The Walled Garden Project
Our walled garden at Gordon Castle was built over 200 years ago to meet the demands of the Duke of Gordon for fresh seasonal produce to feed his household and impress his guests. The head gardener and head chef would have worked closely together to bring a myriad of fruit, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers to the Duke’s table. Today the relationship between chef and gardener is as strong as ever but the fruits of our labour are enjoyed by a much wider audience.
Just a few years ago the garden lay empty until in 2013 Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox decided it was time to bring this amazing place back to life. Initially the plan was simple; use the walled garden to grow herbs to make a botanical gin, but it soon became apparent that the space could offer so much more. With the help of award-winning designer Arne Maynard, Angus and Zara began drawing up plans to make the garden as beautiful as it is productive and started the journey to create the Gordon Castle brand with the Walled Garden at its heart. Today we have a range of over 200 products, a thriving restaurant and shop, and a magnificent unique garden that continues to grow and evolve.
At almost eight acres in size, the walled garden is one of the biggest in Britain and everything we grow within its walls has a use whether its lavender for essential oils, apples for cider or fresh vegetables for the café kitchen.
The Vegetable Gardens
Vegetable production is at the centre of the walled garden project. Our focus is on providing fresh seasonal produce for our on-site cafe café but we sell direct to local businesses and to our garden visitors via our Potting Shed Shop. We have four large vegetable beds, each one bigger than a standard allotment, which we crop in rotation to avoid the build up of pests and diseases. We grow over 200 different varieties of vegetable from seed every year; carrots, beetroot, pumpkins, squash, cabbages, kale, potatoes, peas and beans, you name it we grow it along with perennial crops such as asparagus and globe artichokes.
From June through to October our café is completely self-sufficient for fresh salad leaves, we grow 10 varieties of cut and come again salads and pick every morning to make sure they are as fresh as can be.
Tender crops are cultivated in our restored Victorian greenhouse. A dozen varieties of tomatoes grow alongside cucumbers, aubergine, chile peppers and even melons. As far as possible we grow using organic principles.
The Fruit Gardens
One of the greatest assets of a walled garden is the shelter provided for trained fruit trees. 250 mature fruit trees grow against the walls and almost 400 more have been planted as standard trees, step-overs and espaliers.
Our plums and gauges (including our very own ‘Gordon Castle’ variety) are used to make our delicious plum gin as well as being a firm favourite with our chefs and visitors for crumbles and compots.
We grow over 60 different types of apple, 25 or which are Scottish varieties, the majority of which are made into our sweet, crisp cider but we always save a few for juicing or chutney. Pears are grown on 8 long tunnels where the fruit are protected from the sun and can hang below the trees making for easy picking.
On the western side on the garden we have planted an orchard comprising of 50 fruiting cherry trees and on the south facing walls apricots, figs and peaches bask in the warmth. At well over 100 years old our apricot trees may well be the oldest in Scotland.
An area covering almost an acre in south east corner of the garden is used for the production of soft fruit. Raspberries for our jam, shortbread and Gin are grown in abundance with gooseberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and many more. When we have a surplus we invite our visitors to pick their own so everyone can enjoy a taste of the walled garden.
The Cut Flower Gardens
A favourite job amongst the gardeners is decorating the café, holiday cottages and castle with fresh cut flowers from the garden. Four dedicated, colour coordinated cut flower beds stand in the centre of the walled garden, overflowing with over 60 varieties of annual and perennial plants chosen for their qualities as cut flowers. Scabious, cornflower, echinacea, dahlia, gladioli, salvia and 7 different varieties of sweet peas brighten up the garden through the summer and over 3000 tulip bulbs start off the season in spring. We make bouquets daily for visitors to take home and welcome local florists into the garden to pick their own.
The herbs and essential oil Gardens
Two huge herb beds enjoy the warmth of a gentle south facing slope at the top of the garden. Divided up by cloud-pruned rosemary hedges these beds contain all the herbs and aromatics we need for our botanical gin, oatcakes, chutney, herbal teas and herb garden range of hand-cream, shampoo and soaps. We often see the chefs foraging through the herb gardens just before a busy lunch service.
Surrounding our dipping pond in the middle of the garden our lavender ribbons contain 3000 blue and white lavender plants bringing colour, fragrance and the buzzing of bees from July to September. The flowers are cut in late summer and loaded into our industrial still where their essential oils are distilled out and used in our bath and beauty range of products.
Entertainment and Relaxation
As well as being productive we set out to make the Walled Garden a beautiful and relaxing space.
Running along the full length of the garden six large ornamental borders overflow with colour, scent and form, packed full of herbaceous perennials and roses. We’ve planted over 70,000 spring bulbs throughout the garden. Crocus, daffodils and tulips flower alongside the fruit blossom from February through to May. Our cherry orchard provides wonderful spring flowers and autumn colour and of course our vegetables beds, cut flowers and herbs are as beautiful as they are productive.
The natural play area provides a safe environment for children to explore the natural world, with an outdoor kitchen, den building and water cascade you can let them run riot whilst you relax and enjoy a coffee from the café.
We have a full schedule of events throughout the year from the Tulip Festival in the spring through to our Christmas fair and Garden Market and a large open amphitheatre provides space for outdoor theatre productions, garden games and picnics. We try to use the garden for as many different activities as possible.
We would like the Walled Garden to be seen as a centre of excellence and education is becoming a very important part of the project. We run workshops covering subjects such as garden design, flower arranging and vegetable growing and we welcome students and school groups into the garden for practical sessions and field trips.
A space for everyone to enjoy
Our aim is to open up the garden to as many people as possible, weather you are a keen gardener, a food lover or just enjoy the outdoors there is something for everybody to see. The garden is run on a not for profit basis, every penny we make from ticket sales and produce goes back into its running and development. So please drop in, help support the project and become part of the Walled Garden story.