Wednesday 3 September 2008

Margrethe & Benedikte reflect on the garden @ Gråsten

All photos © Timo Battefeld/JydskeVestkysten

The Queen and Princess Benedikte received JydskeVestkysten's journalist Katrine Lund Walsted and photographer Timo Battefeld and showed them around the Gråsten Palace garden to co-incide with the Danish Royal Family's stay at a favourite summer residence: 'En slotshave i dronning Ingrids ånd' - A palace garden in Queen Ingrid's mind

When Queen Margrethe and Princess Benedikte think about Gråsten Palace gardens, they have the people in mind. One of the royal house's three dachshunds pads over the gravel in the courtyard with a member of the Court. The gardeners are in full swing in the late afternoon sun. And the Royal Guards sweat in their uniforms while they stand watch. The royal family is in summer residence in these weeks at Gråsten Slot. And when the weather is right, there is time to spend in the garden. It's Queen Margrethe and Princess Benedikte who come up with ideas for the garden's further development.

The Queen and the Princess have just enjoyed lunch and a cup of coffee on the terrace out next to Gråsten Palace's lake when they receive
JydskeVestkysten. The royal sisters have said "yes" to show the local newspaper around the garden. The garden isn't just for the royals, it is also a garden for the people. And the sisters think about it a lot to plan the garden's development. "It shouldn't only be nice when we are here. There also has to be something to look at for the visitors to the garden all year round," Queen Margrethe says.

Gråsten Palace gardens have ten hectares of ground. And what was a park before is now changed to a garden. "Even though the area is large, it's still described as one garden," Princess Benedikte says. The royal sisters took over the garden after Queen Ingrid's death in 2000. And the sisters believe they carry on the garden which was in their mother's mind. One of the first things which Queen Ingrid created in the palace garden was the big colourful herbaceous border out next to against Slotsbakken. "My parents came here in 1936. There wasn't a lot of garden, it was mostly grass and a lot of trees. There was apparently a rose bed, which wasn't very good, so my mother removed it," says the Queen.

The sisters say that the herbaceous border was one of the first things Queen Ingrid built. "The bed was not at all as big as it is now. My mother extended it little by little," Princess Benedikte says. Some years ago the big herbaceous border was rearranged. "The perennials in the beds have always been there, but not necessarily in the same place in the bed." According to the royal sisters the garden beds needed renewal since they had remained the same for many years. "We managed to renew the soil and got a little more variety and more colours into the bed. But it is still in the same style as mother had it," Princess Benedikte says.

Among the local population in Gråsten some people have thought that the big herbaceous border has been changed too much and isn't so beautiful as during Queen Ingrid's time. The sisters think that the beds need time to evolve after the relaying. "There needs to be at least two years after rearranging a bed, it's very flat and bare at first. And then, last summer was horrible and it wasn't particularly good for the garden beds. It had to be adjusted a little. Slots and Ejendomsstyrelsen [the state organisation which runs palaces and gardens] would like to cut down the size of the bed so it isn't so big as it has been," Queen Margrethe says.

The sisters agree that for the first time after the relaying, the bed is now looking beautiful. "Look at the lovely large red phloxes," Princess Benedikte says and points at a large red patch of phlox. The royal sisters are seized by the thoughts about the garden bed and speak happily over each other. "It's beautiful and important to have big lines in big gardens. Here there has to be a bit of show," Princess Benedikte says.

And the Queen adds: "We follow my mother's guide in the colour blends. It's good to have colours, but it must not be too much of one colour. There needs to be a little contrast," Queen Margrethe says.

Garden for the people
We approach the bed from a distance, which spreads like a long green vigorous border with lots of coloured spots in between the green. When standing at a distance you can see that the same elements occur repeatedly. "With a basically good plan for a bed, you can repeat it. There's no need to have 100 different things in the bed," Princess Benedikte says.

In 2006 the sisters put up a couple of benches under some trees. "Here my sister and I thought that there should be a couple of seats. It's such a lovely place. We hope that many people will enjoy these benches," Queen Margrethe says. "It's so lovely and peaceful here," Princess Benedikte smiles.

Every year thousands of locals and tourists visit Gråsten Palace and gardens, and the sisters think about the visitors a great deal when they plan the garden together with the gardener in charge of the summer residence. This year a round bench seat has also been put around the old plane tree by the castle lake. "We often talked about doing it with Queen Ingrid but just never managed to do it... it is nice for the visitors to the garden who can enjoy the view here near the lake and the castle," the Queen says.

At the rose bed by the church there are new English roses planted, and this year, there is a new surround for the gold fish pond. Last summer the royal family had a selection to choose from and they chose some flagstones from Petersen Tegl. "It's a joy to see how the flagstones are consistent with the old stones," Princess Benedikte says.

A piece of Gråsten
The royal sisters stop and look at the old Gråsten apple tree. The Queen picks up an apple and takes a bite. "They are a little sourish still. But they aren't immature," the Queen says. Queen Ingrid was fond of the apple blossoms. "There were some fantastic summers here at the garden. The place here is the quintessence of summer and summertime," Queen Margrethe says. We go down towards Billeddammen, which has a number of old oaks standing near a close neighbour. "This place was one of my mother's favourite places. In the evening when the shadows from the trees fall over the pond, it is very beautiful," says Princess Benedikte.

We go on along the Bille-pond and up against Princess House and Princess Garden. In front of the garden there stand square beds with roses. The number of beds has been reduced during the years. "Some people would probably think that it's pity to reduce the number of roses. But it's important to preserve the good places in the garden with the resources we have, so we put in as much effort as possible," says the Queen... The Princess House was home for two gardener families and later a storage place for tools. "It was in the winter apparently in 1941-1942 that Queen Ingrid made it into a playhouse for me...and it was a favourite place when we were children," Queen Margrethe recounts.

"I can't remember that there was a greenhouse here at all," says Princess Benedikte.
"Can't you remember that we picked berries down on the slope? It must be the four years between us...," the Queen smiles at her sister.

The Princess Garden stands by and large as Queen Ingrid built it. "We have simplified this too but have not altered it very much," says the Queen, who together with her sister has planted a number of lime trees, where the branches will grow together in time [pleach].

On the path from Princess House and down to the castle lake a giant Gunnera stands, which is also called a mammoth leaf. It is an exotic feature, "It almost looks like something from the Amazon River, I have never seen it so large before. It's totally exotic," the Queen says and touches the impressive plant...

At the tennis court there is a new playing surface so that it is possible to play shortly after rainy weather. "It's something the young ones think is cosy, my mother and father also thought so too when they were young. But I am a clown with everything to do with ball games," the Queen smiles.

Out on the terrace next to the castle lake there is a large swimming pool and a children's pool. "My father arranged to [build and] present the pool in 1969 when he was 70 years old. When we were children we drove down to Dynt Strand [beach] near Vemmingbund so we could bathe...So we were very glad for that pool," the Queen says.

The Queen and the princess looked forward to Gråsten during their childhood, spending summers in the garden together with Queen Ingrid. "There were some fantastic summers here in the garden. The place here is the quintessence of summer and summertime," Queen Margrethe says.

In her adult life the Queen has begun to do some of her paintings in the garden. "We enjoy the garden when the weather is good. Put us here, put us there," says the Queen, and points here and there at the cosy corners of the garden.

When the time for the summer stay in Gråsten approaches, the Queen begins to feel happy. "The days are counted, it's like this - ooh! - now it gets closer. I am happy to be at Marselisborg, but I also look forward to coming here. This year were we so lucky to be here for three or four days for Prince Joachim's wedding. And so we managed to see the rhododendrons and the azaleas in flower, which we are not normally in time to see," the Queen said.

And it isn't just the garden that the Queen looks forward to at the summer residence. "Being a haven is a part of the pleasure of the summer residence and there is no doubt it is also being in the house of Gråsten and in Southern Jutland. Summer vacations have always been here," the Queen smiles.

The Queen and the Princess developed their own interest when they got their own gardens. Until now the young ones haven't shown a great interest. "When we were young we also didn't think so much about the gardens. But when one gets one's own, it changes. When the Crown Prince and Crown Princess take over the place here, it'll come. I am in no doubt about that," the Queen says.

Photos © Timo Battefeld and JydskeVestkysten photo gallery - all Timo Battefeld's photos

*rough blog translation!

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