Attending a royal garden party, making a visit to a school, taking a tour of a local factory or meeting with community leaders—they’re all in a day’s work for Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall. In fact, he clocked 546 official engagements in 2017, more than any other member of the British Royal Family.
But given time to himself, the Prince would prefer to be getting his hands dirty in the gardens of Highgrove House, his private residence in Gloucestershire (and Camila has confessed that she prefers gardening to royal duties too!).
The gardens at Highgrove are world-famous, partly because a member of the British Royal Family has overseen their development very closely for more than 35 years, and partly because they’re a model of sustainable gardening, something Prince Charles is passionate about. His aim is to have a garden that is as eco-friendly as possible, and here’s how it’s done.
The beautiful Georgian house at Highgrove is festooned with climbing plants such as wisteria, honeysuckle and jasmine, creating a true country garden feel. But the house is also fitted with solar panels, making it energy-efficient and economical to heat.
Rainwater is collected to minimize the use of other water for keeping all the plants well hydrated. Systems have been installed to keep everything irrigated using rainwater.
There’s also a reed bed sewage system, so that all waste is processed naturally and the cleaned water fed back into the garden. You might not want to go that far, but here’s how to build a rain barrel in your backyard.
Every gardener knows that good, rich compost is the key to successful growing, and the gardens are Highgrove are no exception to this rule. Kitchen and garden waste is carefully composted to make the most of leftovers, weeds and cuttings, and the compost is used to enhance growth and also as mulch. Our guide to building a compost bin, and our tips for composting, tell you all you need to know to get started.
Everything at Highgrove is grown organically—flowers, fruit and vegetables alike. Prince Charles is determined that no chemicals are used, and instead the garden relies on the use of natural fertilizers. For example, more than 100 wheelbarrows full of manure from the Prince’s cattle herds are used in the garden every year. This approach also extends to the vegetables grown at the estate’s farm, Home Farm. And, the animals are only given homeopathic remedies rather than antibiotics.
Natural pest and weed control
The Prince won’t tolerate the use of chemical pest control either. He prefers to rely on local wildlife: bugs to feast on the aphids, birds to gobble up the slugs and snails, and even the local stoats (weasels) to keep the rabbit population in check.
And, he doesn’t allow chemicals to be used for weed control, preferring instead to rely on organic methods that protect the soil and don’t leave residue on fruit and vegetables. If you prefer organic weed control methods, check out our handy guide.
Gardening for wildlife
Several areas of the gardens are planted with a keen eye on keeping things natural and sustainable.
The Cottage Garden is filled with traditional garden flowers, and consists of two sections, with an emphasis on blooms that are attractive to bees and butterflies. (These plants are great for providing nectar for bees, and these are good for attracting butterflies). The older garden has old favorites like crocuses, tulips, and the Prince’s favorite flower delphiniums. The newer section, inspired by Tibetan silks, has flowers in yellow, pink and blue.
The Victorians were fond of growing ferns among tree stumps, creating an ideal wildlife habitat, and Prince Charles has developed this theme at Highgrove in The Stumpery.
Highgrove Gardens’ Thyme Walk has over 20 varieties of thyme, a magnet for nectar-loving species for weeks at a time. You might not have room for 20 varieties of thyme, but here are some perfect herbs to grow in pots.
Wildflower meadows are in serious decline in the U.K. So in 1982, the Prince established his own, including species such as ox-eye daisies, buttercups, dandelions, poppies, ragged robin, yellow rattle, lent lilies and ice follies. It’s managed as a traditional hay meadow, and is now home to wild orchids as well, providing a natural habitat for bees, butterflies, ladybugs and more. Sheep graze the meadow in the fall to tread seeds back into the ground.
Highgrove House Gardens are open to the public, with guided tours available. If you’re passionate about sustainable gardening, there’s no better model than this famous garden, personally managed by the Prince of Wales himself.
The QueenWhen Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace after spending the weekend at Windsor Castle, there's always a posy of flowers on her desk to welcome her back. The Queen's favorite flower is the primrose, an early spring flower that's yellow like the sun—a reminder that summer is on its way! If you want some early spring color, start your preparations early to get the best show.
The Duchess of CambridgeLike the Queen, the Duchess of Cambridge has a love for natural flowers, as shown by her inclusion of lily of the valley in her wedding bouquet. This beautiful flower, with its delicate white bells, blooms in shady spots during May and is famous for its gorgeous scent, which may be why Kate chose it for her bouquet. Here are 11 easy-to-grow plants that add color to a shade garden.
The Duchess of SussexBefore she deleted her social media accounts, Meghan's Instagram feed often featured her favorite flower—the peony. It's believed that peonies have been growing in Eastern gardens for over 4,000 years, and the frilly blooms with a lovely scent come in every color except blue (Meghan's favorite is pink!). Peonies bloom in the summer and grow surprisingly well in pots. Check out our other suggestions for late summer flowers to grow in containers.
Prince HarryPrince Harry is rumored to have inherited the family love of horticulture and was even seen helping with gardening on his gap year in Africa. His charity Sentebale, set up to help children affected by HIV / AIDs, is named after the forget-me-not, which was also one of Princess Diana's favorite flowers and has been exhibited at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show. Our guide to inspiring flower bed designs makes great use of the lovely forget-me-not, as well as a host of other beautiful plants.
Diana, Princess of WalesPrincess Diana had a passion for white roses, and her sons William and Harry often make use of them in her memory. The former Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace was converted into the White Garden in 2017, to mark 20 years since her death. And white roses were used at Prince William and Prince Harry's weddings. Of course, roses come in a wealth of colors. Take a look at our suggestions for the best varieties of roses to grow in your garden.
Prince CharlesPrince Charles has a world-famous garden at his private residence, Highgrove House, and he takes an active role in managing it. His favorite flowers take pride of place in the Cottage Garden—delphiniums (also known as larkspur). These traditional flowers are usually blue, but at Highgrove, the Prince also grows other colors for variety. Delphiniums are known to grow wild in Britain. If you'd like to grow wild flowers in your backyard, you could try these 10 varieties of wildflowers that do well in the suburbs.
The Duchess of CornwallThe Duchess of Cornwall is a keen gardener, and has even spent time gardening with her grandson, Prince George. Camilla's wedding bouquet was a simple yet elegant design, including her favorite flowers lily of the valley and the primrose. She is patron of the Floral Angels charity which recycles flowers and presents them to those in need, such as cancer patients or the elderly. Like every other royal wedding bouquet, she also continued the tradition of including myrtle (shown here), cut from a bush belonging to Queen Victoria.
Queen VictoriaPerhaps today's Royal Family takes their inspiration for favorite flowers from Queen Victoria. She also loved wildflowers, and one of her favorites was the violet. This little unassuming wildflower grows in British woodlands, and as well as its pretty flower, it also has a wonderful scent which is much loved in perfumes and sachets. Left unchecked, violets make very effective ground cover. You may be surprised to know that succulents also work well as ground cover. Here are 8 succulents that make pretty, easy-care ground covers.
Prince AlbertPrince Albert (the spouse of Queen Victoria) also had simple tastes in flowers. The very first spring bulb to poke its head through the snow was his favorite—the humble snowdrop. The delicate beauty of these tiny flowers always gladdens the heart after a long winter, hinting at the new life about to burst out in spring. Spring bulbs must be planted the previous fall. Here's a handy guide to successful fall bulb planting for great results in the spring.
Princess CharlotteAt just three years old, it's unlikely that Princess Charlotte will already have a favorite flower. But she does already have a flower named in her honor. Presented to the world in 2016, this chrysanthemum in pastel shades of green and pink, is bound to become a hit in many British gardens, and will perhaps become Princess Charlotte's favorite flower in time. Chrysanthemums are affordable and hardy. Here are 10 inexpensive plants, including chrysanthemum, you can plant for a great garden on a budget. [skyword_tracking]