The Prince has spent more than 30 years creating one of the finest and most pleasurable gardens in England, and at this time of year the Garden—and the English weather in which to enjoy it—is at its most lovely. June is a time of striking colour contrast in the Prince’s Garden. and the period of greatest scent. It will be a magical time to be there.
Our two small parties of just eight Members will receive a guided tour of the Garden, accompanied by one of His Royal Highness’s expert garden guides. From the moment you walk between the impressive pillars at the Garden entrance you begin a journey which reveals one delight after another, each setting giving a glimpse of a wonderful English garden in summer, underpinned by the Prince’s personal taste and philosophy. While various fine gardeners, including Lady Salisbury, Rosemary Verey and Dame Miriam Rothschild, made their contributions, the Prince is hands-on: notwithstanding the small army of gardeners, it is he who makes the decisions.
And as the Prince says, ‘I have gardened to a certain extent from a painter’s perspective. Each part of the garden is a separate ‘painting’ and the result of ceaseless walking, ruminating and observing those moments of magic when the light becomes almost dreamlike in its illuminating intensity. It is in those moments when you are lost in wonder that such beauty is possible and inspiration can come …’
It is this beauty that we shall see for ourselves, literally as well as figuratively, in the footsteps of the Prince of Wales.
When the Prince speaks of the ‘excitement’ of the garden, and how the longed-for arrival of a particular plant ‘becomes a treasured feature of one’s existence’, it is clear that the garden holds deep meaning for His Royal Highness. This, after all, is his own home garden, where his son and Heir to the Throne William spent his formative years. As the Prince says, ‘The Garden is an expression of what I hold dear.’ If you want to understand the Prince of Wales, what makes him tick, how he works, his deep loves, private passions and quiet reflections, the Garden at Highgrove is where the Prince’s soul is laid bare. It is also a measure of the practical Prince: here are broad visions and also minor details, ideas with which to transform our own gardens, or simply to enjoy the beauty of an English garden and the creative spirit of the Prince.
Highgrove, as with all great gardens, does not reveal its charms all at once. Each garden room contains its own private pleasures, then takes the viewer on to the next scene, with the House sometimes the focus, at others glimpsed through the trees. Close at hand are the Terrace Garden, the Cottage Garden, Thyme Walk, Lily Pool Garden, Sundial Garden and Carpet Garden. Farther afield come the Walled Garden, the Model Fruit Garden, the Cutting Garden, Azalea Walk, Lavender Orchard, Southern Hemisphere Garden, Woodland Garden and Arboretum.
Among the characteristics of these gardens there is humour: as in the Ego Garden. And pathos: the memorial to Her Majesty The Queen Mother. Strong architectural features: the Temple of Worthies, The Sanctuary and the Wall of Gifts. Some eccentricities: The Stumpery, for one. And Miriam Rothschild’s ‘Farmer’s Nightmare’—well named, being a wild flower meadow bursting with poppies, corncockle, cornflowers and cornfield marigolds. National treasures and rarities abound. Highgrove hosts national collections of beech trees and large-leaved hostas, among others.
Many English rarities are grown, including varieties now virtually extinct. Underlying it all is the Prince’s deep-felt conviction that his garden must be self-sufficient, with emphasis on water conservation, green waste recycling, natural pest control and organic fertilisers. As such, the garden works on all levels: beautiful to the eye of any beholder, and an inspiration to gardeners wishing to benefit from the Prince’s experimentation over more than three decades.
Wildlife thrives in this environment; from songbirds to dragonflies, butterflies, beetles, newts and bumble bees. The Prince is justifiably proud of his Garden, and a long evening in June will be the perfect moment to see Highgrove at its glorious best. June is delphinium time at Highgrove, their striking iridescence in purples, blues, whites and pinks quite unrivalled. They are the Prince’s favourites and, as he says, well worth the effort. Heady fragrance is everywhere, scenting the air from all angles—even the Kitchen Garden is scented, with gloriously fragrant sweet peas for the House and crab apple trees in full blossom, alongside the early crops for the Prince’s table—and our own on this special evening—the rows and beds of vegetables: sweet carrots, lettuce, beetroot, spinach, rhubarb and peas that look too beautiful to pick. A tunnel trained with apple trees deceptively releases the smell of apples, which actually comes from the Sweet Briar Rose (Rosa rubiginosa). There are plump espaliered apples, pears, gages, plums and redcurrants lining the walls, grown at just the right height to pick and test their ripeness.
Inspired by the Garden, our appetites whetted by the scent of sweet ripe summer fruits and vegetables, we shall move into Highgrove’s delightful Orchard Room, and take our seats for Lunch (for those who have chosen the morning visit) or Afternoon Tea. Both will be delicious, sourced locally and from the Highrove Estate itself, specially prepared by the Highgrove chefs and served with a sparkling glass of Champagne.