On 17 July 2008, 50 members toured the gardens at Highgrove House, organised by SCI’s Horticulture Group. The event was extremely popular, with tour places snapped up as soon as they became available. The visit was a big success – all those who attended were visibly impressed with the horticultural delights on offer.
The gardens at Highgrove embody HRH The Prince of Wales' environmental philosophy that it is better to work with nature than against it. And it is this philosophy that has helped shape the gardens from ‘nothing’, the condition when he bought the estate in 1980, to the delight they are today.
Everything grown on the land is organic. The methods used are traditional, relying on in-depth knowledge passed down the generations. The aim is to work with nature to offset the challenges that beset all farmers and gardeners. Biodiversity is a key theme in the garden, and led to one of the first projects to be initiated on the estate – the creation of an experimental wild flower meadow to protect native flora and fauna, which have been in decline due to modern farming methods.
Already, the meadow boasts around 32 different varieties of endangered native plants, including ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle, common spotted orchid, meadow crane’s bill and ragged robin. The meadow is also home to some of the national collection of beeches, which the Prince maintains on behalf of the UK's National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG), of which he is patron.
Another feature is the walled kitchen garden, where fruit and vegetables are grown using a traditional cottage method, ensuring that Highrove is self sufficient in fruit and vegetables.
Other highlights included an extensive orchard with a wide variety of apples, including some very rare cooking apples, which are now virtually extinct; the Islamic garden (brought from the Chelsea Flower Show); the Black and White garden; and the newly built Memorial Pavilion, designed by Mark Hoare.
Group member Sue Grimby summed up the experience by saying: 'The gardens were a joy. They are an example of horticulture at its best and show just what can be achieved through a combination of traditional methods and good management.'