On a dull gusty early March day I drove towards The Walled Garden past budding daffodils which line the drive; a promise of golden flowers or Easter bells as they are known in Germany.
Then a surprise, just through the large iron entrance gates: WOW a carpet of the purest white crocuses stretches down the avenues, as far as the eye can see – dotted with purple blooms to prove they are crocuses and not a dusting of snow blown in the chilly wind! A visitor exclaimed as she walked into the grounds ‘Gosh! Spring must be on the way!’
Further into the month, the garden is slowly coming to life but cold winds have slowed the growth of many spring flowers. There will be a wealth of vibrant colour emanating from the 60 spring planted pots and tubs which gardeners Liz and Mhairi moved about ten days ago, and Ed Bollom, the head gardener, feels confident that the forecast warm spell will spur the flowers into bloom. The pots are strategically placed at the entry to the garden, planned to provide a true spring flower filled welcome and say ‘hello Happy Mother’s Day!’ at the end of the month.
The gardeners too are constructing willow domes to support the tulips using willow canes from Karen at Naturally Useful in Forres. Look for them in the garden flower beds and in the spring flower pots round the entrance and patio outside the café and shop.
Amazingly the apricot tree has produced fabulous early blossom soon to be joined by the pear trees which grow over the archways.
Preparation is the key to growing success so work continues cultivating, mulching and feeding the soil with leaf mould and well rotted horse manure. The last of the winter vegetables have been picked and sent to the restaurant kitchen: leeks no doubt to be made into a hearty soup or tasty quiche. I wonder what they will cook with the rest of the colourful winter chard.
Head Gardener Ed is hopeful that the short asparagus season will begin in about two weeks time so in anticipation find a simple recipe at the end of the blog. In Germany when the ‘asparagus is ready’ there is great celebration so, in appreciation of this rare local delicacy, let us follow suit. The crowns of rhubarb are growing daily and shortly we will enjoy the mouth tingling flavour of the first freshly stewed stalks. My great aunt Molly served this delicacy topped with broken rich tea biscuits. An enduring childhood favourite, eagerly anticipated each year and definitely worth trying.
Seed sowing continues and the greenhouses are filling up nicely with brassicas, sweet peas, and hardy annuals such as cornflower and nigella, calendula and tagetes. Tagetes is useful to the gardener as a companion plant, grown among tomatoes it attracts hover flies which help prevent crop damage by eating any green and white fly. In late spring and early summer bright vibrant orange tagetes planted round the vegetable beds will provide a dramatic colour contrast against the green leaves sprouting within. Trays of seed potatoes lie ready to chit and onions are setting all in preparation to plant in warmer days.
Mother’s Day approaches and with that in mind Gordon Castle Gardens have created beautiful bouquets of spring flowers. For sale at the gardens or available to order on line they can be delivered in the Elgin / Fochabers area or collected from the gardens.
For those who are interested in learning more about growing flowers there are still two places available on the workshop of 23rd April – booking via the website online.
Mother’s Day is a special time to visit the gardens with family and friends.
In the play area gardener Davy has created a wonderful fun kitchen for children to enjoy and they are invited to:-
Name that Tree Trunk.
The trunks of trees felled by storm Arwen lie around the estate however in their demise, each has become a mother to thousands of important micro-creatures. You are invited to name a tree trunk for Mother’s Day and the best will receive a prize of a selection of Gordon Castle goodies and a cookery book by Liz Ashworth.
To enter please email
Easter is not far away and there are plans for an Easter Extravaganza in the gardens such as the ever popular Easter egg hunt, face painting, a guest appearance by the Easter Bunny and much much more. Events will be posted on the website.
The restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm, is proud to use as many fresh ingredients as possible from the gardens. It is a popular place to eat so it is advisable to book on line for special occasions such as Mother’s Day lunch.
Today Friday 18th March, The New Potting shed shop saw the sun arrive along with a profusion of vibrantly colourful flowering primula plants. On sale now to celebrate the coming spring and especially for Mother’s Day on 27th March!
Selection baskets of fresh culinary herbs are on sale, a bonus for any cook.
Come to visit the garden, spring is a time of growth when birds are singing, bees are buzzing and a warm welcome awaits.
A cake to celebrate the arrival of spring!
Fresh Orange Lemon Curd Cake
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.
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 Pumpkin Seed Flapjacks
Makes a tin 20cm (8in) square
115g (4oz) butter
85g (3oz) golden syrup
60g (2oz) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz) porridge oats
115g (4oz) rhubarb
30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil the baking tin. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together. Mix the oats, rhubarb and pumpkin seeds in a bowl then pour in the melted mixture and stir together. Press into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes till golden and set. Cool a little then mark into squares while warm. Leave to cool completely in the tin then store in an airtight container.
Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden