Thursday 19 April 2018

Balmoral Castle Gardens

As we drove through the Cairngorms National Park last week on our way to Balmoral the ski stations were still operating. The ski lifts were taking people up the hills as they took advantage of the very late snow that was still on the ground. How long the snow was going to last was in serious doubt considering the day's clear blue skies. With such beautiful weather it comes as no surprise that the Queen heads to Balmoral in the summer for around three months.

After Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquired the estates of Balmoral and neighbouring Birkhall in 1852 work began on building a new castle for them and their growing family. Once the new castle was well under construction Prince Albert started in 1854 to lay out the plans for the surrounding grounds.

The gardens have over the years had to work hard to provide for all of its royal visitors and guests. Since it was bought by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria Balmoral has always been privately owned by the Royal Family rather than the Crown Estate.

The present fruit and vegetable garden was laid out by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1955. This part of the garden is designed to supply the kitchen with as much fresh produce as possible. However, the beautiful location of Balmoral does give the gardening team a few problems. With the gardens lying at nearly 1,000ft above sea level air frost can be recorded at any month of the year. This means that temperature drops too low in the summer months to grow French and runner beans as the flowers drop off them.

Currently being hardened off in the cold frames is an array of produce from onions to herbs and salad leaves. Amazingly they are also growing strawberries from seed.

In this working garden flowers are grown in order to decorate the rooms in the castle when the Royal Family are in residence. One of the greenhouses is already full of pot plants ready for taking indoors.

In the other greenhouse seedlings are coming along for the many cut flowers that will be needed. All of the flowers used in the castle are grown in the garden.

There are more flowers in the cold frames with rows and rows of sweet peas waiting to be planted out. Obviously their sweet scent is a favourite in royal circles. Oh to be queen!

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