Gordon Castle Walled Garden is one of the oldest and largest walled gardens in the country. Over the past six years, an ongoing restoration project has started returning it to its former glory. Now, a beautiful and productive kitchen garden incorporates brick edged paths, vegetable beds, herb beds and herbaceous borders.


Here, Ed Bollom, head gardener at Gordon Castle Walled Garden, shares his advice for how you can create a similar space in your own garden.

You can also visit the Gordon Castle Walled Garden, with your 2-for-1 card – find out more.

Get the look – Gordon Castle Walled Garden
Tomato plants growing in the greenhouses at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

How would you describe the planting style of the garden?

Although it's a modern design, the walled garden has been laid out in a very traditional style with geometrical patterns of straight gravel paths, espalier fruit trees and large brick-edged beds containing vegetables, cut flowers, soft fruit and herbs. We use plants and natural materials to soften the strong formal structure with a myriad of plants, filling the beds and spilling out over the paths.

By the end of the summer, the garden is just overflowing with fruit, vegetables and colourful cut flowers, giving an air of bounteous exuberance. It retains an atmosphere of calm from the solid structure created by hard landscaping.

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Get the look – Gordon Castle Walled Garden
The vegetable beds at Gordon Castle Walled Garden are overflowing in summer

What are your keys to success?

When growing vegetables try not to have large areas of just one crop. Break up your rows with different varieties of cut flowers, herbs or edible flowers.

Think carefully about contrasting colours, for example a row of purple kale or cabbages will look great with vibrant red and orange tagetes. Plus, they'll attract hoverflies, helping to control whitefly and aphid problems.

We use low growing annuals and perennials as edging plants around the outside of the beds, spilling out of the borders to bread up the hard edges of the paths. Our herb beds are divided up with beautiful cloud-pruned rosemary hedges that provide little pockets of shelter from the cold, dry wind through winter and spring.

Purple kale leaves
Purple kale will look great planted near vibrant tagetes

How could the garden be replicated at home?

Start off by creating a strong formal framework in your productive garden, think straight lines and symmetry. Bring in rustic, natural materials to soften the strong lines; reclaimed bricks or willow hurdles work beautifully to define paths and edges.

Use hazel or birch branches to give height to the garden in the form of plant supports for sweet peas or runner beans.

Rather than just filling the beds with rows of vegetables, use companion planting to divide up the space, attracting beneficial insects, giving colour, edible flowers and helping to suppress weeds.

Get the look – Gordon Castle Walled Garden
Grow companion plants between rows of vegetables

What are some of your star plants?

Tagetes patula 'Burning Embers' is a French marigold that is a great companion plants for brassicas, it produces wonderful (and edible) burnt orange flowers all summer long. We also use Salvia viridis to edge our vegetable beds. This long-flowering hardy annual ranges in colour from blues to pinks and purples - it makes a wonderful cut flower and attracts bees and butterflies into the garden.

Our most useful edible flower is probably Viola tricolor or 'Heartsease', with delicate and delicious little pastel-coloured flowers that work equally well in a salad or on top of a cake. They're easy to grow from seed and look great alongside cut-and-come-again salads.

Finally, step-over apple trees are a great way to bring formal structure into the garden and offer a fruit harvest in a small space. They look fabulous running alongside paths and can be very productive often giving up to 30 apples on each tree.

Viola tricolor
Viola tricolor is an edible flower that adds gorgeous colour to a plot

What considerations need to be made when designing this type of garden?

It may seem obvious but choose plants that suit your local conditions. Our garden is situated in the far north of Scotland and so we only grow plants that are tough enough to survive strong winds and low temperatures. All of the companion plants listed above should grow happily in most parts of Britain.

Choose locally bred varieties of fruit and vegetables for best results. There has been a resurgence of heritage seed varieties in recent years and we have more choice than ever before, so you should have no problem finding something to suit your garden.

Herbs can be more challenging to grow, often preferring light soil and Mediterranean climates. Choose the most sheltered and free-draining part of your garden. Cold and wet soil is the real killer of herbs through the winter so adding grit or leaf mould to the soil is a good idea to prevent waterlogging. Be sure to prune back the likes of rosemary and lavender every year to stop them becoming woody.

Get the look – Gordon Castle Walled Garden
Consider growing heritage varieties in your vegetable garden

Visit Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle Walled Garden is taking part in our 2-for-1 Garden Entry scheme 2021. Find out more about how to use your discount to visit the garden.


For more information, visit the Gordon Castle website.