a right royal visit

First day of national gardening week saw us visiting the gardens at Highgrove, Prince Charle’s house in Gloucestershire, where his first Garden Festival was taking place. Despite having my fingers crossed for good weather all weekend, it was a very wet day, absolutely pouring down on arrival. Thankfully, after parking at Westbirton Arboretum and travelling the few minutes to Highgrove by coach, the rain stopped and indeed held off for the whole of our garden tour. However, wellies were definitely required as we were soon to find out!

The garden really is very beautiful and is a maze of rooms, formal and informal. First stop on the organised tour (you can’t just go a-wandering) was a small orchard and a quick lesson in a pruning technique designed to achieve an open ‘cup’ shaped habit – for a better, disease free yield. I could see the cogs whirring in Chris’s mind – and sure enough a couple of minutes later he informed me that he would be applying this lesson to the apple tree in the garden in Wales. I thought this was rather optimistic given the age and overgrown nature of our particular specimen, but I held my counsel!

Next, through more formal areas, sculpted with topiary, but otherwise fairly dormant at this time of the year and on to the meadow, abundant with daffodils and cammassias. Using one’s imagination, you can foresee the transformations season by season as the meadow has been carefully seeded and planted to be a colourful feast for the eyes for most months of the year.

The famous stumpery is as magical as I had anticipated having seen the “Alan meets Charles’ documentary a couple of years ago. You really can imagine fairies inhabiting this dark and lusciously green area of the garden! I did wonder how the abundantly growing hostas thrive in an organic garden, until the tour guide described how many mollusc predatory creatures have taken up residence in this area – frogs, toads and slow worms. A careful balance has been achieved – marvellous.

Our guide took care to describe Prince Charles’ involvement with all aspects of his garden and its evolvement over the years – gave us a really interesting insight into his personality. She also pointed out the history behind many personal artefacts, from a plaque in memory of the Prince’s much loved dog Tigga, to statues and busts around the gardens and finally  to a cast iron column salvaged from Victoria station and given to him by Lord McAlpine, now topped with a gold phoenix, a present from the Sultan of Oman – Chris’s comment “sometimes, it’s not what you know!”

Tour over, next stop was a lovely afternoon tea to precede a talk given by Chris Beardshaw about planning and executing a show garden for Chelsea. I have to say, it was heart warming to hear a compassionate and emotional description of the background to and planning of the Great Ormond Street roof garden – for that is where his project for this year will be transplanted post – Chelsea. Brought a tear to the eye, that’s for sure.

Just the one picture to remember our day at Highgrove Gardens by – no cameras or phones allowed, not surprisingly.


On the temporary car park at Westbirton

A thoroughly enjoyable day and I’m sure memories will remain with us, despite the lack of photographic reference!