ISSUE 89  |  Back in Business

At Home With Prince Charles: A Garden Ramble

September 12, 2013 2:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

On arriving at Highgrove, home of the Prince of Wales, you can’t help feeling a little excited. Tickets are not easy to come by and a passport is required on the day. A sign declares “Warning: You Are Entering an Old-Fashioned Establishment,” and it is clear that the owner likes to do things his own way.

And yet. Prince Charles is a man of public duty; he belongs to us. Any personal expression–and what better place than a garden in which to express oneself?–will be informed in quite a big way by the day job. Tim Richardson approaches this with some tact in his book The New English Garden.

Photographs by Andrew Lawson.

Above: The house from an informal angle, looking south over a meadow of camassias and buttercups. The Prince of Wales was a forerunner of the organic movement and is still considered its patron saint. He began to develop meadows in the 1980s with the late Dame Miriam Rothschild. A radical idea at the time, especially in the context of a large country house.

Above: The heart of Highgrove is quite masculine, full of big things. The designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, with their swaggering references to earlier garden styles, have been the most recent designers involved in the garden. They use oak for stone effects and this lodge or “kiosk” with its 18th century feel is one of a pair that sits on either side of the Stumpery. Note the portico, infilled with driftwood.

N.B.: Want to make a grand gesture in your garden? See Jamb’s Glam Ornaments for a Grand Garden.

Above: Detail of the celebrated Stumpery. The reaction of the Prince’s father, Prince Philip, was apparently: “When are you going to set fire to this lot?”

Tim Richardson: “The Stumpery is one of the most original features at Highgrove.”

Above: The Wall of Gifts, a solution to a small part of the dilemma associated with the Prince’s life of duty–what to do with all the gifts. Julian Bannerman designed this, incorporating random pieces of masonry given to the Prince over the years.

Above: The Sundial Garden, another repository for gifts. Busts are set at regular intervals in the swagged yew walls. The busts are all of Prince Charles. As Candida Lycett Green, official garden historian of Highgrove, explains in the book: Many presents received by the Prince must be placed on display for diplomatic reasons, “giving the garden an eclectic and occasionally eccentric feel.”

Above: The Robinson Crusoe-style treehouse, built for Princes William and Harry, who grew up here. Designed by William Bertram.

Above: The Cottage Garden, one of the disparate elements of the garden which works really well as an entity in itself. Tim Richardson suggests that the ethos at Highgrove is the opposite of “less is more,” with each element honed and re-honed to perfection.

For more photos of Highgrove, see The New English Garden.

 Want another peek into the lives of the royals? See Ask the Expert: 10 Tips for Wedding Flowers from Kate Middleton’s Florist.