Highgrove Garden reviewed by James Alexander-Sinclair

September 28, 2010

in Garden Reviews, Reviews

Highgrove - Cupcake - James Alexander-Sinclair

“Basically, Prince Charles’s tastes are very fussy and the plantings are all, and generally inappropriately, cottage gardening.” Christopher Lloyd.

No photos of Highgrove – not allowed for security reasons. One of those garden which can reduce a group of visitors to hysterical laughter. Who knew?

Anne Wareham, editor Portrait Anne Wareham copyright John Kingdon




Highgrove reviewed by James Alexander-Sinclair

This week I have been on a bus trip (organised by the inestimable PatientGardener) in the company of various eminent bloggers and paid up members of the Twitterati – I know this visit has already been covered succinctly and stylishly by others including the eminent VP and the hand washable Sock (i) but, I want to chip in as well so please bear with me a moment.

It was a very jolly day involving sunshine, chatter and Prince Charles’s garden at Highgrove. We are not really supposed to write about the garden without running things past the press office at Clarence House but I am assuming that mostly refers to newspapers and magazines rather than modestly proportioned and unassuming blogs like this one. If however, I am wrong and I am then dragged screaming off to the basement of St James’ Palace for a thorough kicking them please campaign for my early release.

First stop was the pretty town of Tetbury (where, incidentally, I lost a significant part of my innocence many years ago) where we had to meet up and get on a bus – except Ann-Marie Powell who, since she got a Chelsea Gold Medal, has changed a lot. No longer is she prepared to travel on mass transit but only at the wheel of her personal limousine. She has also stopped showing her knickers to policemen so every cloud has a silver lining.

The garden: 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.

There are some very beautiful and unusual trees (some a bit plonky in their positioning): HRH has a national collection of Beech (ii) some of which are surrounded by strange doughnuts of hedging.I know not why: perhaps it is a Saxe Coburg thing. There are some very handsome green oak temples designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman. The stumpery is interestingly gnarly. There is a staggeringly lovely Apple arch in the kitchen garden. There are some perfect gates: one pair with a heavy bronze latch of sexy design and divine construction. The cakes were varied and delicious. The souvenir fudge was exceptional (iii).


Admittedly, as our excellent and tolerant guide explained, the Prince of Wales suffers from the rather unique problem of people endlessly giving him things for the garden. For example, New Zealand gives him sixty tree ferns for his birthday so he and his head gardener scratch their heads at think “Blimey, where the hell are we going to put this lot”. Because he is the Prince of Wales and cannot really leave them behind the shed to quietly die of neglect: as most people do with unwanted garden gifts (iv) so a new garden is created. This garden looks uncomfortable, out of place and, to be honest, a bit ridiculous. Lovely plants: badly sited. Pity.

This giftism is not confined to plants: the place is littered with garden ornaments. Clusters of terracotta pots, twee wooden mushrooms and endless bits of stone (some of which are charming, others would be better as hardcore under the M1 widening scheme at Junction 10).

The other problem with this garden is the urge to cram more things than are necessary into each area; a tree house is sited far too close to a ferny pyramid. The terrace by the house has two charming little pavilions but they are now squeezed next to a vast amorphous shelter cum pagoda cum thing to replace a cedar tree. Olive trees are shoehorned in unnecessarily and Indian gates lead from a Chinese building.

It is disjointed. In my opinion this is a bit of an error but, it is his private garden and it is entirely his choice to crowd all kinds of everything into the garden and if it gives him joy then whoopsie-doo and all power to the royal elbow.

However, when I become King (and it can only be a matter of time) I will have another garden, away from my house, where I will plant all the diplomatic gifts and things while keeping my own garden simpler and untroubled by unwanted offerings kindly delivered by Emissaries from the Pasha of  Ruhabat.(v).

James Alexander-Sinclair

With thanks to James. This piece originally appeared on his blog and comments on the piece are available here:

JA-S website

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