07 April 2020, The Tablet

Easter box set


Easter box set

Alexander Armstrong, left, with head gardener James Cross in the Bishop’s Palace Gardens, Wells
Photo: BBC/Tern Productions, Adam Walker


Perch on the sofa not the pew for this year’s seasonal offerings

Heavenly Gardens, broadcast on BBC1 in two episodes (the first on Good Friday and the follow-up on Easter Sunday), visits an important theme for Easter: the way that gardens in Christian theology and iconography represent the equilibrium and harmony of natural order. Despite unfortunately having been filmed when autumn leaves were thick on the ground, the presenters muffled up in woolly hats and battling against a seemingly constant accompaniment of drizzle, there are some glorious aerial shots of gardens, ruins, parterres and orchards.

In episode one the theme is order, the garden as a reflection of Eden. It starts off at the Benedictine community of Pluscarden Abbey where one of the presenters, former choral scholar Alexander Armstrong, is introduced to the monastery garden and learns about the Rule of St Benedict, reflecting on the idea of ora et labora that underpins it. He joins the monks as they sing the Office and then goes outside to pick apples with them too.

Meanwhile his fellow presenter, garden designer Arit Anderson, visits beautiful Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, and learns about the knot garden created 20 years ago to a design based on a pattern woven into the costume worn by Queen Elizabeth I in a picture in Sudeley.

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