Creating a kitchen garden at Goldsborough Hall
PUBLISHED: 09:29 06 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:29 06 February 2015
Clare Oglesby, owner of Goldsborough Hall, looks forward to growing luscious fruits and vegetables as well as edible flowers
Ever since I dipped my fingers into the warm compost in my parent’s potting shed and helped them sow vegetable and flower seeds, I’ve dreamt of having my own kitchen garden. My parents were keen gardeners, opening their plot each year through the National Garden Scheme, and I suppose growing and cultivating has always been in my blood. So when my husband Mark and I were lucky enough to buy Goldsborough Hall in 2005, with its 12 acres of gardens, that dream came closer to reality. Saving it from developers, we’ve spent the last 10 years bringing the hall back to its former glory, turning it into a luxury hotel and wedding venue, but this year my sights are firmly set on our kitchen garden.
Our current kitchen garden has been run as a living workshop for horticultural students from Askham Bryan College for the last few years, and it’s their designs that have been the inspiration for the project. Along with input from our head gardener Ray Farrer and our chef Paul Mackie-Richardson, we’re now looking to transform the space.
If money was no object, I would enclose the garden in a traditional wall of reclaimed bricks to give it shelter and warmth – and, of course, there would be a huge Victorian style glasshouse (think Kew gardens) as well as a fountain. In reality, I think we’ll be starting small with some raised beds (great for warming the soil) made from railway sleepers, soft box balls and honeysuckle box, lines of cloches and rhubarb forcers. There will be lots of leafy greens and herbs – mint, apple spear and pepper, marjoram, tarragon, comfrey, etc – and definitely a whole bed of asparagus.
I would love to grow cut flowers for arrangements for the guest bedrooms too, annuals such as sweet peas, Nigella, cosmos, scabious, cornflowers and perennials including helenium, astrantia, dahlia, lilies and alchemilla mollis.
The biggest inspiration for me has been the National Trust’s two-acre, walled kitchen garden at nearby Beningbrough Hall, which shows just how beautiful a productive garden can be with trained fruit against the walls, little paths and tunnels, and grassy areas and benches where people can sit and enjoy it.
Being pretty and productive at the same time is probably the most important element of the kitchen garden at Goldsborough as it already feeds the kitchen with luscious, fresh vegetables and we want that to continue.
Because I often look at gardening from an artistic perspective - the mix of colours, textures and leaf forms - the kitchen garden needs culinary input too, which is why I’m working closely with chef Paul to ensure he can continue to find the freshest seasonal ingredients for his menus.
He’s already making lavender shortbread and pea veloute from garden produce but he would like to see more high-summer fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries for making breakfasts and summer afternoon teas, and other fruits for steamed puddings and his homemade jams, jellies and chutneys. I’d therefore like to incorporate espaliers of peaches, plums, pears and apples, and perhaps some step-over fruit along the paths.
Then there will be new season peas for spring lamb, root veg such as celeriac, parsnips and swede to accompany hearty winter dishes, and pear, quince and apple for festive dining. I’d also like to grow edible flowers for the kitchen including chives, pinks, marigolds, borage, Nigella and violets as they can really bring a plate of food alive.
It’s thoroughly exciting thinking about how the chefs will be able to come down and grab what they need: one minute it’s in the earth, the next it’s on the chopping board – you couldn’t get fewer food miles if you tried. Of course, kitchen gardening would have played a crucial role in the running of the hall in the past, particularly when the royal family – Princess Mary, the Queen’s aunt – lived here. A productive kitchen garden was essential to feed the kitchen and the household.
I want to give a nod to our fantastic heritage with historic collections of plants including Yorkshire varieties of apples such as Ribson Pippin, dessert apples Flower of the Town, Acklam Russet and cooker Green Balsam. I’m an old fashioned kind of gardener at heart so I don’t like anything too modern anyway.
Dreaming aside, the practicalities of the garden have not escaped me and work has already started with bulldozers leveling what’s there. I want to be very hands on so, time permitting, I’m going to get my wellies on and dig in.
In the 1920s, Princess Mary made her own mark on the garden following her marriage to Viscount Lascelles, with a raft of improvements and plantings, and I hope what we create this year would have made her proud.
Take a look at progress on Sunday, March 22nd when the garden –including the quarter-mile Lime Tree Walk and 50,000 daffodils – will be open for the National Garden Scheme. See goldsboroughhall.com