It looks as though spring has sprung early this year, our apricot trees came into flower almost six weeks earlier than last year and we’ve already enjoyed a spectacular display from the crocus. The buds on the apple and pear trees are on the brink of bursting and we’ve already seen the first plum blossom.
It’s a lovely time to work in the walled garden, not least because our seasonal gardeners have returned after the winter and the garden is starting to come back into life. The soil has been turned, the trees have been pruned and the planning completed, we all set for the season ahead.
Seed sowing has begun in earnest, starting with hardy annuals such as sweet peas, nigella and cornflower, and then continuing with the first successions of vegetables; broad beans, peas and beetroot started are soon to be followed by tomatoes, chillies, aubergine and countless others.
We’ve already seen the first bumble bees and butterflies, buff tailed and peacock respectively, and so we’re hoping our fruit trees will be well pollinated this year and give a decent crop. The spring pots have been taken out of the glasshouses to decorate the patio and around the shop. Unusually our daffodils and tulips are coming into flower at the same time this spring and so the display should look particularly spectacular this year!
I’ve given up trying to predict the weather, an early warm spell in February gave way to yet another cold snap in March, and now it seems to be warming up again. The soil is still slightly too cold to start direct sowing, but in just a couple of weeks we’ll begin filling up the salad beds and the potatoes will go in very shortly.
The cut flower beds should be better than ever this year, we’ve been busy planting dozens of perennial plants; Echinacea, Agapanthus, Liatris, and Phlox to name just a few. We have a range of over 80 varieties of fresh cut flowers available to both professional and amateur florists alike, starting with 14 different tulips varieties that should be flowering from the start of April. Please drop in or check our website for more details.
I’d like to say a big thank you to our volunteers for all of their hard work over the winter and for the help they’ll be giving us over the next few months. Any productive garden is hugely labor intensive, particularly on such a grand scale as the Walled Garden at Gordon Castle; in its heyday 40 gardeners would have tended the grounds and estate. Today the only way we can keep the garden neat and tidy is with the help of our dedicated volunteers, so thank you all very much, we couldn’t do it without you!
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, there’s no better way to show how much you care than by making some delicious chocolatey goodness. Feet up, cup of tea and one of these dark chocolate cheesecakes, and you’ll be Mum’s favourite all year round.
Our head chef Dylan has rustled up one of his favourite recipes and a popular choice with visitors to our cafe. Don’t forget to tag us in your creations on Instagram @gordoncastlewalledgarden, we’d love to see!
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
You will need: Cheesecake filling
300g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
400g Double Cream
100g Icing Sugar
4 x Tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 x Tbsp Treacle
250g Gingernut Biscuits
75g Butter (Melted)
White Wine Poached Pears
8 x Conference Pears
1 x 75cl Bottle of quality white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc)
200 ml water
4 x Cloves
2 x Star Anise
1 x Vanilla Pod (Split)
1 x Pinch Pink Peppercorns
1 x Cinnamon Stick
300g Demerara Sugar (Plus 200g for syrup)
200g Caster Sugar
5 x Tablespoons Golden Syrup
2 x Teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda
Start off by crumbling your gingernuts until they resemble breadcrumbs, melt your butter and incorporate with the gingernuts. Mix well and line the base of your mould making sure you have an even spread and everything is well pressed. If making individual ones, use a glass to press down. Place into your fridge for 30 mins approx to set.
Now you need to melt your chocolate by placing into a heat proof mixing bowl over a pan containing simmering water allow the chocolate to slowly melt. Meanwhile in another mixing bowl, add 350g of your double cream the icing sugar & cocoa powder and whisk until the cream forms soft peaks. Now incorporate the mascarpone & treacle then mix thoroughly.
Once your chocolate has melted take it off the heat and add the remaining 50ml of your double cream, this will cool the chocolate slightly, and remove the risk of the chocolate setting before you can fully mix with the cheesecake mix. Fold the chocolate into the mascarpone mixture and spoon the mix into the mould that contains the biscuit base.
Chill for 3-4 hours before serving.
First of all you need to peel the pears, starting off at the stalk and carefully peel long strokes down towards the bottom trying to keep pears shape. Now place the wine, water, spices and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the pears and poach for roughly 20 minutes or until soft. Take off the heat and allow to cool before placing into a bowl or container and chilling for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, remove the pears from the wine and place into a container until needed. Add the wine mix back into a saucepan adding the extra 200g of sugar. Reduce by 2/3 until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Firstly, line a deep baking or roasting tin (20cm squared if possible) with greaseproof paper.
Now add the sugar & syrup into a heavy based saucepan melt on a low heat, once melted increase the heat to a light simmer keeping an eye on the colour. Once the sugar syrup has reached an amber colour take of the heat and quickly add the bicarbonate of soda mixing quickly pour into the grease proofed tin and allow to set for up to an hour. Crush up the honeycomb and store in a container in a dry place.
To serve an individual portion, spoon some of your syrup on the plate and place the cheesecake on top. Alongside the cheesecake place your poached pear – whole, sliced or diced – and top with a scoop of ice cream (optional) and decorate top of cheesecake with honeycomb
The 4th Duke and his wife, the celebrated beauty and society hostess, Jane Maxwell, entertained many important guests at Gordon Castle during the 18th century, including Robert Burns who wrote a poem ‘Castle Gordon’ by way of a thank you for the hospitality he had received.
Streams that glide in orient plains,
Never bound by Winter’s chains;
Glowing here on golden sands,
There immixed with foulest stains
From Tyranny’s empurpled hands:
These, their richly gleaming waves,
I leave to tyrants and their slaves;
Give me the stream that sweetly laves
The banks by Castle Gordon.
Spicy forests, ever gay,
Shading from the burning ray
Hapless wretches sold to toil;
Or the ruthless Native’s way,
Bent on slaughter, blood, and spoil:
Woods that ever verdant wave,
I leave the tyrant and the slave;
Give me the groves that lofty brave
The storms, by Castle Gordon.
Wildly here without control,
Nature reigns and rules the whole;
In that sober, pensive mood,
Dearest to the feeling soul,
She plants the forest, pours the flood:
Life’s poor day I’ll musing rave,
And find at night a sheltering cave,
Where waters flow and wild woods wave
By bonny Castle Gordon.
As another year comes around, we’re all busier than ever in the walled garden, planning, pruning and ploughing, trying to make the most of this mild winter before the freezing weather arrives. The building work continues, Davie our landscape gardener has his work cut out laying paths and metal edges around our cherry orchard and building the beds and training posts for another 80 step-over apple trees.
We’ve got a lot planned for 2019, starting with our new soft fruit beds in the south eastern quarter of the garden. As with all of the projects at Gordon Castle, the fruit garden will be on a grand scale; 10 varieties of raspberries, 7 varieties of strawberries and 8 varieties of gooseberries will be grown with redcurrants, blueberries, blackcurrants and a myriad of other sweet and juicy delights. Most of the fruit will find its way into the capable hands of Dillon our head chef but there will be plenty left over for our raspberry gin, jam and biscuits. There will be fresh fruit for sale from our potting shed shop and the chance to pick your own later in the summer. We’ll keep you updated with regular reports on our progress.
We have plenty of events planned for the year ahead; the Highland Games, our big birthday party, the garden and Christmas markets, outdoor theatre plus a full program of gardening and floristry courses. We’d love your feedback on how you would like to use our beautiful garden, so please get in touch with your ideas for courses or events.
The seemingly endless task of pruning the 250 or so fruit trees trained against the walls has fallen to our senior gardener, Monika, this winter, and she is doing a sterling job. There’s still plenty of work to do but our grand old plum trees have never been so well tended, lets hope we get a bumper crop this summer. Watch this space for a how-to video about pruning and training trees in your garden.
Leeks, beetroot, swiss chard and kale are still being harvested, good healthy fare after the excesses of the festive season, but most of the vegetable and cut flower beds have been stripped bare and the soil turned. At least 20 tons of well-rotted horse manure has been dug in this year to ensure the plants are well fed throughout the year.
Even in the depths of winter signs of life are appearing in the garden; delicate yellow winter aconites in the lawns outside Garden Cottage and the pale pink blossom of our winter flowering cherries add a welcome splash of colour to the dark January days. New shoots are starting to appear in the greenhouse as well, this year we have a wonderful selection of potted spring bulbs for sale to brighten up your house and garden.
The sun rises a little higher in the sky every day and we can start to think about the season ahead with a little optimism. I’m expecting an early spring this year and before too long our crocus will start to flower, soon after daffodils, tulips, and muscari will herald the start of the growing season. As always please drop in and warm up in our cosy café and if you’re feeling hardy why not have a stroll around the garden and see how we’re getting on.
Our year seems to have flown by, ably helped by the wind from North, South, Beast from the East and everything in between! As always, December is a time to reflect and look back at all the positives our small business has achieved and to try and learn from any hiccups along the way.
After the wettest summer last year, our Walled Garden experienced one of the driest on record. Extreme highs and lows mean a very difficult growing season for both vegetables and cut flowers. That said, our Mediterranean herbs were in their element and loving it! Watering six hours a day was a struggle but luckily our water supply from the dam kept going until the rains came, and thankfully we did not have the water ban like our friends down south. The 52 new cherry trees we planted around the grass mounds have all survived as have the (50) step over apples which completed the “run” along the length of the East wall. We had a bumper harvest of apples and pears so the cider should be delicious and we have also had some apple juice made too.
Visitor numbers increased hugely, thanks to the glorious weather, and it was lovely to see people sitting in the garden enjoying the peace, tranquility and scent of the lavender and sweet peas. The number of compliments we all received whilst talking to visitors was testament to our journey so far and a lot of weeding! We sold hundreds of sweet pea posies but hope to increase our sales of beautiful Scottish Grown flowers for 2019 so if you have a wedding, event or celebration please come and talk to us or ask your florist to source flowers locally. You can read about our Flowers For The Future campaign here.
We are making fantastic progress each year with the hard landscaping and hope to have more of the metal edging completed this winter around the grass mounds which will enable us to complete more of the paths, making another section neater and tidier! We also hope to make a start on planting the soft fruit area and possibly some permanent planting in the central borders.
Our fantastic garden team, under the leadership of Ed, have made massive strides in terms of how the garden looks and a special mention to our wonderful volunteers who make a very real and important difference to what we can achieve. Please come along if you would like an active day in good company and pick up some gardening tips at the same time.
The café won Highlands and Islands Best Eatery Award which was a fantastic achievement for Dyanne and Dylan. With no air miles it is great to see what we grow turned into tasty dishes for all to enjoy. We have hosted a whole range of events and dinners and thanks to the glorious weather our outdoor seating was in full use. Our Walled Garden Birthday party is now a firm annual event as is the market day where we can showcase all our amazing produce. The outdoor theatres continue to be popular and we will have more planned for next year. The Christmas market was a huge success and we will build on that for 2018 along with some help for Angus with the parking!
At the Castle, we had an equally marvellous year with nine weddings, the Re-Fuel festival, circus and much more. Our newly restored Orangery was taken full advantage of and benefitted from the glorious sunshine. One of our weddings, SJ and Mikes, even made it into Tie The Knot Wedding real wedding feature. We will be doing a series of blog posts from our 2018 weddings so stay tuned for that!
The Highland Games and Country Fair continues to be one of our most important events of the year and to have record numbers this year (10,000) made us dance “a little jig” and meant we could once again support “youth development” in our local area and Milnes High school were able to buy a range of musical instruments for pupils. Success of such a large event is not a given and is achieved thanks to the hard work of Dave and the whole events team and estate staff who really perform miracles to get the show on the road. We have new things planned for May 19th 2019 so put the date in your diaries.
The Re-fuel festival, circus and weddings in the newly restored Orangery all benefitted from the sunshine and hard ground! The Estate has really looked at its best this summer and whether we were watching the red squirrels, fishing, gardening or hosting people and events both Angus and I felt incredibly lucky to have such beautiful surroundings for our “office”. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, we have started on building around the tower. This will be a beautiful covered space which will be able to hold weddings, events and some shelter for the Highland Games if the weather is unkind! It is a big project but we are hopeful it may be complete by the end of next year.
Unfortunately the glorious weather didn’t benefit the entire estate. Fishing was one area that really suffered from the lack of rain and the bright sunshine and it was certainly challenging for our ghillies to maintain their normally upbeat and cheerful demeanour. HRH The Prince of Wales chose Ian Tennant as one of his rural heroes for Country Life Magazine which was a much deserved accolade. There are a whole new range of superstitions and rain dances not seen before in these parts and gave gardeners and ghillies a common bond of wishing for the wet stuff. We fared better than most other beats on the Spey and had some good days at the end of the season. We are all looking forward to the new season and are supporting the Atlantic Salmon Trust in their efforts to find out what is happening to salmon out at sea. We will also be welcoming a group to stay in the Castle in April to see the smolt tracking project which should provide valuable information.
The estate team has slowly, over the years, been renovating many of the cottages and they have transformed two including the romantic Quarry Gardens Lodge which have been added to our holiday cottage portfolio so if you have friends coming to the area please do point them in our direction. You can also now book any of our cottages on our website.
In terms of the brand – and as some of you will know from your emails – we have been focusing our efforts on getting our products out there. As a small brand this is no easy feat but through our online sales and mail order catalogue this has taken off for 2018 with our best seller remaining our award-winning Gordon Castle Gin! As the orders have come flooding in it has been all hands to the deck with everyone taking turns at packing and wrapping in time for Christmas, keeping Sarah and Jennifer happy. Giles (amongst his many other roles) has also created a beautiful new pop-up shop at Inverness airport where “Flora” our pony and cart now reside with tempting gifts for the travellers amongst you. We are also about to introduce an amenity size range of our bath and body products for the hotel, pub and B&B for wholesale so please let us know if you have stayed in a hotel that should stock our fabulous range. If you haven’t already you must have a look on our website.
It has truly been another busy year, tinged with sadness as both of Angus’ parents died and will be much missed by us all but we love seeing our children, stepchildren, grandchild and new puppy Melba all moving forward with their lives. We are excited by developments for 2019, whatever it brings, but in any event we hope it will bring us closer to making a success of this very special place. We would just like to say a huge thank you to visitors, customers and clients for your continued support and custom and to all the people who work here who make it possible. Team work really does make the dream work.
Following on from our Christmas Market yesterday we thought it would be a nice idea to do a festive wreath tutorial! This is one of our Christmas favourite jobs so we thought we would show you how we like to make them and just how simple it is.
Before we begin, if you’d rather watch a video tutorial, just here and Ed, our Head Gardener, will show you how in our step-by-step guide. For those who would rather follow our guide, read on!
All you need is a sharp pair of secateurs or scissors, some florists wire and garden string.
We start off with a pre-made moss base, you can buy these from craft shops, ours are 12 inches in diameter. The advantage of moss bases is that you can soak them in water to keep them fresher for longer.
The first step is to cover the base with foliage to bulk them out and provide a background to the other decorations. This year we have used Thuja plicata foliage but almost any evergreen tree or shrub can be used, in the past we’ve used evergreen oak and juniper.
Cut the foliage into pieces 6 to 8 inches long, lay the first piece on to the wreath and use the florist’s wire to hold it in place. We use wire on reels so we can simply coil the wire round the foliage and wreath as we go. Keep on tying on the foliage to the base, trying to use the natural curve on your material to follow the curve of the wreath. Keep the foliage pointing in the same direction to get neater results.
Once you’ve completed the background foliage you can start adding the next layer in the same way. We use a layer of holly next, preferably with lots of berries to add some colour. There has been a great crop of berries this year around the estate so we’ve been spoilt for choice, but it’s well worth cutting holly in November to get the berries before the birds! It’ll store for several weeks in a bucket of water.
Once the foliage is added you can start adding decorations. We like to use natural materials such as dried fruit (including chillies), dried flowers, pine cones, and cinnamon sticks, but almost any decoration you put on your tree would work on a wreath. The easiest way to add the decorations is to cut up 6 inch lengths of florists wire, loop it round the decorations and then poke it through the base and tie at the back if necessary. Wire is much easier to use than string and it tends not to show up as much.
The last step is to tie on a small loop of string so you can hang your wreath up. You can use your wreath inside or out, they will last longer outside but beware or hungry birds if you’ve added berries or fruit!
Here are some of the creations from the participants of yesterday’s wreath workshop led by Zara – aren’t they gorgeous! These can be made to order and start from just £15. Send an email to Ed our Head Gardener to order. Do drop in to the Walled Garden for a spot of Christmas shopping, enjoy a mince pie in the café or just to admire our festive decorations!
It seems as though Autumn will be a brief affair this year. After a few short but beautiful weeks, the first frosts have stripped many of our trees of their autumnal finery leaving their craggy skeletons exposed. The cold weather seems to bring flocks of hungry birds into the garden, working their way through our beds and borders. We always try to leave something for the birds, the apples on the highest branches just out of our reach, or the last few sunflower head studded with seeds provide a valuable food source for birds. If you want wildlife in your garden, try not to be too tidy or efficient in clearing away!
Our wonderful dahlias have been happily flowering away right up until the last moment but we can’t hold off any longer and the time has come to gently ease their swollen tubers from the soil and store them for the winter. Cut the stems down to a couple of inches and then lever them out of the ground, being careful not to damage the tubers. Shake off any excess soil but there’s no need to remove it all, I find it actually protects the tubers over the winter. We put ours upside down in the greenhouse for a few days to dry them off and then pack them away in a cool, dark, frost-free shed. If you’re very brave you can leave them out in the garden over winter, cover them with a thick layer of leaf mould and fleece and cross your fingers! If they make it through you will be rewarded with larger plants and an earlier display of flowers.
It’s not too late to plant bulbs, you can often find bargains in garden centres during November and December as they sell off their stock. We just finished planting 23,000 crocus, muscari, tulips and daffodils throughout the garden, so the display next spring should be better that ever!
Leeks, cabbages, kale and chard are all regularly being taken into the kitchens at this time of year. The brussels sprouts are looking good but we try not to pick any until December to be sure we have plenty for Christmas. Surprisingly many salad leaves will stand up to the frost and they look lovely fringed with ice crystals sparkling in the morning sunshine, don’t crop them too quickly though as they’re very slow to regrow through the winter.
As soon as the leaves have fallen from our fruit trees, winter pruning starts in earnest. Although this can be done any time between November and March we have to start early because we have so many, well over 500 at the last count! It’s a repetitive and time-consuming job but I enjoy the gentle rhythm of cutting and tying in branches and there’s plenty of time to think as you prune. I often wonder how many generations of gardeners have tended to these trees over the last 200 years, snipping away, listening out for the chimes of Bellie church in Fochabers, heralding a well-earned cup of tea and break from the cold.
In its heyday 40 gardeners toiled away in and around the Walled Garden, today we have just 5 (plus a small but invaluable team of volunteers). In the latter half of the 19th century, under the supervision of Head Gardener John Webster, the walled garden was known as one of the finest in Britain. The Gardener’s Chronicle gave the following description of the garden: ‘Having long been famous for the abundance and high quality of the fruits they produce; and even in untoward seasons, when the majority of orchards and gardens display poor crops of fruit, Mr. Webster can show many varieties in abundance. The same fruitful feature may be observed in the vineries and other glass structures, which are fully stored with the fruits, flowers and plants in demand in the ducal establishment’.
John Webster’s son took over as head gardener in 1890, and his grandson was apprenticed in the garden but tragically was killed in action at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. Dozens of young men from the Gordon Castle estate lost their lives during the First World War, including Lord Bernard Gordon Lennox, leading to crippling death duties that eventually led to the sad decline of the estate and walled garden.
I like to think that the walls still hold the memories of those who built and cared for the garden through the years and perhaps one day the walled garden will regain its reputation for ‘the abundance and high quality’ of the fruits we produce.
One of the most common questions we get asked at this time of year is ‘what do you do in the winter?’ The seasoned gardeners amongst you will chuckle at this question because really winter is when the hard work begins in the garden. For the next month or so all our efforts will go into stripping out most of our plants and putting the garden to bed before the serious business of cultivation begins. Our borders and cut flower beds have turned a buff brown colour as the plants have exhausted themselves from the exertions of the summer months. Trailer after trailer of dead plant material will be taken out of the garden and piled onto steaming compost heaps ready to break down and form the ‘black gold’ that will feed the soil and nourish our garden next season.
We always take the opportunity in October to gather the last few flower stems and hang them up for drying. If you choose the right varieties you can have colourful flowers to brighten up your home (or potting shed) right through the winter. Roses, larkspur, sea holly, lavender and cornflower are all suitable flowers for drying but seed heads and thistles such as nigella, poppies and teasels can look great too. All you have to do cut them just as the flowers are opening and hang them in a cool well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight such as a garage or garden shed. Dried flowers can make fantastic and long-lasting autumnal wreaths, we like to add rose hips, crab apples and even chillies.
As the weather cools and the grass stops growing, our landscape gardeners, Davie and Mark, return to the arduous task of building the garden. Putting their skills to good use laying bricks, building paths, installing posts and rails for our fruit trees and making plant supports. Early on in the project we made the decision not to use contractors for the construction of the garden, we build everything ourselves, even down to the benches and planters. It’s a slow process, we’ve been going for over four years now and there’s at least another years’ work to do, but it means we know every inch of the garden and we can set very high standards. When they’ve finished Davie and Mark will have laid over 48,000 bricks and 2.4km of paths!
With Halloween approaching our crop of Pumpkins has started to appear as their foliage dies down, and its been the best crop we’ve ever had. We grow 11 different varieties from the tiny ‘Jack B Little’ through to the enormous ‘Atlantic Giant’, they make great soups and curries, not to mention pumpkin pie! We start to harvest the first of the winter vegetables during October, its been a great year for leeks and as soon as we’ve had a frost or two we’ll dig a few parsnips and cut a few sprouts. Its all about rationing for the next few months, we’ll not see any new shoots in the garden until next march when the purple sprouting broccoli comes back to life, so we have to pace ourselves if we’re to keep the café in fresh veg through the winter.
Now is the time to dig the last of the tatties. Choose a dry sunny day if you can, lift the tubers and leave them on the ground to dry and the skins to set for a day or so before packing them into paper bags and storing them somewhere cool and dark. Take your time to lift every tuber, being careful not to leave them any in the ground, the last thing you want it a potato plant pushing its way up through a neat row of carrots next season! Potatoes should last for months if stored properly and checked regularly and the longer they’re stored, the sweeter they become as their starches turn to sugars through the winter.
The first skeins of geese have stared to grace the skies over the garden, for me this is a sure sign that autumn it truly upon us. Our apricot trees have turned a beautiful buttery yellow, the beech trees surrounding the lake to the west of the walled garden will soon be a riot of gold and burnt orange and we’re hoping our cherry orchard will add a flash of red and scarlet to the show. Autumn is a great opportunity to take a well-deserved break from the cycle of sowing, weeding and harvesting, so get out into the garden and enjoy the crisp clear mornings before the light goes and the hard graft of the winter begins!
If you love the season – but don’t love the garish costumes, pumpkin pie and screaming children that tend to accompany it – then our dried flower wreaths are for you. Plus, it’s not October specific – we have ours on show all year round!
To make our dried flower wreath you will need:
Secateurs or sharp scissors
Jute string or florists wire
A rattan wreath base (ours are 16 inch rattan bases from Hobbycraft)
A selection of dried flowers
Making a wreath is much more simple than it looks. We use pre-made wreath bases to speed up the process but you can make your own from willow, birch or hazel branches twisted together and held with florist’s wire.
Choose a selection of dried flowers, often just 3 or 4 different types of flower and foliage look better than lots and lots. Always leave 2 – 3 inches of stem on the flowers and simply push them into the wreath, one type at a time, working your way round the wreath.
We find it is best to start off with foliage and larger flowers first and leave smaller flowers until the end.
Dried fruit can be really effective or even nuts and berries but beware the birds may help themselves if you hang the wreath outside!
Don’t feel you have to cover every inch of the Wreath with flowers, you need a surprising amount of flowers to do this and often just a few flowers can look just as effective. If you feel the flowers are not secure on the wreath you can tie them in using string or peg them with florists wire. One of the benefits of dried flower wreaths is that they will last many months inside or out!
Some of the dried flowers we use are:
Nigella seed pods
Cardoon and globe artichoke
Teasel (don’t go near these with a fluffy jumper!)
To dry our cut flowers we try to cut them just before the flowers are fully open, they are much more likely to retain their colour and petals this way.
Cut them with the stems as long as possible to make them easier to hang.
Hang the flowers upside down in small bunches (only 6-8 stems) in a cool dry place with good airflow and out of direct sunlight. Bright light bleaches the colour out. We don’t recommend using a greenhouse, the flowers seem to be more prone to rotting in that environment. We string them up in the rafters of our greenhouse.
It often takes 2-4 weeks for flowers to fully dry out. It’s well worth experimenting with different species to see what works best.
The weather has changed and it seems that the end of the growing season is almost upon us, and what a season its been, I can’t remember a hotter summer with highs of 28C! The garden has been its most beautiful to date, attracting visits from The English Garden Magazine, Gardens Illustrated and Scottish Field.
It’s also been our most productive year yet in the Walled Garden. We’ve had bumper crops of potatoes, beans, peas and carrots, not to mention the hundreds of pumpkins and squashes sprawling out of the beds and onto the paths around our pear arches. The fine weather has been a mixed blessing, we’ve had about enough of watering and moving sprinklers around the garden, higher temperatures have brought more pests and diseases into the garden and our leafy crops such as spinach and swiss chard have been more prone to bolting.
Well, it all came to an end this week with driving rain and gales, bringing down our runner bean wigwams and flattening many of our poor sweet peas. By the end of September I always start itching to get on and clear the beds ready for winter cultivation, the damage caused by storm ‘Ali’ gives me an excuse to start early.
It’s been a good year for fruit as well as vegetables. Whilst our apricot crop was slightly down on last year, we had a bumper crop of plums and apples. Of the 600 kilos of plums we picked this year most went direct to garden visitors but we always save a couple of hundred kilos for our delicious plum gin, and a batch always goes off to Baxter’s for bottling. So far we’ve picked and stored about 1500kg of apples, the bulk of which go into our cider but look out for warming pies and crumbles in the café this winter.
There’s still plenty to see in the garden, most of our cut flowers, especially the dahlias will go on blooming until the first proper frosts and the vegetable beds are still very productive. Very soon the fruit trees will start to show some autumn colour, starting with the apricots on the south wall. We’re hoping the new cherry orchard will give us a great display of fiery red leaves and the huge old beech trees surrounding the garden always look golden and magnificent in the low autumn sun.
If you’ve not managed to get to the garden this summer it’ll be well worth coming to our Garden Market event on Saturday the 29th of September. With music, street food, market stalls and plenty of entertainment it should be a great day and a chance to see the Walled Garden for just £3 per person and it’s free from kids under 16.