2021 Garden of the Year Winners Announced
The 2021 Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award winners have been announced at the 2021 National AGM in London.
In a record-breaking vote, Gordon Castle Walled Garden, in Moray, Scotland, has won the 2021 Garden of the Year Award, sponsored by Christie’s auction house, accumulating over `three thousand votes for the first time in the competition’s 37-year history. It is the first success for a Scottish garden since 1998, and is the first Scottish garden ever to win the award outright. Gordon Castle Walled Garden overcame stiff competition from Harewood House in Yorkshire, Lowther Castle in Cumbria, and five other extraordinary gardens across the UK. Over eleven thousand votes were cast in total.
If using images, please credit Historic Houses, Ed Bollom (Gordon Castle Walled Garden) and Layton Thompson (Elton Hall)
Gordon Castle Walled Garden wins Garden of the Year 2021
Gordon Castle was one of the largest houses in Scotland until the mid twentieth century, when circumstances led to the sale of the estates and the demolition of the greater part of the building. The surviving, much more modest but handsome castle is now home to Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox and at the heart of a busy diversified estate and innovative and entrepreneurial business. The Walled Garden has been a leading project amongst many.
At a whopping eight acres, the walled garden – almost certainly one of the largest in the country – was commensurate to the size of the gargantuan house it was created to service. Happily, it not only survived but is today thriving once again. Angus and Zara commissioned renowned garden designer Arne Maynard to take a fresh look at the derelict site in 2013 and to design a new, modern and crucially, productive garden fit for purpose for the next hundred years. The scale of the effort was truly epic. There are an estimated one million bricks in the fifteen-foot-high surrounding walls; a further 48,000 were required just to edge the beds along the two-and-a-half kilometres of new path laid.
Planting strives to combine cutting edge design with the productive ethos of a traditional kitchen garden. The four cut-flower beds are colour themed: ‘Golden Peat’ is a mixture of hot shades and contrasting darker colours, ‘Glowing Heather’ hosts predominantly soft pinks and purples, ‘Icy Glen’ shines white, interspersed with green, while ‘Scotch Thistle’ draws on cooler blues and purples. Around and alongside, more four hundred fruit trees have been planted in ornamental forms, either as step-overs or espaliers, joining an existing 250 mature specimens.
The plants here play a central role in supporting the enterprise that is fuelling the garden’s renaissance. From June to October the garden’s café is self-sufficient, supplied by over two hundred varieties of fruit vegetable grown on site. Asparagus, salad leaves, beetroot, pumpkins, artichokes, and cabbages are joined by aubergines, chilli peppers, and even melons raised in the restored Victorian glasshouse. Apricots and apples, peaches and pears are just some of the fruits cultivated, a great many of which – especially the plums and berries – are used not just for food but also in the production of the many flavoured varieties of the castle’s award-winning gin, flavoured by the garden’s herbs and botanicals. Essential oils, distilled on site, fragrance hand creams, soaps, and shampoos. Cider and ale have recently joined the brand’s stable, also brewed from homegrown harvests.
Seventy thousand spring bulbs and established perennials pack ornamental and herbaceous beds with scent and almost year-round colour. A play area with an outdoor kitchen and activities for children brings learning as well as fun into the garden, which has become a valuable and much-loved community asset as well as a destination for tourists from further afield. All income is re-invested in the garden and a packed schedule of special events and workshops keep school children, students, local residents, volunteers, and passing visitors busy in any season.
Elton Hall wins Garden of the Year, Judge’s Choice award
Winning the Judge’s Choice Award was Meredyth (Lady) Proby’s creation of an almost entirely new garden in the historic setting of Elton Hall in Cambridgeshire. Lady Proby has spent a lifetime transforming and enriching a garden that had already been through many guises over the centuries, into something that brings joy to plantsmen, visitors, and her family alike. The Judge’s Choice award, in its second year, aims to support smaller gardens with less public exposure, and follows the success of Gresgarth Hall Gardens, Cumbria, in 2020.
What they said...
Ben Cowell, Director General of Historic Houses
“Our own hardy perennial, the Historic Houses/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award, has celebrated the very best in British gardening since 1984. This year’s winners are no exception. We hope the award will mean many more garden visitors will seek out the horticultural wonders of Gordon Castle Walled Gardens. Meanwhile, Elton Hall is the very worthy winner of our Judges’ Choice category, recognising excellence in garden creativity and design.”
Orlando Rock, Chairman, Christie’s UK
“The annual Garden of the Year Award, presented by Historic Houses and sponsored by Christie’s is an opportunity to celebrate some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens and we are delighted to recognise the achievements of this year’s winners Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox of Gordon Castle Walled Garden, in Moray, Scotland. With planting that combines cutting edge design with the productive ethos of a traditional kitchen garden, Gordon Castle Walled Garden received a record number of votes, marking the first Scottish garden ever to win the award outright. We hope these spectacular gardens will continue to be enjoyed by many more visitors, in addition to being a focal point and support in relation to the local community. Congratulations also to Lady Proby and the outstanding gardens of Elton Hall in Cambridgeshire on winning the Judge’s Choice Award.”
Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox, the owners of Gordon Castle Walled Garden
“We are absolutely delighted to have won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award and would like to say a huge thank you to all our visitors, followers and friends of the Walled Garden for their votes. For us, and our small team of gardeners and volunteers, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.
It has been seven years since we embarked on the project to restore this magical place from a near abandoned grass field to the productive and beautiful space which has emerged, showcasing the very best of fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary hard work of our entire team and the support of the local community.
This award will deliver an enormous boost to The Walled Garden, the local economy and hopefully to Scottish gardens as a whole, recognising the significant benefits gardening has on well-being, health, and happiness. We hope visitors will be encouraged to come and visit the Garden, to discover this beautiful area of Moray and Speyside and, inspired by what they find, leave with a smile on their faces.”
Ursula Cholmeley, Gardens Editor for Historic Houses’ members magazine, and owner of Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire
“I am delighted that this eight-acre walled garden has won against fierce competition. The whole team is committed to showcasing a productive kitchen garden and it is remarkable that a project that is only 10 years old attracted so many votes. This is the first garden in Scotland to win the Garden of the Year Award outright and they are rightly proud of their achievement.”
Ed Bollom, Head Gardener at Gordon Castle Walled Garden
“We couldn’t be more excited about winning the Garden of the Year Award. We are only a small and relatively unknown garden and we’ve been working incredibly hard over the last seven or eight years to turn a bare patch of ground into one of the biggest working kitchen gardens in Britain, it has truly been a labour of love.
Our visitors are often surprised by the sheer variety of plants within the walls. Everything we grow has a use; the vegetables go to our café or for sale direct to visitors, the fruit is used for cider, gin, jams and chutneys, and our cut flowers are used to decorate the castle and holiday cottages or sent off to local florists. We extract essential oils from our lavender and rosemary and the herbs are used in a range of cosmetics. The garden and gardeners work very hard to earn their keep! Originally the Walled Garden was used to provide fresh produce for the Duke of Gordon but now it’s used to provide an income for the estate and the gates are open to all. I find it immensely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour being enjoyed by so many people. We want the garden to be enjoyed by everybody and with a hardy band of volunteers, regular trips from the local schools and growing visitor numbers we’re really becoming part of the local community.
We are so grateful to our visitors for voting by the thousand to help us win this award. We’re still relatively unknown and so the title of ‘Garden of the Year’ will go a long way to put us on the map and spread the word about the project and all of the fascinating things that are going on in our walled garden the far North of Scotland.”
Lady Proby of Elton Hall
‘In the early twentieth century the gardens at Elton were more than twice their current size and required a team of thirteen. By the time we moved in during 1980 there were three gardeners and a lot of the garden had been neglected. It became apparent that it was going to be a struggle maintaining this number and initially we reduced the number to two and then to one. We are now back to two full time gardeners.
Not long after our move I started planting hedges of hornbeam and yew together with individual box and yew which have now become topiary. These divisions, created in a smaller area of the original garden, made the task of managing the gardens more achievable and also created a certain air of mystery as you cannot see everything at once. Large areas were returned to parkland and the Walled Garden became a plant centre in the early 1990’s, initially run by Blooms of Bressingham.
These divisions have also enabled us to create quite different spaces. The Edwardian rose garden, which we revamped in 1983, looked wonderful for twenty years, but it then succumbed to rose sickness and we had to remove a lot of the soil and import 500 tonnes of new soil. It now has a few shrub roses but sustains instead large dense herbaceous borders that the insects love late into the year. The fountain was designed by Giles Rayner. The orangery garden contains a little folly we built ourselves in Strawberry Gothic style to reflect the garden front of the house. It is terrifically popular for weddings.
On the other side of the house, which has a classical front, the hedges provide some privacy for the family area. This includes a large Wilderness Garden which is open for special garden tours only. This area is where my children played and where my grandchildren now play when the house is open.
It has been a joy to create the gardens, not only for myself and my husband William, but also for future generations. Our eldest daughter Alexandra, together with her husband Rory and their family, now live in the house. It is now very gratifying to see the public and three generations of the family all enjoying the garden’.
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The Garden of the Year Award is sponsored by
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