I’m now fully convinced that if you looked up the definition of brilliant in the dictionary, there would simply be a photo of Dame Judi Dench. Turning 83 years young today, the Oscar/Tony/BAFTA/Laurence Olivier/Golden Globe/Screen Actors Guild award winner is embarking on a new chapter in her life. Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees, airing Wednesday, 20 December, at 8p on BBC1, centers on the actress’ six acre back garden in Surrey in which she plants trees in remembrance of friends, relatives and actors who have died.
Seeing trees as her ‘extended family’, Dench began planting trees with her late husband, Michael Williams. “I started planting trees here with my actor husband Michael Williams. Every-time a relative or friend died we would plant a tree. It is about remembering and for me it’s something that’s living and goes on, The memory goes on and gets more wonderful,” said the actress. Throughout her secret woodland, there are trees planted for Robert Hardy, Ian Richardson and Natasha Richardson among others.
While trees have played a major part in her off-screen life, Dame Judi spent a year working alongside Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, to learn more about the annual life cycle of trees, and how they communicate via vast underground networks.
Using a special microphone to listen to the sound of sap travelling up an oak tree, Dench found out that a huge oak in the center of her garden dates back to The Battle of Waterloo. The documentary reveals her longtime passion for trees, reinforces her endless passion for learning and highlights her wonderful sense of humor.
Battling deteriorating vision due to macular degeneration for the last few years, she joked that: “I shall give up acting and lecture on trees quite soon, I expect. My life now is just trees. Trees and champagne.”
Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees airs Wednesday 20th December at 8pm on BBC One.