Flowers For The Future

August 10, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog 2 Comments

I walked into a florists the other day to show them an example bouquet that we had grown from our cut flower selection in the hope that they would consider using our Scottish cut flowers.

Greeted with a perplexed expression, I explained who I was, how we were local and the reason for my visit. The florist said she was aware of us and had used us occasionally before but our flowers weren’t perfect. She pointed at the bouquet in my hand and said “and, they can contain little beasties like that”, pointing at a tiny fly on the dahlia. She continued, explaining that all of their flowers were first grade from Holland. I could have droned on about the air miles, pesticide use and declining numbers of wildlife but I chose not to. This particular florist wasn’t interested in how they got to her shop – they just had to be perfect.

Sometimes I think we forget about the purpose of flowers. Their primary focus is to reproduce to make pollen which is eaten by insects and in turn by birds, small mammals and so on; the food chain begins. They are not – contrary to popular belief – solely there to make perfectly formed, insect free bridal bouquets. They are beautiful and unruly, just as nature intended.

This encounter left me feeling disheartened, did everyone feel this way? I did some research and found that a staggering 70% of cut flowers are imported from overseas. As the flowers are not ingested, overseas producers are not regulated to the same extent, impacting heavily on pollution, habitat loss and declining numbers of wildlife.

So what can we do? We can work together – whether you are a florist looking to buy local, a bride looking to do DIY arrangements or a flower grower looking to sell, join our Facebook group #flowersforthefuture. The group aims to connect Scottish growers and florists to benefit the future of the industry and the ecosystem. The project will begin on Facebook but hopes to grow into regular meetings and workshops. The notion that Scottish flowers aren’t as perfect as their artificially grown counterparts in Holland is a preconception that the initiative seeks to challenge. Let’s start a discussion and change perceptions.

And what’s growing at Gordon Castle Walled Garden just now? Download the full list or read the summary below.

August and September are colourful months in the walled garden, not least because our four huge cut flower beds are in full bloom. We grow over 50 varieties of cut flower from seed and this year we’ve added in a selection of roses and herbaceous perennials.

Each of the beds has a name and colour theme; ‘Golden Peat’ is a mixture of hot shades and contrasting darker colours, ‘Glowing Heather’ is predominantly soft pinks and purples, ‘Icy Glen’ is our white bed interspersed with greens, and ‘Scotch Thistle’ is based around cooler blues and purples.

The planting combinations are carefully designed around complimentary and contrasting shades and textures making them not only very productive but also beautiful right through the summer. Some of my favourite combinations are the wonderful Dahlia ‘Purple Haze’ with its subtly striped purple petals growing through larkspur ‘Fancy Purple Pictoee’, or the vibrant pin-cushion flowers of Scabious ‘Summer Fruits’ surrounded by Nicotiana mutabalis and the striking Dahlia ‘Vassio Meggos’.

Our beds are incredibly productive at this time of year, packed full of Cosmos, Cornflower, Nigella, Gladioli, Salvia, Delphinium, Didiscus, Ammi, Helianthus, Gypsophila and many more varieties providing us with thousands of flowers to decorate the castle and café. We grow about 50 metres of sweet peas each year, six varieties of all different colours, all scented and chosen for their quality as cut flowers. We also grow plants for their foliage such as the vibrant green Bupleurum rotundifolium and Moluccella laevis.

Four Years On

July 6, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

It’s our fourth birthday this Saturday (7th July) and we cannot believe what has been achieved in such a short space of time. In just four years the eight-acre site has gone from a barren field to a beautiful, tranquil space for locals and visitors alike.

The 15th century plot has been painstakingly restored and we now have a cafe, a shop and a luxury brand. The cafe uses a Plant Pick Plate ethos which means that we create our dishes using garden-grown produce and strive to source all other ingredients locally. The £1.2 million restoration of the Walled Garden has resulted in the employment of 65 local staff, part time and full time, who have all taken the ongoing project into their hearts.

We’ve gone from this…

To this…. (click image to play video!) 

 

If you’re local pop by, we’re having a big party from 12-4 with food, games and gin (naturally). 🙌🍸 Party aside, we can’t quite believe how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. There are now over a million bricks in the walls, 30,000 in the paths and over 350 varieties (not plants, individual varieties!) of fruits, vegetables, cut flowers and herbs. We plant 15,000 new plants from seed every year.

Team work makes the dream work

This incredible eight-acre project has been managed by just five full time gardeners and our very valuable team of volunteers. If this is what we’ve achieved in four years we are SO excited to see what another four can do. There’s one other very important person we must thank for allowing the garden to be brought back to what it is today. Willie Robertson joined the team in 1948, aged fourteen and remained as head gardener until 2015. After spending 67 years working in the garden and tending to the soft fruit and espaliered trees, Willie is as much a part of the garden as the walls themselves. Willie tended to the trees when the garden was put into commercial hibernation prior to 2014 and, living locally, he still comes down to keeps a watchful eye over developments in a place that he has tended most of his adult life.

The biggest thank you goes to…

Last but by no means least, Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox (owners of Gordon Castle) took over the running of the estate from Angus’ parents in 2008 with a vision to transform, diversify and breathe life back into a traditional Scottish sporting estate. In this time the estate as a whole has gone from strength to strength on an almost entirely self-funded basis. No two have worked harder to make this project a roaring success and you will often find them both in the garden weeding, mowing and planting.

 

Heritage Vegetables

June 25, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice 2 Comments

Today we have a blog written by our gardener Liz who joined the team last summer.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Heritage Vegetables

At Gordon Castle Walled Garden we have decided to try growing a variety of heritage or heirloom vegetables.  The definition of heritage/heirloom is a plant that has been in cultivation for 50 years or more.  Some people insist that 100 years is the magic number.  Whichever is correct, modern agriculture really came into its own in 1945, following World War 2.  Nowadays, as well as the Walled Garden, there are many people who have allotments of their own and take great pleasure in growing their own vegetables.

So, some of the vegetables we have decided to grow are: brussel sprouts – Evesham Special, beetroot – Mr. Crosby’s Egyptian, cauliflower – Dwarf Efurt (sometimes known as snowball) celeriac – Giant Prague, Musselburgh leeks, and peas – Kelvedon Wonder.  There are lots more we are trying, the list could go on for ever.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Heritage Vegetables

Today I sowed some of the beetroot and celeriac.  Sown into modules of 104, watered from the bottom, then put into the sunken greenhouse until they germinate.  Once hardened off, they will be planted and left to mature, tended to by our team of gardeners until harvest is ready.  There’s something so lovely about going to the garden to harvest fresh vegetables for your evening meal.  We take great pride in providing delicious Scottish produce for the café – and the chefs love it too!

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Heritage Vegetables

Once we’ve supplied the cafe with vegetables, we’ll sell any extra in the shop.  The shop is open seven days a week.

We grow tomatoes in our greenhouses.  Ailsa Craig – a very hardy Scottish variety, among many other varieties.  A variety of potatoes, also called Ailsa Craig……another heritage vegetable.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Heritage Vegetables

The pleasure this gives me cannot be put into words.  I would not change my job for the world.

Liz

June Garden Update

June 14, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice 2 Comments

What a glorious start to the growing season we’ve had this year! After what seemed like a never-ending winter, the current spell of fine weather has been a real blessing allowing us to get a head start in the garden. We’ve been flat out all month planting over 10,000 vegetable, flower and herb plants, our beds and borders are really starting to fill up. Its been the hottest and driest May on record and keeping the garden watered has been hard going, but we’re all set for a really good growing season.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Salad

Our tulips have been magnificent this year, flowering right through May, the delicate pink ‘Angelique’ and frilly purple ‘Labrador’ were the favourites with visitors and flower arrangers. The cut flower beds are just coming into bloom with our summer flowering annuals and perennials, the calendula and cornflower are the first to show some colour but there are over 50 other species hot on their heels. We sell freshly cut flowers every day in our shop and we can also cut to order, so please get in touch for more information.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Our apples, plums and apricots gave a lovely but short-lived display of blossom and it looks as though we’re in for a good crop. The dry weather often makes them drop their fruit in June but with well over 350 trees there should still be plenty for our chefs and visitors to enjoy later in the season.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden

The asparagus was particularly good this year, we harvested almost 50kg of spears through April and May. Salad leaves, sugar-snaps, mange tout, beetroot and carrots are busily being cropped from the vegetable beds and whisked straight to the kitchens for our chefs to work their magic on. If you’d like a taste of the walled garden at home, we’re selling the best of our vegetables from the lean-to next to our potting through the summer, so drop in to try the freshest fruit and vegetables in Scotland!

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Asparagus

The building work continues in the walled garden with the development of the area around Garden Cottage at the centre of the south facing wall. We’ve taken out the box hedge and re-homed it next to the lovely iron gate in the east wall. We’re replacing it with elms posts and rails for trained step-over apples and there will be two small lawns and a patio to frame the cottage, giving our guests somewhere to enjoy the view of the garden and perhaps a G&T after a hard days fishing!

Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Many thanks to everyone who attended the Highland Games, especially those who visited our plant stall, it was a fantastic day. The games support the whole estate and all the money raised from selling plants will go straight back into the garden restoration project.

There’s so much going on in the garden at this time of year, our tomatoes and cucumbers are growing at a rate of knots, we’re growing lots more edible flowers and heritage vegetables out in the veg plots this year and we’ve got a large selection of chillies just starting to flower and fruit in our greenhouses. If you’re a keen gardener, a lover of good food or are just looking for peaceful walk in beautiful surroundings, please do come and visit the Walled Garden this summer, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! Thanks, Ed.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Top Tips For Growing Sweet Peas

June 5, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

Every summer our sweet peas provide us with such a beautiful and fragrant display, never failing to impress right to the end of the season.

We’ve been working with The English Garden Magazine to deliver some top gardening tips throughout the season. Taken back in April, the garden looks worlds apart from what it does here but don’t worry you can still plant sweet peas in June. Enjoy!

Is there anything specific you would love to learn or any top gardening tips you would benefit from? Just pop your comments below.

Volunteer Week

April 11, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Uncategorized No Comments

This week we are celebrating all the help we get from our wonderful volunteers in our beautiful Walled Garden!

Throughout the years we’ve had many people volunteer time helping develop the garden to its full potential and we are ever so grateful of all who come to lend a hand. We are proud to support the WWOOF program where volunteers can experience a wide range of opportunities all across the world on organic farms. We have welcomed a number or volunteers throughout the years through this program and have seen a real positive effect to the garden because of them. Check out our short video below where we interviewed two volunteers from Brazil last winter.

As well as working with the WWOOF program, many of our volunteers come from the local area, keen to help us complete this historic project. One of our regulars, Margaret has been with us for over four years now.We managed to steal a second of Margaret’s precious time to ask about her volunteering experience.

“I started volunteering at the beginning of the restoration of the Walled Garden and just love seeing the progress that has been made. I’ve learnt so much about gardening from planting to growing apricots and step over apples. It’s a real team effort and we all work hard – it’s kept me fit during my retirement that’s for sure! My favourite part of the garden would have to be the amphitheatre. It’s such a unique addition, especially for this area, and it’s so lovely to see the families gather in summer when we have outdoor theatre performances. This year will see lots of progression in the garden and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

We too are a fan of our outdoor performances and with over five lines up including Pride and Prejudice, Dr Dolittle and The Midnight Gang it will be a jammed packed schedule. Find out more details here.

Volunteers at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

We love to get our volunteers involved with as wide a range of jobs in the garden as possible. You can expect to do everything from weeding, seed sowing and planting out to harvesting, cutting, arranging and drying flowers and decorating the café and shop. We’re always happy to teach volunteers about what we are doing so no previous gardening experience is necessary. We take volunteers Monday to Friday from 10am-4pm and are very flexible as to when and how long you would want to work. We also offer a free friends of the Walled Garden membership, a bowl of soup for lunch and free garden produce depending on what is available to all our volunteers.

We truly appreciate all the help we get as it is invaluable to the garden and to our business. As a big thank you we are hosting our 4th birthday garden party on the 7th July to celebrate all our volunteers, staff and their families. There will be live music, a bbq and lots of craft cider to enjoy. You are all invited!

If you would like to volunteer in the garden, we would love to hear from you! Please send your CV and details to info@gordoncastlescotland.com. 

What’s Been Happening in The Garden This April

April 9, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

We’re not quite sure whether spring is here or not in the Walled Garden. One moment the crocus flowers are open wide, basking in the sunshine and covered in honey bees, and the next they’re closed shut sheltering from snow and bitter winds. Come rain or shine we’ve been busy getting everything ready for the growing season ahead. The biggest development this year is our new cherry orchard; 52 trees, 5 different varieties, all planted up waiting for some warmth the get them growing. We deliberately planted larger 5-year-old trees so that we can benefit from their lovely spring flowers straight away and with any luck we should get some fruit this summer as well, so look out for a new cherry gin liqueur later in the year! We’ve added another 98 apple trees to our step-over posts giving us 10 more Scottish varieties lining the perimeter path around the garden.

Bee and Crocus

The cut flower beds are set to look better than ever with the addition of 40 scented roses and we’ll be planting many more perennial plants as soon as the soil has dried out a little! Please do get in contact with us if you would like a list of all the cut flowers we grow and when they’re available.

Seed sowing is in full force in the potting shed, giving us a little respite from the cold weather. We all love checking the greenhouses every morning to see what has germinated over-night. Almost every inch of the heated greenhouse is full of healthy young plants soon to be hardened off and planted in out in the garden. I’d liked to have sown the first succession of vegetables direct into the beds by now, but there is little point sowing into cold wet soil so we just have to accept the season will be a little late this year.

Seedlings

We’re trying to fill the harvesting gap this year by growing micro-greens. Micro-greens are the seedlings of vegetables and herbs that have the most sweet and intense flavour. At the request of our head chef, we’re experimenting with coriander, peas, rocket, perilla, cress and beetroot. Our first crop has been a great success. Watch this space for a blog post all about how to grow your own micro-greens later in the year.

Planted Seeds

If you’ve visited in the last few days you may have noticed some strange, spikey new plants in the lavender bed. They’re actually a type of citrus, Poncirus trifoliata, that should produce small fruit and give height and structure to the centre of the garden.

Poncirus trifoliata

Lots of work has been done to enrich the natural play area, we’ve added stepping-stumps, a barefoot path, lots of fruit trees, giant black-boards and even put a roof on-top of the bug-hotel! And there’s plenty more to do with budding little gardeners over the Easter holidays, we have a baby-animal themed nature trail around the garden, just ask in the shop for more details. If you are a regular visitor don’t forget ‘Friends of the Walled Garden’ membership could save money on garden admission and gives you a discount in the shop and café.

Peach Blossom

Despite the changing weather, the huge old apricot trees on the south wall have started flowering, as reliable as ever. Very soon the plums will bloom, followed by the apples and finally the pear trees. If you’ve not visited the Walled Garden during the spring before I would urge you to do so, the fruit blossom really is spectacular and we’ve been busy planting many thousands of spring bulbs to add to the display. And there’s plenty happening in the garden during April, we’re starting to fill up the vegetable and cut flower beds, our daffodils and tulips will be a riot of colour very soon, and we have a selection of lovely spring plants and cut flowers for sale at the shop. So there’s plenty to do and see in the walled garden this spring – plus we have been selected as one of Jules Hudson’s top 5 gardens to visit in Britain so definitely worth a look.

That’s all for now, Ed.

Spring Garden Trail

March 23, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

FANCY VISITING US THIS EASTER?

We would love to see you and your family and are now taking table bookings for our traditional roast for Easter Sunday. We are also going to be running our children’s spring trail throughout the holidays which is free with adult garden entry (£3) and the little ones will receive an Easter treat once finished! You can pick up your trail in our shop or in the cafe.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Nature Trail

 

Here are just some of the characters you can expect to meet… Mhairi the mouse and Harry the hedgehog can’t wait to meet your little ones! Don’t forget to tag us in photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter if you decide to visit the garden or cafe.

Not visited before? Find out how to find us. 

Planning for the Season Ahead

March 7, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

The Oyster Catchers have returned to the Walled Garden once again.

We didn’t see them until the end of March last year so they’re a good fortnight early. I’d like to think that it’s a sign of a good growing season ahead; their distinctive high-pitched calls echoing around the garden are a sure sign that spring is on the way.

With warmer weather rapidly approaching it’s really important for us to be well prepared for the spring and summer; whether you have an allotment, a veg patch in your back garden or just a few pots, it’s well worth taking the time to plan it all out. Here are a few simple tips to help you make your garden as productive as possible this year:

Blog Seeds March Gordon Castle Walled Garden

  1. Roughly measure and draw out the space you have, photocopy it and keep the template. We draw up plans for our four vegetable beds every year, it makes it so much easier to get the rotation and spacing of crops right and gives a good idea or how many seeds to order.
  2. When you know what you want to grow and how much space you have, sit down with a seed catalogue or write a list of all the varieties you want. Try not to get carried away and cram too much in, its always best to aim for quality rather than quantity.
  3. Make a sowing plan to get your successions right, this is really important for crops like salads and peas, a calendar or wall planner makes this much easier. Start the season with longer intervals between crops and then shorter ones as the days get longer and warmer. For example we leave 6 weeks between our first and second crop of peas and then just 4 between our second and third crop.
  4. Keep a diary, it doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a note of what you’ve done in the garden and the results you’ve had, it’s so easy to forget little details from one year to the next. We have records form the last four years and I regularly check to see when we sowed our seeds or when the fruit trees started flowering.

Blog Blossom March Gordon Castle Walled Garden

However you decide to plan your garden, be flexible. Nature is unpredictable and every growing season is different so always be prepared to abandon you plans and use some common sense! Take advantage of early warm weather to get a head start but don’t sow your seeds in a snow storm just because your sowing plan says you should! Whatever the weather this season we wish you the best of luck and happy gardening.

That’s all for now, Ed.

Blog Snow March Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gin Inspired Mother’s Day Delight

March 7, 2018By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Recipes No Comments

Looking to spoil Mum this Sunday with a super yummy pudding? Try your hand at our Gin Garden Dessert.

Gordon Castle Garden Gin Dessert 2

This recipe is made up of a lavender and honey mousse, gin soaked garden berries, chocolate soil and edible flowers. It’s a great recipe because it looks much more complicated that it actually is! If you are making this with little ones simply leave out the gin for their pots or alternatively, make it alcohol free (it still tastes amazing!).

Start with the berries. For this you will need: 
200ml water
100g Sugar
50ml Gordon Castle Gin
400g mixed garden berries

Bring the water and sugar to the boil (add the Gin in now if you don’t want it to be so tipsy), and set aside to cool. When it’s at room temperature, glug it all over your berries. I’ve used blueberry, raspberry and garden redcurrants for mine, but any and all will come to life in the gin syrup.

Next, move onto the mousse. For this you will need…
A dozen fresh lavender heads
100g honey
500ml double cream
3 egg yolks
2 gelatin leaves
200ml milk

Put the lavender heads, gelatin and milk into a pan. Heat gently with a lid on, when it come to a near boil, remove the pan from the heat and wrap the top with cling film, this will keep the flavour and aroma in. This process can be used to infuse milk with nearly any flavour, if you wish to be even more experimental. Leave the pan to rest and Infuse like this for at least half an hour.

Once rested, strain the pan in to another and put it back on to a gentle heat.

Meanwhile in a mixing bowl, beat your egg and honey until it turns a brilliant thick fluffy white. Slowly beat in your hot infused milk, once incorporated put the mix into a thick bottomed pan (this will stop your airy custard from getting a heat shock and splitting). Put it on a low gentle heat, and stir with a wooden spoon, once its thickened enough to coat the back of your spoon, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Whisk your double cream until it’s just past a soft peak, and is just able to hold its shape. Gently fold about a quarter of your cream into the custard, when its consistency lightens you begin to fold the custard in to the cream (this process allows you to keep more air in the mousse as the less folds you make to the cream, the more air you’ll keep in).

And for the soil…
200g sugar
100ml water
200g dark chocolate
50g dark cocoa powder

Put the sugar and water in a thick bottomed pan and bring to the boil, then, reduce the heat, once the water evaporates your caramel can burn quickly, use a sugar temperature probe and once the sugar hits 120c stir in your cocoa and chocolate. The sudden drop in temperature causes the sugar to crystallise with the chocolate and viola. Every pastry chefs favourite plate sprinkle.

To finish, put it together…
We’ve used little ceramic flower pots but any bowl, mug, jug or glass will work. Spoon the boozy berries in and your mousse on top, and generously cover it in the chocolate soil.

So when we first created this it was the height of summer and we had lots of fresh flowers to choose from! As it’s March there isn’t much around so unless you have some potted plants indoors (although don’t go taking all the heads of Mum’s prize plants!), why not decorate the top with berries which you can buy in your local supermarket.

Gin Dessert Recipe - The Gin Garden