In Queen Victoria’s day, the garden at Frogmore House in Windsor was a tranquil haven. It is less so for the present-day queen, it would seem.
In a special message for the 70th anniversary of Gardeners’ Question Time, Queen Elizabeth referred to the impact of the Heathrow flight path on the historic retreat, first made popular by Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, in the 1700s.
“I very much hope you have enjoyed visiting Frogmore House and garden, which holds a special place in my family’s affections,” the Queen said in a pre-recorded message for the Radio 4 programme. “Indeed, I would echo the sentiments of Queen Victoria who, 150 years ago, wrote of this dear lovely garden where all is peace and you only hear the hum of bees, the singing of the birds.
“These days there is more noise from the air than in 1867, but Frogmore remains a wonderfully relaxing environment.”
The programme, broadcast on Friday, included an outside recording with John Anderson, the keeper of the gardens, against an audible backdrop of planes roaring overhead.
The anniversary message comes weeks before the 91-year-old monarch and her 96-year-old consort, Prince Philip, mark their own. They celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary on 20 November, and the Gardeners’ Question Time team gave them the first of doubtless many anniversary gifts: a daphne bholua “Jacqueline Postill”, a variety of the fragrant winter-flowering evergreen shrub originally from Nepal.
With an army of gardeners, the Queen is not known to be particularly hands-on, unlike her eldest son, though Buckingham Palace does have an allotment area – or vegetable patch. She told Radio 4 listeners: “I am not any sort of expert on gardening but plants, trees and flowers have been a source of pleasure throughout my life.
“I have an early memory of my mother, Queen Elizabeth, being a hands-on gardener, a tradition that has been followed by other members of my family, and I know this passion is shared by your listeners and many other people besides.
“As you mark the programme’s 70th anniversary, I send my congratulations and wish you continued success.”
Queen Charlotte was passionate about wildlife and arranged the landscaping of the Frogmore grounds in Windsor Great Park, which also houses the royal mausoleum containing the tombs of Victoria and Albert, and which is open to the public on select days.
Anderson, who is in charge of overseeing modern-day plantings, which include the recent addition of a grove of cherry trees, told listeners he discussed ideas with the Queen during garden perambulations.
“She will let us know if she likes the idea, and if she likes the idea we get on with it,” he said. “She certainly knows her stuff. She certainly knows what she likes.”
He said she had surprised experts at the Chelsea flower show with her detailed knowledge of rhododendrons.
“The Queen wears bright colours and that is reflected in the garden,” he said.
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