The organic gardens at Highgrove are world renowned for their sustainability and biodiversity. The gardens are located in one of my favorite places in England, in the heart of the Cotswolds. Charles, the Prince of Wales has an enormous passion to preserve rare and endangered species of plants and he has recently made his personal gardens public, giving plant-lovers a beautiful gift.
Established in 1980, Charles has followed the advice of one of the leading advocates of biodiversity, and one of my favorite garden designers, Miriam Rothschild, also known affectionately as the Queen Bee.
Organic Gardens and Sustainable Principles
One of the terrific things about creating organic gardens is that they are naturally sustainable. Because green waste is recycled and used as mulch or compost, the gardens are a perfect habitat for natural predators and pollinators. But Charles has taken organics a step further by creating a specially-built reed bed sewage system for all the waste water from the house. While this process is unfamiliar to us in the United States, processing sewage water through reeds has been used in the UK for over 100 years. It is becoming a much more common practice as many gardeners strive for sustainability in the environment.
The Wildflower Meadow
Three very different wildflower meadows have been designed in an effort to re-establish lost habitats for all forms of wildlife. The first meadow, The Wildflower Meadow, was designed to replicate old meadows that have been lost over time. One of the best things about creating meadows full of wildflowers is that they require less fertility than typical gardens. A beautiful mix of grasses and flowers, they provide a perfect habitat for all the wildlife we enjoy. Charles treats the meadow as you would a hay field–mowing in late fall and leaving the ‘hay’ to be trampled by sheep.
But we can also create lovely wildflower meadows in our own challenging climates with poor soils. And when you leave the flowers and grasses through the winter, the seed heads look gorgeous peeking out of the snow, providing winter food for your birds. The excess seeds fall to the ground self-sowing for next spring’s meadows. You’ve easily created your own sustainable garden. What a great alternative to the typical grass lawn!
The Kitchen Garden
The UK has a history of important plant collectors for the various king’s gardens. However, the Kitchen Garden at Highgrove contains specialty and endangered varieties of vegetables that Prince Charles feels are important to the biodiversity of the Cotswold area. Charles’ garden contains a large variety of rare cooking apples, potatoes, carrots and spring cabbage.
Kitchen Gardens have always been important in our history, even in America. And they have become their own beautiful, sculptured art form. Just for fun, I had my own decorative kitchen garden for many years, but over time, neighboring trees created too much shade. Now I incorporate my vegetables throughout my perennial garden.
I hope this little visit to Highgrove will inspire you to explore your own talents in creating an easy organic meadow in your own yard.
In sync with nature,