Press Centre

The Queen’s Garden

  • Episode: 

    1 of 2

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Thu 25 Dec 2014
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    3.10pm - 4.10pm
  • Week: 

    Week 52 2014 : Sat 20 Dec - Fri 26 Dec
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

  • Amended: 

    Tue 02 Dec 2014
The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 9 December 2014.
The Queen’s Garden
“We think we know Buckingham Palace. After all, it’s one of the most famous buildings in the world. And yet very few of us have the privilege of experiencing the full extent of the wonderland that lies behind it.”  Alan Titchmarsh
With permission from Her Majesty The Queen, Alan Titchmarsh spends a whole year exploring a royal treasure, the Buckingham Palace Garden. He discovers a wonderland with a five-century history, an urban oasis of wildlife where the Queen grew up and a “living museum” where almost every plant has a royal story to tell.
Using cutting-edge natural history film-making methods, Alan and his film crew explore and capture the garden from every angle to offer viewers a rare, rich and intimate insight into 39 acres unlike any other in Central London.  
It’s mid-summer as Alan arrives at the Buckingham Palace Garden and a river of traffic cascades around the enormous perimeter wall. Behind it, it’s a very different pace of life. The Queen’s summer garden parties are over and the tea tents are gone. Alan ventures across the three-acre lake to the far side of the garden to take a closer look at a rare plant, that embodies just why the garden is so unique.
Alan says: “Take a look at this little white flower. It may not seem terribly spectacular but it’s the sign of something very exciting. It was found growing here a year ago and before that it hadn’t been discovered in London for over a century. The helliborine orchid, normally a native of chalk woodland, miles away from here, it’s a sign that this is one of the richest environments for hundreds of square miles around.”
The garden’s 39 acres is enough for 22 football pitches and Alan is taken aback by the sheer scale of it: “As you venture around the lake, into the wildest places, you feel like you’re deep in the country.”
During her reign, Her Majesty has made the garden a place where nature thrives. It now plays host to 350 species of wildflower, 83 species of bird and two and a half thousand British species of insect, including butterflies. 
It’s been the garden of Queen Elizabeth II for longer than any other monarch. A rare film from 1937 shows the Queen as an 11 year old princess with her younger sister princess Margaret, having just moved into the palace. Alan hears tales about the Queen’s childhood from royal historian Dr Lucy Worsley, who explains that the young princesses held a wistful fascination with what was beyond the garden walls.
Lucy says: “The story comes from Marion Crawford’s (former Governess to the princesses) memoirs that they used to come up here as a favoured location. And the point was, was that from here you could see the outside world, and that’s how she referred to it. And she describes how they could see the cars coming up and down the road and they could see ordinary children…with their nannies going up the road to the park.”
Today, the Queen keeps 200,000 bees in four hives in the garden and Alan meets their bee-keeper John Chapple, as he harvests honey. Not only is it used in the royal kitchens, Her Majesty has even given some to the Pope.
John explains its unique flavour: “Well here at Buckingham Palace there’s a very large variety of trees and plants which gives this honey a very unique flavour. If it’s in here, the bees will find it, and we’re tasting it”. 
Alan goes further back in time to explore the garden’s origin. It was part of a hunting ground of Henry VIII that now forms the basis of central London’s Royal Parks. He meets the ‘oldest’ tree in the garden, a mulberry tree purporting to have been planted in 1609 when James I tried his hand at beginning a silk-making industry, as silk moths feed on mulberries. 
King James’ legacy remains in the form of 50 mulberry trees, which today form the basis of the National Collection of Mulberries. Alan heads into the royal kitchen and can’t resist a taste of the mulberry crumble being prepared by the Queen’s head chef, who explains that everything that can be used from the garden, is used in the kitchen.
Late summer is the best time to view the glorious Rose Garden in the north west corner of the garden, with the resplendent 18th century Summer House. The Royal William and the iridescent Golden Wedding are among varieties of rose specially bred for The Queen. But even royal roses aren’t immune to treasonous aphids. The Queen prefers not to use pesticides and so the gardening team unconventionally battle greenfly using garlic.  
As the sun goes down, Alan has been given permission to visit the garden at night to try to locate the pipistrelle bats, the smallest bat in Britain, using night vision cameras and high tech listening equipment.
Ecologist Phillip Briggs explains: “Most London parks have lighting, so it’s really unusual to get an open space like this which is devoid of lighting and the bats do like that…One of these tiny pipistrelles can eat up to 3000 midges in one evening.”
As the leaves turn gold, silver and crimson, autumn arrives and for the gardeners it’s a time of planning and preparation, pruning and planting.
They must also prepare for an unusual event, as Prince William has organised a kick-about, Windsor-style, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the FA, of which he is president. It is the first time a football match has ever been played on the lawn at Buckingham Palace. And surely the first time footballers anywhere have played on turf infused with perfumed chamomile.
Alan also finds out more about an enormous, 20 tonne Waterloo Vase, which is the height of a double decker bus. The huge piece of Italian marble was a spoil of war that was too heavy for the floors of Windsor Castle, so Edward VII had it moved to its current reinforced garden plinth. 
As the garden turns regal shades of crimson, amber and gold, the gardening team battle to save a tree planted by the Queen’s father. It has succumbed to the leaf miner moth caterpillars and needs a specially developed insecticide to survive. 
But by and large, the Queen is a green gardener and relies heavily on a secret magic ingredient, the ‘arisings’ from the horses at the nearby royal mews, otherwise known as manure. Two tonnes of it are produced every day and it is combined with the garden’s Autumn waste, resulting in a king-sized compost heap. The compost is warm due to the bacteria, meaning that small mammals can also take advantage of it.
As winter arrives, the royal robins enjoy a Christmas feast of worms as gardeners turn the beds. Alan helps gather plants from the garden to take into the palace to help a royal florist deck the halls with royal holly and mistletoe. 
Finally, pinecones have been brought from Balmoral and the Christmas tree from Windsor is decorated in all its splendour inside the Palace.