There was a little something happened recently which I’m sure you are more than aware of. It was of course the official coronation of King Charles III.
Perhaps you were out celebrating in some typical British style with tea, scones and maybe even the fabled coronation chicken sarnie. At Beechgrove Garden we celebrated the event in our own horticultural way.
If you caught the latest episode of Beechgrove Garden then you’ll have seen Calum plant up three different delphiniums in the picket fence garden. If you didn’t catch it yet then fear not as the whole thing is available on BBC iPlayer and of course read on. King Charles III has a soft spot for these beauties. They are in fact his favourite plant.
A few years back, I was fortunate enough once to be invited up to Birkhall Garden; King Charles’ III spot up here on the Balmoral Estate. Caroline, the lovely head gardener at the time, took us around the incredible but very private garden. The privacy was taken seriously enough to request no photos or videos to be taken and if anyone was caught taking any then the tour would end for everyone.
Among seeing the fantastic arboretum and wonderful bell shaped lower garden came the fact that delphiniums were His Majesty’s favourite. The most interesting of all though was the fact that a specific area of the herbaceous border was left for rosebay willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) as it was a favourite of the Queen Mother.
As a gardener I can of course see the beauty in this plant. Its fiery red slender stems and luminous purple flowers with almost rose like petals (hence the common name). It is however also a vehement pest of the highest order. It’s ability to propagate so efficiently for the huge swathes of fluffy seed heads that carry on the wind far and wide from the mother plant make it a nightmare to control. Having a specific section of a border to house this menace then? The gardeners at Birkhall have my sympathies.
As I’ve mentioned previously I have actually had the pleasure to meet His Majesty in person. As memory serves, horrific storms plagued the north-east between November 2021 and January 2022. Storms Arwen, Malik and Corrie brought chaos, destruction and trauma to many. At the time I was head gardener of Pitmedden Garden and Haddo House for the National Trust for Scotland and in events of such magnitude we have to spring into action.
Sites were closed to the public as soon as possible and then expert arborists, the garden teams and volunteers (where applicable) worked tirelessly to make the sites safe and secure for re-opening. Haddo House was particularly badly hit with up to one million trees believed to have been uprooted across the wider estate.
King Charles III was still the Prince of Wales at the time. He made a special trip over to visit the country park and see how the storm damage first hand. Representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, The National Trust for Scotland as well as Lord and Lady Aberdeen were there.
I was delighted to have the pleasure to show King Charles III around the National Trust for Scotland area along with our CEO Phil Long. He was a very friendly and chatty man that had a laugh with me. He asked how we dealt with the storms and I mentioned that we lost power at our own house and that shock and horror of having ro move in with the in-laws. He said well at least the in-laws have some uses occasionally!
Organic slug control
Calum also mentioned while planting the delphiniums that we would be trialling organic methods to deal with slugs and snails. Delphinium are a favourite snack of the two prolific pests. We decided to try three preventative methods.
On the foliage of the Delphinium elatum, Delphi’s Hollands Glorie, we will be repeat treating with a garlic spray as they dislike the taste. Around D. x belladonna ‘Cliveden Beauty’ we created a grit barrier as they find it troubling to get over the rough terrain.
Lastly, around D. elatum ‘Blue Lace’ we created a barrier of coffee grounds as they dislike the acidic nature of these. We will also measure these against a control. We are leaving some of the other delphiniums in the picket fence garden without any form of defence.
We compare and contrast the different delphiniums in due course. Let’s hope for Beechgrove Garden’s sake that the ghastly gastropods leave these resoundingly pulchritudinous royal plants alone.
Take care and happy gardening.