Most people turn up the odd stone when they’re digging, or maybe a bit of broken pottery. Izzy McKinley turns up musket balls.
As one of the garden team at Arundel Castle (four, soon to be five, gardeners, plus two groundsmen) Izzy’s gardening worries are just that little bit different to most peoples’ – what to plant in the long shadows cast by the Cathedral; how to keep the castle’s Chef and catering team happy with the twice-weekly produce boxes sent up for the Norfolk family and guests; how to keep the veg plot productive AND beautiful for visitors at the same time. It’s a battle she and the rest of the team must be winning; even on an October morning, the place is absolutely stunning whilst remaining fully functional in turning out a wide range of seasonal produce.
Our tour takes about an hour and a half, and is a mix of the history of the gardens (specifically the Collector Earl’s garden and the vegetable gardens), the stories behind the rarer or more unusual plants, the Castle’s sustainable gardening ethos (no chemicals are used in the gardens; they produce their own compost; stakes are grown from previous years’ crops; everything is recycled where possible; flowers and veg are grown together to encourage beneficial insects) plus lots of time for questions and answers.
For foodies, the greenhouses are probably the most impressive part of today’s tour, with everything from passion fruit and physallis fruiting freely to a range of exotic chillis in rainbow colours and yellow crystal cucumbers tumbling from the roof. Our questions – ranging from how best to prune a grapevine to how to counter whitefly without chemicals – are expertly answered, with dozens of hints and tips being offered along the way.
The ‘Meet the Gardener‘ tour will be running again on Wednesday and Friday of this week. Whether you’re interested in history, gardening, food or just a pleasant stroll in good company in a stunning location, it’s the perfect way to spend a morning.
Information about Arundel Castle opening times and admission can be found here. Local residents might be interested to hear that the castle gardeners are always keen to hear from volunteers willing to lend a hand in the grounds – call 01903 882173 for more details.
Unfortunately the Arundel Castle Dinner event on Sunday has now sold out, although a standby list is being held in case of cancellations.