An Edwardian-inspired garden, set within the former 'privy' gardens of Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Beatrice. Opened to the public on 4th June 2009 at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.
Chris Beardshaw, former BBC Gardener's World presenter, designed the Princess Beatrice Garden at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight.
The Princess Beatrice garden features colourful themed flower borders, formal clipped hedges, an orchard of standard fruit trees contained in huge planters, flower meadow planting and a fountain as its centrepiece. It celebrates the time when the Princess lived at the castle in her role as Governor of the Isle of Wight. She held this position from 1896 until her death in 1944 and from 1913 the walled garden became her private or 'privy' garden which she enjoyed during regular visits to the island.
The garden is a collaboration between English Heritage, who look after Carisbrooke Castle on behalf of the nation, and award-winning garden designer and former BBC Gardeners' World presenter, Chris Beardshaw, who has woven architectural elements from the site and elements of the Princess's heraldic crest into his design.
It is the crowning glory of a series of improvements and innovations recently introduced to the popular tourist attraction by English Heritage to provide more for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Last year, a £900,000 investment saw the addition of imaginative presentations including animated film, family interactive displays and a virtual tour as well as a smart new building housing an admission point and shop.
The Princess Beatrice garden contains just about every element of a fashionable Edwardian garden and will transform a relatively unused green space with minimal planting into an exciting and colourful oasis. It complements the Victorian garden at English Heritage's other notable property on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House. While the garden at Osborne House reflects the formality of the Victorian era, Carisbrooke Castle's garden reflects the Edwardian trend for softer planting.
Enclosed on all sides and nestling below the medieval castle ramparts, the tranquil garden has been designed to be a visual feast both from the ground and from above - walking the ramparts is a popular attraction for visitors with a head for heights. Its design is based on the Edwardian layout of the Princess's original 'privy' garden and uses plants that reflect the feel and spirit of the period. The choice of plants, the garden layout and features reflect her blue, red and gold heraldic crest as well as architectural detail on the adjoining Chapel of St Nicholas, which Princess Beatrice re-built in 1904 and which became a war memorial for the island following the death of her son Maurice at Ypres in 1914.
Following a geometric pattern, the garden is divided into four quarters with a fountain edged with low-level seating as its centrepiece. Herbaceous plants feature in colourful borders, while the chapel's stained glass windows are reflected in ribbon planting in 'window borders.' There are gravel paths wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side in conversation between clipped hedges and benches so that visitors can sit and enjoy this sheltered paradise.
An unusual aspect of the garden is an orchard of fruit trees to provide a canopy of blossom in spring and fruit in autumn for visitors to stroll under. The trees are contained in large planters so that their roots do not damage the remains of a 13th-century building discovered during recent archaeological excavation. Not only did Chris Beardshaw have the challenge of designing a garden which is sympathetic to the history of the castle, robust enough to withstand the pressure of over 115,000 visitors each year and which provides year-round interest, but had to ensure both hard and soft landscaping avoided the important archaeology it covers - including potential damage from roots.
Garden designer Chris Beardshaw said: "It has been a great opportunity to design a garden in such a historic environment. Inspiration can be found wherever you look and hopefully the keen-eyed visitors will be able to spot where some of my ideas for the garden came from. Gardens bring places to life, they interest people and I'm positive this will add an extra dimension to Carisbrooke Castle."
English Heritage Commissioner Gilly Drummond said: "Chris Beardshaw's imaginative design interprets and celebrates an important period in the medieval castle's history. Princess Beatrice grew up at Osborne House, married and is buried at Whippingham Church and spent a great deal of her adult life at Carisbrooke Castle. She is therefore a key figure both to the history of the castle and to the island as a whole and it is fitting that we can pay tribute to her life in such a delightful way. We are very excited about this fabulous new garden which will also draw more visitors to the castle and provide even more for people of all ages to enjoy.
"We are grateful to the late Mrs Dorothy Frazer whose generous bequest and devotion to the Isle of Wight has enabled this garden to be created and enjoyed by future generations."
Gilly Drummond continued: "The new garden will be maintained and developed by Charlotte Lock who has worked at Osborne House, English Heritage's other main site on the island, for over 20 years. We would be delighted if local gardeners are able to help Charlotte care for this special garden and we will be looking for volunteers later on this summer."
The Princess Beatrice garden will add a new aspect to the Isle of Wight's popular medieval castle which is also the home of the Carisbrooke donkeys, who can be seen in their stables and demonstrating the wheel used for centuries to draw water from the well. Other highlights to see during a day out include a museum, the room from which King Charles I tried to escape before his execution, and a new exhibition.