A view of Picton CastlePicton Castle & Gardens
Picton Castle itself dates back to 1280 and it is easy to see how the architecture of the building has evolved over its history.
Trying to decipher the evolution of the garden is not so easy.
There is very little documented evidence of the garden’s development. A general picture can be obtained from various maps and pictures, bills and descriptions written by visitors of the past.
Other glimpses can be found in the garden itself such as the recipes for complex potting compost mixtures written a hundred years ago on the back of the potting shed door.
The 18th Century
An estate map of 1746 reveals deer parks to the north of the castle. The oldest trees in the garden were planted around this time, while closer to the castle were walled enclosures and formal Baroque shrubberies in an elaborate pattern.
During the latter part of the 18th century the landscape style became fashionable. The formal gardens were replaced by rolling lawns and open parkland.
The 19th Century
In the 1820s building of the present walled garden began. By 1860 a modern hot water system had been added which circulated hot water through four inch cast iron pipes, enabling exotic fruits to be grown such as peaches and pineapples.
Around this time many of the older trees in the garden such as the Turkey oaks (Quercus cerris) and silver firs (Abies alba) that line the drive, were planted. These are now majestic trees.
Two redwoods and the massive Rhododendron that sprawls across the lawn also date from the same time. The structure of Victorian planting and lawns remains the basis of the garden at Picton today.
Garden accounts from the 1880’s include items such as a stove, peat, lawn mower, tree labels, peach trees, strawberry plants, apple trees, chrysanthemum cuttings, hyacinths, nuts, Pines (pineapples) and Prunus plums.
From our surviving stack of prize certificates we know that flower shows as far away as Bristol were attended and that potted plants, cut flowers (especially Chrysanthemums), vegetables, grapes and peaches were exhibited on a regular basis. In those days what you grew in your garden commanded you potentially great status.
The walled garden would have been a hive of horticultural excellence and during this period at least twenty gardeners were employed, working around the clock to keep the fires burning.
With the start of the First World War the gardeners left and as with many other grand old gardens much of the grounds were reclaimed by nature. In 2019 work began to restore the Walled Garden and Glasshouse to its former glory. Work should be completed by mid-2021.