Darling buds of May on a Scottish Estate

During March and April the gardening team at Aldourie was delighted to turn over new soil after a freezing winter on the Estate. The energy was rampant and optimism was in full swing as the team tirelessly planted and mulched their way through truckloads of new plants. A variation of bulbs were bedded into new garden layouts designed by landscape gardener Tom Stuart-Smith and helped to be implemented by Aldourie’s head gardener, Duncan Hall. (If you want to recap we link back to this previous blog post towards the bottom of this page).

More mulching and larger plant deliveries

During March and April work on the Castle garden had been a big undertaking with lots of soil to fill. The prepared beds had been lovingly tended during the colder months in preparation for the Big Day and the final showcase was an impressive expanse of plants and topiary trees taking the eye all the way down to the shores of Loch Ness. With that particular garden planted, the green-fingered team then went on to work on the walled garden. Duncan describes the initial process:

‘Firstly, we prepared the soil by rotovating all of the new beds and raking them, to level and remove the larger stones. The plants were then delivered – about 20,000 of them this time! The same process as before continued; Tom (Stuart-Smith and Ed (his colleague) came up to set out the plants, which the garden team helped with again. We then proceeded to start planting and mulching.’

The National Trust lends a helping hand

This time, because of the quantity of plants to get in, Duncan made the decision to get more hands on deck, where he anticipated the experience to be mutually beneficial.

‘I called upon the help of the National Trust for Scotland’s gardening students. During my time training as a gardener I spent some time training with the NTS at their School of Heritage Gardening – Threave Garden. I got in touch with them and they agreed to send up five students with two supervisors to help with the planting and gain some valuable experience.’The Scottish Estate Gardens at Aldourie Castle

The fabulous five spent three days planting and mulching in the walled garden, which was both extremely productive and fulfilling. Duncan admits they were a great bunch to work with and he hopes the Aldourie team can establish a working relationship with NTS School of Heritage Gardening for future projects on the Scottish Estate.

Walled garden can reap what it sows

Meanwhile, amongst all the ground work taking place, the long-awaited fruit cages in the walled garden have finally started to appear. This will become an additional element of the ‘exclusive use experience’ for the Castle’s private guests, one which Aldourie is intent on nurturing. As well as being able to select salad and veg from the glasshouses, guests can wander through the fruit tunnels outside to add joyously to their pickings.

More variations of vegetables have started to take root too. Some of the veg has been planted directly into the ground such as the perennial crops, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. Aldourie will have to wait for three years before the gardening team can start to harvest the asparagus so it was important to get it in this year. Crops such as carrots and beetroot have been directly sown into the beds while others were sowed into pots in the glasshouse to get them started.

‘We have also been chitting potatoes’ says Duncan; an intriguing term we asked him to explain further: ‘This is when you lay potatoes out somewhere cool and light to encourage the tubers to sprout before planting.’

Farm to table cooking and dining

All this delicious veg in due course will be used by the Castle kitchen and transformed into nutritious, fresh dishes by our dedicated chef. Now Aldourie can really and truly consider itself a ‘farm to table’ working estate. We have bigger plans afoot for contributing further to conservation in the Highlands but this is a great starting point, being able to provide food for guests on our own land.

The farm to table movement is becoming increasingly popular up and down the UK’s hospitality sector, from Cornwall to Scotland, with local produce being used in new and imaginative ways. Take a look at our sister property Killiehuntley’s farm to table dining style.

Home grown flowers to fill the Castle

In and amongst the rigorous gardening the Aldourie team has begun to plant cut flowers for displays in the Castle and cottages. This is yet another example of the property depending on the Estate for its day to day function. The beauty of a place like Aldourie, and many private properties, is that it can easily become self-sufficient in many ways; an ethos long forgotten in these modern times.

Whereas hotel chains like large businesses buy in flowers weekly to display in communal spaces, our hospitality team can just nip down to the gardens and pick the freshest florals with no manufactured scent. Where would be your preference to stay?

Aldourie’s cut flower garden will be a wonderful asset to the private property. We anticipate having fun matching colour schemes to spaces and choosing the best fragrances. We can fill the exclusive group accommodation bathrooms and bedrooms with traditional, bold florals and choose the wilder meadow flowers for the cottages.

Gardeners section in blog

Look out for our new gardens and grounds section of the website that will sit within the existing grounds pages.

Head Gardener, Duncan, will also be appearing more regularly in the Aldourie blog, showcasing recent project work in the Castle grounds. He also hands out seasonal tips for your own garden and plants throughout 2018 – read his advice for March in our recent gardens and grounds post. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.