This morning, the sun endures past dawn.

September 11, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
“This morning, the sun endures past dawn. I realise that it is August: the summer’s last stand.”
– Sara Baume

Not so much a last stand but an ‘on growing’ bounty of fresh produce. The daily harvest is on sale at The Potting Shed Shop.  Head Gardener, Ed Bollom, describes this time of the year as the garden being ‘ in full swing!’

Indeed it is, with Victoria plums ripening, along with the numerous varieties of eating apples.

This week the gardeners picked Laxton a delicious, crisp sweet aromatic apple. There are vegetables a plenty:- purple and green cauliflowers, cabbages which are particularly flavoursome this year, plus a wide variety of kales to suit every taste! A bumper crop of runner beans, mange tout and sugar snap peas, in the large greenhouse a prolific crop of steadily ripening tomatoes.

The onions have done well this year and lie in the sun to dry, this will help them to keep longer.

Courgettes large and small and of course freshly dug potatoes, Sarpo Una on sale just now with Pink Fir apple, Cara, Sarpo Kylie British Queen and other heritage potatoes to look forward to.

Gordon Castle is taking part in a trial with Orkney International Science Festival using rock dust to fertilise and mineralise soil. Charlotte potatoes grown with and without rock dust have been produced for the finale event at Orkney College UHI on 8th September when results will be revealed. It is thought that use of rock dust also aids carbon capture.

A small number of honeydew melons grew successfully in the small greenhouse along with the cucumbers.

Everlasting flowers like status (sea lavender) Billy buttons and straw flowers are hung to dry suspended from The Potting Shed Roof in preparation for a 2 hour workshop on 23rd September. A sample wreath lying in the Potting Shed caught my eye so I took a photo to share on this blog. Booking for the Dried Flower Wreath Workshop can be viewed here.

Cutting lavender growing round the lily pond is in progress after which the aromatic flowers will be distilled to produce essential oils used in the Gordon Castle skin products.

Apples picked each day travel to a local producer to be pressed into Gordon Castle apple juice and fermented in to Gordon Castle cider.

The wild flower meadows slowly changing into autumnal hues punctuate the mature garden which is laden with ripe fruit and vegetables. Still flowers everywhere as the seasons change.

Protected in the large greenhouse bloom chrysanthemums and roses – worth a peep in the door!

The garden’s summer visiting Hare is moving to a new home for he will soon be auctioned with his hare friends to raise money for Clan Cancer. We shall miss him and his friend’s who move onto pastures new.

The garden café serving a cornucopia of fresh garden produce is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am until 4pm. Book a lovely homemade lunch here.

The garden and shop is open daily from 10am till 4 pm. It may be summer’s last stand but the garden remains ever changing ever welcoming. Time to squeeze in one last summer adventure! Book garden entry tickets here.

Bacon floddies

A great recipe – make it veggie omitting the bacon.
I tend to use par-cooked tatties now to make because it gives a crisper result. A wee bit like Swiss Rosti.

1 large potato – cooked and grated
1 small onion – peeled and chopped
60g (2oz) bacon – chopped
30g (1oz) mushrooms – chopped
1 egg – beaten
Oil for frying
Pinch of thyme if liked
Salt and black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper adding thyme if liked. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook spoonfuls of the mix. Cook on each side about three minutes and turn to cook the underside till crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen towel and enjoy freshly cooked.

You can make these with other meats – what do you like?

 

Tattie 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 and a little gum instead of wheat flour.

Courgette and walnut cake
Based on a recipe baked by Orkney friend Barbara Todd’s mother.

175g (6oz) plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
175g (6oz) caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs beaten with
75mls (2 ½ fl oz) oil
175g (6oz) grated courgette
60g (2oz) chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a 450g (1lb) loaf tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder, spice and sugar into a bowl. Mix the eggs, oil and courgettes and add to the dry mixture along with the walnuts and stir together. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin and eat freshly bake. Store in the fridge.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Glorious July

July 25, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
Glorious July, flowers bloom, fruit and vegetables ripen, the garden beckons!

A giant hare statue, redolent of psychedelic art, stands on sentry duty. He is one of 40 exhibited throughout Moray & Aberdeenshire to raise awareness of Clan Cancer Support, which will be auctioned later in the year to raise funds for the charity. Hares had a significant presence in Roman mythology; a unique coincidence for this month takes its name from the famous Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

After a ‘hare raising welcome’ I like to think he would have enjoyed a leisurely stroll in the garden grounds taking time to appreciate his surroundings because Romans were themselves dedicated gardeners.
The garden overflows with colourful flowers of every shape size and hue. Local florists save flower miles coming each week to select and pick fresh from the garden and, of course, the gorgeous Gordon Castle bouquets on sale each weekend are without doubt a wonderful way to take a lasting garden memory into your own home.

Lavender beds surround the lily pond in a sea of every imaginable shade of purple.


Sit a while, relax, listen to the buzz of happy honey bees, inhale the soporific perfume of lavender and let the world fade away.
The lavender flowers will be harvested at the beginning of August to extract the essential oils used in the fragrant garden bath and beauty range, so popular with visitors.

Each day fresh soft fruit and vegetables fill the new fridge in the Potting Shed Shop. The selection includes freshly picked garden peas, broad beans, courgettes, raspberries, and strawberries, black, red and white currants. Kale, cabbage and calabrese are also on sale. Don’t forget the potatoes, several varieties are harvested as they mature, Arran Pilot and Red Dukes of York so far have proved a plentiful and flavourful crop.

Take care when boiling the latter variety which tends to be a floury quickly cooked potato which disintegrates if over cooked. Simmer slowly to cook quickly through then drain and steam, they also make crispy roast potatoes and chips.

In the large greenhouse tomatoes are slowly ripening, clever planting of marigolds and basil at their feet serves to produce an aroma redolent of all things Italian tomato, mouth watering and appetising!!

In the middle part of the greenhouse, Jenny Abde, a local potter, is staging an exhibition of her work called ‘ Earth Informs Clay’ which is inspired by single use plastics. Last year Jenny displayed her pottery beside the lavender beds, and is delighted to return with her latest designs.

Summer pruning of espaliered, step over and arched fruit trees is necessary at this time of the year to keep their shape thus letting light and air circulate to allow the fruit to ripen. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, anticipates a smaller crop of apples, pears and plums this year. The cold spring affected blossom pollination because the pollinators found it too cold to venture forth – as we all did! The lack of rain in June has also caused some growing fruit to drop. However, there will be plenty of fruit come the autumn just not the bounty of previous bumper years.

And ‘Oh’ the wild flower meadows! Simply exquisite! On the left just beyond the big greenhouse lies the ‘Sweet Pea’ meadow. Twig wigwams covered in a profusion of pastel coloured sweet peas watch over an abundance of different wild flowers.

In bright contrast, beyond the herb garden, on the right ‘Crab Apple’ meadow is aflame with hot oranges, crimsons, yellows and reds. Both are worthy of a photograph as an enduring summer memory to illuminate cold darker days.


On the far side of the garden lies the grass maze, fun to walk; where you may be lucky enough to find some common spotted orchids, which Ed hopes will spread and grow more prolifically as the years pass. Wander here slowly listening for a skylark ‘soaring ever singing’ in the lazy summer air.

The Walled Garden Café serving a rich variety of freshly prepared garden produce is open 10am till 4pm Wednesday to Sunday. The Walled Garden Shop and gardens are open seven days a week from 10am till 4pm.

A warm welcome awaits; wind down and relax.

Take a taste of The Walled Garden home to enjoy, all fruit and vegetables fresh each day at the Potting Shed Shop.

Here are some recipes to try;

GARDEN SUMMER VEGETABLE SALAD

You will need;
225g broad beans – blanched and skinned
1 baby courgette thinly sliced
225g sugar snap and mange-tout peas sliced and quickly blanched
1 ripe tomato chopped
3 spring onions – peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Spicy sweet and sour dressing 
1 tablespoon each of;
Cider vinegar, tomato ketchup, salad oil and soft brown sugar.
Mix together and season to taste with chilli powder and a little sea salt.

Prepare the vegetables, mix together adding the parsley last, then stir in the dressing and serve.
A similar mix can make a stir fry.

STIR FRIED SUMMER SALAD
Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan, add garlic and chilli to season then toss in the vegetables and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt. Add 1 tablespoon water or stock, cover the pan to steam for 1 minute, stir in the dressing and serve.
For the adventurous instead of water add whisky or gin. Flambee and when the flames die down stir in the dressing and serve.
The above recipe is just a guide line. Use any mix of tender freshly picked summer vegetables, they are at their best just now. Use any dressing of your choice mayonnaise, vinaigrette the list is endless.

ERDBEER KUCHEN
German Strawberry cake
Makes a round tin 20cm (8in)

You will need;
2 eggs
60g (2oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g  (3 ½ oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
175g (6oz)  strawberries
Raspberry or strawberry jam

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan) 375F, Gas 5. Oil and line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy, stir in the butter, flour and baking powder very gently to keep as much air as possible in the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool a little in the tin then loosen the cake with the blade of a knife. Place the tin sponge side down onto a wire cooling rack, tap gently on the bottom of the inverted tin and the cake should drop out onto the rack.  Leave to cool. Lift onto a flat serving plate.

Spread the top with jam. Trim and slice the strawberries, then lay overlapping on top. Melt the rest of the jam with a little water and brush gently over the fruit to glaze. Enjoy with lashings of whipped double cream!!

You can make a similar cake with raspberries – Himbeeren in German!

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

June the gateway to summer when…

June 21, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
June the gateway to summer when…

‘The sun shines for you, birds sing for you, flowers bloom for you so don’t forget to smile for you!’ (Marjory Pay Hinkley)

We all love bright sunshine and warmth but there has been little or no rain this month so the gardeners are flat out watering plants to keep them alive. Almost everything has been planted out, the cut flower beds are full and the vegetable beds are catching up!

The longest day has passed along with a bumper fresh asparagus crop for this year. Already fresh produce is being picked for use in The Walled Garden Café, Castle kitchens and to sell in The Walled Garden Shop.

Mangetout, sugar snap and garden peas; salad crops cut fresh each day;delicious mixed leaves with names like little gem, salad bowl, the pink tinged leaves of lollo rosso and easily recognisable ‘freckles!’

Soft fruit is ripening, starting with strawberries which are smaller this year due to dry weather but still sweet and full of summer goodness.

Not long now till the first new tatties are ready. A variety called Casablanca looks to be first out of the soil. This potato has a white fluffy flesh, excellent for steaming, boiling, roasting and chipping. Next up will be Arran Pilot, it is recommended as a flavoursome first early potato, I look forward to a taste test boiling of these; sprinkled with a little oatmeal – a feast.

This year the tomato plants were planted directly into the greenhouse soil. They are growing well and developing trusses of fruit indicate that there will be fresh tomatoes ready to eat soon. Growing at their feet are edible marigolds and basil. The aroma of all three together is mouth watering.

The continuing high temperatures mean it is hard to keep up the pace of work in the garden.

Round the garden flowers of every shape and hue are bursting into bloom. In the trial beds clarkia and unusual dahlias are joined by helichrysuim and Statice. The later two are suitable for drying with a view to creating a dried flower arranging workshop in the Autumn.

The central herbaceous borders are coming into their own and the lavender meadow surrounding the pond is liberally dusting with a haze of purple.

The Gordon Castle bees delighted!!
‘How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower! (Isaac Watts)

A large variety of flowering and vegetable plants are on sale at The Potting Shed Shop.

Gin School Weekends are very popular. Join Michelle Myron to forage botanicals from the garden then learn the art of distilling to make your own small batch gin.

Booking is essential, secure your session here.

The Walled Garden Café features freshly picked garden produce on the menu and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am till 4pm.

The outdoor theatre kicks off this year on 2nd July with David Walliam’s ‘Bad Dad’ performed by Heartbreak production. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility follows on July 7th and on 29th July the company perform MacHamLear by Michael Davies.

Tickets available here.

There is much happening at The Walled Garden, vegetables are growing, plants are flowering, bees are buzzing . July beckons when the garden is certainly in full bloom and production.

All are welcome in this wonderful place of vibrant colour and great peacefulness.

 

Quick Spiced Walnut & Oat Salad Topping
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
85g Hamlyn’s porridge oats
60g chopped walnuts
30g pumpkin seeds
1/8th teaspoon chilli flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Toss in the other ingredients and keep stirring till hot and toasted. Serve hot over a green salad . Cool and store in an airtight container and use on salads as needed.
Use peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, herbs instead of spices.

Warm 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish Tomato and Syboe Salad
Serves 4
4 large ripe tomatoes
3 or 4 spring onions or Syboes
A few chives if you have any
Dressing made as above.
Choose a wide flat dish. Cut the tomatoes in half. Cut a small v round the core/stalk and remove. Lay flat onto a chopping board and slice thinly. Discard the end pieces. Lay onto the plate in an overlapping circle starting at the outside. Snip the spring onions and chives over the top. Drizzle with dressing, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

‘He who plants a garden plants happiness’

May 2, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

There is an old Chinese proverb ‘He who plants a garden plants happiness .’

May for Gordon Castle is the busiest month of the year. The gardeners are indeed planting much happiness as they transfer 20, 000 seedlings into the garden ground! It is a mammoth job coupled with the constant battle against weeds which are growing at a great rate of knots!!

Each day more of the garden ground fills up. The peas are sown, leeks, onions and the first crop of brassicas are already growing in the vegetable beds. The early planted mixed salad leaves have survived the cold snap to provide daily fresh salad greens for the Café kitchen.

The cut flower beds are being planted with colourful annuals such as cosmos, larkspur and Ami. New this year is a dark purple poppy named Black Swan which should flower in early June, Head Gardener Ed reckons it is a stunning flower so we wait and watch.

The thousands of tulip bulbs planted at the end of 2022 are now in flower, they seem to march through and across the garden in glorious splendour, majestic and vibrant they catch the eye no matter where you turn. Then it will be the turn of a huge variety of dahlias who will tiptoe in to replace the receding army of tulips as late spring heralds in the blooms of summer.

 

Wild flower seeds are sown in the meadows and espaliered and step over apple trees are literally laden thick with fragrant blossom bringing happiness to the Gordon Castle bee population! The bees are busy collecting nectar pollinating as they flit from flower to flower.

The tomatoes are planted in the large greenhouse this year directly into the ground in a specially created bed. This should produce a more prolific crop. Fifty seedlings in all; old favourites like gardeners Delight and Ailsa Carig are joined by new ones like pale pink Rose Crush and Green Zebra which appears just as the name implies.

Freshly cut rhubarb and asparagus are now on sale in The Potting Shed Shop and should be available into June.

The shop is open daily from 11am – 4pm until 5th June when it will open from 10am – 4pm.

The Café is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am till 4pm. Fresh salads on the menu straight from the garden each day.

The Walled Garden and children’s play-area is open daily from 10am till 4pm.

The new herbaceous border created by Anna Bollom is now established on either side of the Orangery outside The Castle; blooming with a huge mix of perennials such as roses, delphiniums, geraniums, echinops and salvia.

Filled with colour in time for the Highland Games which takes place this year on Sunday 21st May – tickets are available now online or to buy at the gate.

The cold spring has caused the tulips to flower later, worth the wait they are spectacular in glorious technicolour. Come and enjoy, a warm welcome awaits.

 

Mum’s rhubarb crisp
A recipe from childhood which remains a favourite.
Serves 4
250g rhubarb – washed, trimmed and chopped
45g granulated sugar
Topping:-
115g porridge oats
60g plain flour
115g soft brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
85g butter or margarine – melted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Put the rhubarb into a casserole dish, sprinkle with sugar. Mix the dry ingredients, stir in melted butter and vanilla essence. Spread over the rhubarb and bake at 180C ( 160C fan) 350F, Gas 4 for 25 to 30 minutes till golden and crisp.

Great Aunt Molly’s Rhubarb pudding
Great Aunt Molly reckoned that her simple pudding idea was the very best. Simply stew rhubarb then break rich tea biscuits over and that is it. Perhaps a little cream but add nothing more.

How to stew Rhubarb.
Serves 2
To each 225g chopped rhubarb, instead of sugar allow 1 tablespoon of golden syrup to sweeten which softens the acid flavours. Pop into a pan add a little water and simmer on medium heat till tender. Cool and store in the fridge.
Broken rich tea biscuits on top? As many, or as few as you like.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Coronation Day Flowers

May 1, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

A fanfare of colourful tulips and a beautiful floral crown welcomes visitors in celebration of a historic coronation day. However, a hand picked selection of Gordon Castle flowers travelled to London to be part of the floral display in West Minster Abbey.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden is a member of Flowers from the Farm which is proud to be working with Shane Connolly, the floral designer and sustainable floristry advocate, to bring seasonal, sustainable, UK-grown flowers to the heart of Westminster Abbey, a gift from Flowers from the Farm to His Majesty King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their coronation.

As Flowers from the Farm’s Honorary President, Gill says:

“It feels as though flower farming has come of age and I could not be prouder of Flowers from the Farm. A decade ago, we were told that our flowers were just for bunting and jam jars, so to see them in Westminster Abbey designed by Shane Connolly, an internationally acclaimed floral designer, is a very special moment. It is incredible to think that the flowers that were just a few days previously growing in my Yorkshire field are now on display to the world in a building of national importance on such a momentous occasion.”

 Members teamed up  to relay buckets of fresh flowers to local hubs. Gordon Castle’s flowers began their journey south at Aviemore where Zara Gordon Lennox met other contributors. The flower relay ended at the Gloucestershire flower farm of  co- chairs Jo Wright and Wendy Paul where they were sorted and prepared for Shane Connolly to arrange in West Minster Abbey.

After the service at the Abbey the flowers will be distributed by the charity Flower Angels to hospices, care homes, vulnerable members of the community and shelters.

Meanwhile we can all appreciate the wealth of colour emerging each day in The Walled Garden – no need to travel to London or Amsterdam, just to Gordon Castle at Fochabers! All are welcome.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

‘April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks GO!’

April 24, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog, Gardening advice, Gifts 1 Comment
‘April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks GO!’
Christopher Morley ( John Mistletoe)

It certainly is all go for the gardeners and volunteers in The Walled Garden. Springtime means longer brighter days, when mother nature is ready to go, or should I say grow!! There is much to do, preparation and planting out continues apace.

It is important to prepare the ground by mulching and ploughing so the soil is full of goodness to feed hundreds of seedlings, all lined up in waiting by the greenhouses.

Already the potatoes are planted in the ground and next will be peas, garlic, broad beans and salads.

Davy has all but completed winter landscaping of paths and borders; just in time as weeds emerge; they wait for no man. Early weeding is a necessary job to prevent them spreading while planting out continues.

Tubs of spring tulips and daffodils in full bud await warm sun, then to burst into bloom.

The gardeners have been busy bending supple willow canes over and round them to create a protective dome which will support the flowers as they grow into flower. The young willow, sourced locally from Karen at Naturally Useful in Forres, bends easily into shape. May the sun be with us to encourage flower buds to burst into vibrant colour after cold days of winter and early spring!

The grass is growing too, and soon will be the first cut of the season to tidy the garden for Easter.

Over Easter week a Spring Trail invites visitors to explore the garden and on the 9th an Easter Family Fun Day with face painting and Easter egg hunt. It was such fun last year, a welcome return.

Nearer the end of the month a Gin School event on 29th April is a must for those who would like to create a bespoke gin to their own tastes!! Booking is essential as numbers are limited.

Book a session

For two weeks of Easter holiday, The Walled Garden shop is open daily from 11am till 4pm.

Keen gardeners and those looking for unusual gardening delights need search no further. flower trugs, gardener’s hampers, tempting seed packets, the tools with which to plant them and much more.

Scented pelargonium invite you to visit The Potting Shed shop.

The Café is open daily Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

Book a table

There is always a ‘happening’ in The Walled Garden as the garden awakes from winter slumbers each day new green shoots, blossoms emerge, flower buds burst into colour serenaded by the calls of resident nesting oyster catchers.

Henry van Dyke wrote: ‘The first day of spring is one thing, but the first spring day is another!’


We wish you all spring days to enjoy the hidden secrets of The Walled Garden.  All are welcome in this special place.

Easter Oat Cookies

This German recipe is quick to make and there will be plenty to share with friends and family over the holiday.
Makes 56 to 60

You will need:
200g butter or margarine
250g porridge oats
180g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
Heat the oven to 180C ( 160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil four baking trays. Melt the butter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix in the melted butter then beat in the two eggs.
Deposit in teaspoons on the trays. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till crisp on the outside, but soft in the middle. Cool on a wire tray and store in an airtight container.
Drizzle with chocolate if liked.

 

Quick No-Cook Oat Bar
Makes 16

You will need:
175g  porridge oats
30g Pumpkin seeds
30g chocolate chips – milk, dark or white
60g fudge chunks or dried fruit pieces
150g Crunchy peanut butter
60g chocolate nut spread
125g golden syrup

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl. Melt the peanut butter, chocolate nut spread and syrup then mix into the dry ingredients. Press evenly into an oiled 20cm square tin. Chill to set, cut into bars and enjoy. To make a healthier bar replace the fudge pieces with chopped apricots or dried cranberries.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

I love Spring anywhere..

March 22, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

‘I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden!’ – Ruth Stout

Snowdrops under foot, hidden under trees; crocuses emerging as buds of green appear, surely spring is on the way.

At last winter tidying is complete not least the mammoth task of pruning tree and bush.

Thoughts turn now to growth. Harbingers of spring apricot blossom and winter flowering cherry have burst into delicate bloom.

Beneath them crocuses cautiously pop colourful heads and strong green leaves of daffodil and tulip herald a riot of colourful spring flowers to come.

The plaintiff cry of returning oyster catchers echoes round the walls, often heard but seldom seen they create ‘surrounding sound’ as if to spur leaf and flower into growth.

The gardeners are hard at work in the important job of mulching, feeding the soil which in turn will feed others in the months to come. The mulch is of horse manure, preferred due to its fine texture and nutrient content.

Sown seeds germinate in the small cosy greenhouse, each morning Head Gardener Ed finds more green shoots appearing. A time of new beginnings with flower seedlings such as Gordon Castle sweet peas, ammi, calendula and clarkia growing along side vegetables like broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbage. Over two hundred and seventy varieties of seeds will be sown, each tiny plant different in shape colour and speed of growth.

The greenhouses spruce and clean are filling up with seedlings because as yet it is too cold to plant out into the soil.

John Hancox, a specialist in Scottish Heritage Fruit trees, visited the garden last year and as a result supplied fourteen new varieties of apple tree which Ed has been heeling in till the planting areas are ready for them. Eight varieties will grow as standard trees in the area behind the café.

The remaining six will complete the step over beds which Davy is building on the West side of the garden.

The step over trees are grown from a grafted whip, planted then pruned to the height of the step over rail. This is to encourage the growth of two shoots at the tip which will be trained along the rail to the right and left of the main stem probably in mid to late summer. It is with great interest we will chart their growth over the next months.

Step over apple trees can be very productive, with records of up to 30 apples from one tree. Ed noted that St Edmund’s pippin is one such variety. It will take two years for all the trees to become established and start to bear fruit. Thus taking the number of apple varieties growing in Gordon Castle Walled Garden to eighty six! Each different and each with a story to tell.

Work is coming on apace outside the castle, where a huge herbaceous border is taking shape. It has been designed by Head Gardener Ed’s wife Anna who is also a horticulturalist. The border over fifty metres long lies on each side of the Orangery promising a colourful display featuring delphiniums, geraniums, phlox, climbing roses such as Bathsheba with topiary spheres to add interest and structure. The Gordon Castle Highland Games on 21st May will be an ideal time to see this colourful new addition to the Castle garden.

As the approaching spring gathers momentum, much is happening and is about to happen.  It is an exciting time in The Walled Garden, more green shoots, bud and flower with each passing day. More news at the start of April!

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Winter is here, and Spring is just around the corner

February 2, 2023By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

During the second week of January, on a day of bright winter sunshine I drove to Gordon Castle with baked goodies to cheer the gardeners hard at work in The Walled Garden.

Like a theatre stage cleared of its last production, the place was illuminated in bright light as if a ‘super trooper’ spotlight had been switched on in the sky above. Every nook and cranny glowed whilst the neatly pruned branches of espaliered and step-over fruit trees were silhouetted against a clear blue winter sky.

 

A little robin had joined the gardening group, hopping around with puffed red breast and busy beak, tussling with some large juicy worms. That little bird afforded such entertainment; would he or wouldn’t he win the ‘tug of worm?’ He was spoilt for choice from a winter feast, the gardeners forks tilling the earth as they pruned and tidied the herb gardens.

I spent quite some time trying to photo that wee bird! Where’s Robin? I promise he is there; can you find him?

It was a lovely day of crisp dry weather and much activity; definitely ‘the calm before the storm’ for soon ‘The north wind did blow, and we did have snow!’ The gardens resident robin is still there no doubt watching the white blanketed garden with his beady eyes. That snow covering is a good thing because it insulates the soil, trapping warmth underground to assist mother nature in her ‘Spring Production.’ Indeed a few green shoots have appeared in beds, planters and pots, signs of the colourful display which will certainly be ‘centre stage’ in a few weeks time.

Undeterred the gardeners work on pruning and tidying as they go. Ed Bollom the Head Gardener has time to spend in the office pouring over seed and plant catalogues making planting plans and compiling orders. In February there will be a lot to write about; plans for new trial beds, courses to attend on growing your own and much more besides.

Already organisation of the spectacular Gordon Castle Highland Games is well advanced. A first date for your diary – Sunday 21st May! A super day out for everyone to enjoy.

The Walled Garden Shop is open once more to welcome visitors as they arrive and The Potting Shed Shop still has apples, leeks and some parsnips for sale.

The Café is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm. The pensioners’ menu and special cake and coffee deals are popular.

Some delicious recipes to try:-

Hot Winter Salad

Plenty shredded lettuce – like iceberg or little gem.
Add grated carrot, apple or cabbage if you like.

Dressing:-
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
1 large tomato – finely chopped
¼ teaspoon sugar
Sea salt to season
1 table spoon extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Generous splash of balsamic vinegar

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and heat till they start popping add the chilli flakes and tomato to sizzle lightly then remove from the heat. Add all the other ingredients and stir well together. Pour over the lettuce in the bowl and toss together. Serve at once.

Anne’s treacle scones
Makes 12 scones

You will need:-
225g (8oz) self raising flour
11/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoon each of cinnamon and mixed spice
¼ teaspoon salt
30g (1oz) butter
30g (1oz) soft brown sugar
30g (1oz) black treacle – warmed
1 egg
Milk to mix

Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan) 425F, Gas 77. Oil a baking tray. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, rub in the butter then mix in the warmed treacle along with the gg and sufficient milk to make a soft pliable consistency. Deposit onto a floured board and sprinkle with flour. Pat out with the palm of your hand to 2 cm (3/4in) thickness cut with a scone cutter about 5cm (2in) and lay on the tray. Gently knead the trimmings together and repeat. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes till risen and firm. Cool on a wire tray and enjoy freshly baked with plenty butter.

 

Spring is just around the corner!

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Christmas at The Walled Garden

December 19, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments
In the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron.
Water like a stone, Snow had fallen, Snow on snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, Long, long ago.
(Words by Christina Rosetti; music by Gustav Holst)

 

Words from an iconic Christmas carol conjure the scene in the hushed snow covered Walled Garden at Gordon Castle. But do not be fooled by the silence for under your very feet things are happening. A single flower bulb is filled with incredible energy; already the eight thousand Autumn planted daffodil, narcissi, tulip and anemone bulbs are getting their act together below ground preparing a spectacular display for spring 2023!

Mother Nature never rests.

This is definitely not gardening weather however, the gardeners and volunteers have been busy working together to create forty naturally sustainable Christmas wreaths. It takes quite some time to collect and prepare the foliage, berries and flowers necessary but ‘gosh’ the beautiful end results are well worth it. Furthermore the Christmas Wreath workshops have been a roaring success, a big thank you to everyone who attended.

   

Thank you to all the gardeners whose hard work this year has seen the garden grow in so many different ways. Thank you also to the volunteers who add such a lot to the life of the garden with willing hands and friendly chat. It is much appreciated.

Volunteers are always welcome. No experience required! On the job training, equipment, lunch provided, new friends to meet. It is great to be outside in the fresh air being part of something growing and exciting!

Good news too – at last The Gordon Castle Garden Shop has re-opened!

Filled with lovely garden related gifts, seeds to grow; the where with all to plant them and a cook book of Recipes from the Walled Garden to encourage you to grow, cook and eat local in the year to come. A taste of garden produce to take home in biscuits, jams, relishes and fruit juices, not forgetting the well known Gordon Castle gins, cider and luxurious Seidear apple champagne. Who can resist the aromatic soaps and creams reminiscent of the smell of fresh herbs and flowers of the summer past.

It is not too late to buy fresh Christmas vegetables from The Potting Shed Shop – next week (weather permitting) seasonal brussels sprouts, parsnips and leeks!

Don’t forget the Walled Garden Café is open on the following days;

OPEN Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve 11am – 3pm (Limited availability)

CLOSED Christmas Day & New Year’s Day.

All of us at Gordon Castle would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

We look forward to seeing you again in 2023 to come, there is always a warm welcome no matter what the weather brings.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

 

November in the Walled Garden

November 11, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

‘She stands in tattered gold

Tossing bits of amber, and jade, jewels of a year grown old November!’

(Zephyr Ware Tarver (1886-1974)

The gardeners are hard at work with a spring in their step and spring on their minds; planning ahead, clearing and cultivating flower beds ready for the big ‘plantathon!!’ There are 8000 bulbs to go into the ground this month; twenty five varieties of tulips, and ten of daffodils left to mature and grow over the winter months to provide a spectacular welcome to spring when the flowers emerge  in March 2023. Unfortunately older bulbs, in general, do not provide such a show of colour during the second year, so last year’s bulbs have already been unearthed and donated to eager gardeners. However, an experimental planting of large tubs and pots will combine older and new bulbs, awaiting results in due course!

Overall the garden is being ‘ put to bed’  for the winter, the last weeds removed, old fruit canes pruned out and new ones tied up ready for next year’s growth.

Soon it will be time to hang Christmas decorations, planned for the last week of November to celebrate the start of special Christmas afternoon teas which start on Saturday 26th and served in the café right up until Christmas. Check availability here, booking is essential to avoid disappointment.

Then there is making the unique Gordon Castle Christmas wreaths all hand-made with natural materials from the garden and the estate beyond. On sale at the Potting Shed Shop or to order.

Would you believe it? The gardeners are still picking apples! Another load is almost ready to go to Elgin Orchards for juicing.  The seventy two varieties of apple trees growing in the gardens will be joined soon by another twenty two trees to be planted in the winter time making the Gordon Castle apple collection one of the largest in the country. A long term project is to label all the trees and create a data base of each apple with concise details of the appearance and eating characteristics of each type. Ed the head gardener reckons this might take a while!!

The twenty five varieties of colourful dahlias which have given such pleasure of colour, shape and size are being lifted to store in frost free places over the winter. Next year it is planned to add to their happy presence by the trial of even more new ones, a delightful sunny prospect.

The Gordon Castle recipe book is a celebration of the rich produce that the garden has given over the years. Colourful and informative, it makes a simple, thoughtful gift for the festive season. Why not take one home along with fresh produce from the potting shed shop to cook fresh and local in your own kitchen.

The Walled Garden is a peaceful place to rest far from the hustle and bustle around. Come, recharge your batteries and perhaps take a little of its goodness home with you.

Open from 10am till 4pm each week.

The Garden Café is open 11am till 3pm Wednesday to Sunday, serving garden produce where possible.

Here are some tasty recipes!

OLD FASHIONED APPLE GINGER

A delicious relish with roasts and grills
1.35kg (3lb) cooking apples – peeled cored and sliced
85g (3oz) root ginger – peeled and grated
The juice of 2 lemons
1 teacup of water
450g (1lb) granulated sugar
1 level teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)

Wash and sterilise up to 10 jars 250 ml capacity.  Put the sliced apples, ginger, lemon juice and water into a deep pan bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add the sugar and stir continuously till the mix boils, reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add chilli if liked.  I jar some without chilli and some with to cater for all tastes. Serve with roasts, fish and a tangy cheese. Store in a cool place and use within 2 months. To extend the ‘shelf life’ add 1 teaspoon of citric acid before bottling.

CRAB APPLE AND PLUM GIN JELLY

550g (1 ¼ lb) crab apples
550g (1 ¼ lb) apples make sure some have a red skin – washed and quartered

Cover with water and simmer for at least 1 hour till the juices flow and the fruit is soft and mushy. Strain through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with muslin.

To each 600mls (1pint) of juice
300g (10oz) granulated sugar
Add 1 tablespoon Gordon Castle Plum Gin to finish – see below

Pour the juice into a deep sauce pan, stir in the sugar on a very low heat till dissolved. Simmer, stirring occasionally, till the jelly begins to thicken (approx 20 minutes). Test by dropping a small spoonful onto a cold plate, if it wrinkles to the touch when cool the jelly is ready. Do not boil further. Cool in the pan a little and before pouring stir in 1 tablespoon of Gordon Castle Plum Gin for each batch as above. Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Label and store in a cool place.

Serve with cheeses, game and smoked fish and meats.  Some like it spread on a warm oven scone.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.