Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Store...

We will be opening a country store, selling organic gourmet products made from produce grown on the estate, and also specialist gifts, such as gardening tools, flowers and plants, and luxury toiletries. It is something which we had considered, after visiting many such stores at houses such as Chatsworth, Blenheim, Waddeston, and Highgrove in the UK, which all sell their own ranges of gifts and comestibles. Highgrove is by far the most impressive, and provides much inspiration...

The store in Tetbury (above) was opened by
HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall last year (below).

Everything is either grown on the Highgrove estate (below) of sourced from local farms.

We hope our range of produce will become as iconic as these other successful ventures, albeit on a smaller scale. We hope to have the shop open in time for Christmas sales 2010.

Above and below: Further examples of similar shops.

Something which I adore are all the small, hand made garden tools made and sold by Highgrove, such as below.
Above: Paper pot maker (A clean and green way to recycle newspapers into small seedling pots)

Below: Planting tags (I am often confusing newly growing plants with weeds without the aide of labels to remind me where I planted what!

Above: A dibber for making seed planting holes a varying depths, used in conjunction with a seed planting line (below).

We will also sell small tools. We will package them all up in gift sets in seedling boxes (such as the Highgrove one below), and sell them as hampers, along with gardeners hand balm and other yummy goods!
They do know how to present their products well!

As well as selling directly from the store, we will have stalls at local Farmers' markets, and have already been in touch with a specialist hamper company to stock our products in their hampers.

Thought for One's day....or life.

As we approach the Rubicon of our grand project, which is both terrifying and exciting, I am reminded of the courageous words of a former US president which seem apposite.

"Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat"
Theodore Roosevelt 1899.
So, onwards we go, alea iacta est!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bees and Hives...

Bees traditionally were kept in a variety of houses. The quintessential beehive shaped ones were known as 'skeps'.

They were a very inefficient way of looking after honey bees, as one had to destroy the skep and scatter the colony to get the honey out.

Skeps are still good if you want to promote pollination in your garden and provide a home for bees without wanting the honey. They also make nice garden ornaments.

They can be made from rope, or more traditionally, straw. I am going to have a go at making some for around Willowbrook, and also to sell in our park store.

They were kept in small holes in a walled garden. The holes or alcoves were known as boles (see below)

The modern moveable beehive was only invented in 1851.

Hopefully tour hives will atract a lot of honey bees, which are in decline in New Zealand thanks to the Varroa mite.

The Cellar...

We are currently designing the various rooms for Willowbrook. One of the rooms which we covet most is the cellar. We have designed a traditional grotto which runs underneath the house, accessed from the garden via a tunnel under the terrace, and also from the ground floor via a staircase (and lift for disabled access).

We plan to offer people the experience of dining in the cellar, or adjourning after their main meal for supper, cheese, or wine tasting.

Unlike the rest of the house, which will have a finely plastered finish, the grotto and cellar will maintain a traditional, roughly hewn feel, evocative of a provincial French cellar. The passage will be lit with rustic sconces, until guests reach a large heavy oak door with wrought iron detailing...

On entering the cellar, they will find themselves in an intimate space, created with warm exposed brick vaulting on the ceiling and walls, and the bedazzling range of a well-stocked cellar.

In the middle of the room will be a large, long table, seating about 10 people. Here the fine company and cosy conversation can continue into the small hours of the morning...

On special weekends we will host wine-tasting lessons with top New Zealand wine connoisseurs, where people will be able to come to further develop an appreciation for fine wines, accompanied by a light meal or canapes.


It seems that sphinxes have always been a popular classical beast of fascination through all ages, and in particular, in the great gardens and parks of the world. Perhaps they are seen as protectors of entrances, as according to legend, the greatest sphinx of all was sent to guard the entrance to Greece.

The goddess Hera is said to have sent the Sphinx from her homeland of Ethiopia to Thebes, to ask all passers-by the famous riddle of the sphinx: “Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?” She strangled (c.f. asphyxiate) and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus solved the riddle: Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age.

I have a small pair of Sphinxes on my bookcase:

I think Willowbrook Park should have a pair to watch over its gardens.
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