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Gordon Castle bursts into bloom

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Gordon Castle’s work on restoring its walled garden to its former glory is bearing not only fruit but also an abundance of flowers, herbs and vegetables and proving a draw for visitors who are flocking to this historic site to experience the rejuvenation of the garden.

Designed by award-winning garden designer, Arne Maynard, the Gordon Castle walled garden, believed to be one of the largest in the UK, is being nurtured back to life by a team of gardeners who have been joined by new assistant head gardener, former Chatsworth and Highgrove gardener, Ed Bollom.

Of his new role, Ed said: “I moved to the north-east to be with family, but I would be lying if I said that was the only draw. As a gardener, it’s not often you get to be part of the restoration of a walled garden as magnificent as Gordon Castle’s, especially when it is following a design such as Arne’s.”

The abundance of plants and herbs, which are distilled to extract essential oils fragrancing the Gordon Castle Scotland range of luxury bath and beauty products, will be a priority for the gardener, so first into the ground will be over 3,000 blue and white lavender plants, which will adorn the ribbons around the dipping pond.

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After a cold spring, the vegetables, fruit and herbs that sustain the many thousands of café visitors throughout the year are now beginning to thrive.

As a result, the Gordon Castle café chefs are busy creating a summer menu, brimming with seasonal flavours, that is in keeping with the castle’s ‘plant, pick, plate’ philosophy.

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The blooming of the four cut flower beds, the result of 24,000 seeds propagated by the team over the winter months, is eagerly anticipated, as it will provide a real show-stopping centrepiece with amazing blocks of colour right at the heart of the garden.

Now complete is the children’s play area, which is crafted from original stone that formed part of the castle and the famous Gordon Castle Ash tree that was sadly felled in the winter storms.

Designed to fit within the walls, this inspiring and aesthetically pleasing space uses natural elements that will fire up imaginations and encourage risk-taking in a safe environment.

The planting of 40 espaliered apple trees down the central path, which has given the garden height and structure, will add to the walled garden’s collection of 249 mature, trained fruit trees, which also provide a brimming larder for the café along with apples and pears for the Gordon Castle Scotland cider.

Another project within the garden reaching its pinnacle is the restoration of the garden’s stunning original MacKenzie & Moncur glasshouse. The final part of the restoration is now under way and this beautiful and historic glasshouse should be back in working order next month, ready to be filled with tender plants such as chillies, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. This has served as inspiration for the Gordon Castle chefs who are creating new salads, salad dressings and chilli jams, which will be available to buy from the café and shop. The shop also stocks the complete range of bath and beauty products and the multi-award-winning small batch Gordon Castle Scotland Gin and Cider.

Commenting on the growth of the walled garden, Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox explained the work in progress: “It is so thrilling to see all the team’s hard work and vision slowly take shape.

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“Bringing this stunning garden back to its former glory is a long term project and we felt it was important and interesting for people to see the process of the garden being built and developed over the weeks, months and years.

“This is not an instant garden, which is put together in days, this is reality and Mother Nature takes her time – it is lovely to see the same faces returning month after month and enjoying the garden’s progress.

“This is a special restoration, and unique for a garden of this size. We hope it will become an important horticultural destination for knowledgeable gardeners as well as visitors from home or further afield looking for a fabulous day out.”

When the team reaches the end of restoration in 2017, the walled garden will be a fully productive kitchen garden. The modern design will boast a maze, swathes of cut flowers and a huge variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit – all used in the delicious, fresh dishes served a stone’s throw away in the Gordon Castle café.

Events form a key part of the summer programme and the performance space within the garden is looking lush and green, ready to welcome the London Contemporary Theatre for an afternoon performance of Wind in the Willows and an evening performance of Twelfth Night on July 25.

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The Walled Garden, Gordon Castle, Fochabers. Phone 01343 612333.

Cafe open Sun-Thurs 10am to 6pm, Fri & Sat 10am – late (last orders 8.30pm).

Outdoor theatre prices: Family (2 adults, 3 children) – £29; Adult – £10.50; Children – £7.50.

To book tickets for events visit www.gordoncastlescotland-shop.com/events.irc

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