The Queen's Gardens.
A city garden on a grand scale.
Buckingham Palace in the City of London is well known worldwide, as Queen Elizabeth's residence, attracting visitors from all over the Globe. It requires huge amounts of upkeep and maintenance, not only the Palace itself but the impressive gardens and grounds which circles the Palace. However, five hundred years ago there was no garden, even the Palace that we know today was not there. The original Palace, which, was much smaller was named "Buckingham House", with the gardens and grounds being wild scrub land, with family dwellings built on it.
It was Henry VIII who created the grounds and gardens we know of today. King Henry VIII wanted private hunting grounds, where he could hunt deer in private. He took the decision to evict all the families from the land and constructed a huge wall to keep out intruders, so as he could hunt in complete privacy. In all, the grounds total 39 acres and have remained the same size up to the present day. The following centuries saw a huge change, as the grounds were changed to their present state. Everything about the gardens and grounds has been painstakingly planned and thought out. From the flower beds to the trees, the Palace lake has been planned to near perfection.
Buckingham Palace has a number of initiatives in place which ensure that all of the Queen's residence's gardens are all in pristine condition. While in turn they encourage plants and wildlife to thrive, with no adverse effect on the environment. Manure from her Majesty's horses is recycled to be used as compost for all the gardens. The "arisings" which is the soiled straw from the stables amounts to approximately two tons per day. They recycle 99% of all green waste at Buckingham Palace, they even recycle the twigs and small branches. Waste from Kensington Palace and Marlborough House is brought in to be shredded as this encourages bacteria to get to work quicker. Turning the waste on a regular basis makes sure it rots away in order for it to be used as mulch. Then this mulch gets used in preparing new flower beds, as it protects the young plants from heat and cold. Mulch retains water, suppresses weed germination, and keeps the soil from being washed away by rain.
Grandeur at its best.
A Subtle approach to conservation.
Who would have thought, that behind all the "Grandeur" of the Palace large piles of wood are stacked to encourage flora and fauna to thrive. Including beetles, spiders and fungi who use them as habitats. They never remove any tree stumps, as they attract insects to lay their eggs, and their larvae to hatch as it's a perfect environment. Currently in the Rose Garden, there is a family of Woodpeckers living in a dead tree, and this is another reason dead trees are sometimes left. Pesticides are kept to a minimum, and hopefully, over time they will be phased out. Weed killer was used on all the paths throughout the grounds at Buckingham Palace, however, by today no pesticides are used. A weed burning machine is used as this works much better, and more efficiently as it breaks down the cells of living plants. Exposing the plants to high heat explodes the cells, which in turn kills the plant from within. Thus meaning, that there is no need for harmful chemicals, which eliminates any danger to wildlife.
At Buckingham Palace, a close eye is kept on everything with the garden being no exception. The lake has attracted damsels and several dragonflies, some live near or on the lake. As much as 42 species of birds have been seen in and around the garden. In amongst all of this, there have been major highlights, Kingfisher and Woodcock's have been seen, with sightings of Chiffchaff and Redwings daily. The garden has managed to support four Beehives, strategically positioned on the island, among the summer wildflowers.
Plant life is encouraged with the long grass policy, which covers approximately 10% of the gardens at Buckingham Palace. There are around 320 different types of wildflower growing within this area of the garden, such as Creeping Buttercups, and Herb Robert. They are left for a whole year between cuts, as this aids growth, seed spreading, with the only cut at the end of August.
How does this help a sustainable plant life, all the plants are allowed to reproduce and sustain themselves without human interference. Encompassing the lake there is an 800 metre stretch of ground, which is cut on a rotational basis every four years. This allows the flora and fauna to grow and prosper in an uninterrupted manner. Though all the existing flora and fauna flourish, new plant life and wildlife are constantly encouraged. Many seed-bearing plants have been introduced over the last 10 years, and in turn, they encourage a vast wealth of birdlife to feed in the Palace grounds, even during the winter months.
At the Palace, they have brought in even more native plants, such as Aspen's and female Poplar. Even seed bearing plants are prominent all around the garden, cotoneaster, and rowans, to name a few. All the garden machinery currently used at the Palace are environmentally sound and in good working order. The machine that burns the weeds runs off liquid petroleum gas, the exact same fuel that runs The Duke of Edinburgh's taxi. The lawnmowers and other light machinery all run on biodegradable diesel, as well as oils and lubricants. All of the staff and gardeners are fully committed to remaining as green as possible.
New initiatives are constantly being looked at in the Royal Household, and they are not limited to inner spaces. Being environmentally friendly is paramount in bringing the gardens up to date, and into the 21st Century. It is said that back in 1608 King James1 commissioned a mulberry garden, positioned to the north of where the Palace stands today. The mulberry garden covered an area of 17,500 square feet, as King James1 was somewhat of a deep thinker, there was more to the mulberry garden. It was an attempt to try to foster silk worms, as they had been cultivated successfully overseas. Some say it was James1's own idea to create a mulberry garden while others would say it was an idea passed to him by William Stallenge. While the idea seemed good, the overall plan was ill-fated, William Stallenge would end up being the only beneficiary of the plan. In the following years, he would print books, and publish books on planting mulberry trees, breeding silkworms and how to make silk. These books became popular and somewhat in demand, his first book was titled "Instructions for the planting and Increase of Mulberry Trees". Then came "Breeding of Silkworms", and the final book "Making of Silk". However, with the success came greed, as James1 instructed the Deputy Lieutenants of Counties to pressure landowners into purchasing and planting of some 10,000 mulberry trees. All to be delivered to the purchasers in March and April, at a rate of 6 shillings per thousand.
Today there are still mulberry trees at Buckingham Palace, in far fewer numbers than in 1608, but still there.
Nature at its heart
Responsible garden management.
The Queen's other residencies also play a vital role in biodiversity and being environmentally friendly, both Balmoral and Sandringham Estates, being the Queen's private residencies, conservation is vital. At the start of the Queen's reign in 1952, The Duke of Edinburgh took on overall responsibility for managing both, and his highest principle has always been conservation and being environmentally friendly for future generations. Both Sandringham and Balmoral have policies to ensure that the land gets farmed sympathetically so that the wildlife is allowed to flourish. The Forestry Stewardship Council, which supports sustainable forestry, has certified the woodlands at Balmoral. Their farming practices are registered with the Soil Association, as it promotes organic farming.
All staff that works at Balmoral have to ensure that all the organic waste is to be recycled. They have a vast amount of organic waste yearly, some 50 tonnes of waste gets turned into compost. As for Sandringham, various areas of the gardens produce organic vegetables and fruit, some overflow into the nearby meadows. The various fruits get turned into juices, using only vitamin C as a preservative, enabling them to avoid all unnatural colourings and preservatives.
All conservation and responsible garden management are seen as an integral part of the estate. Overflowing from the gardens over five thousand trees, of various varieties, have been planted over the years. Ensuring that every effort is made in maintaining the conservation effort carried out at "The Queen's Gardens", yet still maintaining colour and variety for visitors. That is why, "The Queen's Gardens" are both fascinating and beautiful all, in equal measure.