The garden at Highgrove embodies The Prince's environmental philosophy: that it is better to work with Nature than against it.
When he bought the Highgrove estate in 1980, The Prince was adamant that it should be an entirely organic garden and farm.
However, at that time there was no sign of a garden at all. Thirteen years later in the book ‘Highgrove: Portrait of an Estate’ The Prince wrote: “It was difficult to know where to begin and I knew nothing about the practical aspects of gardening..”
His Royal Highness sought the advice of a friend, Lady Salisbury, who was an experienced organic gardener well-known for her work at Cranbourne and at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
She and The Prince laid out parts of the garden with scented plants. Wisteria, honeysuckle, jasmine, Holboellia, lilies and thyme were chosen to surround the house.
On the advice of Miriam Rothschild, another gardening expert and one of the country’s leading advocates of biodiversity, The Prince created an experimental wildflower meadow.
His Royal Highness desperately wanted to protect our native flora and fauna which was in decline due to modern farming methods.
The original meadow seed mix comprised of 32 different varieties of native plants, including ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle, common spotted orchid, meadow crane’s bill and ragged robin.
At its westerly end, the meadow is also home to some of the National Collection of Beeches which The Prince maintains on behalf of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG).
The Prince is Patron of the NCCPG, which conserves the diversity of our plant heritage through its national collections. In addition to part of the National Collection of Beeches, His Royal Highness has the National Collection of Hostas, a large-leafed plant which he loves.
Every year The Prince takes on a new project to take his garden in new directions, such as his walled Kitchen Garden or the arboretum.
The walled Kitchen Garden helps the Highgrove estate achieve self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables.
Colour and form are important, with lettuce seedlings planted in rows of contrasting colours, but ultimately the garden is used to grow vegetables in the cottage garden tradition.
Vegetable varieties loved by The Prince are grown such as Charlotte potatoes and Happil strawberries, leeks, spring cabbage, Brussel sprouts and carrots.
A wide variety of apples are grown from trees next to the Orchard Room, along with others gathered from the Kitchen Garden, including Formosa Nonpareil, Golden Knot, Cornish Aromatic and Lady’s Delight. There are also examples of some very rare cooking apple trees, of types which are now virtually extinct. Many of the apples grown in the orchard are sent to the Priory, a local retirement home and Tetbury Hospital.
To help raise money for his Charitable Foundation, The Prince now opens his gardens to the public from April to October each year for guided tours. The money raised helps a variety of causes in the built environment, with young people and education, as well as the arts, global sustainability and rural affairs.
For more information, please visit www.highgrovegardens.com