TV gardener and designer Mark Lane reveals regal ideas to use in your own garden, as he celebrates 21 royal gardens in his new book.
If you’ve missed out on visits to royal gardens and parks this year, don’t worry, because you could be taking a right royal piece of heritage back into your own plot.
TV gardener and designer Mark Lane, who celebrates 21 royal gardens, from Highgrove to the Alhambra, in his new book Royal Gardens Of The World, shares the takeaway tips gleaned from the gardens he visited while researching it…
1. Have fun with topiary
“Nearly all of the royal gardens have topiarised shrubs in different shapes and sizes, from balls to cones, pleached trees to lines of perfectly-pruned hedges. Use these as accents in the garden, to lead your eye through the space, and sometimes as ornamentation either side of a pathway or set of garden steps.
“Follow Danish castle Frederiksborg’s trick of pruning shrubs in the same shape but getting smaller the further away they are from the building, which emphasises the length, making the space feel longer,” says Lane.
2. Be adventurous with landscaping
Don’t be afraid of using different materials for the hard landscaping, Lane advises.
“Highgrove uses multi-coloured tiles, apricot-peach rendered walls and terracotta tiles to create an Islamic Carpet Garden. Castle of Mey in Scotland, home to the late HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, uses crushed shells for covering some of the pathways rather than gravel.
“Schwerin Castle in Germany uses rendered concrete walls in organic wave-like shapes among The Floating Meadow. The Alhambra in Spain has walkways paved with a mosaic of pebbles from nearby rivers, along with bricks laid sideways to form edging. Het Loo in the Netherlands uses corten steel to edge its parterres and pathways.”
3. Work with water
Water is a key feature of all of the royal gardens, from bubbling brooks to large-scale fountains, Lane observes. “Position a fountain or water feature close to where you sit so you can enjoy the sound of trickling water, and perhaps be cooled on a hot summer’s day as the breeze skims across the surface.”
4. Have fun with design
From whimsical sculpture to ornate buildings and structures, have fun with your garden, he suggests. “Drottningholm Palace in Sweden has a Chinese Pavilion with honeysuckle, lilac and mulberry on trellis. Fredensborg Palace in Denmark has a whole area taken over by statues depicting fishermen and women in period clothing.
“Statues of reclining cows with water spurting from their mouths can be found in Tirta Gangga, the royal water gardens in Bali. Fontainebleau Palace in France has a water feature of the Goddess Diana with four peeing dogs below. The Wallenstein Garden below Prague Castle has a large wall with artificial stalactites imitating a limestone cave.
“While many of these are outside everyday budgets,” he concedes, “it goes to show gardens should be fun as well as being beautiful.”
5. Sniff out scent
“Use scented flowers, shrubs and trees, especially in sheltered locations, such as a courtyard or against a wall or fence where the sun can release the oils and fill the air with their delicious aroma,” Lane advises.
6. Divide your garden into ‘rooms’
“Divide your garden into separate areas or ‘rooms’ to make the garden feel bigger and so you can have different planting styles in each room, making the garden a more immersive experience,” he suggests.
7. Renew planting
“Planting should and needs to be renewed from time to time,” says Lane. “Plants outgrow their space, and with the need to create better biodiverse gardens with a good mix of planting for attracting beneficial pollinators, it’s always good practice to take stock – and photos – and renew every five to seven years.”
8. Use sculpture
Ornamentation and sculpture in the garden are really important to reflect your tastes and desires, says Lane. “Carefully positioned sculpture at the end of a pathway or in a hidden alcove, or a well-sited fountain, can make a space come alive. Your eye is drawn to them leading you through the garden.”
9. Love tender fruits
“Grow tender fruit such as lemons, oranges and even apricots in pots so that you can house them in a greenhouse or porch over winter, and then bring them out during the summer,” he says. “Not only will you get fruit, but these can be used as focal points throughout the garden. Prague Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Herrenhausen, Versailles and Het Loo do this every year.”
Royal Gardens Of The World by Mark Lane is published by Kyle Books, priced £35. Available now.