Highgrove is the horticultural hot ticket for garden lovers all over the world.
- © Andrew Butler
- © Andrew Lawson
When the Prince of Wales bought Highgrove in 1980, his aim for the blank, bleak canvas was this: "To feed the soil, warm the heart, delight the eye." Prince Charles has achieved this and much more.
The compost heaps have a turn-around of a scant three months and the plants are so healthy they practically stand to attention: there are no blackfly on the broad beans, I can confidently report, and even the hostas have few holes, which says much for the benefits of organic practice.
As you turn every corner, there is something to enchant and amaze, be it bent-hazel tunnels of sweet peas and runner beans in the kitchen garden - enter through a powder-pink gate - or the pair of ravishing pepperpot pavilions that head the scented thyme walk, which was originally planted painstakingly by Prince Charles, incorporating more than 20 varieties of thyme, in 1990. The golden yew hedges on either side are clipped by the gardeners into eccentric shapes of their choice.
Open a door and here is the exquisite Carpet Garden, a courtyard of apricot walls and vibrant central floor mosaic with fountain, surrounded by Italian cypresses, cork oaks, vines and orange trees, encapsulating the Islamic idea of garden as heaven on Earth.
© Andrew Butler
The gifts that keep on giving
Throughout the grounds are presents Prince Charles has been given through the years (a quartet of huge olive-oil jars shipped from Italy in a crate tagged "The Prince of Wales, Tetbury" was delivered to the local pub of the same name): a rare Christmas-flowering Glastonbury thorn from the Abbot of Glastonbury; towering terracotta pots from the King and Queen of Spain; a yellow Indian bean tree from Elton John ("You’d better tell everyone it’s from him," Prince Charles told the guides, "because they’ll all want to touch it.").
With a gift of 76 tree ferns, what else could Prince Charles do but create a Southern Hemisphere Garden that looks like a primeval forest and includes the most ancient of plants, the Wollemi pine?
In September, with gunnera, banana and cabbage palms stretching out their giant leaves, it is at its peak; in October, the Arboretum’s acer-lined Autumn Walk turns flame and gold.
© Andrew Lawson
A gift of a sundial from the late Duke of Beaufort resulted in the pretty Sundial Garden, adjacent to the house and originally designed by Lady Salisbury as a rose garden; in 1999 the head gardener David Howard transformed it into a strictly black-and-white garden - the dark-leaved dahlias were beheaded, their scarlet flowers used indoors - but with new head gardener Debbie Goodenough, magenta Cosmos and other anarchic colours have crept in among the white lupins.
One of the new additions to the Sundial Garden is the deep garnet Highgrove Rose that was introduced by Peter Beales at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. To order yours, see below.
© Andrew Butler
Several years ago, Prince Charles called in the innovative designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, and their creations have made the gardens even more atmospheric.
In the magical Woodland Garden, their version of the Victorian stumpery, comprising fantastical pieces of tree root where ferns thrive, has at its heart two classical temples made from green oak, cleverly cut to look like stone.
Although the grounds at Highgrove are somewhat larger than the average garden, they hold plenty of ideas for the small space.
The walled kitchen garden’s line-up of Malus trees, for instance, each shaped like a coronet so that in autumn the scarlet crabapples gleam like jewels in the crown, would look wonderful in less regal gardens. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you will see them for yourself.
Grow the Highgrove rose
The Highgrove rose is a new introduction by Peter Beales this year. It has sumptuous, deep-garnet blooms, flowers prolifically and can be grown as a short climber or shrub rose. Demand is already great but to get on the waiting list for a bare-rooted rose to be sent between November and next March, visit www.highgroveshop.com, or call 0845 521 4342. One rose costs £15 plus £6.80 p&p for up to 20 roses.
Get the Highgrove look
If you aren’t able to visit Highgrove itself, you can still visit its website and have yourself a touch of Highgrove splendour, from richly fragrant soaps discovered by the Prince of Wales to gardening gauntlets in a Highgrove Toile de Jouy print.
You can find sets of wooden plant markers bearing the Prince’s feathers and dinnerware inspired by Highgrove’s Southern Hemisphere Garden. Visit www.highgroveshop.com.