No photos allowed at Highgrove House--Prince Charles' country house and organic garden. Its 37 acres are a showcase for HRH's interest in traditional and organic growing methods. Special organised tours are allowed in order to see it under a strict no photo policy, and what a place it is. HRH bought it in 1980 and has been planting and planning it since then. He has engaged the creative minds of the greatest gardeners in England and has come up with a changing, organic garden that reflects his many interests.
The Prince uses all organic materials in his gardens, he recycles water, has dug bore holes and has a reed bed system for grey water. Sheep are brought in from a neighbouring farm to graze and cut the meadow. Overhanging trees are trimmed by cows brought in to eat the bottom branches. No cement is used in the paving, instead there are bits of earth or wild thyme in between the paving stones so that insects can eat there. All workmen and craftsmen used are local to the area.
The Prince loves trees and has planted 10,000 of them across the 37 acre property, along with 9 miles of hedgerows. In one area there are japanese maples, in another laurel trees, in another the national collection of beech trees.
He built a stunning tree house to commemorate the loss of a favourite Cedar of Lebanon, and new sprouts are growing out of the original old stump.
Each of the gardens has a different theme. They start out quite wild and become more formal as they come closer to the house. In the Woodland Garden there is a stumpery. This a Victorian notion--a pile of old tree roots, in this case sweet chestnuts, which are stacked up and held in place with steel rods. The end result looks like drift wood when in fact it is the bottom of the trees. It is a perfect habitat for ferns and insects and looks very sculptural.
At the back of the house is a long path of topiary, made of yew. The balls are each about 6' high and round and plump. They are designed by the gardeners, to whom the Prince gives free rein to create the shapes. The gardens just go on and on; there is an Islamic garden which won a prize at the Chelsea Flower show, there is a southern hemisphere garden with ferns, tree ferns, palms and eucalyptus.
There is an azalea garden, a black and white garden (with white lupins and peonies and black grasses), italian gardens and another focussed around a sundial. The wildflower meadow is 4 acres and has poppies, camassia and every other wild flower imaginable.
The Prince has received many many gifts and these are incorporated into the gardens. There are busts of famous people (including the president of the Soil Association) placed on top of a high wall, a Serbian window embedded in a wall and sculpture by his favourite designers, the Bannermans, dotted around.
All in a very special place, reflecting the personality of a dedicated environmentalist.