A Christmas posy cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace itself – well almost. Radio Times has followed the quaintest of royal traditions by putting together this seasonal bouquet with the help of the palace gardeners. As Alan Titchmarsh reveals to us, a weekly arrangement of freshly cut flowers from the garden is something the Queen has grown very fond of.
“She has a little posy cut for her every Monday, which is placed on her desk for when she arrives back from Windsor. It will typically have six or seven different types of flowers from the garden to give her a little snapshot of what’s looking good at that time.”
Our bouquet contains the likes of mistletoe, hazel catkins and winter jasmine, all of which will be twinkling in the Palace Gardens this Christmas. It’s a place that the dutiful Titchmarsh has become very familiar with.
For his ITV documentary he was given the keys to the Queen’s London back garden. It’s the first time an outsider has had unfettered access to the near 40-acre gardens and Titchmarsh admits to being bowled over by what he found.
“I went every month for a year and saw it right the way through the seasons. Its size, scale and scope is much larger than ever you’d imagine – it really is a green lung and oasis in the middle of the city.”
While the Queen appears only fleetingly, her imprint is everywhere to be seen.
“The gardeners are quite cagey talking about what the Queen likes, but what becomes quite evident is she loves what we would call English cottage garden flowers – unostentatious flowers, not things that are too exotic.”
So is she a hands-on head gardener?
“If it’s a quick replanting of a bed they wouldn’t bother her with that, but she is very much involved with major changes. The summer garden parties were always in July, but now they have been moved slightly earlier to June that means adjusting the planting scheme to make the borders brighter earlier. She would be consulted about that sort of thing.”
Thanks to the kind of immersive technology that’s usually seen on programmes such as Springwatch — nest-box, infra-red and motion-activated cameras — viewers will get an intimate view of not just the plant- ing, but of the wildlife that inhabits the garden.
“If you wander off into the undergrowth, you’ll find what is probably one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the country, including 35 different types of mulberry. But it’s a revelation to see just see how much wildlife there is – amazing bird and insect life and mammals – which for somewhere slap-bang in the middle of the city is unusual.”
Another feature is a three-acre lake with its own island with thriving wildlife and wild flowers, and the film team discovered a very special resident – a white helleborine orchid. “It really is very rare,” says Titchmarsh. “It’s the first time it’s been found Indeed, the Natural History Museum confirms it’s the first time in more than 100 years that this particular orchid has been found anywhere in London.
Though the garden is in many ways an outdoor museum – “everywhere you look there are trees with plaques on them that were planted by kings, queens, emperors, princes and princesses” – it remains, says Titchmarsh, a place where the Queen can recharge her batteries.
“It is there for her to use whenever she has some free time. And she does use it. Whenever she has a spare hour she will wander around. And she must take a huge amount of pleasure from it.”
The Queen’s Garden Christmas Day 3.10pm; Sunday 28 December 6.00pm ITV