What’s with all the fake flowers in Bridgerton? Of course, the whole show is deliciously fake – from deportment to race relations, it’s all a bosom-heaving historical fantasy – but that lurid wall of plastic-looking wisteria perpetually in bloom at the Bridgerton residence had me hooting with derision. And that was before the Duke presented Daphne with that ghastly white rose.
If I am to be seduced by a vision of sensuality and romance, with a smattering of scandal and danger, I want real flowers, with an occasional worm in the bud for metaphorical oomph.
For Austen-era romance with flowers, and mud, my pick is Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, the one with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy. The scene when Lizzie tartly rejects Darcy’s first proposal is filmed in the Temple of Apollo at Stourhead, near Bath. Stourhead is a masterpiece of Arcadian garden design, laid out in the last half of the 18th century. A tree-lined path meanders around a three-armed lake, opening and closing on vistas across the water to classical temples. It’s even better in real life than in the movie.
Other nominations for best English garden in a movie include Stokesay Court, location for another Keira Knightley film, Atonement, and Chatsworth for The Duchess – with Knightley, again – but the Oscar surely goes to Peppard Cottage in Oxfordshire, star of the 1992 production of Howards End. The cottage was owned by a couple of enthusiastic gardeners and the roses and wisteria draped over the old stone walls, the huge mound of Euphorbia wulfenii by the front door, and the dreamy bluebell wood were all real.