We visited Highgrove so you don’t have to.
An American tour guide once told me that Americans always want to visit The Laskett and Highgrove, so she takes them there so she can then take them on to good gardens. (You’ll be pleased to know that that included Veddw)
And apparently the sainted Christopher Lloyd said “Basically, Prince Charles’s tastes are very fussy and the plantings are all, and generally inappropriately, cottage gardening.”
James Alexander-Sinclair (an RHS Vice-President, awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal for outstanding contribution to horticulture in 2022. He is the RHS Ambassador for Garden Design and a Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers) said: “if the truth be told it is very much a curate’s egg of a garden in that parts of it are fine but most of it is a bit of a hodge podge.”
And I’m sorry to have to tell you that we were not allowed to take photos. If you want to see what it looks like – in professional, selected images) you must visit the website.
It occurred to me that the garden is in many ways like the man.
To begin with it is, of course, as you will have gathered, swamped in essential security, just as the King must be. Hence no photos. You have to go on a guided tour, which once again confirmed my prejudices against being escorted round a garden. We could have read most of the information we received from the guide book (sorry – can’t show you that) and without a guide we could have taken our time, sat in some seats, enjoyed views, gossiped anonymously and maliciously about what we were looking at.
I don’t think our King is very flowery, and neither was his garden. It was in early October, but we still have loads of flowers in our garden, so it seems to be predominantly a tree and shrub garden, with a flowery meadow which was well mowed (as our is) at this time of year.
Is the King in rather poor taste? Well, I’m not sure about that. Most of us like having a King. But in his garden we could have done without the rather unpleasant lump of Bannerman design ornament in the Stumpery which was exacerbated by the addition of a portrait of the late Queen’s mother, surrounded by pockmarked masonry designed to echo the pockmarked Bannerman ornament. The stumps are mostly hidden by overgrowth now, which I trust the King is not. (Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. There were one or two little newish ones)
The King is, I think, appropriately quiet(ish) and perhaps a bit dull. We are grateful for this in the UK. He has occasional eccentricities and so does the garden – a Thyme Walk which I think has never quite worked. Elephants in the bit outside the garden.
He is healthy and worthy, and so is the garden apart from, sadly, a bit of box blight and a National Collection of Hostas which are totally and horribly slug ridden. (Sorry – you will have to imagine this. No-one has taken a professional picture of the holey hostas.)
The garden is totally organic (there are organic slug baits but no-one seems to like them) and has lots of veggies. Unlike one of your presidents he no doubt eats his broccoli, because he’s good like that. And so the garden no doubt has broccoli too.
But there’s no wow factor. I like excitement in a garden. However, I would understand if the King has quite enough excitement elsewhere in his life. And, “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement,” as Lady Grantham once said in Downton Abbey.
It was quite a nice afternoon out. The sun shone and we had a good tea in Tetbury. Though I might have got a bit moody, because I walked out of one café which didn’t please me enough. I think I needed a little lift by then. Toasted teacake did it.