bulbs for containers.
HERB GARDENS – TOBY BUCKLAND
Toby Buckland loves plants that you can grow and actually use. Throughout history, herbs have been used in medicine, to stimulate the senses and, of course, as a flavouring in food – but he thinks there’s a danger that our knowledge and understanding of these plants is being lost. Tucked away on the banks of the Thames, The Chelsea Physic Garden is the base for Toby’s Herb Garden Revival. He shows us how to get the very best from fresh herbs: harvesting seeds, how to grow and look after them whether you have a garden or not, and how to make the most of herbs by storing them in clever and unusual ways. On his campaign, he discovers that there was no such thing as a weed in Tudor times; he meets a woman whose garden is overflowing with herbs we’ve forgotten about, and a botanist who grows plants to capitalise on their unique fragrances and essential oils.
8 January AT 7:00PM
Lawns (Sarah Raven) & Tropical Gardens (James Wong)
LAWNS – SARAH RAVEN
In her revival, Sarah Raven investigates why the British are so proud of their lawns. She visits Worcester College Oxford, to catch a glimpse of lawn perfection and talks to author Tom Fort about the lawn’s history and why it has fallen from favour. She visits the winner of Britain’s best lawn competition and discovers a radical new approach to growing lawns, with the world’s first ‘floral lawn’ – composed solely of flowering and foliage plants, without a blade of grass in sight! With the help of a family of four, she also road-tests three types of lawn: a wild flower meadow, traditional grass and fake grass – with surprising results. The grandeur of Polesden Lacey – with its vast expanse of lawn – is the central location for Sarah’s revival, as she shows us how to keep our lawns in tip top condition; how to inject a splash of colour into grass by naturalising bulbs; and how to deal with those irritating bald patches in the lawn, which are the blight of every gardener.
TROPICAL GARDENS – JAMES WONG
For James Wong, no other gardening style can match tropical gardens when it comes to sheer spectacle, the thrill of innovation and a sense of fun. Seen as unfashionable, expensive and a lot of hard work, tropical gardening has fallen by the wayside and James is determined to revive it. The Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens in Devon provide the exotic backdrop for his campaign. James shows us his tips on how to care for and maintain tropical plants; he tells us which ones thrive in sun and those that prefer more shade, as well as revealing how to create a tropical look on a budget. On his revival, he meets like-minded tropical plant geeks, including one man who appears to have defied the laws of nature to create a tropical paradise in his back garden in Norfolk.
9 JANUARY AT 7:00PM
Ponds (Charlie Dimmock) and Stumperies (Chris Beardshaw)
PONDS – CHARLIE DIMMOCK
Ever since she was a young girl, Charlie Dimmock has been fascinated by water and, in her revival, wants us all to celebrate water and wildlife in our gardens. Pollution, redevelopment and demand for water have resulted in the loss of half a million natural ponds over the last century, and Charlie believes now is the time for us all to take the plunge and do something about it. Charlie finds out how important garden ponds can be for our wildlife; she immerses herself in a new style of water gardening – the swimming pond; and we see how a community in East Yorkshire have come together to breathe new life into their village pond. With its network of lakes, small ponds and water features, the Brackenhurst campus of Nottingham Trent University is the starting point for this revival. It’s from here that Charlie gives us her step-by-step guide to building a wildlife pond and bog garden, from the initial design, right through to planting up.
STUMPERIES – CHRIS BEARDSHAW
In his revival, Chris Beardshaw wants to return a Victorian curiosity – the stumpery – to our back gardens. Similar to rock gardens but created from upturned stumps, logs, roots and pieces of bark, they were created to display the spoils of intrepid Victorian plant hunters. On a visit to Biddulph Grange (the location of Britain’s first stumpery), Chris discovers how fern fever swept the nation in the 19th century and that stumperies were the perfect way to display the most popular plants of the age, but as fashions changed, ferns fell out of favour and the stumpery was consigned to the compost heap. Chris heads to North Wales to meet a man who is as fascinated with ferns as he is, and who wants to put ferns back on the horticultural map, and also sets off on a woodland trail to see the stumpery as nature intended. Chris bases his campaign at the most famous stumpery in the country – created by HRH The Prince of Wales – in the grounds of Highgrove House, where the head gardener shares her tips for stumpery planting. Chris creates his own mini-stumpery to show off his favourite ferns to full effect and how to grow our very own mushrooms on a log.
10 January AT 7:00PM
Glasshouses (Diarmuid Gavin) and Shrubs (Matt James)
GLASSHOUSES – DIARMUID GAVIN
In our own homes we’ve lost sight of the potential for growing under glass. In this episode, Chelsea gold-medal-winning designer Diarmuid Gavin wants us to use glasshouses to restore a sense of adventure, flair and excitement to our gardens. The base for his revival is the Great Glasshouse of the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire. On his campaign he visits Wentworth Castle in Barnsley to help out with the final stages of the restoration of the elaborate Victorian glasshouse, and discovers more about the history and heyday of glasshouses in the UK. He’s on the hunt for the best glasshouses for small gardens, and meets up with passionate allotmenteers in Nottingham, who have gone one better and designed and built their own remarkable greenhouses from old window frames, doors and plastic bottles. He meets an expert orchid grower and finds out why these incredible exotic plants are tailor-made for glasshouse cultivation. Throughout the episode, Diarmuid gives us his top greenhouse growing tips: he plants up a tiny terrarium, complete with exotic planted landscape and plastic dinosaur; he gets to grips with hothouse flowers when he meets a tropical conservatory keeper; and he explores the wealth of temperate and tropical flora on display at the National Botanic Garden in Wales.
SHRUBS – MATT JAMES
Matt James believes that shrubs deliver by the bucketload. Fantastic for privacy and screening, backdrops, focal points, fragrance, flower and foliage, they have been overlooked and ignored for too long but that is about to change. Matt thinks they can give a garden so much and in his revival he wants people to rediscover and appreciate the importance of this amazing group of plants. On his journey, he finds out that in the 18th century the shrubbery was one of the most fashionable places to be seen; he visit a garden in Norfolk where shrubs are definitely the stars of the show; and he inspires a group of children at Flatford Mill in Suffolk to plant shrubs in their gardens to encourage wildlife. Matt hosts his revival campaign from Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire. He gives us his beginner’s guide to shrubs with the focus on colour, flower power and fragrance, and he gives us his top pruning tips to keep shrubs looking their best year after year.