Belvoir Castle – The start of the Pre-Chelsea roadshow

Belvoir Castle – The start of the Pre-Chelsea roadshow

On 8 April the Duchess of Rutland kicked off the pre-Chelsea roadshow by welcoming guests to her Leicestershire home - Belvoir Castle.

Guests listened to inspired talks from the Duchess herself, Rosy Hardy – designer of the 2016 Brewin Dolphin Chelsea garden – and Nikki Applewhite, Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle.

Emma Manners, the 11th Duchess of Rutland described her experiences growing up as a Welsh farmer’s daughter. These experiences helped keep Emma grounded and gave her the ability to deal with situations ranging from birthing a baby lamb, helping her mum run their B&B, becoming a chalet girl through to setting up her own decorating business.

In 2001 the Duchess moved into Belvoir and she was keen to teach her children to be humble with heritage, to respect it, to work for their living and to keep their feet firmly on the ground.

Rosy Hardy, opened by telling the audience that it will be her 25th year exhibiting at Chelsea and that 2016 is even more exciting as it will be the first time she has designed a show garden at Chel-sea.

She introduced herself as one half of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants who are based in Freefolk in the beautiful Hampshire countryside. The herbaceous perennial nursery employs several people to assist the husband and wife team - Rosy and Robert. They have built their reputation on the mantra of ‘right plant, right place’; a philosophy Rosy will be sticking to with her planting for the Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016.

Rosy went on to describe the style of planting on the Brewin Dolphin garden and the inspiration she found in the beautiful chalk streams of the River Test. The key message being that we have to look after our precious natural resources and natural environment.  We have to invest in the future and ensure that we don’t extract too much.

Nikki Applewhite, Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle, discussed her role and the history of Lancelot Brown, who visited Belvoir in 1780 at a time of high demand for his expertise, particularly among the landed aristocracy.

Nikki talked about Brown’s initial arrival at Belvoir, a neglected castle with run down grounds but he believed the landscape had potential.

At the age of 66 Brown died with little or no progress having been made on the garden, apart from initial oak tree planting. The Duke died shortly after Brown, leaving a heavily indebted estate to his nine-year-old son.

Things improved financially and when the 5th Duke turned 21, work began in earnest. The Duke married Duchess Elizabeth and she helped with the implementation of Brown’s plans.

The current Duchess Emma has almost completed the huge restoration of Brown’s landscape at Belvoir.

Then followed a Gardeners Q&A session - questions and answers can be found here.