A couple of weeks ago, a Bristol based researcher for BBC Gardeners’ World was looking to fill a last slot in their schedule for a short autumn feature to be shown in 2016. Rob came across Barn House garden on the NGS website, the brief was late season colour and, if filming went ahead, it would be at short notice. A day or two later he visited to see the garden and interview us, which was a pleasure as he was so charming and knowledgeable.
Much to our delight Rob called the following week to confirm a date. Fortunately, there wasn’t time to panic about whether the garden was up to scratch, instead we focused on the autumn work as planned. Settling nursery plants in for winter is a priority, new stock like the sesleria plugs are top of the list as we plan to divide them next year.
Last Friday morning, the friendly and enthusiastic crew arrived bang on time and quickly set to work assembling their kit : everything was compact and portable, powered by battery packs and free from lengths of trailing cables. Patty, the director and producer, was a marvel, and soon put us at ease. She did a quick walk through the garden with Rob logging the sequence of what they’d use to tell the story she had in mind, it must be like doing a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle. One of the extra items that caught her keen eye was dazzling Pennisetum macrourum.
Once we were miked up, footage for the short introductory interview was filmed with us seated at the little white metal bistro table, in the blink of an eye this had been cleverly repositioned in front of the rugby scrum of fading ginger lilies. As predicted, Patty spent an hour teasing material from us between pauses for extraneous background noise to subside – even a distantly passing plane was enough to mar Gary’s soundtrack, let alone the churning of a neighbour’s cement mixer. She patiently prompted the narrative with questions, some were quite tricky. The potential nuisance value of self seeding grasses always makes me smile : much of the garden, especially the little meadow, has been raised from seed, and, if not seed, then by division, all thanks to plants with generous natures.
When done, we gladly handed the garden over for the rest of the morning, rushed indoors to put the heating on and made hand warming hot drinks for everyone. Having defrosted, there were a few walk though shots plus short pieces on specific grasses to stumble through, I’m proud to say Hitesh rattled off his spiel about the bamboo with his usual aplomb in only two takes, after all, these 24′ tall monsters are his pride and joy.
Over a quick soup lunch, we enjoyed hearing tales of places they’ve seen and people they’ve met, including the legendary Geoff Hamilton, Patty recalls him fondly as she was working with him the week prior to his tragic death from a heart attack in 1996.
Rob was involved in the fliming of Craigieburn garden and nursery with its fabulous collection of Himalayan flora including the most breathtaking display of Meconopsis poppies. A clip from this episode of Gardeners’ World, July 2015 is available here on iPlayer. Listening to their wonderful stories brought home our good fortune : we’d never have imagined that our garden would be filmed by the BBC for a programme we’ve been glued to for decades.
Towards the end of the afternoon a long arm boom was called for, we held our breath as we watched Robin deftly manoeuvre a counter-weighted camera that swooped like a Valkyrie first above the grasses terrace, and then, the meadow. This delicate work was time consuming, the concentration required almost palpable, yet, thrilling to watch. It was the perfect end to a very special day.
The next day we took the dogs out for an early morning romp through their favourite patch of sniff-rich woodland as a reward for having been so well behaved, then treated ourselves to a delicious brunch. As we clinked a glass of fizz, the toast had to be ‘The NGS’, thanks to their publicity we enjoy a bonus of an undreamed of page to add to the garden scrapbook.