Heritage Vegetables

June 25, 2018By Gordon CastleBlog, 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 Gordon CastleBlog, 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 Gordon CastleBlog, 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.

What’s Been Happening in The Garden This April

April 9, 2018By Gordon CastleBlog, 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.

Planning for the Season Ahead

March 7, 2018By Gordon CastleBlog, 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

Big Plans in the Walled Garden for 2018

January 24, 2018By Gordon CastleBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

January has to be the bleakest month in the walled garden, the days are short and cold and the garden is asleep for the winter; but it can also be one of the most beautiful. A dusting of snow and a glimpse of sunshine reveals the bare bones of the garden; the lovely elm posts we train our trees to, the geometrical shape of the beds and the sweeping curves of the mounds running the length of the western wall all have their own subtle beauty. Most of our wildlife is asleep too, apart from a few friendly robins following us around as we cultivate the beds, the sparrow hawk waiting for unsuspecting blackbirds, and the skeins of geese honking away overhead, using the tower of the Castle to find their way.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Winter 2017

As gardeners we are as busy as ever, winter is the time for all our construction projects, pruning, cultivation and most importantly of all, planning; and we have big plans for 2018! The project has been going for 5 years now and we’re getting closer and closer to fulfilling Arne Maynard’s vision for the walled garden. Over the winter we have installed another 98 elm posts, all cut from trees on the estate and sawn up on site, and over the next few months we are going to plant another 88 apple trees trained as step over cordons, this year we are concentrating on Scottish varieties. When the project is complete we’ll have over 400 step over apple trees bordering the perimeter paths. We already have 250 mature wall trained fruit trees including apricots, plums, gages, pears, peaches and figs. Our wonderful ancient apricot trees are some of the oldest in Scotland and still produce huge quantities of fruit, not to mention lovely fragrant blossom during April and May.

Hard work at Gordon Castle walled Garden

Our landscape gardeners continue tirelessly laying paths and edges brick by brick. When they’ve finished they’ll have put 48,000 handmade bricks in place and several miles of pathways. We don’t use contractors in the garden, everything is built and maintained by our team of 5 gardeners; the espalier posts, the pear tunnels, all the paths and edges, even the benches in the garden are built from scratch by us, all using locally sourced materials.

The biggest project for 2018 is the planting of a new cherry orchard surrounding the curvaceous architectural mounds on the western side of the garden. As with everything we do here this orchard will be on a grand scale, running the full length of the garden (over 150m) and comprising of both summer fruiting and winter flowering cherries. The trees will provide flowers in the winter and spring, shade in the summer and fiery autumn colour, not to mention masses of sweet cherries for our head chef to work his magic on! Who knows, maybe we’ll make a cherry gin to go with our raspberry and plum liqueurs.

Grass mounds at Gordon Castle Walled Garden in Summer 2017

Our cut flowers proved hugely popular with local florists in 2017, not to mention our visitors, and so we’re adding many more perennial plants to extend the season and give more variety. Peonies, echinacea, anemones, salvias, agapanthus to name just a few, and we’re going to grow roses for the first time in the walled garden, all highly scented, colourful and great for cutting. We’ll start planting the soft fruit garden in the autumn so that next year you can enjoy strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, blueberries and gooseberries.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden in Summer 2017

We planted another 12,000 spring bulbs last autumn, and plan to plant even more this year, so it’s well worth paying us a visit during the spring months to see our displays of crocus, wood anemone, narcissus and tulips. We’re always trying to make the Walled Garden as beautiful as it is productive.

There’ll be lots of special events this year. We’re hoping to start ‘Plot to Plate’ evenings giving visitors the chance to learn how we grow all our delicious produce and then enjoy a taste of the walled garden with a specially created menu. We’ll be offering the friends of the Walled Garden behind the scenes tours on summer evenings whilst enjoying a G&T. There will be all the usual events as well; our Birthday Party in June, several outdoor theatre productions and the Garden Market in September. We even have plans to buy an apple press so you can bring in your surplus apples and go home with bottles of fresh juice. Like our Facebook page to be kept up to date with events.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden Plum Picking

And of course, we will continue to do what we always do; digging, sowing, planting and harvesting! So please do drop in and enjoy the huge variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers we grow and have a stroll around one of the biggest productive walled gardens in the country.

Fresh produce at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

New Head Gardener Appointed

January 11, 2018By Gordon CastleBlog, Gardening advice 3 Comments

We have lots of exciting things planned for 2018 but none more than to kick start with a new Head Gardener, Ed Bollom. Our previous head gardener John Hawley left us in November for a new life south of the border with his family.

Ed isn’t new to our Scottish oasis, he has been a senior gardener here for several years and has been working hard on our garden project. You may recognise him from some of our YouTube garden tutorials! He is also the man behind many of our amazing photographs.

So, to introduce Ed properly to his new role, here is his first blog post!

For my first garden blog post I thought I’d explain how my horticultural career brought me to Gordon Castle.

I’ve been gardening for almost 15 years now and Gordon Castle is the seventh garden I’ve worked in. My career has taken me all over the country working in historic and botanic gardens, from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. I started my journey studying sustainable horticulture at Cannington college in Somerset, motivated by a love for working outdoors and went on to work in several gardens as part of an apprenticeship scheme run by the Professional Gardener’s Guild.

My real passion has always been for productive gardening; particularly growing fruit and vegetables. As a student I always dreamed of working in a traditional kitchen garden growing plants that would actually be used rather than simply admired!

I learnt the craft of productive gardening as the gardener in charge of the organic walled garden, nursery and orchard for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.  I spent five fantastic years growing all the fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and herbs for the Prince and his guests. During that time I married my lovely wife Anna and we had our first child Freddie.

Ed Bollom First Blog Post Head Gardener

I first heard about the Walled Garden at Gordon Castle from my father in law, Simon McPhun, who was helping out in the early stages of the project. When Simon first showed me Arnie Maynard’s plans for the garden I thought it was far too ambitious; the kitchen garden at Highgrove was 1 acre and took all of my energy with the help of 2 other gardeners to keep it to a decent standard and here was a project to renovate a walled garden almost eight times the size!

Anna and I were happy in Gloucestershire and very busy as new parents, so we put any ideas of moving out of our minds. But I couldn’t help thinking about the walled garden project and decided that maybe we should just go and have a look at the site. When we got up to Fochabers and looked around the garden (it looked more like a building site at the time) I started to see the potential and that whilst the plans were ambitious Angus and Zara were going to make it work. It is such an unusual project I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Anna, Freddie and I made the move from Gloucestershire to Moray just as we discovered that Anna was pregnant with our daughter Amelie and I started work as deputy head gardener in May 2015.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the garden develop for the last couple of years, the garden team are fantastic and make it a friendly and productive place to work. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the country doing what we are doing on such a grand scale. Coming into my third season I feel I’m really starting to get to know the garden and hopefully can hit the ground running as Head Gardener.

I love the idea of taking this wonderful historic space and turning it into a functioning productive Garden growing the highest quality produce. Traditionally walled gardens were used to feed the great houses of our country, I like to think of the Walled Garden Project as a modern take on a very old theme. So please keep on following us on our journey, there’s plenty more to come!