The Summer Garden

July 5, 2024By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
‘Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint and the soil and sky as canvas’  Elizabeth Murray

In the early Summer, at the end of June and into July, the garden is at its loveliest. Wander along colourful herbaceous borders, feast your eyes on the luxuriant climbing rose which clings to the red brick walls of Gardener’s cottage and across garden gateways. Originally bred by French gardener Renee Barbier, Rosa Albertine is a popular ‘Walled Garden rose’ because the lightly scented salmon pink flowers grow well, the colour off setting traditional red clay brick which was used to construct walls and buildings.

At last, after a cold, slow growing spring, piercingly blue Delphiniums, fragrant lilies, larkspur, cosmos, bright dahlias and astilbe bring life and colour.

And ‘oh,’ the famous Gordon Castle sweet peas, just waiting for more sun, to burst into multicoloured bloom.

Bouquets of garden flowers welcome visitors to the café and to stay in the castle beyond. A unique Gordon Castle bouquet subscription service is a lovely way to enjoy a monthly bouquet of seasonal garden flowers, delivered to your door within a 15 mile radius of the gardens. Subscribe here

Take time to stroll though fragrant purple lavender beds, past a lily filled pond, further into the heart of the garden; inhale scents redolent of summer accompanied by the hum of contented bees as they flit from flower to flower.

It is so good to see them back at work for they had a tough start this year when a cold spring meant that Beekeeper Jim fed them until temperatures improved.

In a wonderful way, the rejuvenated Walled garden has come full circle, fulfilling the purpose for which it was originally built many generations ago. The gardeners harvest a daily supply of fresh produce and flowers for the castle itself, the garden café and to sell in the Potting Shed Shop. Visitors can enjoy a stroll in the garden, perhaps a meal or snack in the Café then take a living memory in fresh produce and flowers home with them.

In the Potting Shed Shop you will find fresh salad leaves, tender young Kale, Mangetout, sugar snap peas, the first sweet juicy strawberries and more as crops ripen.

The first early potatoes are ready. Maris Bard, is a smaller creamy white slightly waxy potato with excellent nutty flavour.  Then Arran Pilot, an old favourite early variety. The white fleshed oval shaped potatoes have a firm sweet flavour and waxy texture ideal for salads. Cook new potatoes rapidly in boiling, salted water, drain well, steam dry and enjoy! Without doubt, the unmistakable taste of a new potato heralds the arrival of summer!

Head gardener Ed Bollom commented that, the cold spring has, in his opinion, contributed to the low yield of first early potatoes although the flavour is excellent. Later maturing, main crop potatoes are developing well.

The large greenhouse tomato crop is falling behind due to a colder spring and early summer weather. Tomatoes stop growing in temperatures under 10degrees centigrade. Ed Bollom’s advice to tomato growers is to ‘slow down watering and feeding as tomato growth slows down, but, when conditions warm and growth speeds up do the same with increased watering and feed.

Planted beneath the tomato vines, aromatic parsley and basil add to the fragrant anticipation of ripe fruit to come. There is nothing like a freshly picked, home grown sweet Scottish tomato!

A pervading scent of freshly trimmed rosemary will direct you to the herb garden on the right beyond the large greenhouse where we hope at last the tomatoes will ‘speed up!’

The gardeners are summer pruning fruit trees to allow light and air ripen apples and pears more evenly. This exercise also helps keep shape offering a chance to tie in supple new growth.

A short burst of warmth with some refreshing rain and ‘wow’ the wild flower meadows are blooming into an increasing riot of colour.

The pinks and softer hues of the sweet pea meadow on the left contrast with bright gold and red in the Crab Apple meadow which is on the right further into the midst of the garden.

The lush green open air theatre lawn is cut and ready, a fabulous setting.

On Wednesday evening we had Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” which had a great turnout (despite the weather forecast!)

On the 10th of July we have “Peter Pan” a favourite for children of all ages! Book here

View our other events here

The Garden Café is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4 pm the menu reflecting freshly harvested garden produce.

Book a table here

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Cafe

A warm welcome awaits all who visit the gardens which are open daily from 10am till 4pm. A feast for the eyes, where, in a life of constant activity, this summer garden, in all its glory, offers a peaceful place to pause, reflect and be renewed in the wonder of mother nature.

With such fresh quality garden produce little is needed to make a feast, here are a few ideas…

Arran potato salad
Serves 4

225g cooked new potatoes
1 teacup cooked garden peas
2 or 3 spring onions – chopped
Freshly chopped parsley

Dressing:-
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon wine or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Grinding of black pepper.

Cut the potatoes into evenly sized chunks and put into a bowl with the peas and spring onions. Put the dressing ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Pour enough over the potatoes to moisten and mix well. Snip plenty parsley over the top and serve. Delicious made with warm potatoes and peas.

Hot ‘n’ spicy tatties and greens
Serves 4

1 level teaspoon each – mustard and cumin seeds.
1 clove garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 level teaspoon each of ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper
2 spring onions – trimmed and chopped
Sunflower or other cooking oil
500g (1.2lbs) potatoes – peeled and cut into chunks
6 large leaves of green cabbage/kale – washed, trimmed and blanched first in boiling water for 2 minutes, drained, then plunged into cold water and drained.
Pinch of salt

Heat the oil and add the spices and stir fry till the seeds begin to pop. Add the potatoes and stir well together. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons hot water, stir, reduce the heat and cover the pan to steam the potatoes for 10 minutes stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed to prevent sticking. Shred the blanched cabbage and add to the potatoes, stir well cover and simmer 3 or 4 minutes. Season with sea salt and stir together – serve with snipped chives.

 

Fruit smorbrod
Based on a recipe from Scandinavia
Serves 4

2 bagels – split
500g tub crème fraiche or quark
12 fresh strawberries – hulled and sliced
Handful of blueberries – washed
Raspberries
Cinnamon if you like it
Icing sugar to dust.

Spread one side of the bagel thickly with crème fraiche. Arrange the fruit on top Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon if liked and pudding is served.

 

Hot fruit sundae
Simple heat any soft or over ripe soft fruit and cook a little in their own juices. Sweeten to taste with icing sugar. Pour over cold ice cream and enjoy.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

‘The Daring Buds of May’

May 14, 2024By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

In his sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’

Shakespeare wrote:-

‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May!’

However, this year, months of cold wet weather may deem it more appropriate to name them

The ‘daring’ buds of May!’.

A cold wet spring slowed up growth, but, at last, eagerly anticipated, spring flowers are appearing in colourful profusion, while in defiant celebration fruit trees are laden with blossom, the fragrance pervading all corners of The Walled Garden.

Prolific blossom on apple, pear and crab apple trees points to a rich harvest come autumn time. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, explained that last year’s wet summer helped set this year’s fruiting flower buds, which, coupled with the absence of late frost, has produced a spectacular display. Pollinators such as bumble and honey bees are in full ‘buzz’ ahead. On site, bees housed in Gordon Castle hives work locally, spoilt for choice on a short fly path.

May is a ‘super busy’ month for gardeners and volunteers. At long last warmer, drier weather allows a marathon transplant of the 10000 seedlings, lined up outside the greenhouses. Germination has been excellent this year. Looking back it is not a little humbling to appreciate the wonder of mother nature for a few short weeks ago those green growing healthy plants were a dry seemingly lifeless seed!

Weeds, like time and tide, wait for no man so there is a race to complete planting during the early part of the month.

Head Gardener, Ed Bollom commented -‘By the end of May the weeds are going mad!!’ We need to keep on top of them because it is important that the garden is ship shape to welcome visitors.

 

UHI Moray horticulture students Mars and Craig have come to the Walled Garden on a work experience programme. They are enthusiastic learners; gardeners of the future and we wish them well.

 

A beautiful book written by Ruth Chivers, entitled ‘ A Day in the Garden’  describes 365 different gardens, one for each day of the year in picture and in word. Ruth has included a lovely illustrated story about Gordon Castle as one of them.

Published by Batsford Press ISBN 978 1849947893

 

A date for your dairy is a wonderful day out at the annual Gordon Castle Highland Games on Sunday 19th May.

Take time to enjoy the recently established herbaceous border designed by Anna Bollom wife of the head gardener. Situated directly in front of the Orangery where Walled Garden plants will be on sale. Each year centuries old giant rhododendrons flower in vibrant colour; a unique setting for an exciting programme of events and stalls.

Be sure to check out the other events we have on this year in our garden here.

The Walled Garden staff  look forward to a visit of thirty five cubs from the Fochabers’ troop. These junior gardeners will be sowing seeds, learning how to prick out seedlings before a garden walk and simple talk with Head Gardener, Ed Bollom.

Potatoes planted at the beginning of April are showing green shoots and carrot, parsnip and turnip seed has been directly sown into the vegetable beds.

The brassicas are growing well but the gardeners are always on the alert for slugs!

In the large greenhouse fourteen different varieties of tomato have been planted directly into prepared beds. This year the Walled Garden is taking part in an interesting trial in partnership with Orkney International Science Festival. Volcanic rock dust applied to fertilise only one half of the crop which will enable gardeners to establish differences by comparison of both crops grown under the same conditions.  Ed himself is taking part in the science festival this year, including the tomato trial finale. Watch for updates each month.

The cut flower trial beds, are filling up with new varieties of snap dragon and cosmos; joined this year by Zinnia a half-hardy annual which, under favourable conditions, produces prolific colourful cut flowers all summer long.

Gordon Castle asparagus is ready and cropped daily to sell in the Potting Shed Shop and will soon be joined by the first of salad crops. There is still time to grow you own – the shop is selling healthy vegetable and herb plants ready to transplant. Much sought after by gardeners top quality Felco secateurs and snips are on sale her at a special price.

The Garden Café open Wednesday to Sunday serves freshly cooked local produce. Lunch served 10am till 2.30pm. Coffee and cake till 4pm. Prior booking is required to enjoy afternoon tea served from 2pm till 4pm. Book a table here.

The Walled Garden is open every day from 10am till 4pm. May is a unique time for a garden walk: to inhale spring fragrance in the healing peace of flowers, blossom, and the plaintive call of resident oyster catchers. Book entry tickets here.

 

Oaty Fat Balls to Feed the Birds
115g (4oz) porridge oats
200mls (7fl oz) water

Mix together and microwave on high for 1 minutes 30 seconds.

60g (2oz) melted lard

Stir this into the hot porridge and leave the mixture to cool
Scoop into small balls when cold and use to feed the birds.
Store in an airtight plastic container in a cool place.

Great Aunt Molly’s Rhubarb
Tender stalks of rhubarb are appearing, this childhood favourite kindles many memories.
450g washed, trimmed and chopped rhubarb
1 large tablespoon of golden syrup
1 small pkt rich tea biscuits.

Gently stew the rhubarb till tender adding more syrup to taste because some rhubarbs tastes sweeter than others. Syrup is a good sweetener for this acid fruit because it rounds the flavour. Serve chilled topped with broken rich tea biscuits and perhaps some cream to pour over. An annual favourite.

 

Cream Crowdie
Based on a traditional Scottish recipe, a quick no cook versatile desert.

Serves 4 people
150mls double cream
Oatmeal lightly toasted in the oven or under a low grill.
15g (1/2oz) pure honey
A few drops of vanilla essence (if liked)

Whip the cream and honey together till softly thick, add a few drops vanilla essence if liked.   Beat in a handful of toasted oatmeal to stiffen the cream slightly. Serve with freshly stewed rhubarb as a dessert.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

April Roundup – High Winds and Waters

May 8, 2024By Kirsty AllanBlog, Fishing No Comments

April would usually see the cold grip of winter break allowing some much needed heat to kickstart the spring growth… not this year we’ve had unseasonably cool weather with the winds fluctuating from the North and East making for challenging casting conditions.

Although spring seemed to be late, the welcome sight of the osprey assured us spring had very much arrived. Closely followed by the aerial acrobatic team in the form of the sand martins and arctic terns who seem to have appeared in encouraging numbers and then the ever noisy sandpipers flew in piping their call. The last to appear will be the swifts who should be with us in the coming weeks. 

On the river, we managed to get some fish in the net but with the high water we seemed to be stuck in a frustrating spell of loosing fish, presumably due to running fish not committing to taking the fly in the “classic” way. 

It was great to host the River Spey Anglers Association’s lady’s day on Upper and Middle brae, it is always great to see regulars and also introducing new faces to our sport under the guidance of the RSAA team

April also sees the start of our invasive species control, with giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and white butterbur present on all of the beats we work closely with the Scottish invasive species initiative (SISI) we carried out a few days of spraying over all of the beats targeting giant hogweed which seems to get the jump on any other plant making it for easy spotting and spraying early in the season. 

 

As the Calendar turns to May , the weather is sure to break and as it does so will our loosing streak and unfortunately the grass will start to grow faster than we can cut it! 

Lewis Webb

Bird of Paradise

April 19, 2024By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

Strelitzia a tropical perennial plant native to South Africa is often referred to as ‘Bird of Paradise’ because its flower resembles the distinctive crest associated with the exotic bird of that same name.

In 2023 a volunteer at Gordon Castle Walled garden donated a large Strelitzia plant grown from seed sourced on a tour of the botanic gardens in Puerto de la Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, during a holiday on the island in 1982!

Only one seed germinated growing in abundant leaf but not in flower! Last year the Bird of paradise had outgrown its suburban home, so a new roost was prepared for the giant in a green house at Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Re-potted and re-homed all was set fair for a result!! The new premises were obviously to its liking for after 42 years a flower has appeared at last!!

Ed Bollom, the Head Gardener, reckons that increased light and warmth has triggered the dormant plant into flowering mode. One flower already with more on the way, we hope, so watch this space or should I say greenhouse!!

Furthermore tulips galore are bursting into bloom all over the garden as the days lengthen and temperatures rise.

No need to travel to Amsterdam! A drive to Fochabers will suffice for thousands of tulips so painstakingly planted during colder days are set to fill the garden with a spectacular welcome.

 

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

March & April – ‘Nature’s bridge from winter into Spring.’

April 4, 2024By Gordon CastleBlog, Gardening advice, Recipes No Comments

Despite the continuing cold, wet weather, seed sowing is in full swing, the greenhouses so full of seedlings that the gardeners are finding it difficult to make a space! Ed, The Head Gardener reckons that this year will grow from seed a total of 20,000 plants! The seeds are sown, propagated and germination has gone well so far.

Over 300 varieties of flowers including the famous Gordon Castle Sweet peas plus numerous vegetables like peas, broad beans and brassicas fill the greenhouse, steadily growing protected from low temperatures by a simple lining of bubble wrap.

In the seed nursery seedlings are pricked out and potted on to gain size and strength.

Several trays of which are already lining up outside to be ‘hardened off’ to transplant into the garden.

Gardeners Mhairi and Liz have also found time to construct a frame to support the greenhouse roses as they start to grow. Colourful bright ranunculus opposite are also supported by a strong net.

In the cold wet days of March an intrepid garden team created a wonderful growing support tunnel from local willow. Well worth a visit to admire anticipation of the  flowers, and climbing squash which will cover the structure sheltering courgettes and pumpkins growing beneath.

Monday 25th March heralded  ‘Potato planting week.’ It is important to plant before the end of the month because it gives the tubers time to grow over the next three to four weeks.  ‘Tattie lovers’ will enjoy the prospect of a variety of different heritage and more modern varieties to taste and try come Tattie lifting time!

April has arrived and all planting stations are go!  Sweet peas, broad beans, and brassicas, like kales and cabbage first into the prepared vegetable beds. Warmer weather will allow more direct seed sowing of carrots and beetroot.

The rustic wild flower meadow near garden cottage lies dormant filled with the promise of an explosion of colourful flowers, ‘bee food’!! Birch Wigwams in the pastel wild garden stand erect, a golden path of wood chippings meanders through the beds and all is anticipation! Mother nature never disappoints.

Ornamental yew hedging planted into the beds painstakingly prepared over the winter months offer a chance to follow their growth journey to maturity. In their youth the dark green saplings contrast with golden young bark chip mulch at their roots.

New apple and pear trees are planted too. I wonder if there will be fruit to taste this year?

The soft fruit garden welcomes six new strawberry varieties. With names like Red Gauntlet (redolent of Sir Walter Scot) Florence and Mawling Ace ( perhaps with a Wimbledon connection?) There is nothing to beat a freshly picked Scottish summer strawberry!

Blueberries; Spartan, Duke and Jersey will join the soft fruit team this spring.

A Gordon Castle fresh soft fruit salad this summer I think!!

The climate in Moray tends to be dry during the soft fruit growing season so a clever ‘membrane of leaky pipes’ has been installed to irrigate the soft fruit area. The results of the trial will be assessed later in the year.

Look for newly planted hazel trees situated between the pathway arches.  As they grow and mature they promise a harvest of filberts and cob nuts. Hazel trees are lovely to look at; the nuts delicious to eat.

Herb bed re-planting is an on going project as the new shape and plant collection evolves.  Sweet rocket recently planted in the shelter of rosemary bushes promises the first cut flowers this season. Gardener Mhairi assures me the flowers are fabulous!  I always thought of rocket as a salad leaf so you learn something new every day!

There is a lot to look forward to in the Walled Garden this spring.

Kitchen Garden Workshop
6th  April from 10am till 3pm including lunch and refreshments.
How to grow your own vegetables. Book here

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Heritage Vegetables

The Cut Flower Garden Workshop
20th April from 10am till 3pm including lunch and refreshments.
Enjoy a garden walk, demonstrations and the memory of a lovely day in the flowers you take home. Book here.

The Garden Café is open daily Wednesday to Sunday from 10am till 4pm.
The Walled Garden welcomes visitors daily open from 10am till 4pm.
The Potting Shed is open too selling colourful spring bouquets, daffodils and plants.

‘My winter heart is lifting as dreams of spring abound
Tulips tipped in sunshine, a crocus carpet ground
A panoply of pansies will display their violet hues
And double –headed daffodils will also pay their dues
Snowdrops will spread gently and their fragile heads will rise
As hyacinths bring splendour lilies reach for the skies
Primroses preen proudly and irises stand tall
A floral fest of colour as spring now comes to call’

Karen Stokes from The Friendship book 2024.

Spring recipes to try:

Tattie Scones
Left over mash makes delicious tatties scones

225g (8oz) mashed potatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
15g ( ½ oz) butter melted
115g (4oz) self raising flour

Mix all together and knead into a smooth ball. You may need more flour depending on how wet the potatoes are. Divide into two. Roll out each into a thin round and cut into four or 6 triangles. Heat a frying pan or girdle on medium heat and bake for 4 to 5 minutes till golden on each side. Cool in a clean tea towel on a wire tray.

Enjoy freshly baked.

You can use gluten free self raising flour instead of wheat flour.  Roll thinly and bake till crisp – delicious with a dip.

A fresh Spring Rhubarb Cake
Not long now till the first tender stalks of spring rhubarb appears.
Makes a cake 23cm x 5cm (9in x 2in)

You will need:
175g (6oz) butter or margarine
85g (3oz) soft brown sugar
30g (1oz) honey or golden syrup
2 large eggs – beaten
175g (6oz) self raising flour sifted with
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (if liked)
115g (4oz) chopped rhubarb
Topping:-
30g (1oz)  self raising flour
60g (2oz) chopped walnuts
30g (1oz) soft brown sugar
30g (1oz) melted butter or margarine

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350C, Gas 4. Oil and line the cake tin. Cream the margarine and soft brown sugar. Beat in the honey or syrup and then the eggs alternating with a little flour. Fold in the rest of the flour and cinnamon along with the rhubarb. Pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. To make the topping measure the dry ingredients into a bowl, pour in the melted margarine and stir to mix. Scatter over the cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes till risen, firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

March Fishing Round-Up

March 27, 2024By Kirsty AllanBlog, Fishing No Comments

Blog 2 – March 27th 

March started off with the river levels continuing to drop off from the high water in February. With not many guests out on the river, this gave us more time to continue the tidy up from the winter floods and also doing some preparations for the season ahead. We have installed solar power and a log burner into the upper brae hut along with some other minor works to “modernise” the hut.

On Saturday 9th while Angus was dropping off the pictures to finish off the upper brae decorations, Andrew Davie got the estate off the mark for the 2024 season with a cracking 7lb fish from the rock pool. Proving that unless you’ve got your fly in the water, then there’s no chance of getting a fish!

We went into the following week full of hope and with the river looking a perfect height, a fish was sure to be on the cards? Alas mother nature showed us how she dictates our season as a huge landslip on the Rothes and Aikenway beat turned the river into a mix of sand and clay. At times we felt there was more chance of finding an Oompa Loompa wandering by the chocolate river as opposed to some salmon in it! This coloured water lasted all week with it only dissipating on the Saturday afternoon after a small rise helped to wash the worst of it out.

As the month continued, we’ve had a fluctuation of water and weather conditions going from 17 degrees in glorious sun to 4 degrees with a bitter north / easterly wind and now great big dumps of snowflakes are falling, threatening to cover the grass. Whist this made it hard for casting, the conditions made the log burner in the huts all the more welcoming. We have had the odd offer of a fish but nothing that has been confirmed to be Salmo Salar.

It’s encouraging to see fish being caught further up and some fantastic specimens with multiple 20lb+ fish have been caught so there must be some quality fish swimming past us. After all, they aren’t taking the bus!

We still have availability throughout the spring and even a couple of weeks later in the prime season. To find out our availability and to enquire for your trip to Gordon Castle please contact Toby on Factor@gleco.co.uk or search for Gordon Castle on Fishpal to book online.

Look forward to welcoming you soon!

Lewis Webb – Middle Brae Ghillie

Gordon Castle Fishing

March 15, 2024By Kirsty AllanBlog, Fishing No Comments

After a very destructive off season, with 5 significant storms, which caused considerable damage to our river banks and tracks, we did manage to get fishers on the river for Monday the 12th of February.  Boats repaired and painted, huts revived, logs chopped and stacked, tracks graded, ghillies refreshed, equipment serviced, river blessed – we were off.

We had a wonderful opening day in which the sun (which we hadn’t seen since September) shone and the river behaved herself as if she hadn’t run rampage for the previous three months.

The storms and associated high waters have changed our pools considerably.  It’s going to take Ian, Lewis, David G and David B the beat ghillies, a bit of time to work it all out.  Actually, I detect an air of optimism for this year.  The challenges of a harsh off season may actually be beneficial!  Otters cave, particularly is unrecognisable – it seems to have turned into Otters Loch and has eaten its way into the left bank by 15-20 metres.

Spring is certainly upon us.  There is evidence of green shoots all around and birds are in abundance.  We have already started this years battle against the Invasive species – we hit the knotweed hard last year and are hoping we can really push it back this year.

Whilst our summer fishing is quite full, we still have opportunities for March, April and May.  All the signs are that this year will be significantly better than last.

Castle Water Hut under siege during the October 2023 floods.

Winter Blog

February 9, 2024By Gordon CastleBlog, Gordon Castle 4 Comments
‘Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall, is missing the best part of the whole year: for gardening begins in January with the dream.’
Josephine Nuese

January

Pouring over seed catalogues, planning and ordering has kept head gardener, Ed Bollom, busy, working to create an ambitious planting programme. Something old and something new seasoned with heritage varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers looking forward to the seasons ahed. Time to watch plans take shape as the gardeners plant, tend and weed!!

Battling against bitter cold, snow, rain and high winds the gardeners have pruned their way round two hundred and fifty fruit trees which grow round the garden walls. The trees, almost 100 years old, have grown to quite a height, but, with the aid of a 4 meter high scaffold the annual task will soon be completed. The remaining job is to prune the Gordon Castle Plum trees, propagated by famous head gardener, John Webster who lived and worked in the garden until his death in 1890. Ed Bollom, the present head gardener, reckons that the trees are between one hundred to one hundred and fifty years old, the trunks hollowed with age, however, they still produce a prolific harvest of rich golden fruit which contributes to the unique flavour of Gordon Castle Plum Gin.

It was decided to dig out the bed growing Jerusalem artichokes, but, easier said than done because this root vegetable is, to say the least, invasive. It took a week for a mechanical digger, excavating to a depth of 1 meter!  Now a new space offers the chance to grow different native flowers – unusual snapdragon, dahlias and summer flowering bulbs such as gladioli, lilies and freesias, joined by some ‘everlasting’ blooms, to use in wreath making courses at the end of the summer.

February

Work beings to move the mountain ash ( rowan trees) to a different area of the garden replacing them with four varieties of cultivated hazels know as filberts and cob nuts. Once the trees are established it is good to anticipate a tempting harvest of fresh hazelnuts.

The main job this month is labelled ‘ The Herb Beds.’ The task to clear the existing area in order to replant with an easily maintained, interesting range of culinary and medicinal herbs. Some, not so well known, like hyssop, loosestrife, feverfew, rare thymes and sages. Mints of which there are many, can be invasive however it is planned to grow in a contained way to prevent a mint ‘ take over!!’

 ‘Fruit tree pruning, and any pruning is less of a science than it is a conversation. You prune, the tree answers, you prune again.’
Ann Ralph

 A fruit tree pruning course led by Ed Bollom the head gardener on 2nd March will offer gardeners the invaluable opportunity to learn more about the importance of pruning skills, and,  how to train apple, apricot , pear and plum trees. It is a half day course from 10am till 12.30pm including refreshments at a price of £59.50 per person. Book here.

The Garden café and gift shop is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

At this time of dreary dark days and stormy weather, to lift spirits, let us remember , American author ‘Minnie Aumonier’ who advises – ‘There is always a garden!’

The garden is open seven days a week from 10am till 4 pm. Come visit no matter the weather to find signs of spring, where snowdrops ring their snow bells in welcome and the first cherry blossom braves the cold in defiant beauty.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

I heard a bird sing in the dark of December

December 18, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December,
A magical thing,
And sweet to remember:
“We are nearer to spring
Than we were in September.”
Oliver Herford, “Hope,” in The Century Magazine, 1914

 

As the garden is ‘put to bed’ for the winter it is wonderful to reflect that under the chilly earth the promise of spring is beginning to stir.

This month snow and ice has been a big issue which has caused much extra work to keep the roads open for staff and visitors alike.

The vinery for the moment is a ‘wreath making production line’, where freshly harvested greenery is transformed into a variety of stunning Christmas Wreaths. All the workshops were a sell out success and saw another forty two newly trained ‘wreath makers’ go on their way rejoicing!

Gordon Castle hand-made natural wreaths will be on sale until Christmas Eve at the price of £25.00 for a small and £40.00 for a large wreath, these are for sale in our potting shed.

The potting shed shop is bulging with fresh vegetables; the all important brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks, potatoes, cabbage and kale join the never ending supply of Gordon Castle heritage apples. Local, no food miles, ideal for the canny Christmas cook or chef!

The gardeners are on the last tidy up of the year, weeding, edging and sweeping up piles of autumn leaves added to the composting collection to break down into ‘leaf mould’ which will enrich the soil in the future. Sets of secateurs and loppers are honed sharp ready to start pruning fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year.

The gardeners are keen to make sure all is tidy before a well earned break however; the garden still welcomes visitors while the café, serving freshly prepared festive fare, remains open Wednesday to Sunday over the holiday.

Plans are already in place for some exciting happenings in 2024 so watch this space!!

There will be seventeen courses and workshops taking place over the year and here are ideas for the gardening diary.

‘Grow your own flowers and vegetables,’ during April is followed by ‘Hand Tied Bouquet’ work shops from May until August. The autumn will see a return of the ‘Dried Flower Wreath’ making course and, off course, the very popular ‘Christmas Wreath’ making in December.

New, fun workshops for children start in spring with ‘Seed Sowing’ and an exciting one entitled ‘ Make your own Flower Crown!’

Look for a new ‘garden experience’ opportunity! Treat yourself or friends and family to a special visit to the Walled Garden through the purchase of vouchers on the website.

Not forgetting the opportunity to join the Gin School and create a bespoke gin ‘ just to your taste!’

Everyone involved with the Walled Garden would like to take this opportunity to thank visitors volunteers and friends for your support in 2023 and look forward to welcoming back into the garden in 2024 when Head gardener Ed Bollom says ‘the garden will be even more beautiful than ever!’

Blog Snow March Gordon Castle Walled Garden

“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope; 
The spirit of Christmas which is peace; 
The heart of Christmas which is love.”
–   Ada V. Hendrick

Some more recipes from the Walled Garden to enjoy:

Sticky cranberry and redcurrant sausages
Serves 4 people

8 thick pork, beef or venison sausages
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle cranberry sauce with red currants
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 dessertspoon honey
Salt and pepper
Grated zest of 1 orange

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Line a roasting tin with foil and oil well. Prick the sausages, lay in the tin and cook for 10 minutes in the oven. Mix the cranberry sauce with the marmalade, honey, salt and pepper and orange zest. Remove the sausages from the oven and coat well with the cranberry mix. Roast a further 10 to 15 minutes till tender and caramelised. Serve hot or cold.

Bisc’oat’ie
A Scottish take on an Italian favourite.

85g porridge oats
45g plain flour ( gluten free flour works too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
45g pistachio nuts
30g dried cranberries
Grated zest of an orange
1 large egg

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325 F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tray and line it with non- stick baking parchment. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the orange zest and the egg. Mix well till the mixture forms clumps then bring together using your hands. Turn out onto a floured board and knead into a long torpedo shape approximately 23cm (9in) x 6cm (2 ½ in) wide. Lay onto the lined tray and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till pale golden and set – the mix will spread a little. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray for 10 minutes. Turn down the oven to 140C (120C fan) 275F, Gas 1. Using a sharp long bladed knife slice the cooled torpedo shape into diagonal slices about 2cm (3/4 in) across. Lay flat on the baking tray and place into the middle of the oven to dry out for about 30 to 40 minutes, turning once. Cool on the tray and store in an airtight container – will keep for up to 4 weeks. Drying the slices at a lower temperature keeps the colour of the pistachio nuts.

Helensburgh Toffee
 An old family recipe.

1 teacup ( 150mls) milk or water
115g  butter
900g  granulated sugar
1 tin condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Oil a tin approximately 30cm (10in) x 20cm (8in), .Melt the butter and water in a pan. Add sugar. Stir until dissolved and boil slowly 5 minutes stirring all the time. Add the condensed milk and stir till boiling. Keep stirring. Fill a cup with cold water. When the mixture darkens and begins to thicken, test by dropping a little into the water. When it forms a firm chewy ball as it falls to the bottom of the cup the toffee is ready for the next stage. Remove from the heat, allow to settle and add the essence. Beat with a wooden spoon till it begins to grain then quickly pour into a prepared tin. When set mark into squares.  Turn out onto a clean board, break into squares and store in an airtight tin or put into bags, seal and share with family and friends.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

The earth is growing quiet

November 29, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
“The earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets.”  In November by Cynthia Rylant

The earth is quietly resting. However, the gardeners are not, for they are tackling two huge projects which will take several weeks to complete.

The planting of a new yew hedge in the north west side of the garden has begun. Part of the long-term garden plan it will stretch 130metres to enclose the cherry orchard. It is an ongoing project designed to provide more interest by creating ‘garden rooms.’

Evergreen and slow growing a further yew hedge will reflect a similar one which is now established round the soft fruit area.

Already trenches are dug with wooden edges in place awaiting 20 tons of top soil prior to planting the 500 yew trees which will create the new hedge screen.

Project number two is labour intensive and will take some time to complete. ‘Watch this space,’ as they say because the renovation and replanting of the 70 square meter herb garden is ‘quite some undertaking!’ One consolation is that digging out aromatic plants such as fennel, lemon balm, camomile and rosemary releases heady aromas redolent of the approaching festive season, scented candles and cosy winter nights by a crackling log fire.

Planting a combination of medicinal and culinary herbs is at the planning stage. Head Gardener Ed Bollom and his team continue to remove overgrown plants while retaining the rosemary hedges which divide the area. The groundwork is almost half way to completion; followed by replanting to create a diverse area of interest which will be more easily maintained.

With the flower beds tidied and the garden put to bed for the winter, this is the best time to prune because the apple and pear trees are in a dormant state. The pear trees which grow over the archways are first, to encourage new spring growth to further cover the arches. It is a long job taking several months to complete.

Meanwhile the Potting Shed Shop is bursting with apples, freshly dug leeks, parsnips and winter cabbage. This much overlooked vegetable grows well here, there are an abundance of tasty recipes to be made. Brussels sprouts sweetened by a nip of frost will soon be on sale. There are also on request, Jerusalem artichokes, which though fiddly to prepare make a delicious bowl of soup.

Then there is the enjoyable task of decking the halls with holly and more in time for;

Christmas afternoon tea served in the Garden café from the end of the month.
Find more information here.

The Walled Garden Gift shop is filled with unique decorations and gifts, I love the baubles filled with plum or raspberry gin! What a clever idea! Come have a browse, our shop is open 7 days a week 11am-4pm.

Now is the time to think about ordering a Christmas Wreath. Completely hand made with foliage and flowers specifically grown in the gardens for this purpose. No ‘plant miles’ or ‘plastic ‘ involved. Made with care and joy to provide pleasure and cheer deck your halls for Christmas. Pre-order your wreath here.

At this time of the year a cook’s thoughts naturally turn to cakes and more besides, so here are a few recipes to try using fresh garden produce;

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
Serves 3 to 4 people

You will need:
440g Jerusalem artichokes – scrubbed, trimmed and chopped
150g potatoes – peeled and chopped
50g butter
500mls vegetable stock
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or garden thyme
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper

Gently cook the artichokes and potatoes in the butter slowly stirring for 5 minutes. Add stock, lemon thyme and zest. Bring to the boil, then simmer 20 minutes or till the vegetables are tender. Add lemon juice and season to taste. Blend smooth and serve hot.

 

GARLIC BUTTER WINTER CABBAGE WITH OATS AND WALNUTS
Serves 4

Wash and shred half a winter cabbage. Melt 30g butter in a saucepan, add a crushed clove of garlic along with the cabbage and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Season well with salt and ground black pepper add a splash of water and steam for a few minutes till wilted and tender. Remove from the heat, drain retaining the juices. Keep warm.

Topping:-
30g butter
30g chopped walnuts
60g porridge oats
Salt and black pepper

Melt the butter, add walnuts and oats and keep stirring to toast. Toss onto the cabbage while hot. For those who like a spice add chilli or garam masala to the mix. Alternatively freshly chopped herbs like parsley or coriander.

 

RASPBERRY GIN CRANNACHAN
Serves 2 people

You will need:
5 tablespoons Gordon Castle Raspberry Gin Liqueur
60g (2oz) medium oatmeal
115g (4oz) raspberries
30g (1oz) honey
1 tablespoon crème fraiche
150mls double cream
15g caster sugar
Toasted jumbo oatflakes

The day before, put the oatmeal in a bowl, cover with the gin and stir in the honey. Cover and leave to soak overnight. The following day stir in the raspberries and crème fraiche leaving 8 whole fruits to decorate. Whisk the cream with the sugar till thick. Toast the oatflakes. Assemble the dessert in tall glasses. Add a spoon of oatmeal mix then one of cream, repeat then decorate the top cream with toasted oat flakes and fresh raspberries.

 

GORDON CASTLE PLUM GIN CHRISTMAS CAKE 
There is nothing like the tantalizing aroma of a slowly baking Christmas cake to herald the feast to come.

You will need:
225g (8oz) currants
225g (8oz) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas

To soak the night before baking the cake:
2 tablespoon Gordon Castle plum gin liqueur
4 tablespoons hot water
Cover the bowl and leave in a cool place.

115g (4oz) cherries- washed and dried
115g (4oz) mixed peel
175g (6oz) chopped ready to eat apricots
350g (12oz) plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
60g (2oz) honey
The grated rind and juice of 1 orange
5 eggs – beaten
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle plum gin

To feed the cake:-
Gordon Castle Plum Gin Liqueur
Put the currants, raisins and sultanas into a bowl add the water and gin and soak overnight. Oil and line a baking tin 23cm (9in) square. The following day, heat the oven at 160C (140C fan) 325F Gas 3. Weigh the cherries, mixed peel and apricots into the bowl of soaked fruits and stir together. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and honey till light then beat in the orange rind and juice followed by the eggs alternately with a spoon of flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the remaining flour along with the gin. Fold in the fruits and soaking juices. Gently spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and lightly tap the base of the tin on the work surface to even the mix. Wet a clean hand in warm water and use the palm or back of the knuckles to flatten and smooth the surface, particularly in the middle to help prevent the cake rising to a peak while baking. Bake 60 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 150C (130C fan) 300F, Gas 1 for a further 30 minutes. Test the middle of the cake by inserting a skewer or point of a sharp knife. If it comes out cleanly and the cake feels firm and springy to gentle pressure, the cake is ready. If not bake a further 15 to 20 minutes and repeat the test. Cool in the tin. Pour over 2 tablespoons of plum gin while warm and repeat twice as the cake cools. Leave 24 hours to set in the tin. Remove, wrap in foil and store in a cool place. Bake the cake at least 1 week in advance to allow flavours to mature. Marzipan and ice as required.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.