December in the Garden

December 16, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

 Everyone at the gardens and many beyond are celebrating the prestigious award of being voted best historic walled garden in Britain. However, the ferocity of storm Arwen brought a bit of a wake-up call. Sadly hundreds of ancient trees did not survive, one of the oldest, a gigantic beech tree, fell across the avenue and is thought to be over 300 years old. It was completely hollow inside and it makes one wonder about tales of how Robin Hood evaded capture, it was said, by hiding in such a tree in Sherwood forest!

Trees grow strong roots on the side that will withstand the prevailing wind, because the storm came from a different direction it caught many of them literally off guard. It will take a long time to clear the fallen trees across the estate, some have landed in a dangerous position which will require specialists to remove them safely.

The good news is that were was minimal damage to buildings, none to people and the walled garden remained unscathed sheltered by the high surrounding red brick walls.

Now the gardens are being put to rest for the winter. A new gardener, Marie, has started work here, a trained florist, she has already been involved in wreath making. An apprentice gardener, Cathy is learning through work experience with the gardeners for the next six months. Head gardener Ed is delighted to have these two additions to the team ‘ It will make a huge difference and give an opportunity to pay more attention to detail, such as dead heading and smartening the garden in general.’ He said.  Bulb planting is now completed and the vegetable beds are being cleared and tidied ready for next year’s crops.

During the month, wreath making workshops have been very popular and there are some exciting plans for 2022 including the use of the old shop as a teaching venue. In March and April 2022 vegetable and cut flower Grow Your Own courses will be held here, they are also available online. Each participant will learn much from experts and return home with a large goodie box which includes a comprehensive course manual, notebook, garden gloves and all the bits and bobs needed to start their own growing project.

‘Plot to Plate’ events are also planned. At these Ed Bollom will conduct guests on a garden tour where they collect fresh produce to be prepared and cooked for them by a chef on site while they enjoy a tipple or two of Gordon Castle Gin, beer or cider. More details to follow.

Meanwhile Christmas afternoon teas continue in the restaurant and newly published book, a Taste of the Highlands by Ghillie Basan, which includes a feature about Gordon Castle is on sale in the gift shop. Ghillie will be doing a book signing in the cafe on Friday 17th December.

Plans for next year’s planting programme are coming together – more about the exciting ideas of growing heritage varieties next month.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and may 2022 to come be a good year for you when we look forward to welcoming you to the gardens once more.

Very best wishes

All at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle Walled Garden wins Garden of the Year 2021

November 16, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog 6 Comments

We won!

In a record-breaking vote, we have won Garden of the Year Award 2021, sponsored by Christie’s auction house, accumulating over `three thousand votes for the first time in the competition’s 37-year history. It is the first success for a Scottish garden since 1998, and is the first Scottish garden ever to win the award outright. Gordon Castle Walled Garden overcame stiff competition from Harewood House in Yorkshire, Lowther Castle in Cumbria, and five other extraordinary gardens across the UK. Over eleven thousand votes were cast in total.

Owners of Gordon Castle Estate Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox said, “We are absolutely delighted to have won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award and would like to say a huge thank you to all our visitors, followers and friends of the Walled Garden for their votes. For us, and our small team of gardeners and volunteers, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.

It has been seven years since we embarked on the project to restore this magical place from a near abandoned grass field to the productive and beautiful space which has emerged, showcasing the very best of fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary hard work of our entire team and the support of the local community.

This award will deliver an enormous boost to The Walled Garden, the local economy and hopefully to Scottish gardens as a whole, recognising the significant benefits gardening has on well-being, health, and happiness. We hope visitors will be encouraged to come and visit the Garden, to discover this beautiful area of Moray and Speyside and, inspired by what they find, leave with a smile on their faces.”

Head Gardener, Ed Bollom said, “We couldn’t be more excited about winning the Garden of the Year Award. We are only a small and relatively unknown garden and we’ve been working incredibly hard over the last seven or eight years to turn a bare patch of ground into one of the biggest working kitchen gardens in Britain, it has truly been a labour of love.

Our visitors are often surprised by the sheer variety of plants within the walls. Everything we grow has a use; the vegetables go to our café or for sale direct to visitors, the fruit is used for cider, gin, jams and chutneys, and our cut flowers are used to decorate the castle and holiday cottages or sent off to local florists. We extract essential oils from our lavender and rosemary and the herbs are used in a range of cosmetics. The garden and gardeners work very hard to earn their keep! Originally the Walled Garden was used to provide fresh produce for the Duke of Gordon but now it’s used to provide an income for the estate and the gates are open to all. I find it immensely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour being enjoyed by so many people. We want the garden to be enjoyed by everybody and with a hardy band of volunteers, regular trips from the local schools and growing visitor numbers we’re really becoming part of the local community.

We are so grateful to our visitors for voting by the thousand to help us win this award. We’re still relatively unknown and so the title of ‘Garden of the Year’ will go a long way to put us on the map and spread the word about the project and all of the fascinating things that are going on in our walled garden the far North of Scotland.”

Garden Designer, Arne Maynard said, “What has been truly special about this project is that from the very beginning both Angus and Zara have been completely committed to it, physically involved in double digging, removing rubble and stones, planting, weeding, harvesting. They have been incredibly hands on, working hard to create a beautiful garden they can be very proud of. The ‘Garden of the Year’ award is testament to this commitment and hard work and we wish Angus, Zara, Ed and the whole team huge congratulations on a well-deserved title!”

About Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle was one of the largest houses in Scotland until the mid twentieth century, when circumstances led to the sale of the estates and the demolition of the greater part of the building. The surviving, much more modest but handsome castle is now home to Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox and at the heart of a busy diversified estate and innovative and entrepreneurial business. The Walled Garden has been a leading project amongst many.

At a whopping eight acres, the walled garden – almost certainly one of the largest in the country – was commensurate to the size of the gargantuan house it was created to service. Happily, it not only survived but is today thriving once again. Angus and Zara commissioned renowned garden designer Arne Maynard to take a fresh look at the derelict site in 2013 and to design a new, modern and crucially, productive garden fit for purpose for the next hundred years. The scale of the effort was truly epic. There are an estimated one million bricks in the fifteen-foot-high surrounding walls; a further 48,000 were required just to edge the beds along the two-and-a-half kilometres of new path laid.

Planting strives to combine cutting edge design with the productive ethos of a traditional kitchen garden. The four cut-flower beds are colour themed: ‘Golden Peat’ is a mixture of hot shades and contrasting darker colours, ‘Glowing Heather’ hosts predominantly soft pinks and purples, ‘Icy Glen’ shines white, interspersed with green, while ‘Scotch Thistle’ draws on cooler blues and purples. Around and alongside, more four hundred fruit trees have been planted in ornamental forms, either as step-overs or espaliers, joining an existing 250 mature specimens.

The plants here play a central role in supporting the enterprise that is fuelling the garden’s renaissance. From June to October the garden’s café is self-sufficient, supplied by over two hundred varieties of fruit vegetable grown on site. Asparagus, salad leaves, beetroot, pumpkins, artichokes, and cabbages are joined by aubergines, chilli peppers, and even melons raised in the restored Victorian glasshouse. Apricots and apples, peaches and pears are just some of the fruits cultivated, a great many of which – especially the plums and berries – are used not just for food but also in the production of the many flavoured varieties of the castle’s award-winning gin, flavoured by the garden’s herbs and botanicals. Essential oils, distilled on site, fragrance hand creams, soaps, and shampoos. Cider and ale have recently joined the brand’s stable, also brewed from homegrown harvests.

Seventy thousand spring bulbs and established perennials pack ornamental and herbaceous beds with scent and almost year-round colour. A play area with an outdoor kitchen and activities for children brings learning as well as fun into the garden, which has become a valuable and much-loved community asset as well as a destination for tourists from further afield. All income is re-invested in the garden and a packed schedule of special events and workshops keep school children, students, local residents, volunteers, and passing visitors busy in any season.

For further information about the award please visit Historic Houses.

Follow our journey on Instagram @gordoncastlewalledgarden

Landward, Clafoutis and Book Signings

November 9, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Gordon Castle Autumn Lake

The weather is cold and most days are wet although there are some bright interludes of piercing low winter sun which lights the gardens, dazzling in its brightness. The leaves on tree and shrub have turned from forty shades of green to as many autumnal hues of russet, crimson and gold as they gently fall to carpet the ground at our feet.

The gardeners are kept busy with ‘winter work’ clearing vegetable beds of earlier crops leaving leeks, cabbage, kale and neeps to harvest over the next few months. Any surplus fruit and vegetables are donated to the food bank in Elgin.

In the cut flower beds all is activity as the gardeners unearth and divide several of the herbaceous plants such as bright starry flowered rudbeckia and traditional old garden favourite anthemis. Known more commonly as camomile it produces a profusion of attractive daisy like flowers and fronds of aromatic foliage. The colourful display of dahlia flowers is long past so the gardeners are lifting the precious tubers to store over the colder months.

With spring 2022 very much in mind, the planting of 10,000 bulbs is well underway and we look forward to a fabulous display of aliums, anemones, daffodils and tulips. Numerous tulip filled tubs are planned to surround the café and placed as ‘sentries’ at the entrance to display a profusion of vividly coloured blooms to welcome visitors.

Special care is given to the cut flower beds to ensure a supply of early flowers for local florists to cut and for the gardeners to prepare the ever popular flower bouquets so that visitors can take home a little piece of the gardens to welcome the first days of spring.

Earlier in the Autumn, the well known BBC Television programme Landward came to the gardens to film part of Episode 20. Click the image below to view the visit!

Nick Nairn waxed lyrical about the garden produce most especially the deep golden Gordon Castle plum. This rare fruit caught Nick’s interest; he described it as ‘ juicy sweet, with a complex flavour almost sweet and sour all at once.’ The plum was propagated by John Webster head gardener here from 1850 till his death in 1890 when his son Charles took over the role.

Nick so enjoyed the plums that he took some away with him to create a pudding on his cooking stage at Cullen Harbour. The programme was screened on Thursday 4th November. If you missed it you can catch up on BBC iplayer.

This year Ed, the head gardener had a quest to find out how large a marrow could be grown in the garden.  He definitely succeeded and the largest, weighing in at a whopping 35kg has been officially named ‘leviathan’!

We are spoilt for recipes this month. It is amazing what you can make out of just one marrow from cake, to jam, to chutney and soup, even a delicious dairy free lemon curd. Not forgetting Nick’s special Gordon Castle Plum Claffoutie!

The restaurant uses garden produce as much as possible and is open from Wednesday through till Sunday from 11am till 4 pm. Takeaways are available on Monday and Tuesday. To celebrate Autumn and Christmas to come the café is serving Tipsy Afternoon Teas from 5th to 20th November followed by Christmas Afternoon Teas from 24th November  until 23rd December. Remember to book in advance

The gift shop is open Wednesday to Sunday. This year featuring a special book ‘ A Taste of the Highlands’ by Ghillie Basan which features a piece about Gordon Castle and the famous Gordon Castle Plum Gin Christmas cake recipe– time to get baking I think!

Ghillie will be signing her book on Friday 17th December between 2-4pm. 



Gordon Castle marrow and tomato relish
1.2 kg courgettes or marrow – de-seeded and chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper – de-seeded and chopped
1 large onion – peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon salt
900g granulated sugar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300mls white wine vinegar
20g mustard seeds
10g ground coriander
15g ground ginger
10g ground cumin
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
30g potato starch

Put the courgettes/marrow, peppers and onion into a large pot, sprinkle with sale and just cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight in a cool place. Drain well and put into the pan along with the sugar, tomatoes and spices. Stir together and bring to the boil. Simmer till the liquid is greatly reduced. Thicken a little with slaked potato starch. Jar while hot, seal and label. Leave to mature one week and then enjoy. Once opened store in the fridge for up to one week.

Marrow lemon curd
1kg (2.2lbs) marrow – de-seeded and roughly chopped
Simmer in a little water till tender then blitz smooth
Add 225g (8oz) granulated sugar
The rind and juice of 2 lemons
85g (3oz) butter

Bring slowly to the boil stirring all the time. Simmer slowly till the mixture thickens – it takes a while so be patient and stir to make sure it does not stick. Thicken with a little slaked potato starch if it does not thicken enough, this will depend on the texture of the marrow. Pour into clean jars while hot, seal and label. Store in the fridge and use within two weeks.

For those who are dairy free you can omit the butter.

Spicy marrow soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.2 kg marrow – chopped
1 large onion – peeled and chopped
2 carrots – peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes – peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 stock cube
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil and then sweat the vegetables and curry powder together in the hot oil for a few minutes to soften. Barely cover with water and add the stock cube. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add the puree and simmer a few minutes. Blitz smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fudgy spicy marrow chocolate cake
2 eggs
75mls (2 ½ fl oz) sunflower oil
60mls (4 tablespoons) milk
140g (5oz) soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon ground ginger
45g (1 ½ oz) oz cocoa powder
175g (6oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
30g (1oz) blitzed sunflower and pumpkin seeds or chocolate chips
200g (7oz) grated marrow

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a baking tin 20cm square.

Mix the eggs, oil, milk, sugar and essence together.  Sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder into the wet mixture, add the seeds and courgettes and mix together. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.  Cool in the tin. Dust with vanilla sugar or cocoa. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked. Store in the fridge and eat within four days.

Nick’s Gordon Castle plum clafoutis
I have taken this down from the demonstration on the programme where Nick and Dougie cooked the clafoutis in a barbecue at Cullen Harbour!! Nick used individual dishes and I reckon the amount of batter he mixed would do four such dishes of you could use a shallow 25cm ( 10in) diameter oven proof dish instead.

450g (1lb) ripe plums – stoned, each fruit cut into 6 pieces.
Put into a bowl and sprinkle with a little caster sugar
80g ( about 2 ½ oz) plain flour
4 eggs
Beat this together then beat in 150mls ( 5 fl oz) full fat milk
100g (3 ½ oz) caster sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Butter the inside of the dishes you plan to use then sprinkle this with caster sugar. Add plenty of fruit into the base then pour over the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for individual dishes or 35 minutes for a larger pudding. Till risen, firm and golden on top. Serve warm sprinkled with caster sugar.

Late summer recipes

October 12, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

The Autumn equinox has past but it seems that the late summer sun is still very much with us and most days are bright with the heat of the sun pleasantly warm. September has been a dry month, however, the gardens have welcomed the days of rain which have done no end of good. Never-the-less,  time is passing, the nights are slowly drawing in as autumn quietly tip toes into the gardens tipping leaves with gold and providing the last harvests of the year.

September was a mild month; a real bonus for the gardeners as they collect the last of this year’s crops. The apples have not been so prolific but still sufficient in quantity to send to Elgin’s Orchards to be pressed into Gordon Castle fresh apple juice; a rich blend of flavours from the multitude of apple varieties growing against the garden walls. Such names as James Grieve, Laxton, Cox’s orange pippins or the pink fleshed bloody ploughman propagated in memory of a ploughman shot dead for stealing apples. Not forgetting ‘Beauty of Moray’ bred by John Webster head gardener here from 1850 till his death in 1890.

This month half a ton of Gordon castle apples and pears have been sent to Aberdeenshire to be made into next year’s supply of Seidear. It is the first Scottish cider made by keeving and the methode champenoise which takes over a year from harvest to bottle. This champagne alternative is proving popular with visitors to the gardens where it is for sale in the shop.

The ripe juicy sweet eating apples grown on the step over trees are for sale at the Potting Shed Shop.

There has been a bumper harvest of plums some of which Scottish chef Nick Nairn collected on a recent filming visit with the TV programme Landward. Nick had plans to cook with the plums in a cooking demonstration at Cullen harbour to be televised on the Landward programme during October.

A cornucopia of coloured squashes glow in the beds, some have been harvested. The giant marrows look promisingly large, almost ready to be lifted from their earthy beds. Ed the head gardener is keen to maximise growth so he will be watching and testing when the marrows have reached full growth by the fingernail test. It seems that if a fingernail can be pressed into the skin the vegetable is still growing!

In the large greenhouse the leaves have been stripped form the tall tomato plants allowing the abiding sun to warm and ripen the tomatoes hanging in profusion on the vines. Every day there are more and more to be picked and enjoyed. There is nothing like a sun ripened home grown tomato no matter the shape or colour. The chillies have been prolific this year and there are several different strengths on offer!!

Chrysanthemums and roses continue to bloom protected from the elements, ready for that all important bouquet. Melons have been grown here since Victorian time and this year they have yielded a small crop which is still ripening.

In spite of the cold start and dry conditions potatoes have been outstanding this year. The lack of rain in the early summer months has intensified their flavour and what a tasty selection there is. From rich creamy golden fleshed Charlottes, to the small salad potato Anya, which is a delicious alternative to the better known Pink Fir Apple. Then there is Isle of Jura, a great all round potato with fluffy rich flesh equally good to boil, mash or roast. Ratte is an interesting ‘fingerling’ potato propagated in France, however their origins date back to 1600’s when Spanish conquistadors brought such tubers from the New World. By 1800 la Ratte potatoes were a favourite with top chefs. Immigrants carried them to America where today they are greatly prized.

Buttery moist golden flesh with a hazelnut flavour, boil, steam, bake, roast they make delicious potato puree. Try making mini hasssleback potatoes with lemon and parsley or serve in salads with garlic, herbs, olive oil and wine vinegar .

From the trial beds Shetland Black potatoes have been outstanding this year. Native to Shetland they are said to have come from a 1588 Armada shipwreck. Dark skinned, intense dry purple veined flesh and bursting with flavour. Watch they boil quickly probably best cooked in their jackets, sauté roast or make crisp chips. Delicious.

The Romanesque cauliflowers were a big success and the drumhead cabbage are hearted and almost ready to cut. High burgundy potatoes are soon to be dug. A novelty potato boasting pink flesh and bright pink skins, make colourful mash, roasts and crisps. Gardener Liz is looking forward to growing a selection of different vegetable varieties in the trial beds next year.

The brassicas continue to provide a rich harvest, A variety of kales such as cavolo nero and emerald ice, beside which the savoy cabbages Tundra and January Kings (they ripen early here) have grown well. Purple sprouting broccoli has been cut already and it will continue to sprout well into the autumn.

Large bunches of hand tied everlasting flowers such as helichrysum and amaranthus hang from the rafters at the potting shed, dried and ready for sale or to be added to traditional wreaths later in the year.

The Potting Shed shop is open daily from 10am till 4pm and the restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday serving fresh local food including garden produce where possible. Monday and Tuesday takeaways are available from the kiosk beside the Potting shed.

Come visit the gardens to feel the warmth of the maturing sun radiated from the ancient walls and wander through the beds of colourful flowers, especially dahlias which have come into their own this month illuminating the garden with brightness. A lasting memory to picture in your mind’s eye in the darker months ahead.

Potatoes nicoise
Serves 2
1 tablespoon olive oil
225g (8oz) diced potatoes
1 red pepper – cored and chopped
4 spring onions – trimmed and chopped
1 clove garlic – peeled and chopped
1 sprig rosemary – remove the leaves and chop finely
1 large tomato – peeled and chopped
12 pitted black olives – halved
Pinch of chilli flakes
Sat and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan. Add the potato, pepper, spring onions and garlic and stir fry over a medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and steam cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes to soften the potatoes. Add the rosemary, tomato and olives along with a generous pinch of chilli flakes. Stir well and cook a further 2 or 3 minutes to heat through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve hot as a light snack or to accompany grills Anchovy lovers may like to add a few finely chopped along with the tomatoes and olives. Delicious cold as a salad too. To make a more substantial salad meal you can add some flaked tuna.

Kale pesto
75g ( 2 ½ oz)  kale – chopped
2 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds
25g (scant 1 oz)  basil leaves
6 tbsp ( approx 90mls) olive oil
3 tbsp (45ml) lemon juice
30g (1oz)  pecorino or other hard cheese finely grated
Blitz the ingredients adding water if needed to make a softer consistency.
Store in the fridge and use within four days.

Ginger crumble apple cake
225g (8oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
60g (2oz) caster sugar
115g (4oz) butter
30g (1oz) syrup
60g (2oz) porridge oats
2 eggs – beaten
160mls (just over 5 fl oz) single cream or creamy milk
1 large cooking apple – peeled and chopped (150g approx)
½ pkt crushed ginger nut biscuits
30g (1oz) Hamlyn’s porridge oats
60g (2oz) butter melted

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tin 30cmx20cm (12inx8in). Put the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter.

Stir in the beaten egg and cream or milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Fold in the apples and spread evenly in the prepared baking tin. Mix the melted butter with the other topping ingredients and scatter over the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or till the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked.

Cinnamon spiced Autumn apple cake
This recipe is based on a traditional Spanish/Moorish recipe.  You can also use plums, pears, peaches or mango for the topping – or a mixture of fruits, what ever you like. Remember to add the lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon.

Drizzle with water ice made with fresh lemon or orange juice to finish the cake.Makes a cake 30cm (12in) x 18cm (7in)
2 sharp tasting eating apples –  peeled cored and sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla Essence
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
Juice of a fresh lemon
For the cake:-
175g (6oz) butter
115g (4oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz)  light soft brown sugar
175g (6oz)  sifted self raising flour or plain flour sifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs – beaten
Water ice to finish made with fresh lemon or orange juice

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the tin. Prepare the topping by mixing the sliced fruit with vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon. Cream the butter and sugar till very light a fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in the eggs and then fold in the sifted flour. Pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Top with the sliced fruit and bake for 25 to 30 minutes till risen and springy to touch and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin then drizzle with water icing. Enjoy freshly baked.

The Midas touch

August 24, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Driving under the arched gateway towards the castle I became very aware of the majesty and peace of this place. Ancient larch and pine trees, tall and strong, stand on each side of the drive. Over centuries they must have seen hand carts and horse drawn carriages give way to Model T Ford cars, bicycles, shank’s pony and many more modern modes of transport bringing visitors who come to ‘take a turn’ in the gardens.

The late summer sun bathes the garden in golden light illuminating the ripening harvest. Plums, pears and apples hang from fruit trees gilded by an enduring sun as if King Midas himself had brushed against them as he strolled past listening to the cry of the resident oyster catchers celebrating the last few weeks of their summer stay.

It was a mild restful day in early August when Ed (the head gardener) and I talked about the garden, seated on a wooden bench beside the lily pond. You could almost feel the garden slowing down with a sigh of restful fulfilment and gratitude for the bountiful harvest nature has provided. Bumble bees buzzing in the lavender at our feet have been abundant this year. Six different varieties have been identified so far.

As we talked, an interesting lady engaged Ed in enthusiastic conversation about the growing of ‘Billy buttons’ (crispidia). These bright everlasting flowers along with achilea, larkspur, helichrysum and lavender will soon be cut, bunched and dried to make autumn garlands and Christmas wreaths.

Colourful blooms of every shape and hue splash colour across the beds: sweetpeas, the bright softly rippling wild flower meadow, herbaceous borders and a trial bed of more unusual varieties. A delight to the eyes of numerous visitors who come for a stroll.

The large greenhouse boasts a rose bed: Pale blush pink ‘Queen of Sweden’, scented apricot tinged ‘Roald Dahl’ and pure white ‘Tranquility’ sit opposite emerging purple and citrus chrysanthemums all sheltered from the detrimental affects of rain.

Several florists come regularly to cut fresh flowers from the gardens and greenhouse beds. The gardens also supply bouquets to order, as long as the season lasts the popular bunches of sweet peas are also on sale.

Now in the ‘full glut of produce’  there is little rest and certainly not enough hours in the day for Ed and his hard working team of gardeners and volunteers.

The peas and beans have been prolific this year; the garden peas are now past but an abundance of French and runner beans remains.  Sadly onions have not fared so well because of the predominately dry conditions, watering seems to do little to perk them up!   The artichokes are growing well, the stunning edible flower heads maturing, and a delicacy soon ready to be picked and enjoyed.

The separate trial bed is slowly taking shape and we are looking forward to some interesting vegetables and tatties come autumn.

In spite of a cold spring, dry weather and late planting, the potatoes have done better than expected.  Winston provided a good crop. The next early is Casablanca a creamy white fluffy potato, which steams, boils and bakes well and makes crisp roasters and chips but watch this tasty tattie cooks quickly.

Courgettes are prolific growing bigger day by day. A cook’s dream because there are so many dishes to be made from just one, savoury and sweet.

In the large greenhouse nearby grows an abundance of steadily ripening tomatoes and maturing chillies the ideal ingredients for many a cook.

In the small greenhouse aubergines gleam dark purple, bright green crisp cucumbers hang from the vine and some baby melons are just appearing underneath the leafy plants.

The apple and pear trees are laden and promise a rich harvest. Unfortunately the plums and apricots have not done so well being affected by the cold spring and late frosts which damaged the blossom and prevented pollinators from doing their job.

This year Ed has paid special attention to the peach trees growing against the wall behind the restaurant and his extra work has borne fruit. Large luscious peaches hang luxuriantly from the branches and some have already been picked. Sweet and juicy a Gordon Castle peach is a real treat.

We talk about the circle of the year, and each season the garden takes us on a journey. This month we leave the garden maturing resplendent in colour and rich in produce mindful of the power of Mother Nature to astound, please, calm, heal and provide.

The restaurant serves food Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm. Produce picked fresh from the garden features on the menu.

The gardens are open daily from 10am till 4pm. The Potting Shed shop sells fresh produce with free simple seasonal recipes, plants and flowers.


Summer Stir up

A quick basic recipe made with fresh garden vegetables.
Shredded fresh green cabbage
2 baby courgettes sliced thinly
A handful of mangetout peas – remove the string along the back of the pod and shred
A handful of shelled garden peas
Olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 clove garlic crushed
A handful of pistachio nuts
Sea salt
Ground black pepper

This is a quick dish to cook so make sure to prepare all the vegetables and have them in a bowl beside the cooker. Heat a splash of oil in a large frying or wok pan. Add the mustard seeds and stir till they begin to pop, quickly add the garlic stir a little then add the vegetables. Do this quickly or the garlic may burn. Keep stirring and tossing the vegetables till they are coated in the oil.

Add a splash of water, reduce the heat a little, cover the pan and steam cook for about 1 minute. Remove the lid, season with salt and ground black pepper then toss in the pistachios to heat through and serve.


A garden version of shakshuka! – Serves 2 people – Cooks in 15 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion – peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
2 small courgettes sliced
2 large tomatoes – skinned and chopped
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Generous pinch of chilli flakes
Pinch of sugar
Sea salt to taste
2 fresh eggs

Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the onion and stir fry to soften a little, add the courgettes and tomato and stir fry together. Add the coriander and chilli. Mix and then reduce the heat to allow the vegetables to cook and soften stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar and sea salt. Using the back of a soup spoon make two hollows in the cooked vegetables leaving them equally spaced. Break one egg into a cup and carefully lower into a hollow and repeat with the second egg. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on a low heat for 6 to 8 minutes depending how you like your egg cooked. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Roed Groed

A Danish red berry pudding which literally translated means ‘red groats.’
This simple dish makes use of fresh soft fruits – red and black currants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. It will taste different every time you make it depending on the fruits you use.

To serve 4 people
1kg (2.2lbs) mixed soft fruit
Granulated sugar
Potato starch, corn-flour or arrowroot
To serve
Fresh berries, cream, ice cream or yoghurt

There are two ways to make this dessert.

  1. Put the washed fruit into a bowl, mash the berries with a fork then sprinkle with sugar. Leave covered for 2 hours to allow the juices to flow. Drain overnight through a jelly bag or fine sieve.
  2. Put the berries into a pan, prick well with a fork and sprinkle over a little sugar. Heat till the juices flow then turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool. Drain as for method 1.

Measure the juice and allow 30g (1oz) starch to each 600mls (1pt) of juice.

Slake the starch with a little water and stir into the juices. Heat stirring all the time till the mixture thickens. Add sugar to taste. Cool a little then pour into serving dishes or a large bowl. Chill well and serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt and fresh berries.

Raspberry cake with a hint of milk chocolate

Makes a cake tin 20cm x 30cm (8in x 12in)
4 eggs
85g (3oz) caster sugar
30g (1oz) golden syrup
85g (3oz) butter
60g (2oz) milk chocolate
200g (7oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
175g (6oz) raspberries

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil the baking tray well. Whisk the eggs and sugar till light and holding the trail of the whisk.

Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate together and allow to cool. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the flour to the thick egg mixture along with the melted butter and chocolate and stir carefully together. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter with the raspberries. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. for a further 10 minutes. The cake should be risen and firm to touch and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.

Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked.

Hot smoked haddock and potato salad

Serves 4
1 small fillet smoked haddock
New potatoes approx 450g (1lb)
2 spring onions peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive
1 dessertspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 level teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and ground black pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Steam or micro-wave the haddock until it is just cooked. Flake the fish roughly and lay aside.  Scrape or peel the potatoes, cut into even sized pieces then cook in boiling salted water till tender but still firm. Pour the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar and shake well to mix. Toss the potatoes into a serving dish, add the haddock and spring onions then pour over the dressing. Stir gently together , stand for a few minutes to allow the flavour to develop and serve warm.

Guest blog written by Liz Ashworth

A Feast for the Senses

July 14, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments


The garden is waltzing into summer dressed by Mother Nature in an amazing techno-colour dream-coat. Sensational in every sense of the word.

Any artist would be over the moon to possess such a palette of vibrant colour. Trees,  shrubs, the herb garden, all bursting with growth, soft fruit bushes rich with ripening berries and ‘oh’ the flowers!. Local florists visit regularly to pick the breathtaking array of blooms from roses, to cosmos, delphiniums, lilies and colourful sweet peas to tender fragile Ammi that slender cloud of frothy white so prized by flower arrangers. Pick up a bunch of sweetpeas to take memories home or choose a bouquet for a special occasion – you can order one in advance.

Many of the flowers are edible adding colour and flavour to salads in particular, sweet viola, peppery nasturtium or a hint of onion with torn chive flowers to mention a few.

A rippling sea of purple and white lavender surrounding the lily pond calms the mind. Relax, inhale the scents of plant, flower, fruit and tree while wandering at leisure round the garden. No perfume bottle could ever capture such subtle scents floating in the warm summer air.

In the greenhouse ripening tomatoes exude mouth watering vine aromas. In the soft fruit garden fresh strawberries, raspberries, black, red and white currants along with gooseberries smell so inviting, a bountiful harvest to be picked, eaten and enjoyed. Some fresh, others as deserts, relishes and jams.

Overhead oyster catchers swoop and dive issuing a poignant welcoming call and, in the background the heady sound of buzzing bees as they flit from flower to flower collecting nectar for the castle bee hives.

The texture of plants, leaves, vegetables and flowers contrast just as vividly as their colours. Smooth and shiny, rough, hairy while others are delicate leaving a lasting fragrance on your hands, some are eye catching but beware they may be prickly!!

And what about the gardeners how are they getting on?

Planting out complete the gardeners had a small window to get on top of the ever growing weeds! Summer pruning of the step over fruit trees and pear tunnels removed extra leaves allowing the fruit to ripen easily.

Then full on into harvesting!



Let us start with new potatoes.

Red Duke of York, a heritage variety of superb flavour and good all round cooking qualities, makes especially good roasters.

Winston has a white waxy flesh good for salads and excellent for creamy tasty baked potatoes.

Foremost is a new potato to Gordon Castle. Information suggests that it is firm fleshed good for boiling and salads. However growing conditions can have an affect, so we wait and see or should I say taste!

The first courgettes are ready. Peas have done well: garden, sugar snap and mangetout including the popular dark purple variety ‘shiraz.’ Then there are tender young kales, the first cabbages and the continuous cropping of salad leaves for the restaurant and Potting Shed shop. The soft fruit this year is providing a bumper crop strawberries, raspberries, black, red and white currants and the new gooseberry bushes have fruited well too.

In the greenhouse heritage tomato plants are laden with ripening tomatoes of every shape and hue: Ailsa Craig, Golden Crown and Money Maker are only three of the twelve varieties grown this year. Don’t forget the cucumbers ripening as I write.

The restaurant offers home cooking and baking using freshly harvested fruit and vegetables. Open 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.

Drop in past the Potting Shed to take a little of the garden home with you. Buy plants to grow your own flowers, vegetables and herbs, or a scented bunch of sweet peas to remind you of a happy day. Freshly picked fruit and vegetables are for sale along with some free recipes to take home after your garden adventure.

For the gardeners this is a special time – the long lonely ‘winter’ of covid lockdown is past. They are free at last to share with visitors who appreciate the gardens and express interest in their work.

On the evening of Monday 12th July the ‘Castle Team’ were invited by Angus and Zara to a celebration of their hard work and support which has endured through these testing times.  This is indeed a unique place of friendship valued by all who care to visit or stay to volunteer.

Remember The Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year – Gordon castle is the smallest and only Scottish garden in the competition so vote for us please at


The garden salad bowl

Toss a mixture of torn freshly picked salad leaves into a deep bowl, top with finely shredded tender young sugar snap peas, a snipping of chives, sliced fresh strawberries and scatter a few viola flowers to decorate. Serve with a light oil and lemon dressing.

Garlic butter kale with oats and walnuts

Serves 4 people as a side dish allow 4 or 5 stalks of fresh young kale

Wash well, remove the stalk and retain. Dice the stalk and keep separate to the leaves. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute then refresh in cold water and drain well. Repeat with the stalks for 3 minutes and drain well.  Shred the leaves and mix with the stalks – try to remove as much water as possible.

Melt 30g (1oz ) butter in a deep frying pan or wok, add the garlic and cook in the butter till softened. Add the kale and stir fry for about 3 or 4 minutes. Season with salt and plenty ground black pepper.


30g ( 1oz) butter
30g (1oz) chopped walnuts
60g (2oz) porridge oats
Salt and ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the walnuts and oats and keep stirring to toast, season with salt and ground black pepper.

Serve the hot kale and juices in a heated dish and top with a spoon of the walnut and oat mixture. Serve the remainder in a side dish for diners to add as they require.

The topping is excellent hot or cold for salads and freshly cooked young new vegetables.

Courgette, lemon and black pepper salad
 3 or 4 tender young courgettes – washed and grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper


Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed or 1 level teaspoon garlic granules
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 dessertspoon runny honey

15g ( ½ oz ) pumpkin seeds – lightly toasted
Mix the grated courgettes with the lemon zest and sprinkle liberally with plenty freshly ground black pepper. Choose a jar with a tight fitting lid and add the dressing ingredients. Secure the lid and shake well to mix. Pour over the courgettes and toss together. Leave to marinate for about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds just before serving. Delicious with smoked or barbecued fish, meats and game.

Raspberry Vanilla Cake
Makes a tray 20cm x 30cm (8x12in)
115g (4oz) soft butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
200mls 7fl oz) double cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g (7oz) self raising flour
175g (6oz) fresh or frozen raspberries

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the baking tin. Cream the butter and sugar till light then beat in the cream till the mixture starts to thicken. Beat in the eggs and vanilla essence then fold in the flour. Add a little milk if needed to make a soft dropping consistency. Spread evenly in the tin then scatter the raspberries over the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes till firm and risen and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin, cut and eat freshly baked.

Erdbeer Kuchen
German Strawberry cake
Makes a round tin 20cm (8in)
2 eggs
60g (2oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g  (3 ½ oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
115g (4oz) strawberries
1 tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan) 375F, Gas 5. Oil and line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together till they are thick and creamy, stir in the butter, flour and baking powder very gently to keep as much air as possible in the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and tap on the counter to ensure it is evenly spread and to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool a little in the tin then remove from the tin by loosening the sides with the blade of a knife. Place the cake sponge side down onto a wire cooling rack, tap gently on the bottom of the inverted tin and the cake should drop out onto the rack.

When cool spread the top with a little of the jam. Trim and slice the strawberries and lay overlapping on top of the jam spread cake. Melt the rest of the jam and brush gently over the fruit to glaze. Enjoy freshly baked.

The Start of Summer

June 9, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

It is Tuesday, 25th May; the weather is dull and less than warm as I drive along the avenue of green towards the castle gardens. Suddenly a bright field of sunshine yellow rapeseed flowers illuminate my path and, in their midst, in majestic contrast stand two ancient copper beech trees surveying the scene. Wow! What a welcome!

The cold wet spring has left us longing for some sun. Both Mother Nature and the gardeners have been soaked and chilled but, in-spite of the cold, they press on undeterred. The Head Gardener, Ed Bollom says’ It is either cold and wet or hot and dry at this time of the year so we just adapt and get on with it. This year everything is very late.’

There is a lot to do; weeds seem to thrive in bad weather so the battle against them continues. Weeding never ends!

Today is Thursday 27th May, and as I write suddenly the clouds have parted, the sun has arrived! Still waiting patiently by the greenhouses over 10,000 plants grown from seeds earlier this year are ready to be transferred into the prepared beds.  Planting out is top priority so the gardeners will be pleased to feel warm sun on their backs as they work. The tulip bulbs which gave such a riot of colour earlier will be replaced with multi-coloured successors such as cosmos, cornflowers, larkspur, poppies, snap dragon – the list is endless!  Sweet peas are already producing tentative tendrils as they begin their slow ascent of the trellis up which they will grown to produce a wealth of scented blooms in just a few weeks time. A bunch of sweet peas is indeed the epitome of a summer day.

Both the potatoes and their companion rows of salads are vibrant green and growing steadily. Fresh salads are a feature on the restaurant menu and new varieties like fiery mix will be cut fresh each day. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will join kale and cabbage already growing in the brassica bed. Young tender kale should be ready for picking soon.

The garlic is doing well promising a good crop. Beetroot, carrots and onions are going into the earth very soon to be followed by runner beans, courgettes and ‘giant;’ pumpkin plants. One to watch! I wonder how big the pumpkins will grow?

Meanwhile the artichokes have re-seeded filling the border with strong plants.

Nearby the asparagus beds still yield a good crop, which has been especially good this year and hopefully will continue into June. Please order in advance to avoid disappointment.

An exciting new development is Liz Allan’s trial bed where she is growing a selection of heritage vegetables.

Liz has already planted Highland burgundy red and Shetland black potatoes, Pasatenaga negra (Spanish black) carrots, Burpees golden beetroot, sweet Spanish yellow onions, golden ball turnips and early white Milan turnips. Waiting in the greenhouse are young romanesco cauliflowers and red drumhead cabbage plants which she will be planting out soon.

The results will be of great interest and I for one look forward to trying some recipes!

At one end of the large greenhouse bright red earthenware pots filled with vibrant green tomato plants catch the eye and at the opposite end is a colourful display of flowers alongside a bed of budding roses sheltering from the changeable weather so they are ready to cut for special occasions. The small greenhouse will soon be emptied of ‘plants in waiting’ which will be replaced by a variety of cucumbers and melons!! Last year’s melons proved succulent and sweet, may this crop prove as delicious.

Across the garden in the soft fruit area a carpet of white blossom covers the strawberry beds. Watching over erect, green and promising a rich crop, the raspberry canes stand silently waiting. New step over gooseberry bushes are bursting with growth and close by the black and red currant bushes are starting to form clusters of berries. Recently planted gooseberry bushes are growing well. The hard work establishing this area shows all the signs of bearing a prolific soft fruit harvest.

We must not forget the oyster catchers who return each year. One pair has taken up residence in the pear sculpture which sits in the centre of the maze. I tried to capture a photo of the first chick but mum and dad were not so keen.  The antics of these black and white feathered birds with that distinctive orange curved beak are a joy to watch as they dot round the gardens looking for tasty morsels to feed their young.

At the potting shed a selection of colourful ready to go flowers including the ever popular geraniums will soon be on sale.

The garden is coming into vibrant life when all is fresh, growing and green. It is a good time visit.  After a walk in the grounds enjoy the café which serves delicious home bakes and freshly prepared light meals using garden produce where they can.

As the 1744 Gordon Castle family hymnary says, ‘He shall be like a tree planted by a river which in his season yields his fruit and his leaf fadeth never.’ (Ps 1 verse 3)

And so it is, this is a special place to appreciate the wonder of nature in all its hues.


Parmesan and asparagus quiche
20cm (8in) quiche
115g (4oz) short crust pastry
30g (1oz) butter
30g plain flour
240mls (8fl oz) full cream milk
30g (1oz) parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
1 egg – separated
115g (4oz) steamed asparagus – chopped
30g (1oz) grated parmesan cheese plus extra for dusting

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Line a flan dish with the pastry. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Stir in the milk and then keep stirring over a low heat till the sauce thickens and boils. Remove from the heat, add the parmesan cheese, seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Beat in the egg yolk and stir in the asparagus Whisk the whites till softly stiff and fold into the sauce. Pour into the pastry case, dust with a little parmesan and bake on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till set and golden on top. Serve hot or cold.

Steamed asparagus with lemon butter and flaked almonds

Quick and so delicious!

Allow 12 stems of freshly picked asparagus per person (or more if you like)
30g (1oz) butter
Grated lemon zest
A small handful of flaked almonds
Simply wash and trim the asparagus and steam 4 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter adding freshly grated lemon zest. Quickly toast the almonds under a medium grill.
Serve the asparagus with warm lemon butter, scattered with the hot flaked almonds and enjoy.

Rhubarb and custard upside down cake
140g (5oz) chopped fresh rhubarb
15g ( ½ oz ) soft brown sugar
85g (3oz) butter
60g (2oz) caster sugar
1 large egg
85g (3oz) self raising flour
20g ( ¾ oz) custard powder
2 tablespoons milk
Demerara sugar to sprinkle

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the base of a 18cm (7in) round sandwich tin. Sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the base then scatter the rhubarb evenly over this. Cream the butter and sugar till light, beat in the egg and then stir in the flour, custard powder and milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Spread evenly over the rhubarb. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Turn out onto a flat plate, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and enjoy freshly baked.

Rhubarb gingerbread cake
Makes a tin 18cm x 30cm (7in x 12in)
140g (5oz) light soft brown sugar
140g (5oz) softened butter
85g (3oz) golden syrup
2 large eggs – beaten
140g (5oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
85g (3oz) porridge oats
85g (3oz) chopped rhubarb
4 tablespoons milk

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the baking tin. Cream the butter and sugar till light, beat in the syrup and eggs (the mixture will curdle don’t worry). Sift eh flour, raising agents and spices into the bowl, add the oats, rhubarb and milk and stir everything together. Pour into the prepared tin; spread evenly tapping the base of the tin on to work surface to remove any trapped air. Bake 25 minutes in the middle of the oven till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days.

Wedding Shoot at Tower Hall

May 26, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminWedding No Comments

We are so lucky to have an incredible selection of local suppliers within Moray. To celebrate their talents, and show off our new venue, we worked with Esme Saville Photography to make this dream shoot a reality. Those amazing suppliers were:


Photography – Esme Saville Creative
Venue – Gordon Castle Estate
Models – Lori Davidson and Keiran Welsh
Dresses – Avorio Bridal
Make-up – Kelly Hudson Make Up Artist
Flowers (bouquet and table) – Wild Blossom
Wedding stationary – Maddison Louise Print Design
Styling – Boho Belles
Food platter – More Fine Food
Cake – Torta by Katalin
Engraved wedding gift – Gordon Castle Scotland
Table + chairs – Virginia’s Vintage Hire

Spring in the garden

April 29, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Today is dry and sunny with a hint of a breeze as I turn into Gordon Castle. What a lovely surprise to glide up the newly tarred road to the gardens to meet up with Ed Bollom, the head-gardener during what is the busiest time in the gardening year.

The greenhouses are filled with trays of flowers, herbs and vegetable plants sown earlier, potted on and now ready to be planted out. Today is brassica and pea planting day for the gardeners and willing volunteers. As they work with the sun on their backs there is a hum of friendly banter as row upon row of leafy green appears in the rich earth.
Nearby, freshly planted hardy annual flowers for cutting such as salvias, aquilegia, calendula and cornflowers promise vibrant colour in a few weeks time.

Two new yew hedges encircle the blossoming cherry orchard and new topiary beech trees in the centre of the garden will soon be speckled with delicate green leaves as they shed their dowdy brown autumnal coat and dress once more in the bright green of spring.

Already tulips in tubs and beds fill the garden with early colour, soft pink, bright lemon, darker pink and fiery orange. Here I must say a big thank you those who braved the cold a few months ago to plant those bulbs: 2000 in total!! The striking new pergola and hops maypole stand erect facing one another across the soft fruits garden, and raspberry canes, peppered with delicate green, shelter the recent step over gooseberry bushes which stand out vividly green against the paler leaves above. Round each garden gateway and in front of the iconic ‘Gardeners cottage’ climbing roses like soft pink Rosa Albertine and creamy white Claire Austin promise a subtle frame of fragrant flowers in the months ahead. Other rose bushes such as Queen of Sweden are growing in the greenhouse to protect their blooms to add to the bouquets of freshly cut garden flowers for which Gordon Castle is renowned.

And all the time there is the weeding!!
Like painting the Forth Railway bridge; an endless task!!

The large collection of heritage and modern apples has been augmented with four more eating varieties planted as step over trees. One in particular originated in this very garden. Called Beauty of Moray it was propagated by John Webster who became head gardener in1850 living with his family in the Gardener’s Cottage. He died in 1890 after forty years in charge of the gardens and policies, with a brigade of 40 gardeners under his management!
The obituary to him in the Moray and Nairn Express reads – ‘As a gardener he excelled and was looked upon as an authority in horticulture; he was adept at the art of rearing new trees for seed and the excellent Beauty of Moray apple was his propagation.’ He was succeeded as head gardener by his son Charles. The fragrant blossom on the espalier fruit trees stands out brightly against the red sandstone background while the smaller step over trees are illuminated by a carpet of blue and white anemones beneath.

In between times wild flower seeds have been sown and a plot of heritage vegetables is taking shape planted and tended by gardener and heritage enthusiast Liz Allan. Nine varieties of salad are already growing in the garden little gem, bright red lollo rosso, fiery salad mix, mild mix and more besides. Those fresh leaves will soon be ready for the Cafe which re-opens on Wednesday 28th April from 11am till 4pm Wednesday to Sunday. A freshly prepared menu uses seasonal garden and local produce. The café will offer light lunches and afternoon teas. Please book to be served indoors in the café and outside lean to covered dining area where it will be table service only. Carry out home-bakes and coffees are available to enjoy at the patio tables and in the gardens for those who care to arrive on spec! Social distancing and masks are required. Families and special diets are all catered for by Roz and her friendly staff. The shop will also re-open and there is also a chance to buy to grow your own vegetables, herbs and flowers, pick up your seedlings at the Potting Shed on your way home.

To celebrate the opening I have created a cake reminiscent of the light flavours of spring and early summer.

Makes a 20cm (8in) square tin
200g (7oz) crème fraiche
3 eggs – beaten
Zest and juice of two medium oranges
325g (11oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
175g (6oz) soft butter
140g (5oz) caster sugar
45g (1 ½ oz) golden syrup or honey
2 tablespoons lemon curd
2 tablespoons orange juice
Mixed with 3 tablespoons icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a square baking tin. Whisk together the crème fraiche, eggs, and 60mls (2floz) orange juice. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and syrup or honey in a bowl till light and fluffy, beat in two thirds of the orange zest. Gradually stir in the crème fraiche mixture along with the flour. Spread half the mix evenly over the base of the tin. Spread the lemon curd over this and then spread the remainder of the mix on top. Smooth the top with the palm of your hand dipped in a little warm water. This will help prevent the cake rising to a peak in the middle. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3 for a further 20 to 25 minutes till the cake is risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Mix the glaze ingredients and pour over the cake while it is warm. Cool completely in the tin. Serve cut into thick slices decorated with fresh orange zest.

Guest blog by Liz Ashworth – Thank you Liz


Dig for Victory!

March 24, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

It seems the whole world has been turned upside down this spring, but outside nature carries on as normal, the birds are singing, the grass is growing and the first green shoots of spring are beginning to appear. It’s hard to resist listening to the radio or continually checking my phone for the latest news but the constant flow of information can be overwhelming. For me the best antidote is to get outside, clear my mind and just listen to the sounds of nature. Life goes on.

Seeing empty supermarket shelves is a sobering reminder of how reliant we are on other people to feed ourselves. Every year 70,000 migrant workers come over from Europe to help on our farms and the majority of our fresh produce is shipped over from Spain and Italy. The supermarkets only keep 36 hours-worth of stock in reserve. We need to get back to basics and re-start that wonderful British tradition of growing our own, it’s time to dig for victory!

There is no better way to stay healthy than get out and tend to your garden. With the weather warming up, the light increasing and plenty of unexpected free labour from bored children, now is the perfect time to get going! Why not dig up a patch of your lawn and create a new vegetable plot? There is still plenty of seeds and compost available in the supermarkets, I’m sure you’ll be glad of fresh, free food in the months ahead.

If you can get hold of some seed potatoes you can get planting right away, you don’t need great soil, just add a little fertiliser and plant each tuber about 15cm deep and 30cm apart. You can use a cool windowsill to grow beetroot, leeks and pea seedlings in pots of multipurpose compost, ready to be planted out into the garden after a month or so. Kale and cabbages will give you a year round supply of fresh greens if you start now, and from May onwards you can sow more tender crops such as French beans, runner beans and courgettes to give you a harvest later in the summer.

In the walled garden we’ve got a busy year ahead. Caring for such a huge space without the help of our beloved volunteers, students and part time gardeners is going to be tricky, but we’ll cope because we have to. Of course, growing as much fruit and vegetables as possible will be our main priority. We scrapped plans for a new trails bed and every spare inch of ground will be taken over to grow food. Very soon asparagus shoots will appear, and the tart-but-sweet tender stems of forced rhubarb will be ready for the first crumbles of the year. The glass houses are filled with tiny seedlings promising a garden full of food before too long. We’ve already planted 150 metres of potatoes, hundreds of onion sets, broad beans, peas, lettuce and lots more.

At home we’re bracing ourselves for a very long Easter holiday and trying to come up with ways to keep the kids entertained and ourselves sane. Freddie and Amelie have been busy planting up the vegetable beds, weeding and watering as well as taking cooking lessons, flower arranging and drawing. Not being able to see their friends is going to be tough but they can stay connected via the computer and at least they can still get out and run off some surplus energy. Under the watchful eye of her brother, Amelie has learnt to ride her bicycle and is very happy zooming around the garden whilst I watch on waiting for the inevitable crash, grazed knees and tears!

Whilst is seems so sad that there is almost no-one here to see our lovely tulips and daffodils or the bees buzzing around the fruit blossom, the Walled Garden has survived two world wars, the Spanish flu and countless other trials and tribulations, the Coronavirus won’t be the end of it. Over the next few months we want to do as much as we can to help, later in the year we’ll have plenty of produce available and we’ll be filling our website and social media platforms with cheerful pictures of life in the garden as well as hints and tips on our website and social media platforms so you know what you should be doing now in your garden so please get in touch if you need any help or advice.

The Walled Garden is an oasis of peace and tranquillity, a great place to get away from it all and forget the woes of the world for a while.  When everything calms down and life starts to return to normal please do come and visit us, this wonderful space wouldn’t exist without the support of our visitors. In the mean-time from us all at Gordon Castle, stay safe, look after yourself and get gardening!