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Flourishing AT FLOORS

Gaby Bartai visits a spectacular Victorian walled kitchen garden in the Scottish Borders which is being reinvented for the 21st century


I arrived in the walled garden at Floors Castle to glorious August sunshine and an apologetic message from head gardener Andrew Simmons, who had been waylaid by an urgent request for more French beans. Floors, just outside Kelso in the Scottish Borders, is Scotland’s largest inhabited castle, and the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe had unexpected guests for lunch.

The garden at Floors dates from 1857, when it was moved to its present site to replace an earlier walled enclosure. It originally comprised a four-acre walled kitchen garden and an adjoining three-acre ornamental Pleasure Garden. In its Tropical Corridor – seven large glasshouses ranged along one wall – every conceivable kind of exotic fruit and flower were grown. One lovely surviving feature is a stone summerhouse which was built specially for Queen Victoria’s visit to Floors in 1867. “The duke at the time had an almighty panic that HM had nowhere to have her brew. So they built her a teahouse,” says Andrew. “It’s even got a door to the side, for the butler to come in with the Earl Grey.”

The garden’s heyday lasted some 60 years, until the First World War put an end to the social order that walled gardens were part of. “The usual story. In the Pleasure Garden, all of the greenhouses had to be demolished. They were going back on themselves, there weren’t gardeners with the knowledge to look after them. And then over the last 60, 80 years, things have scaled down in the kitchen garden as well.”

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Kitchen Garden is Britain's best guide to growing your own. It offers advice from the finest minds in gardening to make sure you get the tastiest produce from your plot.