Judi Dench's Passion for Trees...and Happy Birthday!

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of December 18, 2017

Tea Time Tidbit

Dame Judi Dench celebrates her 83rd
birthday with a Caterpillar Cake.

On Sunday, December 10, Dame Judi Dench turned 83 and her daughter Finty lauded her with a Colin the Caterpillar cake! Yum! The £7 (about $10) chocolate cream and chocolate coated Marks & Spencer department store bought "delicacy" is a huge favorite among kids in England – and adults too (yours truly, for instance!). As you can see from the photograph, Dame Judi looks thrilled to bits!

By the way, if you think Dench has been taking a rest since the opening of her latest film, The Murder On The Orient Express, think again! She moved straight onto presenting a documentary for the BBC about her love of trees. Yes, trees. It appears that for the last thirty years, Dench has been creating a back-yard memorial forest dedicated to loved ones in her life who have died.

“I started planting trees here with my actor husband Michael Williams”, explains Dench in the documentary. “Every time a relative or friend died, we would plant a tree.”

Tea Time Tidbit

Dench in the BBC documentary
My Passion For Trees

Sadly Williams died of lung cancer in 2001, but Dench continued their tradition and her six-acre garden is now what she calls a “secret woodland”. As well as trees planted for her husband and others, there are trees planted for actor Robert Hardy, with whom Dench starred alongside in Shakespeare’s Henry V, and Ian Richardson, who played Oberon to Dench’s Titania in a film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (although you might recognize him better as Francis Urquhart in the BBC’s House of Cards). Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter, actress Natasha Richardson who died far too young at the age of 45 in a skiing accident, also has a tree in Dench’s forest, honoring her memory.

Memories for Dench are the purpose of her forest. “It is about remembering and for me, it’s something that’s living and goes on. The memory goes on and gets more wonderful”, says Dench.

Dench goes on to explain that when she planted trees in the memory of her friends, she “always hoped they would be part of a community that they would be communicating with each other”. After working for a year with the Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, when she learned about the life cycle of trees, Dench was happy to discover that trees do in fact communicate.

Tea Time Tidbit

Dench with Robert Hardy in Henry V

“Beneath our feet is a huge network”, explains Dench. “Not only can they send messages but they can share food and water between other trees. I’ve loved trees all my life but after this year, I will never be able to look at them in the same way. I will never think of trees as individuals again. A forest is a very social place. Everyone is sharing and passing on things to everyone else.”

Judi Dench, My Passion For Trees is part of the BBC special Christmas programming. I’m not sure if the documentary will be made available over here, but here’s a trailer promoting its airing in the U.K.:

MPT does, however, have some other Christmas special imports coming up. On Sunday, December 17th at 8pm you can see the Last Tango in Halifax Holiday Special, which will re-air on Friday, December 22nd at 4:30pm and December 25th, at 9pm don’t miss the Call the Midwife Christmas Special.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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