The Prince's Gar­den

30 years ago the Prince of Wales pur­chased High­grove, an un­kempt 360-hectare farm. Stick­ing to or­ganic prin­ci­ples, the Prince has trans­formed it to one of the UK’s most beau­ti­ful gar­dens.

Element - - The Cuase - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

The real roots of the Prince of Wales’ en­vi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness are to be found in a small cor­ner of the gar­dens of Buckingham Palace, where he de­scribes how he and his sis­ter Anne used to play.

“We had a lit­tle tiny plot hid­den away by the back of a wall at Buckingham Palace. We used to fid­dle about grow­ing to­ma­toes, I think the thing was that the mo­ment I had some­where that I could start do­ing some­thing I got go­ing.”

Since 1980 this ‘some­where’ has been High­grove in Glouces­ter­shire, with the jewel in the crown be­ing the Prince’s own gar­den. It is run on an en­tirely or­ganic ba­sis and with a real fo­cus on sus­tain­able tech­niques and in­no­va­tion, a de­cid­edly un­usual ap­proach to take 30 years ago.

Renowned TV gar­dener Alan Titch­marsh has de­scribed it as “one of Eng­land’s most im­por­tant con­tem­po­rary gar­dens…a place of in­com­pa­ra­ble beauty and a bea­con for all things or­ganic.”

Its in­fra­struc­ture in­cludes a spe­cially built reed bed sewage sys­tem that pro­cesses all the waste gen­er­ated by more than 30,000 vis­i­tors to the gar­dens each year. The wa­ter passes through wood chip filled pits, then through a reed bed that fil­ters out most of the nu­tri­ents and heavy met­als, then through a wil­low bed for fur­ther fil­ter­ing be­fore end­ing up in a pond. Wa­ter from the pond is piped out to wa­ter the gar­dens.

Heat­ing for some of the build­ings is pro­vided by a wood chip boiler, pro­duc­ing heat through the burn­ing of waste ma­te­ri­als from the gar­den. The green­houses use ground source heat­ing that har­nesses the warmth of the Earth cap­tured by buried wa­ter pipes to help fill ra­di­a­tors that ward off the worst of the win­ter chill.

A huge amount of com­post is made on site, re­cy­cling the trim­mings and waste from the mix­ture of rare trees, plants and her­itage seeds that are cul­ti­vated throughout the var­i­ous gar­den dis­plays. There’s also an acre of walled kitchen gar­den, pro­vid­ing a range of fresh veg­eta­bles for the house, while two small flocks of or­ganic free-range chick­ens sup­ply the eggs and honey is har­vested from the gar­den’s own hives.

Nat­u­ral preda­tors are en­cour­aged for pest con­trol and only nat­u­ral fer­tilis­ers like com­frey tea are used. Prince Charles him­self has said of this ap­proach: “Good old-fash­ioned, well-rooted ma­nure is the se­cret to ev­ery­thing.”

In some ar­eas of the gar­den the Prince has de­lib­er­ately cul­ti­vated wild­flower mead­ows that have blos­somed from bar­ren green­ery to be­come the home of more than 30 na­tive species of na­tive grasses and wild­flow­ers that help at­tract and

“Good old-fash­ioned, well-rooted ma­nure is the se­cret to ev­ery­thing.”

en­cour­age wild plants and in­sects. But there are dec­o­ra­tive touches of whimsy too, in­clud­ing busts of the Prince fea­tur­ing in holes in the yew hedg­ing, a fern gar­den cre­ated from up­turned tree stumps com­plete with their roots, and a dry stone wall fea­tur­ing odd bits of ma­sonry the Prince has been given over the years.

This com­bi­na­tion of metic­u­lous care and the flex­i­bil­ity to al­low na­ture to take its course is the key to the gar­dens unique ap­peal. A case in point is that a fallen Cedar of Le­banon was re­placed with a pavilion made of oak from an­other part of the prop­erty, but will now even­tu­ally be su­per­seded by a young oak that has

sprouted up nearby that the Prince has de­cided to re­tain.

But it is clear that the royal hand is not just used to wave at what he would like done, or to of­fer a stay of ex­e­cu­tion to what might be con­sid­ered un­wel­come plants. The prince did much of the orig­i­nal plant­ing him­self and still con­fesses to be­ing a ha­bit­ual pruner of the gar­dens. At week­ends he is known to mount what he calls his ‘evening pa­trols’, wan­der­ing his gar­den with shears and lop­pers, weed­ing and saw­ing rogue branches off as he goes. It is hard to imag­ine this not some­times frus­trat­ing the team of up to a dozen pro­fes­sional gar­den­ers whose job it is to keep ev­ery­thing in the kinds of dy­namic, if not ever-so-slightly chaotic or­der that the Prince favours. In win­ter he is also a dab hand at the tra­di­tional art of hedge lay­ing (he is Pa­tron of the UK Hedge Lay­ing As­so­ci­a­tion) in which hedgerow plants and bushes are care­fully cut and wo­ven to form a liv­ing bar­rier that main­tains bio­di­ver­sity while also en­clos­ing stock an­i­mals.

At once an ex­hi­bi­tion of his ideas and a sanc­tu­ary from the busi­ness of his ev­ery­day life, Prince Charles’ gar­den clearly rep­re­sents a core as­pect of his life’s phi­los­o­phy.

“If you gar­den as in a dream you will take peo­ple with you,” he says. “Be­cause I be­lieve we are all con­nected on that deep and fun­da­men­tal level.”

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