Creating the perfect kitchen garden at Rudding Park Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 November 2014 | UPDATED: 21:50 19 January 2016
Gardeners' Question Time expert Matthew Wilson provides the answer at Rudding Park
Renowned gardener Matthew Wilson has a confession to make. When it comes to growing vegetables, he’s a complete disaster.
When he lived in Yorkshire, during his years as curator of RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate, he had an allotment in Ripon and admits he was always fearful of getting a ‘letter of improvement’ because of the rather pitiful state of his plot.
It should probably come as no surprise then that, when asked to create a kitchen garden for Rudding Park on the outskirts of Harrogate, he tasked former Harlow Carr colleague Amy Lax with the planting schemes while he concentrated on the design.
As a result, Matthew, a regular panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time and presenter of the Channel 4 series Landscape Man, has created a veritable art installation of a kitchen garden with 52 geometric raised beds specifically designed, measured and angled to ensure the plants are the stars.
The garden is now full of unusual varieties of fruit, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers for the Rudding Park chefs to plunder. The plethora of fresh ingredients also gives them valuable freedom to experiment. For instance, a bed of rhubarb running across the bottom of the garden has been split in half with one section grown naturally for a tart flavour and the other forced for a sweet flavour so guests will be able to taste the same product on the same plate but with two very different results.
Despite his own experience in Ripon, Matthew explained that kitchen gardens can be beautiful as well as productive if the textures, shapes and colours of the plants are designed to work together effectively. To this end, he advises growing many varieties of the same plant next to each other, something he has done in the Rudding garden by planting a bed full of seven varieties of thyme including pink flowering thymus vulgaris, silver-leafed Silver Posie and lemon-scented thymus x citriodorus.
As an added bonus, the new kitchen garden provides Rudding Park with a beautiful, usable space for guests to relax while listening to a tranquil water feature and experiencing the aromas from the surrounding essential plant oils.
Matthew’s top tips
If you want to emulate Rudding Park and create a perfect – if smaller – kitchen garden at home, simply follow Matthew Wilson’s expert advice.
:: Use raised beds as they allow you to control the soil environment, they warm up quicker in spring and they are easier to handle as there is no need to bend down.
:: Surround the raised beds with gravel as it helps to manage pests such as snails and slugs.
:: Grow things you want to eat rather than things you feel you should grow.