As The Queen Mother
celebrates her 100th birthday today no doubt she is
thinking back over the things that have made her happy
during her century. Well up there in her list of favourites
will be her gardens. George Plumptre has visited all
the Queen Mother’s private gardens and reveals
a few secrets.
The Queen Mother inherited a love of gardening as a
child and was brought up in family homes with beautiful
gardens, Glamis Castle in Scotland and St Paul’s
Walden Bury in Hertfordshire.
Throughout her life her own gardens have been a source
of great joy, especially the garden of the Royal Lodge
in Windsor Great Park, the house she and her husband
George VI were given by his father shortly after their
marriage in 1923. Royal Lodge is the Queen Mother’s
favourite home, where she spends weekends and where
she and George VI worked together to create the garden.
It was an ambitious project, given that the house and
garden had been neglected for many years.
Together they set
about creating a garden from the oak woodland of Windsor
Great Park, which would also provide areas for flower
gardening and relaxation around the Regency house. The
famous designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe helped by building
a new garden terrace along the front of the house, while
for George VI the creation of a woodland garden with
shady paths leading past banks of rhododendrons was
a source of great pride.
Today the garden remains very much as they created it
together, the broad terrace giving a spectacular view
across sloping lawn to the woodland garden beyond. Here
many of the rhododendrons are now enormous including
– not surprisingly – the luxuriant white-flowered
‘King George’. The main path leads to a
delightful connection with the Queen Mother’s
childhood, a statue group of a woman and children called
‘Charity’ which is a copy of the original
in the garden of St Paul’s Walden Bury.
One of the Queen
Mother’s favourite areas has always been the small
secret rose garden on one side of the house, enclosed
with beech hedges and a medley of scent and colour in
June and July. From her writing room in the house she
can walk out on to a path that leads along an immaculately
planted herbaceous border of the kind she would have
seen being tended by her gardening mother. Close by
is another of the Royal Lodge garden’s unique
treasures, a tiny thatched cottage, more like a large
dolls’ house, that was given by the people of
Wales to the present Queen, then Princess Elizabeth,
on her sixth birthday.
As far away as you could possibly get, on the far north
coast of Scotland, is the Queen Mother’s other
favourite garden, the romantic Castle of Mey. Here,
looking straight out over the Pentland Firth to the
Orkney Islands, is the home that she made during the
sad years of her early widowhood. The small but immaculate
kitchen garden, protected by high stone walls to keep
out the constant winds, is a sheer delight and a reminder
that however daunting the conditions it is possible
to make a garden.
That sort of challenge has always appealed to the Queen
Mother who remains as spirited today as ever. As well
as creating and caring for her own gardens (in the process
enormously improving the standards and enjoyment of
the gardens around the different royal residences such
as Sandringham), she has contributed hugely to the world
of gardening. Few horticultural bodies do not have her
as their Patron; she has held the position at the Royal
Horticultural Society since 1936 and has been similarly
committed to both the National Gardens Scheme and to
Scotland’s Garden Scheme.
And where did our best–known royal gardener, Prince
Charles, get the bug? From his grandmother of course.
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com