‘Apples, peaches, pears and plums.. please tell me when your birthday comes!

November 7, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

‘Apples peaches, pears and plums please tell me when your birthday comes!
 

Gordon Castle has not so much had a birthday but a harvest celebration which began back in August with a bumper crop of plums and soon gave way to a bounty of apples and pears of every size, shape and hue. Gardeners have already picked over 1000 juicy ripe pears while more golden ripening fruits gild trees awaiting their turn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apples, apples everywhere!! Two and a half tons are already their way along with pears to be juiced or turned into Gordon Castle Cider. Garden apples and pears are used to create dishes on the Walled Garden Café menu with fresh fruit for sale at the Potting Shed Shop! Have a peek into the greenhouses, wow there are apples and pears galore!

Bright coloured apples on the step over and espaliered trees glow in the autumn light. Bright russets, rich ruby reds and every colour and shape in between. Such evocative names as Domino, Ingrid Marie, Adams Pearman, Edward V11, Mere de Ménage, Russet, Red Gravenstein, Fiesta, Pearl Maiden, Tower of Glamis, Grampa Buxton and Lady Lambourne; some sweet and juicy, others tart and crisp. There is an apple to suit every taste, each with a story to tell. Where did they originate? Perhaps the names may give you a clue!!

On the north wall, Bramley and Howgate Wonder cooking apples are ready to be picked. Both flavoursome; we are familiar with the famous ‘Bramley’. However, Howate Wonder; popular in the Moray area, has an attractive red tinged skin with superb texture and sweetness. Particularly good for baking!

The prolific crop of summer vegetables is now past so the job is to tidy, cultivate and prepare the beds for the next year. Winter vegetables such as leeks and parsnips are already cropping. Included in the Café menu and ready to buy at the Potting Shed shop.

The massive crop of chillies is strung up to dry and stored for the winter. They will soon be on sale. Ideal for all sorts of savoury dishes, adding fire to chutneys and stews. From Joe’s Long a cayenne type and Demon Red to the very hottest chilli Carolina Reaper. On the Scoville scale most chillies sit around 10 – 2,000. The Carolina Reaper hits the heights at 2 million!

The Garden overflows with colour illuminated in leaf and flower; gold, russets scarlet and amber reds; the whole sparked with autumnal fire. This rare spectacle soon disappears when the winds come, so visit soon to appreciate this radiant farewell to a fabulously productive year.

There is plenty to see; the last leaves on the trees, bright red crab apples, vibrant dahlias of diverse colour shape and size just keep on giving scattered among many other plants which are also determined to keep on flowering till the first big frosts herald the arrival of winter.


Sustainable flowers (for sale too) with no flower flights, fresh, local seasonal and unique!!



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gordon Castle has been chosen as an RHS partner garden allowing members to visit one day a week free of charge. Gordon Castle Gardens will also feature in the RHS January magazine. More details of the partnership to follow.

Hopefully there will be even more peaches growing in the garden next year thanks to the generosity of The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers. They visited the Walled Garden on 13th October when a ‘Peregrin’ peach tree was presented to Angus and Zara in celebration of winning the Historic Houses Association Garden of the year award. The tree was planted by Laurence S Olins JP, Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, against the south facing wall, using a ceremonial spade, accompanied by the skirl of bagpipes!!

The 700 years old Worshipful Company of Fruiterers promotes excellence across all sectors of the fruit industry, raises funds for charity and supports education and research.

The ever popular Christmas Wreath workshops return this year. There are still spaces on the 11th December at £55.00 per person including all materials and a lovely wreath to take home. Enjoy an interesting and informative morning with Zara from 10am till 12.30pm. Book here now

The busy café is open from 11am till 4pn Wednesday till Sunday serving freshly prepared food using garden produce as much as possible. The Potting Shed Shop is still bursting with fruits of the harvest and well worth a visit on the way home to gather tatties, vegetables, apples, pears and perhaps a bunch of garden flowers to brighten Autumn days.

Here are some lovely recipes to try out!

FRANCONIAN AUTUMN APPLE CAKE 
Oven – 200C 400F, Gas 6 – Middle shelf
Oiled and lined swiss roll tin

You will need:-
3 large eggs
Their weight in sugar
Their weight in plain flour less 50g
50g cornflour

Topping:-
3 large apples peeled cored and sliced or chopped
Fresh lemon juice
Ground cinnamon
Vanilla essence

To make:

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar till thick and creamy
  • Sift the flours into the mixture and fold together. Pour into the tray and smooth over.
  • Mix the apples with lemon juice, 2 teaspoon cinnamon and the same of vanilla essence.
  • Shake over the top of the cake to cover roughly.
  • Bake 12 minutes or till risen and firm.
  • Cool in the tray and drizzle with lemon water ice to finish.
  • Serve fresh.
  • You can make this with plums, peaches, nectarines or pears or a mixture.

LITTLE LEMON CURD CAKES
Oven 180C, 350F, Gas 4
To make:-
Cream 175g stork with 175g caster sugar.

Beat in 1 teaspoon lemon essence.
Beat in 3 eggs and then fold in 175g plain flour sifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder.
Put 1 teaspoon batter into each cup cake case, top with 1 teaspoon lemon curd and top with another teaspoon mixture.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes till risen and firm.
Cool and ice with lemon water icing.

KAREN’S CHOCAHOLIC FIX
No cooking needed

Melt 150g white chocolate and stir in half a jar of crunchy peanut butter along with a small packet of mini-marshmallows. Set in the fridge..Cut and enjoy.

AUTUMN APPLE SPONGE CAKE
Makes a cake 20cm (8in) diameter
Bake at 190C (170C fan) 375 F, Gas 5

Sponge:-
3 large eggs
75g (2 ½ oz) caster sugar
30g (1oz) honey
75g (2 ½ oz) self raising flour
20g ( ¾ oz) rolled oats
2 large cooking apples – peeled cored and sliced

Icing to finish:-
Icing sugar
Lemon juice

Turn on the oven to heat the oil and line the tin. Whisk the eggs, sugar and honey till thick and creamy.  Sift in the flour and add the oats. Stir in gently and then pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Lay apple slices in overlapping rows over the surface of the sponge and then bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of the oven. Remove from the oven when firm and springy to touch. Cool in the tin. Drizzle with lemon water ice when cool, cut and serve freshly baked.

RUSTIC CIDER APPLE CHEESE SCONES
A quick scone recipe easily made at the last minute.

175g (6oz) self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
45g (1 ½ oz) grated eating apple
45g (1 ½ oz) chopped walnuts
60g (2oz) grated mature cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 egg beaten with
Gordon Castle cider to mix
Handful of rolled oats

Turn on the oven to heat at 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Oil and line a baking tray.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the apple, walnuts, cheese and a small handful of oats and mix together. Stir in the melted butter then stir in the egg with enough cider to make a soft, elastic dough. Flour the baking tray and turn the scone mix out onto the middle of it. Dust with flour and pat out to a round approx 2.5cm (1in) thick. Mark into 8 wedges with the blade of a knife. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes till risen and golden. Cool on the tray. Cut into wedges and eat warm and freshly baked.

PEAR AND GINGER CRUNCH
Makes a tray

85g (3oz) rolled oats
175g (6oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
150g (5oz) margarine
115g (4oz) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz) chopped pears

Topping:-
60g (2oz) margarine
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon ginger
115g (4oz) icing sugar

Turn on the oven at 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil the baking tin. Cream the margarine and sugar till soft and fluffy, stir in the other ingredients and spread evenly in the prepared tin. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes till firm and golden. Leave to cool while you make the topping. Put all the topping ingredients into a pan and heat over a medium heat stirring till the mixture boils. Remove from the heat, cool a little then pour over the base. Spread evenly and allow to cool and set. Cut into fingers and serve. Store in an airtight container.

FUDGEY CHOCOLATE PEAR CAKE
115g (4oz) margarine or butter
115g (40z) soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
140g (5oz) self raising flour
30g (1oz) cocoa powder
2 eggs – beaten
2 pears – peeled, cored and chopped

Turn on the oven at 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a square baking tin20cm (8in). Cream the margarine, sugar and syrup till light, beat in the eggs and then fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and chopped pears. Pour into the prepared tin, even the top of the cake, tap the base of the tin on a hard surface to remove any trapped air. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Serve warm with cream or ice cream as a dessert, or cold dredged with vanilla sugar as an afternoon tea cake.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

October 13, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog 1 Comment

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun:
Conspiring with him how to load and bless, with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run, to bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees.

The first lines of Keat’s often quoted poem ‘ Ode to Autumn’ were never more apt this year at Gordon Castle gardens where the fruit trees are indeed ‘loaded and blessed.’

The prolific blossom and good pollination of spring has resulted in a bumper crop of plums, apples and pears. The plums are almost past, but already a ton of apples has been harvested from the trees growing round the sheltering garden walls. The walls retain the sun’s heat and as a result the fruit here ripens first allowing the apple harvest to be done in two steps. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, reckons there will be a further ton of apples from the step over and espaliered trees in the garden grounds; now a feast for the eyes from vivid reds, russets, to greens and golds as they ripen in the abiding sun.

Harvested apples sent to Elgin’s Orchards will be pressed into Gordon Castle fresh Apple juice, a favourite drink on the Café menu also on sale in the garden shop.

Gordon castle apples and pears too travel to Aberdeenshire to be made into next year’s supply of Seidear. This is a Scottish cider made by keeving and the methode champenoise which takes a year to mature. Gordon Castle Seidear apple champenoise is for sale in the shop.

A bumper crop of pears this year, considering that the trees have only been in the ground for six years, Ed, the head gardener is delighted. Some pears have already been harvested and the espaliered trees are literally hanging with ripening fruits.

Exciting news, ‘a date for your diary!’ On Thursday 29th September at 8pm on BBC1 The Beechgrove Garden will feature a visit to the gardens which took place earlier in the month on the 2nd September. Not to be missed!

September has also seen a visit from the Chairman of Christie’s to present the Historic Houses Garden Award. The photos say it all!

Pruning the crab apple trees at the garden entrance is in hand as the heavy crop of berries glowing crimson and gold continue to ripen in the warmth of the early autumn.  Not long now till harvest! Crab apple jelly is especially tasty served with festive roasts.

Potatoes have been a success this year. Sarpo Una a new variety proved to give excellent quality including extra crisp chips and roast potatoes, ever popular charlottes are over for another year. At present the gardeners are harvesting Kestrel which is slightly waxy, good all round qualities, makes good roasters and bakes to a delicious creamy centre. We look forward to main crop Caledonian Rose which will be ready soon.

There are carrots, courgettes, beetroot and runner beans to harvest . The small crop of melons were delicious this year, sweet and juicy. The chillies are so prolific that there are plans to dry and tie them into strings. A great way to add heat to cooking!!

Moray Food Bank is benefiting from the abundant fruit and vegetable harvest with a weekly donation from the gardens. It is good to have the opportunity to share.

As I write the gardeners are trimming the lavender bushes, a heady perfume pervades as do the bright colours of late summer blooms. Dahlias of every size shape and hew, bright cheeky asters, the never ending sweet peas who like the cooler sheltered climate here.

Not to forget the smiling welcoming cosmos growing here in profusion.  This September Scottish garden is full of colour as the flowers continue to grow in the cooling air.

And what of the pumpkins? We hope for a surprise come October for at present they are hidden under a mass of bright nasturtium flowers! Wait and see!!

The café serves freshly cooked food from Wednesday to Sunday each week. This season there is a bounty of garden produce to inspire the menu.

That same garden produce is for sale in the Potting Shed Shop where you can pick up a taste of the gardens or a beautiful bouquet to remind you of your visit as you leave.

Haste ye back to a warm welcome and the chance to wander and enjoy mother nature at her glowing best.

 

CIDER BAKED SWEET CHILLI AUTUMN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Serves 4 to 6 people

2 courgettes – washed and chopped into large chinks
4 large tomatoes – quartered
1 large leek – trimmed, washed and cut into slices
1 winter squash – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
8 small potatoes – scrubbed and quartered
2 medium carrots – peeled and cut into chunks
2 large eating or cooking apples – cored and cut into thick slices
(you can add pears peaches, nectarines or plums)

Sauce:-
½ bottle Gordon Castle cider
2 generous tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon rapeseed or sunflower oil

Seasoning:-
Chilli flakes or chopped fresh chilli ( remove the seeds)
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200C (180/c fan) 400F, Gas 6.  Line a deep roasting tin with tin foil.  Toss the prepared vegetables and fruit into a deep bowl. Mix the sauce ingredients together pour over Mix well to coat the vegetables and fruit and then pour into the roasting tin. Pour any juices over the top.  Season with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes the spoon over to roast the underside. Roast for a further 15 minutes till the vegetables and are tender. Adjust seasoning if required and serve hot. Can be used as a base for soup, or served cold mixed with a salad dressing.

 

AUTUMN APPLE SPONGE CAKE
Makes a cake 20cm (8in) diameter
Bake at 190C (170C fan) 375 F, Gas 5

Sponge:-
3 large eggs
75g (2 ½ oz) caster sugar
30g (1oz) honey
75g (2 ½ oz) self raising flour
20g ( ¾ oz) rolled oats
1 large cooking apple or 2 eating apples – peeled cored and sliced thinly.

Icing to finish:-
Icing sugar
Lemon juice

Turn on the oven to heat the oil and line the tin. Whisk the eggs, sugar and honey till thick and creamy.  Sift in the flour and add the oats. Stir in gently and then pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Lay apple slices in overlapping rows over the surface of the sponge and then bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of the oven. Remove from the oven when firm and springy to touch. Cool in the tin. Drizzle with lemon water ice when cool, cut and serve freshly baked.

 

RUSTIC CIDER APPLE CHEESE SCONES
A quick scone recipe easily made at the last minute.

175g (6oz) self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
45g (1 ½ oz) grated eating apple
45g (1 ½ oz) chopped walnuts
60g (2oz) grated mature cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 egg beaten with
Gordon Castle cider to mix
Handful of rolled oats
Turn on the oven to heat at 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Oil and line a baking tray.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the apple, walnuts, cheese and a small handful of oats and mix together. Stir in the melted butter then stir in the egg with enough cider to make a soft, elastic dough. Flour the baking tray and turn the scone mix out onto the middle of it. Dust with flour and pat out to a round approx 2.5cm (1in) thick. Mark into 8 wedges with the blade of a knife. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes till risen and golden. Cool on the tray. Cut into wedges and eat warm and freshly baked.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

A Mid-Summer Feast

August 9, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

In a few short weeks the garden has transformed into a hive of activity; bees buzzing, the hum of chat as visitors enjoy wandering around the grounds. The gardeners delighted to be harvesting – harvesting – harvesting almost non-stop!

When colder weather turned to warmer days mother nature responded with alacrity, producing as if by magic, a cornucopia of garden produce.

There are vegetables and fruit in abundance, a feast indeed.

Beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes, peas, distinctive purple shiraz mangetout, green beans, runner beans, kales, salad vegetables, cabbages, broad beans, artichokes, chard, courgettes, spring onions, small marrows, an almost endless list.

Don’t forget new tatties! Of which there are several varieties from heritage to more recognised names, all dug fresh each day.

Soft fruit bushes are laden with gooseberries, black and red currants, raspberries , blackberries, brambles and the apricot trees growing tall in the shelter of the garden wall are laden with golden fruit. Plums are ripening in the warm sun with some early ones ready to eat.

In the large greenhouse trusses of ripening tomatoes hang in profusion from the plants there, the atmosphere pervaded by the aromatic smell of basil growing nearby. Cucumbers are growing well and in the small greenhouse a feast of sprouting chillies watch over a promising crop of ripening melons.

And the flowers! ‘Oh’ the flowers! The trial cut flower beds are very successful this year, larkspur, agapanthus, dahlias, cosmos such unusual vibrant colours!

In the gardens flowers of every shape and hue are in full bloom filling each possible space; familiar names like sweetpeas, roses, gladioli, nasturtiums and more besides.

The wild flower meadows sway in the gentle breeze and the lavender beds, a sea of purple, home to happy bees and a surprise display of rustic garden pottery  by Jenny from Burnbank pottery at Kingston nearby.

The Potting Shed shop is filled and re-filled hour by hour supplying freshly harvested fruit and vegetables as the gardeners do their best to keep up with demand. Mhairi has even found time to make exquisite fresh flower bouquets and of course there are still bunches of Gordon Castle Sweet peas, a true scent of summer..

Enjoy a freshly prepared snack or light meal in the café which serves fresh garden produce as much as possible!

Stroll round the garden filled with summer scents and sounds then buy fresh fruit and vegetables to take home and perhaps a bunch of garden flowers to keep memories of a lovely day alive.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Is it flaming June already?

June 29, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog, Recipes 2 Comments

At last the weather has warmed and most cold winds have eased… we hope!

The Walled Garden shelters vegetable beds are bursting with growth. Twelve varieties of lettuce like little gem and salad bowl, interspersed with different leaves like freckles whose mottled leaves look the part! To add interest, a French heirloom variety ‘Marvel of Four Season (Merville de quatre saison) whose attractive pink tinged leaves are described as having crisp texture and a fine flavour. The prolific salad leaves are harvested fresh daily to supply the busy Garden Café.

The thriving brassica beds already provide kale and calibrese with any extra offered for sale at the Potting Shed Shop.

What a variety of vegetables are growing in the Garden this year! broad beans, french beans, sugar snap, mangetout, carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, leeks, onions, beetroot, spinach, swiss chard, – whew- and more!! Many potatoes are already in flower. Well known varieties like charlotte, rocket and pink fir apple are interspersed with new tatties to try such as swift, foremost and purple flowering caledonian rose.

In the small greenhouse chillies, melon and cucumber are growing well. Tomatoes in the large greenhouse already show promising trusses of fruit.

In the soft fruit garden the first strawberries are ready to pick. I could not resist tasting one as a ‘quality control check’ and I can verify the fruit is as sweet and flavoursome as any Scottish strawberry. You cannot beat strawberries grown outside in the full sun, perfection! Gooseberries, black and red currants hang in profusion as they ripen, forming fruits of raspberries and brambles promise an abundant crop later in the summer.

Lavender is on the cusp of full flower, that unique time when tips of purple and white emerge swaying gently in the breeze, a rippling sea of tiny flowers. All is buzzing with bees and the Garden’s six hives tended by beekeeper Jim will soon yield the first honey of the year.

Planted up, rapidly greening and budding, the cut flower beds offer a hint of the riot of colour soon to illuminate the Garden. The first sweet peas, gold and blue flag irises are joined by sedate delphiniums and fox gloves watching over the scene in quiet grandeur. The first trial bed cosmos flowers have come into bloom.

The central borders look lush and green and surprises of colourful blooms are silently emerging through the foliage.

The wild flower meadows will soon be filled with every different shape, size and colour of flower you could imagine but in the grass maze there is a special discovery to find, a beautiful wild orchid. Walk through the maze, listen to the plaintive cry of the oysters catchers trying to divert your attention from their young, keep looking and you will find this purple treasure.

The wild flowers are just about to bloom in the sweet pea meadow and the crab apple orchard, not long now!

The Potting Shed Shop is selling a huge variety of plants so you can take some of the beauty of Gordon Castle Gardens home to enjoy. Verbena, pelargoniums, argyranthemums, herbs, salad plants and hand tied early summer flower bouquets. Along with fresh vegetables as they are harvested.

Enjoy peace and tranquillity in the garden greeted by the open arms of summer glory!

Perhaps visit the Walled Garden Café serving freshly cooked meals using garden produce wherever they can. Open 11am till 4pm Wednesday till Sunday.

‘ Haste ye back’ there is always a warm welcome.

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

  • 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 they are 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 ensure it is evenly spread and to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool a little in the tin then remove from the tin by loosening the sides with the blade of a knife. Place the cake 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.

When cool spread the top thinly with jam. Trim and slice the strawberries and lay overlapping on top of the jam spread cake. Melt the rest of the jam with a little water and brush gently over the fruit to glaze. Enjoy freshly baked.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

The Merry month of May

May 9, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog, Recipes No Comments

May merrily tiptoed in accompanied by the distinctive cry of oyster catchers heralding an explosion of vibrant colour across the garden, where over three thousand tulip blooms illuminate tubs and flower beds;  from rich golds, to pastel pinks, ruby reds and every colour in between.  Tulips are a member of the lily family so where did they originate?

During the sixteenth century when the Ottoman Empire invaded the Kazakhstan they discovered tulips growing wild in the mountains there. The Emperor Sultan Suleyman the first so prized the flowers that they became a symbol of wealth and power. Often worn on the turban, the name tulip is derived from the word ‘tulipan’ the Persian word for a turban.

The garden is filling up becoming brighter and greener by the day. It is all go as the soil heats and the sun shines blossom covers the fruit trees, the incredible futuristic alium domes will soon be in flower, plants are donning a mantle of bright green and the trees are coming into tender leaf as if someone has shaken a pepper pot of green over their bare branches. In the soft fruit garden strawberries are in flower, raspberry canes are thriving and already clusters of would be berries are forming on the currant bushes.

The crab-apple orchard is already forty shades of green as the seedling break through the earth and the trees sway gently in the soft breeze.  In the pastel wild flower meadow the sweet peas have already begun the ascent of their birch wigwam homes surrounded by sprouting wild flower seedlings.

As busy as the bees collecting nectar and pollinating are the gardeners as they tackle the job of weeding and planting. The colder weather delayed the big plant out and now it is definitely full on!  Over one thousand vegetable, cut flower and herb plants have been waiting in the greenhouse wings to join the main cast in the garden so there is plenty to do!  Twelve varieties of heritage tomatoes are now potted up and installed in the large greenhouse. With intriguing names like Golden Crown, Black Opal, Ailsa Craig and the delicious stripped Tigerella ( as the name suggests)  to name a few; already we look forward to a ‘tasty tom!’

The first salads, broad beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions, brassicas  and more – what a harvest to come!

An urgent job is to replace the rosemary hedges which divide the areas of the herb garden. They were adversely affected by very low temperatures during the winter of 2021. At last five hundred healthy young bushes have arrived to replace them. As the old bushes are removed and the new ones take their place imagine the wonderful aromas which will pervade the gardens!

Round the tulips in the flower beds the gardeners are planting hardy annuals such as cornflower, calendula and aquilegia and dahlias will soon be joining them. What a wealth of colourful flowers of all shapes and sizes will grace the garden in the months to come. The first plants are now installed in the cut flower trial beds.

A fabulous burst of colour ranunculus (a form of buttercup) is to be found in the large greenhouse. The Queen of Sweden and Roald Dhal roses opposite are budding profusely. Roses too are on the way.

At last the asparagus has born fruit or should I say ‘spear’, such a short season eagerly anticipated but worth the waiting. The rhubarb this year is prolific. Providing plenty of produce for the restaurant which serves freshly prepared meals and snacks daily Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

Both asparagus and rhubarb are for sale in the Potting Shed Shop. Perhaps best to pre-order asparagus so it can be cut fresh for you.

The Potting shed shop also has a huge selection of plants for sale. Lettuces, tomatoes, vegetables, chillies, herbs, perennial and annual flowers ready to plant in your own garden as the growing season begins in earnest. Don’t delay now is the time to get them into the ground!

Let us all hope for good sunny weather to welcome back the ever popular Highland games on 15th May where there will be a sale of The Walled Garden plants such as various vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, flowers and herbs.

Not to mention ‘Recipes from The Walled Garden’ ;a handy cookbook.

So you can buy it, grow it and then cook it. Saving food miles.

Come visit for a daily dose of nature’s benefits as one gardener called it ‘Vitamin G’’

‘A flowery green, bird-singing land’ (William Henry-Davies).

There is great solace in the garden.

There is prolific crop of rhubarb this year, here are some simple recipes to try at home!

Quick rhubarb and ginger relish
A last minute invention by my chef friend Christopher Trotter, delicious with roasts and smoked meats and fish.
Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan. Add a little mustard seed, chopped root ginger and a little de-seeded chopped chilli.  Stir fry quickly then toss in plenty chopped rhubarb and stir fry to coat and soften. Slosh in a little cider or fruit vinegar, add a generous spoon of soft brown sugar along with a little salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cover the pan to steam cook for up to 3 or 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve as a relish/chutney. Pour into clean jars, seal and store in the fridge up to two weeks.

 

The Walled Garden rhubarb and custard crumble cake
Makes a tray bake 20cm (8in) x 30cm (12in)
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) golden syrup
200g (7oz) self raising flour
45g (1 ½ oz) custard powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs – beaten
175g (4oz) chopped rhubarb

Topping:-
60g (2oz) butter
60g (20z) caster sugar
30g (1oz) self raising flour
85g (33oz) porridge oats

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil the baking tin. Cream the butter, sugar and syrup till light. Sift the flour custard powder and baking powder into a bowl. Beat the egg into the butter mixture alternately with a little flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour along with the rhubarb and spread evenly in the tin. Melt the butter and stir into the other topping ingredients and scatter over the top of the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes till risen and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin cut into 18 squares and enjoy freshly baked.
 
Chewy rhubarb slice
5 weetabix or oatabix – crumbled
225g (8oz) Hamlyn’s porridge oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger
140g (5oz) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz) chopped rhubarb
115g (4oz) butter
115g (4oz) syrup

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tin 20cm (8in) square. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt the butter and syrup and stir into the mix Press evenly into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till golden but not too brown – you want it to be chewy. Cool in the tin. Mark into squares while still warm.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Happy Easter from The Walled Garden

April 12, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

April arrived with chilly winds and squally showers, however, mother nature is undeterred. A host of golden daffodils toss their heads in hearty welcome perhaps a reminder that although storms may come the blessing of spring always arrives in the end.

Fruit trees are coming into blossom. First the plums, then the apple & pear trees are not long behind.

Ed Bollom the head gardener is optimistic that good will come from the cold snap because conditions are now perfect for hundreds of budding tulips to burst into full flower providing a unique display just in time to celebrate Easter.

The greenhouses are filled with seedlings waiting for warmer weather which will allow them to be transplanted into the garden itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In spite of the cold break some vegetables will be transplanted during the next week. Potatoes first, followed by brassicas, peas and broad beans.

Although later than predicted the asparagus harvest looks promising. After a rest of two years and plenty mulch and fertiliser there should be a good crop hopefully by Easter. As I write the first heads are just emerging from the ground.

Cold dry weather is not the ideal condition for rapid rhubarb growth however the first tender stems are on the way at last and with a little warmth and moisture the plants will soon put on a spurt.

Exciting plans for two new insect friendly wildflower meadows are work in progress.

One features birch wigwams which will support a riot of brightly coloured sweet peas surrounded by a sea of pastel coloured wild flowers. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, hand sowed the seeds last week. His tip is to mix minute flower seeds with vermiculite which acts as a carrier ensuring even distribution. I wonder how soon those seeds will germinate!

The second is a crab apple orchard where trees specifically chosen for their culinary use such as golden hornet and red sentinel will be planted, and, growing at their feet a vibrantly colourful mix of bee friendly wild flowers.

It will be exciting to watch as the two meadows become established in the months ahead.

Trials of new and heritage varieties will be grown among other crops this year. In order to identify these Moray Reach Out have created eye catching white wooden labels which will be strategically placed in the garden. Look out for the labels to find out what is growing there.

A cut flower trial bed is neatly laid out striped with narrow pathways to allow easy access to the flowers. Here it is planned to grow new types of dahlias, larkspur, cosmos, snapdragon and many more. Of great interest to many I am sure.

The cut flower work shop planned for the 23rd April is fully booked although it is still possible to access the course on line instead.

There are plans to host cut flower work shops lasting approximately two hours during July and August when flowers are in full bloom. More details will be available soon.

Easter is early this year so plans for an Easter Extravaganza are gathering momentum at the gardens. Special hand made and painted Easter eggs are hidden round the garden for the famous Easter Egg Hunt. Easter Bunny is preparing his costume and the café will be serving some delicious Easter bakes.

Easter bouquets and a wealth of bright spring plants will be on sale at the Potting Shed Shop.

And more besides for there will be the blessing of the brightest best display of tulips ever to say ‘Happy Easter’ while the bright yellow flowers of the majestic mimosa tree smile in the greenhouse.

Happy Easter to you all from everyone at Gordon Castle Gardens, may this spring and summer bring all that is good to you and yours. There is always a warm welcome for all.

Some Easter recipes to enjoy!

Wee egg nests
Makes 8 – 10
175g (6oz) chocolate
4 shredded wheat – crushed
Mini eggs or Chocolate dipped grapes or blueberries

Place 8-10 paper cake cases on a baking tray. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Stir in the crushed shredded wheat then spoon into each case using the back of a teaspoon to make a hollow in the middle so it looks like a bird’s nest. Cool to set. Fill with mini eggs.

Healthy ‘mini eggs’
Skewer grapes or large blueberries with a cocktail stick, dip in melted chocolate. Stick in a raw potato to set. Enjoy.

Chocolate orange cake
Makes a cake 23cm (9in) square
350g (12ozs) self raising flour
60g (2ozs)  cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250g (9oz)  caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
300mls (1/2pt)  vegetable or sunflower oil
300mls (1/2pt) milk
Grated rind of 2 oranges
85g (3oz) pure Scottish Honey warmed a little
85g (3oz) golden syrup

Turn on the oven to heat at 160C (fan 140C) Gas 3, 325F and line and oil the baking tin.  Use a food mixer if you have one but can be mixed by hand.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl add the caster sugar and mix.   In another bowl beat the eggs with the oil and milk, pour into the flour mix and mix on low speed to combine.   Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.   Add the warmed honey and orange rind and beat again for 1 minute.

Pour into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, reduce the heat to 150C (fan 130C) 300F, Gas 2 to allow the middle to bake and firm for a further 15 minutes.   Insert the point of a skewer or sharp knife, if it comes out cleanly the cake is baked.   Cool in the tin

Cream Crowdie
An alternative decoration to finish the cake.
150mls ¼ pt) double cream
Oatmeal lightly toasted in the oven or under a low grill.
15g (1/2oz) pure Scottish honey or caster sugar
A few drops of vanilla essence

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 but leaving it still of a consistency to spread easily.    Spread over the top of the cake, sprinkle with chocolate vermicelli and serve.

This cake can be iced formally and decorated as a celebration cake.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Crocus Time

March 28, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

On a dull gusty early March day I drove towards The Walled Garden past budding daffodils which line the drive; a promise of golden flowers or Easter bells as they are known in Germany.

Then a surprise, just through the large iron entrance gates: WOW a carpet of the purest white crocuses stretches down the avenues, as far as the eye can see – dotted with purple blooms to prove they are crocuses and not a dusting of snow blown in the chilly wind! A visitor exclaimed as she walked into the grounds ‘Gosh! Spring must be on the way!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further into the month, the garden is slowly coming to life but cold winds have slowed the growth of many spring flowers. There will be a wealth of vibrant colour emanating from the 60 spring planted pots and tubs which gardeners Liz and Mhairi moved about ten days ago, and Ed Bollom, the head gardener, feels confident that the forecast warm spell will spur the flowers into bloom. The pots are strategically placed at the entry to the garden, planned to provide a true spring flower filled welcome and say ‘hello Happy Mother’s Day!’ at the end of the month.

The gardeners too are constructing willow domes to support the tulips using willow canes from Karen at Naturally Useful in Forres. Look for them in the garden flower beds and in the spring flower pots round the entrance and patio outside the café and shop.


Amazingly the apricot tree has produced fabulous early blossom soon to be joined by the pear trees which grow over the archways.

Preparation is the key to growing success so work continues cultivating, mulching and feeding the soil with leaf mould and well rotted horse manure. The last of the winter vegetables have been picked and sent to the restaurant kitchen: leeks no doubt to be made into a hearty soup or tasty quiche. I wonder what they will cook with the rest of the colourful winter chard.

Head Gardener Ed is hopeful that the short asparagus season will begin in about two weeks time so in anticipation find a simple recipe at the end of the blog. In Germany when the ‘asparagus is ready’ there is great celebration so, in appreciation of this rare local delicacy, let us follow suit. The crowns of rhubarb are growing daily and shortly we will enjoy the mouth tingling flavour of the first freshly stewed stalks. My great aunt Molly served this delicacy topped with broken rich tea biscuits. An enduring childhood favourite, eagerly anticipated each year and definitely worth trying.

Seed sowing continues and the greenhouses are filling up nicely with brassicas, sweet peas, and hardy annuals such as cornflower and nigella, calendula and tagetes. Tagetes is useful to the gardener as a companion plant, grown among tomatoes it attracts hover flies which help prevent crop damage by eating any green and white fly. In late spring and early summer bright vibrant orange tagetes planted round the vegetable beds will provide a dramatic colour contrast against the green leaves sprouting within. Trays of seed potatoes lie ready to chit and onions are setting all in preparation to plant in warmer days.

Mother’s Day approaches and with that in mind Gordon Castle Gardens have created beautiful bouquets of spring flowers. For sale at the gardens or available to order on line they can be delivered in the Elgin / Fochabers area or collected from the gardens.

For those who are interested in learning more about growing flowers there are still two places available on the workshop of 23rd April – booking via the website online.

Mother’s Day is a special time to visit the gardens with family and friends.

In the play area gardener Davy has created a wonderful fun kitchen for children to enjoy and they are invited to:-

Name that Tree Trunk.

The trunks of trees felled by storm Arwen lie around the estate however in their demise, each has become a mother to thousands of important micro-creatures. You are invited to name a tree trunk for Mother’s Day and the best will receive a prize of a selection of Gordon Castle goodies and a cookery book by Liz Ashworth.

To enter please email

Ed Bollom

headgardener@gordoncastlescotland.com

Or

Liz Ashworth

Lizashworth@gmail.com

Easter is not far away and there are plans for an Easter Extravaganza in the gardens such as the ever popular Easter egg hunt, face painting, a guest appearance by the Easter Bunny and much much more. Events will be posted on the website.

The restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm, is proud to use as many fresh ingredients as possible from the gardens. It is a popular place to eat so it is advisable to book on line for special occasions such as Mother’s Day lunch.

Today Friday 18th March, The New Potting shed shop saw the sun arrive along with a profusion of vibrantly colourful flowering primula plants. On sale now to celebrate the coming spring and especially for Mother’s Day on 27th March!

Selection baskets of fresh culinary herbs are on sale, a bonus for any cook.

Come to visit the garden, spring is a time of growth when birds are singing, bees are buzzing and a warm welcome awaits.

A cake to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Fresh Orange Lemon Curd Cake
Makes a 20cm (8in) square tin

200g (7oz) crème fraiche
3 eggs – beaten
Zest and juice of two medium oranges
325g (11oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
175g (6oz) soft butter
140g (5oz) caster sugar
45g (1 ½ oz) golden syrup or honey

Filling
2 tablespoons lemon curd
Glaze
2 tablespoons orange juice
Mixed with 3 tablespoons icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a square baking tin.  Whisk together the crème fraiche, eggs, and 60mls (2floz) orange juice. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and syrup or honey in a bowl till light and fluffy, beat in two thirds of the orange zest. Gradually stir in the crème fraiche mixture along with the flour. Spread half the mix evenly over the base of the tin. Spread the lemon curd over this and then spread the remainder of the mix on top. Smooth the top with the palm of your hand dipped in a little warm water. This will help prevent the cake rising to a peak in the middle. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3 for a further 20 to 25 minutes till the cake is risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Mix the glaze ingredients and pour over the cake while it is warm. Cool completely in the tin. Serve cut into thick slices decorated with fresh orange zest.

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Butter and Flaked Almonds
Quick and so delicious!

Allow 12 stems of freshly picked asparagus per person (or more if you like)
30g (1oz) butter
Grated lemon zest
A small handful of flaked almonds

Simply wash and trim the asparagus and steam 4 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter adding freshly grated lemon zest. Quickly toast the almonds under a medium grill.

Serve the asparagus with warm lemon butter, scattered with the hot flaked almonds and enjoy.

Rhubarb and Pumpkin Seed Flapjacks

Makes a tin 20cm (8in) square

115g (4oz) butter
85g (3oz) golden syrup
60g (2oz) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz) porridge oats
115g (4oz) rhubarb
30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil the baking tin. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together. Mix the oats, rhubarb and pumpkin seeds in a bowl then pour in the melted mixture and stir together. Press into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes till golden and set. Cool a little then mark into squares while warm. Leave to cool completely in the tin then store in an airtight container.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Planning Ploughing Pruning

February 2, 2022By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

Drive over the bridge into the estate, take a moment, slow down, look right…  Reclining on its grassy couch lies the trunk of an ancient beech without doubt over 300 years old, a mother tree which survived wars and storms, a symbol of permanence.  Sadly its aged hollow trunk was no match for storm Arwen; now she is at rest watching over her domain, as magnificent in her demise as she was in life.

In the aftermath of storm Arwen Gordon Castle estate has lost countless trees. Many bordering the road approaching the gardens are gone, leaving standing timber punctuated by neat piles of sawn logs and branches. The fishing season is upon us so the  ghillies, who did such a sterling job helping to clear storm debris, are now back at work on the River Spey. Specialists will be required to attend to the few potentially dangerous rogue trees.

Drive through bright dappled low winter sun glancing through the remaining trees to find the garden, unscathed, sheltered behind high brick walls. However with the loss of so much forestry it is now possible to see the castle tower from the south west corner.  Come visit and see! From a distance the tower looks as if it is level with the garden; I wonder what one can now see from the top of that same tower?

An unusually mild January this year, but, no matter, the first job is ‘pruning!’ The soft fruit area has already been done weeded and tidied, next come the rose bushes. Then a month of pruning the trained fruit trees; apples, plums and pears. At the time of writing mild conditions prevail however  frosty weather can be an advantage;  at this time of the year who knows what the weather will do? Pruning is essential to keep the structure and shape of the trees so they stay healthy and bear a good fruit crop later in the year.

Some of the larger perennials have been divided and replanted in the borders.

Then to cultivation! Twenty tons of well rotted horse manure lies waiting to mulch the vegetable beds, eventually it will be ploughed into the soil. Ed prefers horse manure because it appears to contain less unwanted plant seeds.  The addition of this organic matter makes a big difference to the soil providing nitrogen, improving soil structure while retaining water and nutrients. ‘The secret is in the soil!’

January is an exciting ‘deciding’ time. What shall we grow this year?

Plans are in place to grow at least twenty varieties of colourful dahlias,  the tubers arrive soon to be potted up in March, brought on in the greenhouse and planted out later in the year.

Seed lists of vegetable and cut flower varieties are being compiled ready to order by the first week of February.

There are plans to join the Heritage seed library by growing heritage plants, saving the precious seeds to send to the library which helps conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely available.

Joining the usual well known potato varieties are three heritage ones which will be clearly marked –  Belle de Fontane, Foxton and Carolous.

The Heirloom vegetables which Liz is planning to grow in the trial bed come with some intriguing names.

Beetroot – Egyptian turnip rooted
Cabbage – golden acre
Cauliflower – dwarf erfurt
Carrot – Jaune du Doubs
Onion – white Lisbon
Turnip – Veitch’s red globe
Parsnips – Hollow crown
Radish – long white icicle
Sweetcorn – Stowell’s evergreen

All will be planted in clearly labelled rows. I cannot wait till they are ready to harvest because it will be interesting to find out how they cook and taste! A long time ago someone developed these vegetables to meet the palate of the time. I wonder how we shall find the flavour!

Learn how to grow your own.

Grow your own courses for vegetables and cut flowers will be delivered at the gardens and online in March and April and more details will be available soon.

Click here for more information. 

 Platinum jubilee events to celebrate the Queen’s special year are being prepared– more details to follow.

Plot to plate in June and July

An exciting new initiative championed by Moray Food Ambassador Ghillie Basan.

Enjoy a tour of the garden collecting fresh garden produce with head gardener Ed Bollom. Watch as our resident chef transforms the freshly picked fruit and vegetables into a delicious lunch while relaxing with a glass of one of Gordon Castle’s iconic brews! A fantastic day out.

Date for your  diary!

Have fun at the popular Highland Games on 15th May 2022. The garden will have their popular stall of plants for sale. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4 pm serving freshly cooked dishes using fresh garden produce where possible. There are still leeks, chard, potatoes, kales, cabbage and sprouts in the garden and you will find them on sale at the Potting Shed. Jerusalem artichokes too, they are good this year available to order in advance.

GLAN’S JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
My friend Glan makes this delicious recipe each year.
Serves 4 people
400gms( 14oz) Jerusalem artichokes scrubbed, trimmed and chopped
150gms( 5 ½ oz) potatoes peeled and chopped
60gs (2oz) unsalted butter
500mls (16 fl oz) vegetable stock
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or garden thyme ( or ¼ teasp dried)
Zest and juice of half a lemon

Melt the butter over a low heat and gently sweat the artichokes and potatoes for 10 minutes with a lid on the pan. Add stock, thyme and lemon zest. Simmer 20 minutes till the vegetables are tender ( make sure the potatoes are soft or they will be gluey when pureed). Add lemon juice and season to taste. Blend till smooth. Serve hot.

Now some home bakes for cold winter days.

BUMPY ROAD FLAPJACKS
125g (4 ½ oz) butter
30g (1oz) honey or golden syrup
115g (4oz) soft brown sugar
125g (4 ½ oz) self raising flour
115g (4oz) porridge oats
Handful of mini-marshmallow
Handful of chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil and line a baking tray approx 20cm x 25cm (8x10in). Melt the butter, honey and sugar in a pan till warmed but not boiling. Mix the flour and oats in a bowl. Stir in the melted ingredients. Scatter half roughly over the base of the tin. Scatter with the marshmallow and chocolate then cover with the rest of the mixture and press lightly together. Bake for 20 minutes no longer or the mixture will become rather crisp. Cool in the tin and mark into squares while warm.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

December in the Garden

December 16, 2021By Gordon CastleBlog No Comments

 Everyone at the gardens and many beyond are celebrating the prestigious award of being voted best historic walled garden in Britain. However, the ferocity of storm Arwen brought a bit of a wake-up call. Sadly hundreds of ancient trees did not survive, one of the oldest, a gigantic beech tree, fell across the avenue and is thought to be over 300 years old. It was completely hollow inside and it makes one wonder about tales of how Robin Hood evaded capture, it was said, by hiding in such a tree in Sherwood forest!

Trees grow strong roots on the side that will withstand the prevailing wind, because the storm came from a different direction it caught many of them literally off guard. It will take a long time to clear the fallen trees across the estate, some have landed in a dangerous position which will require specialists to remove them safely.

The good news is that were was minimal damage to buildings, none to people and the walled garden remained unscathed sheltered by the high surrounding red brick walls.

Now the gardens are being put to rest for the winter. A new gardener, Marie, has started work here, a trained florist, she has already been involved in wreath making. An apprentice gardener, Cathy is learning through work experience with the gardeners for the next six months. Head gardener Ed is delighted to have these two additions to the team ‘ It will make a huge difference and give an opportunity to pay more attention to detail, such as dead heading and smartening the garden in general.’ He said.  Bulb planting is now completed and the vegetable beds are being cleared and tidied ready for next year’s crops.

During the month, wreath making workshops have been very popular and there are some exciting plans for 2022 including the use of the old shop as a teaching venue. In March and April 2022 vegetable and cut flower Grow Your Own courses will be held here, they are also available online. Each participant will learn much from experts and return home with a large goodie box which includes a comprehensive course manual, notebook, garden gloves and all the bits and bobs needed to start their own growing project.

‘Plot to Plate’ events are also planned. At these Ed Bollom will conduct guests on a garden tour where they collect fresh produce to be prepared and cooked for them by a chef on site while they enjoy a tipple or two of Gordon Castle Gin, beer or cider. More details to follow.

Meanwhile Christmas afternoon teas continue in the restaurant and newly published book, a Taste of the Highlands by Ghillie Basan, which includes a feature about Gordon Castle is on sale in the gift shop. Ghillie will be doing a book signing in the cafe on Friday 17th December.

Plans for next year’s planting programme are coming together – more about the exciting ideas of growing heritage varieties next month.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and may 2022 to come be a good year for you when we look forward to welcoming you to the gardens once more.

Very best wishes

All at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle Walled Garden wins Garden of the Year 2021

November 16, 2021By Gordon CastleBlog 6 Comments

We won!

In a record-breaking vote, we have won Garden of the Year Award 2021, sponsored by Christie’s auction house, accumulating over `three thousand votes for the first time in the competition’s 37-year history. It is the first success for a Scottish garden since 1998, and is the first Scottish garden ever to win the award outright. Gordon Castle Walled Garden overcame stiff competition from Harewood House in Yorkshire, Lowther Castle in Cumbria, and five other extraordinary gardens across the UK. Over eleven thousand votes were cast in total.

Owners of Gordon Castle Estate Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox said, “We are absolutely delighted to have won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award and would like to say a huge thank you to all our visitors, followers and friends of the Walled Garden for their votes. For us, and our small team of gardeners and volunteers, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.

It has been seven years since we embarked on the project to restore this magical place from a near abandoned grass field to the productive and beautiful space which has emerged, showcasing the very best of fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary hard work of our entire team and the support of the local community.

This award will deliver an enormous boost to The Walled Garden, the local economy and hopefully to Scottish gardens as a whole, recognising the significant benefits gardening has on well-being, health, and happiness. We hope visitors will be encouraged to come and visit the Garden, to discover this beautiful area of Moray and Speyside and, inspired by what they find, leave with a smile on their faces.”

Head Gardener, Ed Bollom said, “We couldn’t be more excited about winning the Garden of the Year Award. We are only a small and relatively unknown garden and we’ve been working incredibly hard over the last seven or eight years to turn a bare patch of ground into one of the biggest working kitchen gardens in Britain, it has truly been a labour of love.

Our visitors are often surprised by the sheer variety of plants within the walls. Everything we grow has a use; the vegetables go to our café or for sale direct to visitors, the fruit is used for cider, gin, jams and chutneys, and our cut flowers are used to decorate the castle and holiday cottages or sent off to local florists. We extract essential oils from our lavender and rosemary and the herbs are used in a range of cosmetics. The garden and gardeners work very hard to earn their keep! Originally the Walled Garden was used to provide fresh produce for the Duke of Gordon but now it’s used to provide an income for the estate and the gates are open to all. I find it immensely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour being enjoyed by so many people. We want the garden to be enjoyed by everybody and with a hardy band of volunteers, regular trips from the local schools and growing visitor numbers we’re really becoming part of the local community.

We are so grateful to our visitors for voting by the thousand to help us win this award. We’re still relatively unknown and so the title of ‘Garden of the Year’ will go a long way to put us on the map and spread the word about the project and all of the fascinating things that are going on in our walled garden the far North of Scotland.”

Garden Designer, Arne Maynard said, “What has been truly special about this project is that from the very beginning both Angus and Zara have been completely committed to it, physically involved in double digging, removing rubble and stones, planting, weeding, harvesting. They have been incredibly hands on, working hard to create a beautiful garden they can be very proud of. The ‘Garden of the Year’ award is testament to this commitment and hard work and we wish Angus, Zara, Ed and the whole team huge congratulations on a well-deserved title!”

About Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle was one of the largest houses in Scotland until the mid twentieth century, when circumstances led to the sale of the estates and the demolition of the greater part of the building. The surviving, much more modest but handsome castle is now home to Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox and at the heart of a busy diversified estate and innovative and entrepreneurial business. The Walled Garden has been a leading project amongst many.

At a whopping eight acres, the walled garden – almost certainly one of the largest in the country – was commensurate to the size of the gargantuan house it was created to service. Happily, it not only survived but is today thriving once again. Angus and Zara commissioned renowned garden designer Arne Maynard to take a fresh look at the derelict site in 2013 and to design a new, modern and crucially, productive garden fit for purpose for the next hundred years. The scale of the effort was truly epic. There are an estimated one million bricks in the fifteen-foot-high surrounding walls; a further 48,000 were required just to edge the beds along the two-and-a-half kilometres of new path laid.

Planting strives to combine cutting edge design with the productive ethos of a traditional kitchen garden. The four cut-flower beds are colour themed: ‘Golden Peat’ is a mixture of hot shades and contrasting darker colours, ‘Glowing Heather’ hosts predominantly soft pinks and purples, ‘Icy Glen’ shines white, interspersed with green, while ‘Scotch Thistle’ draws on cooler blues and purples. Around and alongside, more four hundred fruit trees have been planted in ornamental forms, either as step-overs or espaliers, joining an existing 250 mature specimens.

The plants here play a central role in supporting the enterprise that is fuelling the garden’s renaissance. From June to October the garden’s café is self-sufficient, supplied by over two hundred varieties of fruit vegetable grown on site. Asparagus, salad leaves, beetroot, pumpkins, artichokes, and cabbages are joined by aubergines, chilli peppers, and even melons raised in the restored Victorian glasshouse. Apricots and apples, peaches and pears are just some of the fruits cultivated, a great many of which – especially the plums and berries – are used not just for food but also in the production of the many flavoured varieties of the castle’s award-winning gin, flavoured by the garden’s herbs and botanicals. Essential oils, distilled on site, fragrance hand creams, soaps, and shampoos. Cider and ale have recently joined the brand’s stable, also brewed from homegrown harvests.

Seventy thousand spring bulbs and established perennials pack ornamental and herbaceous beds with scent and almost year-round colour. A play area with an outdoor kitchen and activities for children brings learning as well as fun into the garden, which has become a valuable and much-loved community asset as well as a destination for tourists from further afield. All income is re-invested in the garden and a packed schedule of special events and workshops keep school children, students, local residents, volunteers, and passing visitors busy in any season.

For further information about the award please visit Historic Houses.

Follow our journey on Instagram @gordoncastlewalledgarden