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.