17th Century Alan Titchmarsh's Garden Secrets


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17th Century

Alan Titchmarsh explores Britain's great gardens. Here, he visits Hatfield House to look at the key design features of the gardens of this 17th-century stately home.


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I've always believed that if you're looking for ideas and inspiration for your own garden

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then the best place to start is by visiting someone else's, especially those of our great country houses.

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I've chosen four that, to me, are particularly outstanding.

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These are the gardens that have inspired me, and which affect the way I garden at home.

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They're a perfect example of the evolution of garden design, but in many ways, every bit as

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relevant today as they were in the centuries when they were first made.

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Whether it's the formal elegance of the 17th century,

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the eccentric designs of the Victorians, the sweeping naturalism of the 18th century

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or the intimate styles of the 20th century, I'm going to reveal these

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gardens' innermost secrets and how they have inspired gardeners across the country.

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Every morning I step into this garden and I feel like I've gone on holiday.

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And I'll be getting my own hands dirty, showing you

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simple ways to benefit from the lessons of the masters.

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Whether it's a borrowed view from the 18th century or a 20th century colour scheme.

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Look at all those colours which combine to make it wonderfully three-dimensional.

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You can create a little piece of history in your own backyard.

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My journey begins in a 400 year old garden described by Samuel Pepys

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as one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

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So join me on a voyage of discovery as I reveal my favourite 17th century garden.

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In 1625, Francis Bacon wrote, "God Almighty first planted

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"a garden, and indeed it is the purest of human pleasures."

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The century was one of massive change.

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Six monarchs, a civil war, the Puritans and the Plague.

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Garden design reacted to these social changes in a dramatic way.

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The garden became a refuge of order and calm, an opportunity to control nature, in a chaotic world.

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It was a time when Britain began to garden for pride, not just for purpose.

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Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is, for me, a fine example of this new passion for the aesthetic.

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From 1497 until the early 1600s, Hatfield had been a royal garden.

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The old palace still remains in the grounds.

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Elizabeth I grew up here and first learned that she was to be queen under Hatfield's old oaks.

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Her successor, King James I,

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planted these mulberry trees to help kick-start the silk trade.

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But it was Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who, in 1608, took over

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the estate and built the large Jacobean house around which the famous gardens are designed.

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Unlike many of the estates from this period, Hatfield is unique

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because here, you find an entire century's worth of ideas in one place.

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Whether it's the innovative use of the hedge,

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an obsession with sculpted topiary, fruit trees that are both ornamental

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and functional, or the clever use of perspective. These are some of

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the classic ideas of the time, but, cleverly adapted they can suit any contemporary garden.

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Now, there's one thing you can't escape at Hatfield.

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Something that goes on and on for 26 miles.

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Much underrated today, it was a revolutionary design feature then.

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The hedge.

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What I particularly like about Hatfield

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is that it has four gardens set around the house

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and, by looking at each one, we can actually see

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how the role of the hedge evolved across the century.

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No other garden I know can show this.

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Hatfield's private archive offers the key to how it all began.

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This is one of the very earliest gardening manuals,

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one of the first to be published in 1594.

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By Thomas Hill. It's called the Gardener's Labyrinth.

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And it's dedicated to Lord Sir William Cecil, the father

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of Robert Cecil who made this garden,

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so you can tell how old it is.

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In it, wonderful, wonderful pages

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of patterns for you to copy, or, of knots.

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If you have a formal part in your garden and you want

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to know how how it came about, then the answer is that it probably had its ancestors in Tudor times.

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Almost 500 years ago in a knot garden like this one at Hatfield.

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No flowers in this part.

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Clipped box or santolina, cotton lavender, was the height of fashion.

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Woven into these intricate shapes or knots.

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Up to this point, hedges were grown high to protect man from danger.

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Now they were clipped low, and designed to complement the architecture of the house.

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But the English knot was to go out of fashion during the 17th century.

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The French thought they could do better, so they created a larger, grander version - the parterre.

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It became a gardening must-have,

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and at Hatfield, it appeared on the south side of the garden.

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Like the knot, the parterre is a symmetrical, formal garden

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with a box hedge border and a pattern within.

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But it's more expensive than the knot, and the hedge is shaped

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into elaborate curves and curlicues.

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But this was just the start. By now, Britain's landed gentry

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were travelling abroad and being exposed to new plants and ideas.

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The designers at Hatfield saw how these could work

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with the hedge and created a new formal garden in the East Parterre.

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David Beaumont has been head gardener at Hatfield for 31 years.

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He knows the history and structure of the garden intimately.

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And suddenly things are beginning to change.

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Flowers are appearing.

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Yeah, hedges are now coming out, flowers are becoming more important.

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Plant material was coming into the country left, right and centre.

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Box hedging was old-fashioned. So it's beginning to be taken out.

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So just the structure of the bed being held together by the box.

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So, anybody can have box, of course.

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You've been doing it for years now, but I bet you haven't got

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this flower. It's all about that, isn't it?

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That's what it's all about. Impression.

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Wanting to have something that nobody else has got.

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And now it starts to get a whole heap more colourful.

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But as the century progressed,

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the role of the hedge changed even further.

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You can see how in Hatfield's west parterre.

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So, this, then, is the final development of the parterre.

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Yes, I mean the garden still had the formality, sharp lines, crispness,

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but inside the bed was quite chaotic in some ways.

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So all that remained really of that parterre is the shape of the bed and

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one or two lumps of box and new topiary.

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But, inside the bed, this fusion, this ebullient,

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this complete, organised chaos, if you like.

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-Why did this happen?

-Plants were a lot more important in them days.

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We now have plants introduced almost weekly.

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But of course, in them days, they weren't.

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They were actually being brought from all over the world.

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And it was, the more important plants you had, the more important your garden was.

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So this was the ultimate in showing off?

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Exactly. And that's what these gardens were for.

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Here we can see how the role of the hedge has evolved into what it is today.

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What began as a focus, gradually retreated to become a boundary,

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a framework for our gardens.

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We owe its evolution to the 17th century.

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Today, modern garden designers are still influenced

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by 17th century formal design.

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But they use it in a more contemporary way.

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In his own garden in Hertfordshire, designer Tom Stuart-Smith

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is quite literally thinking out of the symmetrical box.

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The 17th century structural elements he uses work with nature,

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rather than trying to control it.

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I'm always quite wary of overdoing the formality of the garden

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and in my own garden, I've got these

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little beds here that are about as formal as I get.

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There's a box hedge around them

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on three sides, but the planting is allowed to tumble over.

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And then, on the side which you see most, it's left open, so there's

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a kind of asymmetric muddle to it which I think quite appeals to me.

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He's employed this philosophy on a broader canvas

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at Broughton Grange in Oxfordshire.

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At first sight a classically formal parterre,

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mimics the architecture of this beautiful 17th century house.

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But in the walled garden,

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a traditional parterre takes on a strikingly different form.

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I was interested in the idea of superimposing something

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very, very free and organic over this rigidly classical pattern.

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I had this idea of looking at the three principle species of tree

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that were growing in the surrounding landscape,

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which are beech, ash and oak.

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I took the leaves and put them under a scanner

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and then blew that image up, so that you could see the nation pattern

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of the cells in a microscopic way.

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And then that pattern is translated

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directly onto the ground as the pattern of box hedging.

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If you didn't know what they were, they just appear as some

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kind of floaty naturalistic pattern. That doesn't really matter to me.

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I mean, if somebody thinks it's like a bunch of furry caterpillars,

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that's absolutely fine.

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But actually they're representative of something you can't see in the view.

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Tom shows that you can take a 17th century idea and interpret it in a uniquely personal way.

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So how do we go about introducing these ideas into our own gardens?

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Well, I have a simple idea that anyone can try at home.

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Time to get my hands dirty and show you what I mean.

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I've cut out a rectangle here in the middle of this lawn

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and lined the inside with weed-proof membrane.

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And what I'm going to do is make a shape that I can plant up

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with thymes for a 21st century parterre.

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If you want to jazz up a plain path, a driveway or

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just want an alternative flower bed, then this is a neat way to do it.

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Instead of a traditional box hedge border, I'm using three types of

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thyme - a creamy, variegated Silver King for my edging.

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A yellow variegated variety Doone Valley for my pattern

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and to bring in colour, a purple flowered variety

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called Wine and Roses.

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A leaf. Or the ace of spades.

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Just using my knife to cut out this middle,

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because all this membrane is for

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is to keep down the weeds an the bit that isn't planted.

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It's really quite easy to do this.

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It's always the blank canvas that's intimidating, isn't it?

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Once you've started your confidence begins to grow.

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What I will do

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is just peg down - you can see it's flapping - that shape,

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with some little wire pins.

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To stop it going anywhere.

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So that's my shape mapped out.

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And now I've got all these different coloured thymes

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to use in different places.

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The exciting bit.

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The parterre can be any size.

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But make sure it's in proportion with your garden.

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The central vein on a leaf isn't always straight,

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so I'm just going to give it a sinuous curve.

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The beauty of thyme is that it's tough and drought tolerant,

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so quite low maintenance.

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And it doesn't take as long to grow as dwarf box.

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That's the easy bit done.

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Just have to plant them now.

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I may be gone some time.

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Once they're all planted, the final job is the dressing of gravel.

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Now, the weed-proof membrane stays down.

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It helps keep moisture in around the outside and weeds down.

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But you don't want to see it, so on goes the gravel.

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I'm using a relatively fine, light coloured gravel to give a crisp

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outline to the pattern, and contrasting with the plants,

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it helps to highlight design.

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But you could use crushed slate or even brightly coloured recycled glass.

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Each to his own.

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Another 17th century trick is to locate the design

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in a part of the garden where it can be admired from above.

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The important thing now is to water it, so this really settles in,

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to make sure that it doesn't go short of water

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over the next few weeks.

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The thyme around the outside,

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the Silver King, you can clip that back by about half,

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to form a low curve, and then it will thicken up and it almost will be like a dwarf box parterre hedge.

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And the great thing about thyme, of course, when it's established,

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is that you can walk all over it and it releases the wonderful aroma on a summer's day.

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What I really love about the 17th century parterre is that it

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can turn any boring scrap of land into an elegant, formal feature.

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The parterre was one way of extending the architecture

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of the house into the garden.

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But at Hatfield, we see another equally elaborate way

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in which this was done.

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In the 17th century, topiary was the height of fashion.

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English noblemen were captivated by the examples they found

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in the gardens of Renaissance Italy and the Palace of Versailles.

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It was no surprise to find it springing up in grand gardens across Britain.

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As cutting tools improved, designs became more ambitious

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and imaginative.

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At Hatfield today, they have a mix of original features like the

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doughnut, or conventional shapes like the spiral or the cylinder.

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They either give structure to the garden or work as stand-alone features.

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It's a clever way of getting year-round shape and structure into your garden.

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And it doesn't have to be on a grand and lavish scale. I totted up.

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In my small garden I got 72 different clipped yew and box bushes, many of them in pots.

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Topiary was originally a replacement for masonry, and it really is living architecture.

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The east parterre is planted with 16 large, square, box-edged beds,

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each with a central topiary feature unique to Hatfield.

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David Beaumont, head gardener, explains.

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Now, what's the story behind these box hedges?

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Slightly different in this garden.

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In as much as we have these central finials and they represent

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some central finials that are on the ceilings in the house.

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Obviously, up the other way.

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So we've got quite a large topiary in the centre.

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When do you start clipping your box?

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-We normally start on Derby day.

-The old tradition.

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-The old tradition.

-Come back from the races and start. Why did they come down on that day?

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I think the green has gone off of the box, it's lost that lovely, lush green colour.

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-It's a bit tougher.

-It's a bit tougher, it's a little bit easier to cut and also, if you cut it

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at that time of year, it will hold its shape, most of the summer.

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We used to have this feeling that if you cut in wet weather,

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it's better, you get a crisp edge,

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you don't get the burning quite so much, but then they said, well,

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if you cut in wet weather, there's more chance of box blight

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spreading, so you're not averse to cutting in bright sunshine?

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We'll cut in quite bright sunshine.

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You do get a little bit of burning in about a week, 10 days' time,

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but it soon drops off and disappears.

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We'd rather have that than the box blight.

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So, all you need is a good pair of trimmers and a good eye.

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Yes, you do need a good eye.

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-I'll let you get on.

-Thank you.

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There's something about these quirky shapes that suits the British taste for eccentricity.

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So it's hardly surprising that the 17th century topiary revolution is still with us.

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Thurnham Court in Gloucestershire is a Jacobean house with an unusual array of topiary.

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The owner, Christine Facer has created a modern topiary garden

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inspired by the clipped birds she found here.

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They've morphed into different shapes and sizes now.

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One can't really work out what birds they are.

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Some are peacocks, some look like sparrows.

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But interesting shapes nevertheless.

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What I tried to do to bring this garden up to a contemporary setting,

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is to involve different sorts of topiary.

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And one of my first attempts was to topiarise these wonderful

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Italian cypresses which, as you come up to them, you want to stroke them.

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They're such a beautiful shape.

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And what my gardener does is to wire these up with ordinary, plastic coated wire

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at around two inch intervals, and you get these beautiful, sculptural Italian cypresses.

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She uses topiary as a landscaping feature to divide her garden into

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a series of rooms and to make what gardeners like to call "statements".

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The way the hedge here takes its inspiration from the countryside behind me,

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you see these wonderful, rolling Cotswold Hills, so what we have here is a rolling Cotswold hill hedge,

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with its ups and downs, peaks and little, gentle valleys.

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Her background as a scientist is evident in the geometric shapes she creates.

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I'm sitting in the garden of cosmic evolution.

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And the garden is all about aspects of the cosmos.

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The sun gets its energy from the conversion of hydrogen nuclei.

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And as a result of that conversion, you get zigzag

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radiation coming out from the sun and so, I designed a zigzag hedge,

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to try to explain that idea.

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One of Christine's favourite pieces is her cloud pruned ligustrum,

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an evergreen privet.

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Now, cloud pruning is a very ancient Japanese way of topiarising.

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Goes back several centuries.

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And what they did is to take off the side shoots,

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from the main stem, leaving perhaps one here.

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And then developing that, so that it grows up into this little cloud

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of round, balled form.

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And it's called cloud pruning because, in Japan when it snows

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and the snow settles on here, they look like little clouds.

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It's a design she wanted to develop further, so she called on topiary designer James Crebbin-Bailey,

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to construct an entire cloud pruned border.

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This is no ordinary hedge.

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It's made up of individual topiary trees planted together to make a homogenous whole.

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This is Buxus sempervirens and this is what most topiary is made out of.

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It's reasonably fast growing.

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You still only need to cut it once a year when it's fully formed.

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It's the best box for forming topiary shapes.

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Every garden should have a little bit of fun with their topiary.

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It's just something a bit quirky.

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What James has created here is these wonderful, sensual

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organic shapes and I think this snaking, curving hedge,

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when it's completed, will be just perfect.

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It's easy to forget that topiary began as simply

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using a clipped evergreen to make a simple, architectural statement.

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But there's an unconventional way to achieve the same effect.

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If you love the idea and the formal shapes of green,

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but don't want all that labour

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of clipping, there's a rather neat way of getting around it.

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You can get this wire reinforcement, it's really quite sturdy,

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from a builder's merchant.

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Cut it here into squares.

0:23:310:23:34

Put it on the ground, where you want to make what you want to make,

0:23:340:23:38

because this gets quite heavy.

0:23:380:23:40

You need that size. Six pieces.

0:23:400:23:45

These now just create a cube.

0:23:450:23:49

I'm going to hold it together with these plastic cable ties.

0:23:490:23:54

Do about three along each side, otherwise it may bow in the middle.

0:23:560:24:00

You're wondering what on earth I'm making, aren't you?

0:24:030:24:06

It will become clear very shortly.

0:24:060:24:11

I've now got a cube without a top on,

0:24:110:24:16

and then in the bottom this is marine ply,

0:24:160:24:20

plywood that is more weather resistant than normal plywood.

0:24:200:24:23

Drilled with drainage holes and then coated with timber preservative

0:24:230:24:26

to give it an even longer life.

0:24:260:24:28

Measure that before you cut it up,

0:24:280:24:30

because it needs to sit in the bottom

0:24:300:24:33

of your cube like that.

0:24:330:24:35

Because it stops compost falling out the bottom.

0:24:350:24:39

And what stops compost falling out the sides is this -

0:24:390:24:43

the turf wants to be on the inside.

0:24:430:24:48

Make it a bit longer so you can just bend the top over and that will just help support it in position.

0:24:480:24:54

And then

0:24:540:24:56

you can fill this with either topsoil or old potting compost.

0:24:560:25:02

Then you can just turn in what's left of the flaps.

0:25:150:25:19

There's no need to cut them off. And then

0:25:190:25:21

you can put your lid on.

0:25:210:25:24

Now then for the covering you've been patient long enough. Time you saw what it's going to turn into.

0:25:260:25:31

Sally, can you just give me a lift with this?

0:25:310:25:33

On to the

0:25:330:25:35

top there.

0:25:350:25:37

Lovely. Thank you very much. This has been cut into a cross shape.

0:25:370:25:43

This is matting on to which has been grown sedum,

0:25:430:25:47

that green roofing thing that you can get.

0:25:470:25:51

Just needs its bottom trimming off and tidying up and pinning in.

0:25:510:25:57

All you need are these,

0:25:570:25:59

just lumps of wire turned basically into hair grips.

0:25:590:26:04

The top will stay in place thanks to gravity,

0:26:040:26:06

but down the sides here where it can fall away and where the

0:26:060:26:10

two sides may split open,

0:26:100:26:12

use them like hair grips, just bending it around

0:26:120:26:16

and pushing it through.

0:26:160:26:18

You can go all the way over it doing that, so it's really secure.

0:26:180:26:22

Then lightly clip over it with a pair of shears

0:26:220:26:26

to remove dead seed heads and smarten it up.

0:26:260:26:30

The great thing about sedum like this

0:26:310:26:33

is it is pretty drought-resistant because it's a succulent.

0:26:330:26:37

So if you forget to water for one day, it isn't going to die, but try to keep it as moist as you can.

0:26:370:26:42

There are alternatives to sedum, Sempervivums, houseleeks,

0:26:420:26:47

you can propagate them, but it will take quite a lot to cover this.

0:26:470:26:51

It's very wildlife friendly.

0:26:510:26:54

Lots of insects can live in and around this.

0:26:540:26:56

You are left with a neat and tidy way to encourage wildlife and a

0:26:580:27:01

low-maintenance living sculpture perfect as a patio feature.

0:27:010:27:06

Course, you could say to yourself on the whole,

0:27:110:27:14

I'd rather plant and clip a topiary specimen.

0:27:140:27:18

Well, the choice is yours, but I rather enjoyed doing that.

0:27:180:27:22

Hatfield has a special place in gardening history.

0:27:280:27:31

It was the first garden to feature a wealth of new and exciting plants from around the world.

0:27:310:27:37

Jennifer Potter is an historian who can explain just how Hatfield

0:27:420:27:46

established itself as one of the horticultural wonders of the age.

0:27:460:27:50

Jennifer, Hatfield is a garden saturated in history almost like no other.

0:27:500:27:56

In recent times, Lord Salisbury, when Prime Minister, would cycle

0:27:560:28:00

up and down this lime walk to get his exercise.

0:28:000:28:03

The place goes back much further than that.

0:28:030:28:06

The place really came into its own under James I

0:28:060:28:11

with Robert Cecil who created this wonderful house and garden.

0:28:110:28:15

One of the main reasons the garden is so special,

0:28:150:28:20

is he hired as his main gardener, John Tradescant,

0:28:200:28:24

the first celebrity gardener.

0:28:240:28:26

John Tradescant began work at Hatfield in 1611.

0:28:260:28:31

Thanks to his employer, Robert Cecil,

0:28:310:28:33

he was able to create an unrivalled network of contacts

0:28:330:28:36

with royal houses and gardens across Europe.

0:28:360:28:39

He's been immortalised on a newel post inside the house.

0:28:390:28:43

What plants did Tradescant introduce to this country that had not been seen before?

0:28:450:28:50

When he started working for Cecil, within a year he was sent

0:28:500:28:56

to the Low Countries on a wonderful plant buying spree.

0:28:560:29:01

Tradescant knew all the best places to get rare and exotic plants.

0:29:010:29:06

He went to Leiden, Amsterdam, he was travelling around buying strange

0:29:060:29:11

lilies, lots of tulips, lots of fruit trees, rare fruit trees.

0:29:110:29:17

This must have blown Cecil away

0:29:170:29:19

when he came home with these things, real exotics.

0:29:190:29:22

Real wonderful plants.

0:29:220:29:25

That is why Cecil wanted him.

0:29:250:29:27

He wanted his garden to be the best and then to be the best,

0:29:270:29:31

you had to have things that were rare and strange.

0:29:310:29:35

Many of the borders were planted with pinks,

0:29:370:29:40

Cecil's favourite flower.

0:29:400:29:42

Tradescant's finds from around the world are still flourishing in the gardens.

0:29:420:29:48

Plants such as Asphodeline lutea from Europe.

0:29:500:29:54

Eremurus robustus, commonly known as the foxtail lily.

0:29:550:29:59

from the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia.

0:29:590:30:02

And Dracunculus vulgaris, the Dragon Arum from Greece.

0:30:020:30:07

Let's take the example of roses.

0:30:070:30:10

When he was in Harlem,

0:30:100:30:12

he bought 16 Provence Roses. Those are actually Centifolia Roses,

0:30:120:30:19

which the Dutch had just begun to develop in the late 1580s.

0:30:190:30:23

They are often called cabbage roses.

0:30:230:30:25

So the roses he brought over

0:30:250:30:29

where those amazing ones you see in the Dutch paintings.

0:30:290:30:33

Centifolia Roses. Rather like, this is a moth rose...

0:30:330:30:37

-With all the moss on the bud, yeah.

-..which is a sort of Centifolia.

0:30:370:30:42

-What does it smell like?

-Wonderful.

0:30:420:30:44

Cheap talcum powder, but delicious.

0:30:440:30:47

But poor John Tradescant would not have been able to smell it,

0:30:470:30:51

-he had no sense of smell.

-No!

0:30:510:30:52

We know that, because when he went to Russia he talks of being in the port of

0:30:520:31:00

Archangel and saying that there is a terrible stench of fish oil

0:31:000:31:05

-"But having no sense of smell it offendeth me not".

-The poor man.

0:31:050:31:11

-The poor man.

-All those plants and he couldn't smell one of them.

0:31:110:31:14

As well as exotic flowers, another legacy is the fruit trees

0:31:140:31:20

he brought to Hatfield including 20,000 vines, peaches, nectarines and apricot trees.

0:31:200:31:27

Fruits we take for granted today were a sophisticated novelty then.

0:31:270:31:31

If you were fashion and status-conscious what you really needed was one of these.

0:31:310:31:37

Available nowadays in every garden centre,

0:31:370:31:41

but then, potted citrus was a prize to treasure.

0:31:410:31:45

But this golden period of discovery was to be short lived.

0:31:460:31:50

In the 1640s, harmony in Britain was shattered

0:31:500:31:54

with the onset of civil war.

0:31:540:31:57

The victorious puritans viewed lavish gardens

0:31:570:32:00

as a symbol of frivolous indulgence.

0:32:000:32:02

Many of the greatest were entirely destroyed.

0:32:020:32:07

Estates like Hatfield were encouraged to cultivate

0:32:070:32:11

practical kitchen gardens and be proud of them.

0:32:110:32:14

Here, the kitchen garden isn't tucked away, it sits side by side with the elaborate parterres.

0:32:140:32:22

With exotic fruit trees being frowned upon, difficult to obtain

0:32:220:32:27

and difficult to grow, it made sense to look closer to home for our fruited pleasures.

0:32:270:32:34

The age was dawning of the apple and pear.

0:32:340:32:39

The puritans believed that all wasteland should be planted with

0:32:440:32:47

fruit trees for the relief of the poor, the benefit of the rich

0:32:470:32:52

and the delight of all.

0:32:520:32:53

They increased the size of orchards and analysed how fruit trees actually grew,

0:32:590:33:05

discovering the phenomenon known today as the June drop.

0:33:050:33:08

David, they were hugely keen on fruit trees in the 17th century.

0:33:090:33:14

It seemed almost a reflection of their own virility.

0:33:140:33:17

Fecundity everywhere.

0:33:170:33:19

Crops, crops, crops.

0:33:190:33:21

They really were passionate about growing fruit.

0:33:210:33:24

They were accustomed to things you've got here.

0:33:240:33:26

The classic June drop. The fruit's been fertilised, some of it started

0:33:260:33:31

-to grow but in June there's a moment where nature does its own thinning.

-The fruit either

0:33:310:33:36

wasn't fertilised properly and it fell off or there just was too many

0:33:360:33:40

on the trees so the trees shed some.

0:33:400:33:43

Most apple trees drop up to half their fruits quite naturally

0:33:440:33:48

in June and July, but it was the 17th century gardeners

0:33:480:33:51

who came up with the technique to help the trees out.

0:33:510:33:55

Bunches of apples where there maybe three or four,

0:33:550:33:59

they won't produce a good sized apple so you just go around

0:33:590:34:03

and thin the odd one out to give it a better chance, really.

0:34:030:34:07

It's worth removing all the fruit on a young

0:34:110:34:13

fruit tree in its first year, heartbreaking though that might be.

0:34:130:34:18

It helps to concentrate its energies on its root and branch growth.

0:34:180:34:21

The Puritans weren't concerned with how their apple and pear trees looked, but the restoration

0:34:230:34:30

of King Charles II saw a return to aesthetics

0:34:300:34:33

in the garden and the humble fruit tree would benefit most of all.

0:34:330:34:38

Up to this point we trained our fruit trees in tight mop-headed shapes

0:34:450:34:51

but over the Channel in France

0:34:510:34:53

they were doing something much more elaborate and sophisticated.

0:34:530:34:57

It wasn't long before jealousy meant that we did it over here.

0:34:570:35:01

This was it. The espalier.

0:35:010:35:04

The trained fruit tree.

0:35:040:35:06

One central trunk and then branches taken out sideways in tiers.

0:35:060:35:11

Ornamental, yes, but also practical.

0:35:110:35:15

These branches, their blossom and their fruits are held against a warm south-facing wall.

0:35:150:35:22

That means they are protected from frost.

0:35:220:35:24

It also means that the fruit ripens faster.

0:35:240:35:27

You could pick a tastier crop earlier in the year.

0:35:270:35:30

It wins over the bush hands down.

0:35:300:35:35

At Hatfield, we see how training fruit trees in the espalier fashion

0:35:350:35:39

can be both decorative and productive.

0:35:390:35:42

But not all of us have a large south-facing wall.

0:35:460:35:49

Well, don't despair, I've got a neat alternative.

0:35:490:35:52

There is a way of fitting of fruit trees into the smallest garden.

0:35:590:36:03

That involves using what are known as single tier espaliers or

0:36:030:36:09

commonly known as stepover trees.

0:36:090:36:12

You need an apple tree like this on a dwarfing rootstock.

0:36:120:36:15

That means it's never going to be one that you can sit under in your

0:36:150:36:19

deckchair, but it will keep it small and in proportion to your garden.

0:36:190:36:23

It's these sideways spreading arms,

0:36:230:36:25

the first tier of the espalier that you aim to keep.

0:36:250:36:29

Anything that's coming up here needs to be snipped off sideways.

0:36:290:36:34

Lateral growths that you're encouraging here,

0:36:340:36:36

not growth that's going to come upwards.

0:36:360:36:39

Like all trees, even a small one like this

0:36:390:36:42

needs to be planted to last.

0:36:420:36:45

Spend as much on the hole as you do on the tree.

0:36:450:36:49

That means working into the bottom lots of well-rotted manure.

0:36:490:36:54

Some in the bottom of the hole and some in the soil around so that

0:36:540:36:58

when you put the plant in you can return it and mix it with that.

0:36:580:37:03

Now planting depth is quite important.

0:37:030:37:06

These roots here, if they're really tightly bound into that root ball

0:37:100:37:15

just tease them out a bit.

0:37:150:37:17

And then you can fill back with more manure and more soil.

0:37:170:37:23

Just firming it in with your fist or your welly as you go.

0:37:230:37:27

Now, it's had canes to support it in the nursery while it's been trained

0:37:300:37:35

but I've put in a post and wire framework which you can tighten

0:37:350:37:39

to give you a nice taut support.

0:37:390:37:41

The thing to do now is to take off these canes and gradually

0:37:410:37:48

tie these horizontal stems back into that new wire.

0:37:480:37:53

Once those little tiny plastic ties have come off and this cane

0:37:530:37:58

has come out, you will see that it's quite capable, really,

0:37:580:38:04

of supporting itself.

0:38:040:38:06

But not for long.

0:38:060:38:08

These now need to be tied in to make sure that they

0:38:080:38:13

take to this framework rather than the previous one.

0:38:130:38:16

I'm using plastic-coated wire here,

0:38:160:38:19

which is fine for winding around that and then the stem.

0:38:190:38:24

You do this, right the way along the stem.

0:38:240:38:26

It's a lovely satisfying job this.

0:38:320:38:35

There we are. We've got the makings of our stepover tree.

0:38:350:38:40

The one thing that people worry about with fruit trees of course though is pruning.

0:38:400:38:45

The things with these is, it couldn't be simpler.

0:38:450:38:49

Most of your pruning takes place in summer,

0:38:490:38:52

that's why it's called summer pruning.

0:38:520:38:54

Summer pruning tends to restrict growth

0:38:540:38:56

whereas pruning things hard back in winter encourages vast spring growth.

0:38:560:39:02

By pruning in summer and simply shortening these side shoots or laterals

0:39:020:39:07

back to about finger length,

0:39:070:39:09

you will build up the fruiting spurs,

0:39:090:39:11

these short, stocky shoots that carry blossom and then apples.

0:39:110:39:16

It looks incredibly simple,

0:39:160:39:19

that's because it is.

0:39:190:39:21

You will find in the middle, often enough

0:39:210:39:24

a chute which is deciding, no, I'm sorry,

0:39:240:39:26

I want to be a proper apple tree, I want to grow very, very tall.

0:39:260:39:29

Don't leave it on.

0:39:290:39:30

Cut it back to finger length.

0:39:300:39:33

Now, one year on you've got five fruits on this,

0:39:410:39:45

but each tree can easily have a dozen of them.

0:39:450:39:49

Feed them well every year. Make sure they don't go short of water

0:39:490:39:52

and keep up this summer pruning.

0:39:520:39:54

The great thing then though is providing you've got an inside leg measurement of more than 24 inches,

0:39:540:40:00

you'll see exactly why they're called stepover apple trees.

0:40:000:40:03

Contorting trees is a tradition that's been used through the centuries.

0:40:060:40:12

It doesn't have to be purely functional.

0:40:120:40:14

At Butterfly World in St Albans,

0:40:160:40:18

designer Ivan Hicks has taken tree contortion to a new level.

0:40:180:40:23

He's creating extraordinary living rooms for the wildlife

0:40:230:40:28

where the trees and plants have become part of the furniture.

0:40:280:40:32

Well in the 17th century they were manipulating trees,

0:40:320:40:35

largely for fruit production in a limited space.

0:40:350:40:39

In my gardens I like to use plants for their own sake.

0:40:390:40:42

Nature is very forgiving. Trees are so plastic,

0:40:420:40:45

so malleable, it's just like PlayDoh.

0:40:450:40:48

It will allow you to do things, to bend things and if it doesn't like it

0:40:480:40:51

it will just shoot off in the other way quite often.

0:40:510:40:56

Ivan believes there's more value to be had out of the tree in the garden than we realise.

0:40:560:41:01

The most interesting tree in the garden generally is a tree that has fallen over and grown

0:41:010:41:05

at an angle or grown with another one so you literally can plant two trees of quite different characters in the

0:41:050:41:11

same hole and just watch them do it, or plant them at an angle or bend them over to make an arch.

0:41:110:41:17

Nature will find its own way, you're just doing a little bit of direction and placing.

0:41:170:41:22

Here, he's trained an oak through a book shelf.

0:41:220:41:26

And around a chair.

0:41:260:41:29

What I'm going to do here, I'm going to make these two little crabs

0:41:290:41:34

mirror the gothic arch on the bed.

0:41:340:41:36

I'm going to do that just by

0:41:360:41:39

cutting out the tops of these and the side branches all

0:41:390:41:44

of which will make sure the sap goes to the top rather than to the side.

0:41:440:41:50

Also in doing so, by spur pruning, I shall encourage fruits

0:41:500:41:55

all the way around which will really highlight it in the autumn.

0:41:550:41:58

For the final check to literally point them in the right direction,

0:41:580:42:02

there's the gothic arch shaping up.

0:42:020:42:05

Here, I'm training this little crab apple around a mirror.

0:42:090:42:14

I've cut off the leading head

0:42:140:42:16

and I shall cut off these lower branches here.

0:42:160:42:19

And I'm wrapping these two around the shape of the mirror.

0:42:190:42:26

What you mustn't do is strangle the tree.

0:42:260:42:29

It's essential to tie the stems in gently so the sap can flow freely.

0:42:290:42:34

There.

0:42:340:42:36

Next year when they've grown on a little bit,

0:42:380:42:41

I'll tie them in there and prune the ends off.

0:42:410:42:44

I could let a shoot go on up.

0:42:440:42:46

I could let shoots come to the side here as a sun ray pattern.

0:42:460:42:50

Just like an espalier apple really.

0:42:500:42:54

One of the simplest,

0:42:540:42:56

yet most effective contortions is the corkscrew.

0:42:560:43:01

It's quite easy to grow a corkscrew tree.

0:43:010:43:03

All you need is a very pliable stem.

0:43:030:43:05

I'm using willow as an example.

0:43:050:43:07

If this was a young bay tree,

0:43:070:43:08

you'd train at around something cylindrical,

0:43:080:43:11

a piece of plastic drainpipe for instance and as it grows you tie it.

0:43:110:43:15

It's something very pliable,

0:43:150:43:17

like a willow, you could do that in one season and then all you have

0:43:170:43:21

to do is to take the shoots off the side as they grow,

0:43:210:43:24

to make sure the sap is continually flowing upwards.

0:43:240:43:27

Easy peasey.

0:43:270:43:29

Hatfield is an important monument to 17th century garden design,

0:43:400:43:45

but we're fortunate it exists at all.

0:43:450:43:48

After Robert Cecil's death in 1612,

0:43:480:43:50

his son, William, continued to maintain the gardens.

0:43:500:43:54

But the next five Earls showed no interest

0:43:540:43:57

in the garden at all and it fell into disrepair.

0:43:570:44:01

One family member wrote, "the general mediocrity of

0:44:010:44:04

"intelligence the family displayed was only varied by instances of quite exceptional stupidity".

0:44:040:44:11

By the time the seventh Earl held sway in 1789, what was left

0:44:110:44:17

of the formal garden fell victim to the landscape movement.

0:44:170:44:21

They ripped out the formal gardens

0:44:210:44:23

to make way for a more naturalistic design.

0:44:230:44:27

Fortunately, in the last 50 years,

0:44:270:44:29

Hatfield has been restored to its former glory.

0:44:290:44:33

The formal garden has returned, and Cecil and Tradescant's passion

0:44:330:44:37

for new and exciting plants has also been revived by two successive Lady Salisburys.

0:44:370:44:45

Lady Salisbury, this garden has always changed, from the times of

0:44:450:44:48

the first Lord Salisbury and Tradescant right the way through subsequent generations.

0:44:480:44:53

What are you doing? What's your stamp?

0:44:530:44:56

There's no problem with putting one's stamp here,

0:44:560:44:59

because gardens are very generous.

0:44:590:45:01

We try to stay within

0:45:010:45:03

the context of an old garden, but we use shrubs and roses that

0:45:030:45:07

are modern sometimes because a lot of them are less prone to mildew.

0:45:070:45:11

It seems to me it is also important to keep a garden rejuvenated and

0:45:110:45:15

-filled with youth the whole time in terms of the age of the plants.

-Yes, I couldn't agree more.

0:45:150:45:20

In the sundial garden, Lady Salisbury's introduced a blue and silver border on one side.

0:45:200:45:27

She's also planted 400 modern shrub roses.

0:45:270:45:32

These are similar to the oldest shrub roses in the garden, the Centifolia types

0:45:320:45:37

that John Tradescant brought back, all of them hardy and a good number disease resistant.

0:45:370:45:44

But the Charles de Mills I'm very thrilled with.

0:45:440:45:47

What do you like of the roses you see here?

0:45:470:45:49

You have just mentioned my favourites. Charles de Mills I think is one of the best old roses.

0:45:490:45:55

The problem with a lot of these old ones is they have this one,

0:45:550:45:58

glorious but brief season of flowering and then they're done.

0:45:580:46:01

So if I had to choose an old rose which continued flowering, so it's

0:46:010:46:04

got the double whammy of that, it'd be the Jacques Cartier,

0:46:040:46:08

-that wonderful soft pink.

-We have a Jacques Cartier.

0:46:080:46:11

So this is Jacques Cartier, which has all the merits of an old rose,

0:46:110:46:16

a wonderful scent, beautiful flower formation, and it flowers on and off

0:46:160:46:20

right the way through the summer.

0:46:200:46:22

Madame Hardy, raised in 1832, may not be as old as Tradescant's roses,

0:46:240:46:29

but has every bit as much character.

0:46:290:46:32

Of the white shrubs, I do think Madame Hardy's wonderful.

0:46:320:46:35

There's a great purity in that flower.

0:46:350:46:37

This is the perfect moment to see it.

0:46:370:46:39

The first flowers open, and then all those buds around them

0:46:390:46:42

that you know will come, after a tiny bit of dead-heading taking the old ones off...

0:46:420:46:46

-A lot of dead-heading I think on these roses.

-But worth it to get that.

0:46:460:46:49

But I hope in a few years' time these will all catch up and we'll have just

0:46:490:46:53

a solid mass of roses, with pinks underplanted, but early days still.

0:46:530:46:58

Good to see a garden in its youth.

0:46:580:47:00

At first glance, the gardens at Hatfield seen huge and imposing,

0:47:040:47:08

but the truth is they look bigger than they actually are.

0:47:080:47:11

It's evidence that the designers here were masters of illusion.

0:47:110:47:16

However grand your house and garden, there were ways of

0:47:240:47:28

cheating with perspective to make it appear even grander still.

0:47:280:47:34

The entrance to Hatfield, that drive,

0:47:340:47:36

starts through a narrow alley way of lime trees, and then as you

0:47:360:47:40

can see it expands hugely sideways to make the house and grounds even more important.

0:47:400:47:48

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.

0:47:480:47:53

We've been doing it in gardening for years.

0:47:530:47:57

But the use of perspective wasn't just about emphasising

0:47:570:48:01

the size of your plot and the scale of your house.

0:48:010:48:03

Designers loved to make the same idea work in different parts of the garden.

0:48:030:48:08

We see this in the Holly Walk.

0:48:080:48:11

There's a neat trick which demonstrates how perspective can still be used even on a small scale,

0:48:110:48:16

smaller than this at home, but this is the Holly Walk.

0:48:160:48:19

Grass path, statue at the end, which seems

0:48:190:48:23

a long way away, but that statue is exactly the same distance from me as is that bench there. The secret?

0:48:230:48:31

The bench is large, the statute is smaller, the path narrows towards

0:48:310:48:38

the end, and those buttresses of holly are more frequent.

0:48:380:48:44

Neat, eh?

0:48:440:48:46

But the use of perspective didn't originate in England.

0:48:460:48:50

Yes, you guessed, like the parterre and the espalier, it was first used

0:48:500:48:54

on the other side of the Channel.

0:48:540:48:57

The French were the true masters of perspective, and here

0:48:570:49:00

at the gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte, you can see it at its most dramatic.

0:49:000:49:05

In 1665, the designer Andre Le Notre created these gardens outside Paris

0:49:050:49:11

and showed this new trick in a ground-breaking way.

0:49:110:49:14

The gardens at first glance appear to be perfectly formal and symmetrical.

0:49:140:49:20

They're designed to be viewed from above

0:49:200:49:22

and have all the trademark alleys, statues, parterres and pools.

0:49:220:49:27

But, as the head gardener explains, there's more to this design than meets the eye.

0:49:270:49:33

TRANSLATION: People actually think that French gardens are boring.

0:49:350:49:39

They say they all look the same, when in fact it's exactly the opposite.

0:49:390:49:44

The more you walk down the garden the more you discover.

0:49:440:49:48

Le Notre was a master illusionist, and it's not until you start walking

0:49:480:49:53

down the garden, that his tricks are revealed.

0:49:530:49:56

For example, all the statues in the garden

0:49:560:49:58

viewed from the house appear to be the same size.

0:49:580:50:02

Which means that those nearer the house are half the size of those further down the garden,

0:50:020:50:08

something that would never cross your mind when you first see the garden from the house.

0:50:080:50:12

TRANSLATION: Le Notre liked to play with perspective,

0:50:190:50:22

exaggerating the elements in the garden, the further away they were.

0:50:220:50:26

The same applies to the pools - from the house they all appear

0:50:290:50:32

to be the same size, but as you walk towards them you realise the pool in

0:50:320:50:37

the foreground is actually eight times smaller

0:50:370:50:40

than the square pool at the end of the garden.

0:50:400:50:43

As you go further away from the house you'll

0:50:450:50:48

suddenly discover a grand canal that was invisible before, all achieved by creating a dip in the landscape.

0:50:480:50:55

From the house the garden looks flat, but in fact it's sculpted on different levels.

0:51:020:51:07

At the end of the garden, you'll see a sloping green lawn

0:51:070:51:11

leading to a statue of Hercules,

0:51:110:51:13

but as you approach the statue, yet another pool is revealed.

0:51:130:51:17

TRANSLATION: What Le Notre has proved, is that formal gardens don't have to be two dimensional.

0:51:200:51:26

They can be a surprising voyage of discovery.

0:51:260:51:29

The tricks of using perspective can apply to any size of garden,

0:51:350:51:40

particularly if you want to make a small garden seem suddenly bigger.

0:51:400:51:44

I have a solution.

0:51:500:51:52

Ah, suddenly the perspective changes.

0:51:570:52:01

This is made out of iron by a local blacksmith.

0:52:010:52:05

It will cost you £200 or £300, you could just as easily make it out of

0:52:050:52:08

wooden trellis yourself, but this will last for an awful long time, so I thought it was worth it.

0:52:080:52:15

The trellis uses lines of perspective to suggest

0:52:170:52:19

a three-dimensional archway,

0:52:190:52:21

and the eye is drawn to the central focal point.

0:52:210:52:25

The effect is enhanced by an acrylic mirror, and hey presto, the eye sees

0:52:250:52:29

light behind and is fooled into thinking that the garden continues.

0:52:290:52:34

Can you see what it is yet?

0:52:340:52:36

The only thing is there's a hole underneath.

0:52:360:52:40

I'll need to make it look as though the path continues right up to this mirror.

0:52:400:52:45

A piece of plywood, onto which I've glued with PVA, fine gravel.

0:52:480:52:55

A little bit of masking of the white rim at the bottom.

0:52:580:53:03

But we do have this problem now

0:53:050:53:07

of birds flying into that,

0:53:070:53:09

so I need to make some adjustments.

0:53:090:53:12

But placing objects in the foreground,

0:53:170:53:20

you can create a scene for the eye to rest on.

0:53:200:53:23

What do you think of it so far?

0:53:230:53:25

All right then.

0:53:250:53:26

And that is all there is to it.

0:53:330:53:37

Where there was once a flat, boring hedge, we now have

0:53:370:53:42

a room with a view.

0:53:420:53:44

This is a simple way of turning a flat, boundary hedge or fence

0:53:470:53:52

into an entrance to another space, albeit in the imagination.

0:53:520:53:56

At Hatfield, the size of the gardens

0:54:020:54:05

works perfectly in proportion with the house.

0:54:050:54:09

But what happens when you want a formal garden,

0:54:090:54:12

but your estate is a little more modest?

0:54:120:54:15

Holly Grove is a small country house

0:54:170:54:20

that sits at the foot of the Shropshire hills.

0:54:200:54:23

Peter and Angela Unsworth moved here 20 years ago.

0:54:230:54:26

Their design for the garden was inspired by visits to formal stately homes.

0:54:260:54:32

I visit gardens and think, "Maybe I could take that back and use it in some way in my garden".

0:54:320:54:38

I love the 17th century garden particularly,

0:54:380:54:42

because I love the symmetry

0:54:420:54:45

and the sharpness of the elements of the yews in the box and the limes.

0:54:450:54:51

They only use 17th century elements that work with the needs of the garden.

0:54:530:54:59

The traditional, dark yew hedge is used practically as a windbreak

0:54:590:55:04

and as a backdrop to plants, but is also topiarised into a structure

0:55:040:55:08

that complements the house.

0:55:080:55:10

We'd already put the wall in, so I thought it would be quite nice

0:55:100:55:14

to echo the shape of the wall in the yew hedges.

0:55:140:55:18

So that's what we did.

0:55:180:55:20

Another element of formal symmetry is the pleached lime walk.

0:55:200:55:24

These alleys work particularly well if they draw the eye to a focal point.

0:55:240:55:29

By horizontally binding the branches, they fuse together

0:55:290:55:33

due to a natural phenomenon called inosculation.

0:55:330:55:38

In order to do that you've got to set up a framework of some kind.

0:55:380:55:41

We actually purchased 10-foot pieces of steel section.

0:55:410:55:44

The trees were planted against this, fairly hefty wire was stretched

0:55:440:55:48

along the whole length, and each branch was clipped to it.

0:55:480:55:53

But Angela's biggest passion is the parterre she created at the front of the house.

0:56:060:56:12

My bedroom window overlooks the parterre,

0:56:120:56:15

and so when I get up in the morning I can look through my window

0:56:150:56:20

and say, "You're looking pretty today".

0:56:200:56:23

I used two types of box.

0:56:230:56:27

I weaved the golden box through the green standard box

0:56:270:56:31

and it's just showed up the pattern much better.

0:56:310:56:35

Originally I put gravel between the box, but I found the weeds were still coming through on that, so I had the

0:56:350:56:43

idea to put the slate chippings and put them in about that thick,

0:56:430:56:48

you see, and that really suppresses the weeds,

0:56:480:56:52

so no maintenance with weeding, which is a joy.

0:56:520:56:55

I particularly love the parterre in winter,

0:56:550:56:59

because when everything else is dying back,

0:56:590:57:01

it always looks pretty, and particularly

0:57:010:57:04

when there's, say, a hoar frost or a bit of snow, it's really magical.

0:57:040:57:09

Peter and Angela's design shows us

0:57:090:57:12

how ideas from the 17th century transcend the ages.

0:57:120:57:17

Like its grander counterpart, Hatfield,

0:57:170:57:20

it's designed to work in harmony with the house.

0:57:200:57:23

The trick of learning from this elegant old garden,

0:57:250:57:29

is to pick and choose what works for you.

0:57:290:57:32

What I've tried to show is that, with a little inspiration,

0:57:320:57:36

a 400 year-old design can be easily

0:57:360:57:38

and effectively translated to suit today's smaller patches.

0:57:380:57:43

Hatfield reflects the sheer joy of gardening that would

0:57:430:57:48

turn the grandest of noblemen into a green-fingered obsessive.

0:57:480:57:52

For the first time here, the garden was used as something to show off the design of the home.

0:57:520:57:59

It's a state of affairs that's been with us ever since.

0:57:590:58:02

Next time, the formal gardens of the 17th century are swept away

0:58:140:58:19

to make way for the dreamy naturalism

0:58:190:58:22

of the landscape movement.

0:58:220:58:23

I reveal the secrets

0:58:230:58:25

behind one of the most spectacular gardens in the country.

0:58:250:58:29

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:370:58:42

Email [email protected]

0:58:420:58:46

Alan Titchmarsh presents a stunning series that reveals the amazing secrets behind Britain's great gardens, examining how they continue to influence gardeners, including himself, today.

In the first episode, Alan visits Hatfield House in Hertfordshire to look at the key design features of the gardens of this 17th-century stately home. This was a time when horticulture and architecture worked seamlessly together and Hatfield reflects this new love of the aesthetic. Alan examines the famous parterres, which are some of the first examples of Britain's affection for formal gardening, and shows how the parterre has been brought into the 21st century by designer Tom Stuart-Smith with his designs at Broughton Grange in Oxfordshire.

Alan also looks at the use of perspective, which at Hatfield makes the driveways seem bigger, and changes how the garden is seen from different points of view. He looks at a French import, espaliers, that have been used to stunning effect in Hatfield, and shows how these have changed the way we contort trees in our garden, including his own tip on stepover apple trees.

Plus, he reveals how our affection for topiaries began in gardens such as this, where they were originally seen as architectural forms complementing the design of the house. Alan shows in his own garden that you don't need to plant hedges to achieve this, creating a portable sedum cube.