Dame Judi Dench plants a tree every time a friend or relative dies.

Dame Judi Dench

Dame Judi Dench

The 82-year-old actress - whose husband Michael Williams died in 2001 - has revealed she's created a memorial forest in her back garden.

Dame Judi explained: "I've even turned my six-acre garden into a secret woodland, and I see my trees as my extended family. My life now is just trees. Trees and champagne."

The 'Murder On The Orient Express' star opens up about her very personal tributes to those she loves in a new BBC documentary, 'Judi Dench, My Passion For Trees'.

She shared: "I started planting trees here with my actor husband Michael Williams. Every-time a relative or friend died we would plant a tree.

"There is one for Stephen Hanley, who performed in 'A Little Night Music' at the National. It's very like him, he was very tall and pale. We have Ian Richardson, and Natasha Richardson.

"It is about remembering and for me it's something that's living and goes on. The memory goes on and gets more wonderful."

The British icon also revealed she 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.

She explained: "Beneath our feet is a huge network. 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.

"When I planted trees in memory of my friends I always hoped they would be part of a community, that they would be communicating with each other. And now it's so reassuring to find out it's true."