Having mastered their basic building blocks in Spain, Morocco and Iran, Monty Don sets out to explore the wide variety of gardens offering a slightly different vision of Paradise.
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The desert is beautiful.
But it is a harsh and relentless place.
And the people that live here, above all, dream of an oasis.
Green and with abundant water.
And that water is not just to make the crops grow
with fruits and grains, but it is life itself.
We speak of our gardens being a little piece of paradise.
But for desert people, a garden,
green and filled with water, is heaven on Earth.
It is paradise.
I'm setting out to explore these Islamic paradise gardens
that are born from the desert.
I shall visit gardens as symbols of power,
gardens that are set around magnificent tombs,
as well as those made purely for delight.
I will discover the influence of the Mughal dynasty in India.
Arriving by elephant is the most appropriate way
to visit the Amer Fort.
And enjoy the tulips in Turkey.
I've never seen anything like it.
And I'm really not sure how to react.
And back in the UK, we shall be seeing how Islamic gardens
have influenced both royal gardens and public spaces.
I've long been fascinated by paradise gardens.
The Koran paints a vivid description of paradise as a garden,
and this has dictated their designs all over the world.
So they tend to be enclosed and divided into four quarters,
with abundant shade and always dominated by water.
For the desert Arabs, they were an idealised oasis.
And for all Muslims, they are an earthly reflection
of the paradise that awaits.
My journey has now brought me to Istanbul
to see how one of the greatest Islamic empires
made gardens that combined the elements of East and West.
The broad stretch of the Bosphorus runs through the middle of Istanbul.
For over 2,000 years,
this great city has been the meeting point of two cultures.
Over there, to the West, is Europe.
And on the other side of the river is the landmass of Asia.
And here is where they meet.
For nearly 1,000 years, this city was known as Byzantium.
Then it became Constantinople,
the capital of the Roman Empire
and for centuries the greatest city in Europe.
When the Muslims took over in 1453,
they renamed the city Istanbul, literally City of Islam,
and it was the centre of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries.
Where Eastern and Western cultures meet,
there are occasional clashes, but much in common.
And nothing exemplifies that more here than a love of the tulip.
Istanbul celebrates this with uninhibited panache
in the city's famous Emirgan Park.
And as the millions of flowers hit their garish heights,
scores of wedding couples pose with elaborate delight.
I grow a lot of tulips at home,
plant thousands of bulbs every autumn, and I love them.
I love them for their voluptuous flowers,
for their elegance,
and for the way that they blow a fanfare into spring.
But what I do at home is a drop in a very large ocean compared to here.
I've never seen anything like it.
Three million bulbs planted every year
in drifts and swirls and patterns and in borders amongst the trees.
And I'm really not sure how to react.
The Dutch are famous for their love of tulips,
and in the 1630s at the height of the Dutch tulip-mania,
a single bulb would trade for more than the price
of the grandest house in Amsterdam.
The Dutch caught the tulip bug from the Ottomans.
300 years before Europeans had even seen a tulip,
poets here were writing of its beauty.
I talk to Professor Sitare Bakir, a tulip expert,
about this long relationship between Ottomans and tulips.
Firstly, I have to say that Ottomans loved flowers.
In the 16th century we have lots of types of tulips,
and also in the 17th and 18th century it's become more and more.
They have about 2,000 types of tulips.
These have been deliberately bred and hybridised by the Ottoman Turks?
That's right. We have many documents about that.
Do we know what the Ottoman tulips look like?
Of course. The tulip was used in artworks a lot.
Like in manuscripts, miniatures, illustrations and tiles.
It was thin and longer and very modest, I should say.
Tulips also had religious symbolism.
Because tulip has a long stalk and long flower on top,
it is only one, like God.
And when we go further, every letter in the alphabet had a number.
When you calculate the numbers, it had meanings.
And tulip had the same letters like Allah, God had.
This tulip calculated 66 in numbering, and Allah also is 66.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Most tulips are native to Central Asia and the Caucasus,
and throughout the Ottoman Empire hundreds of thousands of bulbs
were gathered for the Sultan's gardens.
But these tulips looked a little different
from the ones that most of us grow or buy today.
The European taste is, by and large, for tulips like this,
which are full and rich and they have various textures and forms,
but fundamentally goblet-shaped.
The Ottomans preferred a tulip like this.
Tall, pointed petals, almost spidery in their elongation
and, above all, very elegant.
As soon as people started to grow tulips
they noticed a certain element of their behaviour.
Which was that occasional flowers
would develop these streaks and flares and patches of colour.
It's known as breaking.
And that was esteemed as the perfect example
of what the flower could achieve.
People tried endlessly to breed these colour streaks,
but they never succeeded.
And then at the beginning of the 20th century,
it was discovered that the cause of this breaking
was actually a virus which was spread by an aphid.
And the conditions that are ideal for that to occur
are when tulips are grown in a warm, humid place such as under trees.
And the Ottomans thought that tulips looked at their best,
as they do here, grown under trees.
Tulips were revered and grown in every kind of Islamic garden
right across the Muslim world,
but they were especially treasured by the Ottomans.
And the centre of the Ottoman Empire was here,
right in the middle of Istanbul, at the Topkapi Palace.
As well as being a royal home,
it was also government offices and even a small city.
And it's built around a series of spaces, or courts,
each of them centred on a garden.
The first one is here and it was accessible to anybody
who wanted to come and petition the Sultan
and, significantly, they could arrive and be in here on horseback.
But the gate behind me
was the point at which everybody bar two people had to dismount.
And those two people were the Sultan and his mother.
The Sultan, as head of the empire, was also the protector of Islam.
But the Ottomans were not Arabs, they didn't come from the desert,
and readily took and incorporated ideas from other cultures.
The Topkapi Palace was built on the site
of the Greek Byzantium Acropolis,
and the Ottoman gardens also reflect this meeting of East and West.
The garden designer, Gursan Ergil, explains how this is manifested.
In Ottoman gardens they were bringing nature into architecture
in the form of carpets, wall tiles, floral motif wall tiles.
The tiles here...
I mean, they are extraordinary.
Ottoman Iznik tiles were originally made in western Anatolia,
modern-day Turkey, at the end of the 15th century.
The tiles gradually evolved from being predominantly blue
to becoming more vivid, with added shades of green, purple and red.
Because Islam forbade the use of human or animal images,
flowers and plants were always a favourite theme.
As you see here,
they are symbolic representations of flowers around them.
Mostly you see tulips, pomegranates.
There are some carnations, as you can see here.
Another Ottoman invention came in the form of stone kiosks.
Now, you might think of a kiosk as somewhere you'd buy a newspaper
or sweets, but to the Ottomans they had a very different meaning.
Kiosks are semi-open structures for contemplation.
-Kiosk originally coming from Persian...
..but Westerners saw kiosk first in Ottoman Empire
and they liked the idea.
The stone kiosks of the Ottoman gardens
are the forebears of our park bandstands and pavilions.
Actually, Topkapi Palace is like a series of kiosks.
It's not one building.
It is just different kiosks, like a marble tent.
I had thought of the Ottoman tradition
as being a long way from the desert,
but when you say marble tent, that links it.
I think it is deep in their culture because of this nomadic background.
And the other thing which I've really noticed
is that the kiosks are open, so you look out.
Whereas the closed walled gardens of Persia and Marrakech, you look in.
Exactly. This is our difference.
-So you have this fantastic view over the water...
..which is part of the garden.
That's true. Bringing panorama inside the garden.
This is the unique feature of Ottoman paradise gardens.
They weren't enclosed and private,
but deliberately positioned by lakes and rivers
to look out on and include the natural world.
Ottomans hardly touched nature,
because they think it is God's reflection.
-So they respect it.
These gardens embrace the beauty of the natural world around them,
whilst the gardens of the desert
deliberately hid from their surroundings.
This acceptance and inclusion of nature
is what most directly connects Ottoman gardens
with those of modern Europe
and gives them their distinctive character
within the range of paradise gardens around the Islamic world.
And like everything in Istanbul,
what I find most extraordinary about that garden
is this dynamic meeting of East and West.
The gardens of the Topkapi Palace
do seem to me to shed completely new light on the idea of paradise.
And I love that idea
of making a garden to seduce your soul.
Looking out to the world and looking up to heaven.
But, from here...
..I need to not just look out but go on,
because the gardens are not just where East and West meet,
but where East goes yet further east...
Modern India is an exhilarating and, at times,
chaotic mixture of languages, people and religions.
I'm beginning my visit in the capital, Delhi.
For 300 years, India was governed by a Muslim dynasty,
founded in 1526 by the warrior king, Babur.
And at its height, this Mughal Empire
ruled over one and a half million square miles
of the Indian subcontinent.
When the Mughals swept into modern Pakistan and northern India from
Afghanistan, they built forts and gardens, wherever they conquered.
These were significantly different
to the other paradise gardens I've seen so far.
The Islamic gardens of Spain, Morocco and Iran
were designed for sensual pleasure and contemplation.
But these Mughal gardens were made
as a public display of reverence for the dead
and for daily use, by the living.
And this tradition carries on in exactly the same way today.
This is Humayun's tomb.
And tomb gardens were the Mughal's greatest contribution to our story.
Humayun was the son of Babur, born in Kabul in 1508.
The second Mughal emperor was famously superstitious.
He is said to have never entered a room left foot first.
His name meant "Lucky", but, in fact, he was anything but.
And he didn't share his father's warrior genes either.
Humayun was a lover, apparently,
of sensuality, poetry and wine and opium.
Which was not what was required to conquer new territory.
He was exiled to Persia, where he remained until 1555.
He returned here to Delhi, was crowned king,
only to die six months later.
The story is that Humayun was descending steps in his library
when he heard the call to prayer, stopped,
and got his foot caught in his robes and tumbled down the steps,
dashing his head on the stone.
And these steps are said to be extra steep in memory of that tragedy.
His reign may have been short, but by building this tomb,
Humayun's widow, Hamida Begum, made sure it was never forgotten.
When it was done, here was this extraordinary, magnificent monument,
with his body in the centre, with the face turned towards Mecca.
The architect chosen for the tomb was from Persia.
And the high double dome and arched alcoves
are both distinctive elements from Persian architecture.
The Indian style appears in the smaller domes, or chooks,
that adorn the roof.
The Mughals revered their ancestral Persian culture.
And the Persian language was spoken widely at court.
It is one of the roots of modern Urdu.
The Urdu term for a paradise garden is charbagh,
meaning a garden divided into four,
and is almost identical to the Persian, chahar bagh.
The size and grandeur of Humayun's tomb
is matched by the scale of the garden it sits in.
Divided into four quarters, with four channels of water,
that appear to meet beneath the tomb,
it's reminiscent of the Koranic teaching
that the Paradise Garden is one under which rivers flow.
Akshay Kaul is a landscape architect
and specialist in gardens of the Mughal Empire.
Let's begin with talking about the Mughals themselves.
What were they like as a people, as a culture?
They brought in poetry, they brought in architecture,
they brought in different ways of ruling the country.
They brought with them these charbagh gardens.
Were there gardens here before?
There was no geometry, no order, no symmetry.
And they were not really pleasure gardens.
Even the notion of an enclosed garden, as such, wasn't there.
So, when Babur came with his gardens, with a new style of garden,
which seems very settled and grand and ordered,
was this very novel in this culture?
To what extent has the garden changed over the years?
How would it have looked in its heyday?
The green area that you see would never be lawns.
They would be much more sunken, way down.
And there would have been Jasmines everywhere.
Or there would have been scented fruits.
So, the idea was, as you're walking, you're smelling them,
you're almost at that height.
So the whiff of the air,
which would move with the water in these dusty lands.
Today, most of the fruit trees have been replaced with larger varieties,
planted at ground level.
And there are other differences, too.
Would they have used hedges?
We see these clipped hedges around, is that a Mughal feature?
These hedges or, you know, boundaries or lawns,
they're never part of the Mughal vocabulary.
-So, did they bring actual gardening skills, too?
-I think so.
Yeah. I think they brought it with them from the gardens in Persia.
And also, they were very familiar with what they had planted there.
So they were constantly trying to bring those plants in here.
Right. So, it was recreating the gardens of their homeland?
Yeah. I think that's true with every culture, you know?
You want a part of your home, wherever you are.
And the British were no exception.
The great sweeps of lawn and the large trees
were introduced by the British.
Of course, it's absolutely out of tune and sympathy
with the paradise garden that was originally created.
But it has now become the accepted face of the gardens.
And while today we may be thankful
for these large trees in the blistering heat,
that isn't where the Mughals looked for their shade.
Where these geometric sections cross and meet,
you find these raised platforms.
And a lot of them have now got trees in them.
But they were originally intended for tents.
And they were more than just a shelter on a hot day.
This is where they lived.
This is where government was conducted.
It's where you enjoyed your gardens,
where you ate and very often where you slept.
So, you must imagine this garden as a kind of tented city.
There would be dozens of them.
And beyond, unimpeded by any trees,
you could see the tomb and all the buildings in their glory.
This meant that,
unlike the reverential stillness of our own cemeteries and churchyards,
the tomb garden was filled with life.
Now, this is the oldest tomb garden...
..and one of the best preserved.
But it is not the most famous.
So, that's where I'm going next.
For long periods, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire
and enjoyed unrivalled power and prosperity.
And it is here that you will find the Taj Mahal.
The doors open every day at the exact moment of sunrise.
I'm told that the gates open at 6:16, not 6:15, but precisely 6:16.
So, I set my alarm for 4:25 to get here,
which did seem very early and it was pitch-black.
And I rather thought when I got here,
I might have the place to myself and I could wander around.
But that was shattered as soon as I realised
I was at the end of quite a long queue.
But I made some new friends to help me pass the time.
Finally, after much checking of papers and bags, we are allowed in.
As you approach the Taj,
everything is the familiar, lovely peach-coloured sandstone.
But then, as you peer through the gate,
there is that incredible marble building.
And this morning, it's almost silvery.
The Taj Mahal is not just one of the most famous tombs in the world,
it is one of the world's most iconic buildings.
It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan
for his favourite wife, Mumtaz.
She had died the year before, aged 39,
giving birth to their 14th child.
Shah Jahan was distraught with grief and set about constructing her tomb
as the greatest building the world had ever seen.
It was to be no less than an earthly replica of the house and garden
that Mumtaz now occupied in paradise.
And it is the beauty of that love story
that brings people to this tomb garden in their millions.
The white marble mausoleum is covered with flowers
and verses from the Koran
and took 20,000 workers over 20 years to complete.
But the mausoleum is not the only special feature of the Taj.
I wonder how many people realise that it is set in a garden.
A garden that was made as the stones were being laid
and which is just as important, in its own way, as the tomb itself.
In the Mughal era, this huge garden was a typical charbagh,
with fruit trees and flowers planted in deeply sunken beds.
So, the garden we see today looks very different
to the one made at the same time as the building.
That central view of the Taj, the first hit as you walk in,
is so burned into our iconography of the place,
that, actually, it's easy to overlook the fact
that it was intended to be viewed from everywhere.
So, for example, here from this platform,
the planting would not have risen any higher than it.
And that would mean that none of these trees would be here.
And that, instead of being obscured by the trees, I would be able to see
this wonderful marble vision,
floating above the paradise garden all around it.
Shah Jahan only had access to the Taj for a few years
before he was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, in 1658.
In the following centuries,
control of Agra passed between different kingdoms.
And by the middle of the 19th century, the British had taken over.
The gardens of the Taj had become a tangle of bushes and tall trees.
But at the beginning of the 20th century,
the viceroy Lord Curzon swept all this away
and replaced it with lawns and specimen trees,
giving it the appearance of an English country park.
The story of the Taj does not end here.
On the other side of the Yamuna river, a ruin was discovered.
There had been rumours that this was the site of a black Taj,
built as a mausoleum for Shah Jahan himself.
But in the early 1990s,
an archaeological dig revealed this to be another garden.
The Mehtab Bagh, or Moonlight Garden,
was the exclusive domain of the emperor,
where he could enjoy views of the Taj across the river
in the velvety warmth of night.
When the fragrance of blossom would be at its strongest
and white flowers glow in the moonlight.
And what the modern excavations uncovered at the Mehtab Bagh
have completely challenged our perception of the Taj Mahal.
Professor Priyaleen Singh's research
is key to understanding the Taj in its entirety.
Is it fair to say that...
..this is as much part of the whole garden as the rest of it?
Or is this a separate piece of garden?
No, this is very much part of the Taj Mahal complex
because the Taj would sit in the centre
and you would have a garden on either side.
Scholars, until very recently, have tried to rationalise
that the tomb shifted to the edge of the garden.
But actually, if you look at Mehtab Bagh and you look at the Taj,
you'll find that the Taj is sitting right in the centre.
-Right in the middle.
Professor Singh's plans show how the emperor would have used the garden.
He would have entered from the gateway
and then as he progressed,
suddenly then the Taj would get framed by this pavilion over here.
And then he would walk around.
Shah Jahan would sit at the edge of the river in one of the pavilions,
the ruins of which we can still see there,
and then he would see the reflection of the Taj in this river.
It would have been magical on a moonlit night, you know,
with the song of the nightingale
and with the fragrance of all the Jasmines and all.
The discovery of the Mehtab Bagh
was one of the great sort of horticultural events
of the last 20 years or more.
Because it's doubled the size of the garden of the Taj,
changed the way we thought about it and also it completes
this extraordinary story of this man who was still mourning his wife,
gazing at this fantastic monument that he had built
as the light of the moon played on the marble.
Even in their much altered and unrestored condition,
I think that the gardens of the Mehtab Bagh
and the Taj Mahal put together
form one of the really important gardens of the world.
From Babur onwards,
the Mughals would always have sat on carpets in their gardens,
woven with a cornucopia of spring flowers and fruits.
Winter, when they brought them indoors,
they would bring their gardens with them.
So carpets and gardens were, for them, inextricably linked.
And it was Akbar, Babur's grandson,
who brought this craft to India and set up workshops here.
And they're still going today, so I'm going to visit one.
The owner, Sanjay Kaura, shows me round.
Do you have an example of the type of thing
-that Akbar would have introduced from Persia?
So all the rugs that have a centre medallion to them,
these are of the Persian origin.
Persian rugs. So this is very, very finely done.
Very intricate floral details.
Just in this small flower
there would be about 12 to 14 different colours.
What would they have been made out of?
Fine goat wool, popularly known as pashmina.
Oh, pashmina. God, that's... But that is so fine, isn't it?
Yeah. So because rugs of this quality, they require high-density,
so the wool usage has to be very fine.
Are you still using pretty much the same techniques?
Oh, yes. Exactly the same as it was done in the old days.
As the buildings and palaces of the Mughals
replaced their more modest tents and pavilions,
the minutely detailed designs of Persian rugs
began to feel too small,
and a new bolder style came into fashion.
So then we develop patterns which were bigger flowers.
-Which would hold their own in a big space.
How long would it take for you to make a rug like that?
Four to four and a half months.
So that is a lot of work, isn't it?
Later, the carpets began to take designs directly from the Taj.
The flowers on the walls of the tomb were replicated on the rugs.
And I love the fact that these carpets today
are made exactly as they were for the Mughal emperors
as they sat enjoying the delights of their paradise gardens.
Whilst the tomb gardens made their distinct contribution,
they were not the only type that reflect the Mughal influence.
So on my way to Jaipur
I'm stopping off to see a garden of a very different kind.
It's called Samode,
and it is a pleasure garden made at the end of the Mughal era.
And immediately you see similarities.
There's water flowing in a channel outside the house
and it comes to a pool.
But the pool is filled with lotus flowers.
In tomb gardens, water is such a powerful symbol of life
that it's never combined with plants.
But here in this pleasure garden
it's comfortably cluttered with plants.
The 20 acres of the Samode gardens
were originally made in the middle of the 18th century
as the private retreat of the Samode royal family,
and it remained so until 20 odd years ago when it became a hotel.
What is immediately apparent to me is a kind of energy,
and that comes from the water and the play of the fountains
and the size of the trees.
But this energy is very different to that of the tomb gardens,
which have elegance and respect and decorum.
This is playful.
The planting in the beds is evidence of that.
Shrubs, small trees and flowers are all muddled together.
And this fulsome planting is more historically accurate
than the sweeping lawns that have been inserted into the tomb gardens.
Mind you, there is one element here that does seem more suited
to a 1960s British back garden than the Mughal Empire.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking crazy paving?!
Really?! Is that accurate?
Well, the answer is yes.
Because apparently this style of paving, of random stones,
is part of a long-standing Rajasthan tradition.
The energy of this garden doesn't detract from the fact that,
like all paradise gardens,
it was intended above all as a place of contemplation.
To sit here and hear the birds roosting...
..and to let my mind be still,
I think is tapping into the core of the paradise garden.
And to have the playfulness and the entertainment as well
means that this garden works on lots of levels.
I like it a lot.
One of the features of the Mughal conquest of India
was their tolerance of other religions and rulers.
However, without always forcibly imposing themselves,
their influence spread in many different ways.
I've left the Islamic Mughal world
and come to the Amer Fort, just to the north of Jaipur,
base of powerful Hindu Rajputs.
Arriving by elephant is the most appropriate way
to visit the Amer Fort because this is how the Raja
would have arrived and his guests,
all sitting in the most extraordinary fashion
on the back of these glorious beasts.
There has been a settlement on this site since the tenth century,
but the Amer Fort that we see today dates from the 16th century
and was the Palace of the Rajput King, Man Singh.
As I make my slow but stately entrance,
women are picking blossom for garlands.
Inside the gate, the walls of the palace are decorated
with exquisite details of flowers and trees.
This is the Ganesh gate.
And Ganesh is the elephant god which clears obstructions.
So he's often placed above a gateway or an entrance
to make sure that the passageway through is easy.
But as you look closer,
you can't help but notice that the palace is laced with Mughal design.
The fort is actually a combination of local Rajput Hindi architecture
with classic Mughal style.
This is perhaps most evident of all in its gardens.
And right at the heart of the palace is the private Mughal garden
that brings together both Islamic and Hindi features.
The Mughal garden lies in the centre of a living complex.
It was made in the middle of the 17th century.
It's fascinating to me for two reasons.
The first is that it is so clearly designed
to be looked at and not walked on.
The paths, such as they are, are too narrow and uninviting.
And the second thing, which is really interesting,
is the presence and use of hexagon.
Now, these were not Mughal shapes.
These are Hindu shapes,
and they create triangles on the indices between them.
Again, that's a Hindu thing, not a Mughal thing.
So what we're seeing here by the mid-17th century,
the same period almost exactly as the Taj Mahal,
is a real convergence of Mughal influences and Rajput.
The Mughals didn't just tolerate the Rajputs, but married them.
Man Singh's daughter married a son of Shah Jahan,
whilst in 1562, Akbar himself wed a Rajput princess from Amer.
This interweaving of family and state
encouraged the merging of cultures and that is evident throughout.
From right up here at the top of the fort,
you get a perfect bird's eye view of the Saffron Garden, or Kesar Kyari,
looking like a Persian carpet laid out above the water.
It's called the Saffron Garden
because apparently it was originally entirely planted with saffron,
which is incredibly rare and also has wonderful scent,
and the fragrance would be blown by the east wind
and carried up to the top of the fort, where the harem was,
so the women could enjoy that luxury.
At least, that's the story.
But the inconvenient horticultural truth
is that the saffron crocus needs plenty of moisture
and can't survive in the extreme drought and heat of Rajasthan.
That planting never happened.
The legend and the name stuck.
The truth is that, however wonderful this looks from on high,
it doesn't bear much close inspection.
It's planted up at the moment with a euphorbia,
there's a euphorbia from Madagascar called milii.
And, whilst they are colourful,
it's very spiny and thorny, and it's a real desert plant.
And that seems to be at odds
with the whole sensuous quality of pleasure gardens.
How one longs for that idea of saffron.
The gardens of Amer Fort
are evidence of Mughal culture spreading beyond its own court.
And, while some gardens fell into decline elsewhere,
elements of their design lived on here.
I've come back to Delhi, and it's nearly time to travel on.
But, before I go, I want to see what influence, if any,
these Mughal gardens have had on modern India.
Has the spirit of their gardens or the love of gardening survived?
I've come to the Sunder Nursery.
From 1912, the British used the land for raising shrubs and trees
as part of the great rebuilding of New Delhi.
But its earlier incarnation was as a Mughal garden known as
the Azim Bagh, or great garden.
It's been recently restored with a Persian-inspired carpet garden
at its core, but the nursery still remains,
and the whole space is now an unlikely but charming mixture
of a grand Mughal landscape and a local garden centre.
You are the gardener in charge?
-How big is your nursery?
It is...about 75 acres.
That's big. How many people work here?
Near about 300 person.
300 people working here.
And do you sell mainly to private gardeners,
or big orders to firms and contracts?
Anybody come, anybody take.
-No reserve. First come, first served.
When I visit nurseries in other countries,
it's the small differences that I find so interesting.
These rows of terracotta pots - you would never see that in the UK.
Also, you have lots of herbs and culinary plants.
And there is a real sense that these are loved plants.
And it's fascinating to see what people are buying.
Excuse me, sir. What have you bought there?
Well, this is a curry plant, and it's used in cooking,
-for cooking purposes.
-Are you the cook in your household?
Yeah, at times, and I need them.
And do you enjoy the process of gardening?
Oh, that's wonderful.
It's not only my hobby, but I am a surgeon here in Delhi.
It's also my de-stressing activity.
-I just love doing gardening.
What do you particularly like to grow?
Again, this season, I'd love to have pansy, petunia...
Right. And are you good at growing flowers?
About 60% of the plants, they survive.
-I do not know that I am...
-That's pretty good!
That's pretty good, by my standards, I think!
After seeing so many historical gardens,
it's lovely to get to the nuts and bolts,
get behind the scenes and see a real garden working.
And there is a magic about a well-ordered nursery that,
if you love plants and gardening, never fails to work.
Any time spent in India is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.
It's really expanded my idea of paradise gardens,
and fascinating, the way that they have affected Indian culture
and embraced it at the same time.
Back at home,
our gardens have absorbed these influences in all kinds of ways,
and all kinds of gardens, too.
Having travelled halfway across the world, I've now come home,
but to rather a special home, because this is Highgrove,
the home of the Prince of Wales.
But I'm here because, in 2000,
he decided that he would like a garden created,
inspired by a pair of Turkish rugs that he owned.
The Islamic garden expert and designer Emma Clark
was one of the team behind this project.
What I'm struck, when you come in,
is how it does feel like walking
into a courtyard in Marrakech, or...
Yes, well, that's one of the ideas, is that it is a kind of sanctuary.
The Prince of Wales's carpet garden
is one of Britain's first charbaghs, or paradise gardens.
The garden started life at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2001,
and then was transferred to Highgrove.
And whilst it retains its original layout,
it has evolved over the years.
I'm sure this has changed.
In what ways?
It's changed hugely. It's a bigger site,
and the planting has changed a lot.
At the time, we were trying to create something which much more spoke of...
..the Islamic garden,
because we knew, at Chelsea, that it's theatre and it's for a week.
The local climate has forced some of the changes.
There are plants found in a conventional Persian garden
that wouldn't be at all happy in a Cotswold winter.
There are very few plants here that you would find
in the sort of traditional charbagh in the Middle East.
-You walk in and you see clematis...
..which you're never going to see.
But I like the hardy geranium and the pelargoniums.
I mean, the fact that we are into South Africa,
and South America for the fuchsia...
-The verbena, also.
-And the verbena, yes, exactly.
I don't think that matters, do you?
No, I don't. The Islamic world is large.
It exists in different climates and environments, different planting,
but there's always an underlying unity of spirit.
So, at what point...
..does one depart so much that it becomes something else?
It's inspired by Islamic design principles,
and that is the hard landscaping.
-We have the central fountain, which is beautiful in any climate,
and you've got four rills
coming down from the corners,
representing the four rivers of paradise,
so I think we have a beautiful marriage
between England and the Islamic world.
I think the really interesting thing about this carpet garden
is how it has been adapted and personalised,
both to this particular location and to the UK in general.
And it does show that,
if you have the basic principles of the paradise garden,
you can allow it to flex and bend according to different circumstances,
and it doesn't matter whether that is in the desert or here in Britain.
The enclosed nature of the Prince's carpet garden
reproduces the seclusion of a courtyard in the Islamic world.
Yet the essential elements for a paradise garden
can be expressed in many forms and, before I end this journey,
I want to look at the ways that they've been made in this country
in some very different settings.
I've come north to Bradford, a city more famous
for its industrial past than its modern gardens.
I'm visiting what was the former home of Lord Masham,
a local mill owner, who at the end of the 19th-century
sold his mansion and 50 acres of land to the City Council
for half its value on the condition that the grounds
became a public park and that the house would be rebuilt
as an art gallery.
And this is the result.
At first, this does seem a very unlikely setting
for a paradise garden.
But 20 years ago, money was raised from the National Lottery
to create a Mughal garden.
This is appropriate, because Bradford has one of the largest
Muslim populations of any part of the UK.
The site chosen for the garden was formerly a car park.
But what is now present has all the recognisable
elements of the Mughal gardens of the Indian subcontinent.
But it also has a very distinctively British flavour, too.
The garden is divided by a network of broad paths,
water channels and pools.
Whilst it's simpler and noticeably greener than the tomb gardens
I saw in India, it still has the same harmonious atmosphere
of peace and tranquillity.
The local imam, Idris Watts, tells me how the community use the garden.
You see people here, families,
and you see the children playing in the water,
and different communities come and mix together.
We've got people come here just in the mornings,
to sit and contemplate.
We have people come for wedding photos,
I in fact got married in Bradford,
and I had my wedding photos taken here.
Of course, water is the key element you'll find in any Islamic garden.
-Whereas, with great respect to this part of the world,
water is not particularly in shortfall, is it?
-Are people aware of that significance?
Or do you think that's been lost?
No, I think it's... I mean,
water has a great significance in the Koranic scripture,
it talks about everything's created from water.
And there's a huge play on the flowing of water.
So this water, which is pumped round and round, isn't it,
-keeping the flow going?
-You've got a very large Muslim community here in Bradford.
Do you think that this resonates with them particularly?
What's so beautiful about this garden
is that it's using the Yorkshire stone, as well,
so it sort of brings together all the beauty of the local
community, and also the contribution of the subcontinent.
And so it's a great message, really,
for Bradford to show that we can really harmonise these traditions,
and they're not in conflict with one another.
Although the essential elements for a paradise garden remain constant,
wherever I have travelled, I've seen how they are reinterpreted
according to different situations and cultures.
When this garden is empty,
particularly if the light is a bit grey,
it can look a bit flat, a bit dead, even.
But as soon as it fills up with people,
then you have children running around and playing,
and people naturally drawn to the water,
then it becomes alive, and it's that that gives it
the richness that is missing.
And it is as though we have taken an idea
but, perhaps unconsciously,
adapted it to the very specific needs of our civilisation,
our century and even specifically this place.
My final garden is rather different.
For a start, this isn't really a paradise garden at all,
but one more synonymous with the English countryside.
Hestercombe House, just outside Taunton in Somerset,
was the home of Lord and Lady Portman, and in 1903,
they commissioned Edwin Lutyens to create a new formal garden.
Lutyens was to become one of the most famous architects of the 20th century,
and he worked in partnership with Gertrude Jekyll,
who oversaw the planting.
The result is recognised as one of Britain's great gardens.
But despite its Edwardian provenance and its very English rural setting,
I think this garden is filled with the influence of Islamic design.
The architect Edwin Lutyens has created a garden
which is redolent with those influences.
These rills, narrow and straight and leading the eye forward,
following the lines of the water, are drawn as much from
the gardens of Andalusia as they are from the Dutch
and the French gardens that preceded them.
And the way that he's used stones across the rills,
which breaks up the reflection, adds texture to it,
and that's identical to the way that in Persian gardens,
water was broken and moulded and shaped as it moved along.
The bones of Lutyens' garden
is made from paradise.
And once you start looking,
you see these influences everywhere,
even in what is seemingly the most conventionally English of gardens.
The huge, central plat is deeply sunk and looked down upon
from the walkways around it,
just like the sunken beds of a paradise garden.
And another example is Lutyens' use of grass.
If you think about it, grass here is clear,
it's unbroken by planting.
A strip like this, which is neither lawn nor path, really,
actually serves in exactly the same way as a strip of water,
clear and unbroken, does in so many of the paradise gardens.
Lutyens was to go on and do a great deal of work in India,
but even at this early stage, the Islamic influence is clear.
Claire Greenslade is Hestercombe's head gardener,
and I asked her about Lutyens' design.
Clare, we've got a plan here, tell me what it's of. Let me have a look.
So, this is a plan of the rill that we're looking at here,
the east rill, which shows Lutyens' stonework going all the way along,
all the way along here, mixed with Jekyll's planting.
The thing that strikes me from that is how graphic it is on the ground.
A lot of the parts of the garden that Lutyens has designed,
when you look at his original designs, they're really true.
You probably know this garden better than anyone.
What makes it unique?
I think it's the Lutyens hand.
The structure's so important.
It's the sharp lines, it's the grass, it's the edges,
it's quite theatrical.
In the winter, you really get to see the bare bones of Lutyens.
And it means that even when there's nothing flowering, it's still...
It still takes your breath away.
The paradise gardens that I've visited across the world
have all had this combination of wonder and delight.
Whether it be the stately tomb gardens of India...
..grandeur of the Alhambra...
..or the lush calm of a courtyard garden in Marrakech.
And all these gardens have not just been beautiful and dramatic,
but also filled with symbolism and meaning.
With their constant elements of water and shade and greenery,
they all stay true to the one underlying idea
of a vision of paradise on earth.
However exotic these gardens have been,
however rich the experience of visiting,
the thought that remains strongest...
..is the influence that they've had right across the world,
including our own gardens.
Monty Don continues his quest to uncover the secrets of paradise gardens. Having mastered their basic building blocks in Spain, Morocco and Iran, Monty sets out to explore the wide variety of gardens offering a slightly different vision of Paradise.
In Turkey Monty is dazzled by an extraordinary display of the Ottoman Empire's favourite flower - the tulip - and learns of its sacred significance. At Topkapi palace, the heart of this vast Eastern empire he learns how this sacred value was extended to all plants, landscapes and even panoramic views in a way that created gardens that rejoiced in nature. Travelling further east to India, Monty encounters a new type of spirituality in the tomb gardens of the Mughal Empire. Stunning mausoleums were set in vast gardens as places where an earthly king could enter a divine paradise. But unlike our quiet courtyards and cemeteries these were places filled with life - tented cities where people lived as well as prayed. As favoured spots for yoga and exercise, they still retain this lively spirituality today.
In Agra, Monty visits the most famous tomb of them all, the Taj Mahal, and learns about the recent excavations that have challenged our understanding of the way it was used and exposes the impact the British raj had on this grand vista. In Jaipur, he rides an elephant up to a spectacular Hindu fort and visits a Mughal pleasure garden, a place where the royal family relaxed and watched the world below from the secret confines of their palace.
Returning to the UK, Monty sets out to see how the concept of paradise gardens have fared in some very different places. At Highgrove, the home of the Prince of Wales, a door in a wall leads to the carpet garden, one of the first interpretations of a paradise garden in the UK. Its high walls give it the feel of a secret courtyard garden in Morocco. But in other more public places, Monty discovers how the influence of these gardens has shaped our own. In Bradford, a water garden inspired by India provides a setting for different communities to come together while at Hestercombe, Somerset, Monty uncovers the inspiration behind what appears to be the most English of gardens.