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A Right Royal Visit

A Right Royal Visit

On Friday, our Leicestershire Master Gardeners and their guests enjoyed a day trip to Highgrove Gardens, the home of Garden Organic’s patron HRH The Prince of Wales, as a thank you for all their hard work and enthusiasm in supporting new growers across the county.

HRH runs the estate on entirely organic principles and has created a beautiful and productive landscape, overflowing with beautiful ornamentals, trees, fruit and veg, interspersed with some surprising artistic touches.  Unfortunately, tight security regulations meant that we were unable to take any photographs, but we recommend an online search for ‘Highgrove Gardens images’ to see something of this beautiful estate.

Highlights include a magnificent walled kitchen garden divided by two huge apple tunnels, dripping with fruit and leading to a central dipping pond occupied by giant carp and pink water lilies.  The large asparagus beds and other vegetables are intermixed with flowers, from sweet peas to cannas, a veritable banquet for pollenating insects, and bordered by wide bands of African marigolds.

The central walkway leading to the back of the house features a thyme path, bordered by quirkily clipped yew shapes; the scent of thyme reached us even although we were not allowed to walk on the path.  A giant Magnolia grandiflora reaches to the third floor, covering several of the windows and a deep purple glory vine smothers the front of the house, trailing into the pathways and requiring HRH to push the fronds aside as he passes through his front door.  All through the gardens, formal clipped yew and box hedges contrast with the relaxed, organic approach to planting, in which flowers, ferns and grasses are allowed to intermingle and spill over edges rather than conforming to immaculately trimmed edges.  ,

A walk through a large flower meadow leads to a series of wooded gardens, including an arboretum and stumpery, a Victorian gardening feature through which wealthy gardeners displayed their collections of ferns and other shade loving plants.  Brightly coloured benches and gates are dotted throughout, drawing the visitor’s eye down long vistas and inviting entrances to hidden gardens.

Throughout the garden, HRH’s artistic interests are apparent in sculptures, doors, monuments and topiary, both commissioned by and gifted to him.  The Spirit of the Woods sits cross legged between two oak temples among the trees, but had apparently been less tranquil last summer when wasps nested under her bottom.  Highgrove reflects everywhere its status as a deeply personal project, from a large oak monument featuring a portrait of the Queen Mother, to a topiary elephant dedicated to the Duchess of Cornwall’s brother who died recently, or a young poplar planted by Prince George; HRH shares our view that you can’t start children gardening too young.

We finished with the exquisite Turkish Carpet Garden, designed by HRH and inspired by a carpet in Highgrove.  Its high walls surround columnar cypress trees and a magnificent central waterfall,, surrounded by bright mosaics, in which the water spills over into a series of bright turquoise tiled channels, descending in geometric patterns to the edge of the central carpet.  The garden is studded with highly scented and coloured  jewel like flowers, creating a wonderfully relaxing and enchanting space.

The day was over all too soon but the delights we had seen kept our volunteers and their guests chatting all the way home through the long, 3 hour journey.

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