The kitchen garden at Grim’s Dyke supplies us with fresh fruit, vegetables, edible flowers and herbs for our restaurant guests. It also provides a rich environment for wild bees, insects and animals. During Gilbert’s time, this wouldn’t have been any different.
The Victorian kitchen garden was a true work of art, run by its king – the head gardener. He would know how to, not only grow the different varieties of fruit and vegetables, but also how to store them too. It was expected that a one-acre plot of land could comfortably provide enough produce for 12 people.
Glass became cheaper
With the glass tax abolished in 1845, followed by the invention of plate glass AND the abolishment of window tax, glass was priced low. Meaning the Victorian kitchen garden could have glass houses and cold frames. This meant more growing space. Bringing with it grapes on their table much later in the year, which impressed their dinner guests. Both the resulting bunches and bottles of wine went down well.
The importance of being walled
The typical kitchen garden was walled on all four sides, each wall providing protection and stability for fruit trees. It wasn’t uncommon for the walls to have hollow sections, where fires could be lit, to heat the walls. This helped provide a microclimate by raising the temperature of the garden by a few degrees. The North wall would be ideal for fruits that didn’t mind the cold weather, such as blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. The East wall could play home to the hardier pears and apples, whilst the West wall was ideal for apples, pears, figs and plums. Finally, the South wall played host to grapes, peaches and nectarines.
You can still see some of the original garden walls beside our kitchen garden and also in front of the Garden Suites and bedrooms today.
The overall layout
The plot of land itself would be divided into quarters, each separated off with a path system. There’d also be a herb border near the kitchen entrance. Most plants would be low in stature, to prevent damage caused by trapped swirling air currents that may accumulate within the walls.
The gardens at Grim’s Dyke
The gardens at Grim’s Dyke would have played an essential role in the life of W.S. Gilbert and his family. Not only would the garden have provide them with all the fruit and vegetables they’d need, the stunning formal gardens provided a place to rest and relax. And let’s not forget Lady Gilbert’s pride and joy – the large sunken rose garden – still being enjoyed by visitors at Grim’s Dyke, to this very day.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please read The Benefits of Honouring The Natural Growing Seasons