Vegetable Gardening at Chatsworth

During a trip to Great Britain I spoke with The Duchess of Devonshire about vegetable gardening.

Chatsworth in England hosts 105 acres of gardens, including the amazing Cascade Waterfall, which was built in 1696. The water of the Cascade falls down uneven steps to the delight of visitors and then disappears underground to provide the water for the Sea Horse Fountain on the south lawn, then the water for the fountain on the west lawn, before spilling into the river.

A stroll around the grounds reveals a beautiful combination of architecture and nature. Blanche's Vase sitting high overlooking the Emperor's Fountain and the park. The maze, a particular treat for kids. The recently restored Flora's Temple. The conservatory, which houses tropicals. The beautiful rose garden, and even the vegetable garden is amazing.

Chatsworth has been the home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire for 450 years. During a visit with the 11th Duchess of Devonshire, I asked her about her favorite part of the gardens.

Deborah Devonshire, 11th Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth , England: My favorite bit is the Pinedum right at the end, which people seldom get to. They are sort of wedded to their cars, they don't want to walk to far. That and the kitchen garden I love because of the food.

Allen: Now, the kitchen garden is a relatively new addition because when I was a student at Manchester, I don't remember the kitchen garden.

The Duchess of Devonshire: It didn't exist. What did exist are those four Victorian greenhouses up there, and they make a good start for that garden.

Allen: The layout or the design of the kitchen garden, where did the inspiration come for that?

The Duchess of Devonshire: Well, I used to go up there and stand on that platform where the greenhouses are and I used to wonder what it would look like. It was just a slope with nothing in it, a couple of rows of beans. And I thought it would be nice to have raised beds and to have the vegetables radiating from the middle instead of the usual rows. That's all it is, there's no design really.

Allen: As you walk around those raised beds it's constantly changing as you go around.

The Duchess of Devonshire: That's right. And we put apples in the middle for a bit of height. And then the artichokes around the apples, and then the quicker crops like the peas, beans, parsley, beetroot and the other things all radiating around. And I think it's quite successful, I hope so.

Allen: I think it's very successful. One of the things that struck me about the layout, the design of that garden that gives it so much interest are the vertical elements.

The Duchess of Devonshire: You've got to have that in a big space, haven't you? You can't have it just flat on the ground or it looks, sort of, too much all in one.

Allen: Yes, it's one-dimensional. And I think the tall sunflowers also add that.


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