Prince Charles at Highgrove
Prince Charles has ordered his gardeners to remove orange azaleas from the grounds of Highgrove, his country estate in Gloucestershire. The prince was disappointed when the plants he thought to be pink turned out to be the wrong colour. The unwanted blooms were said to be ‘at odds with his plans for a garden replicating the calming colours of an Impressionist painting’.
The story was first revealed in the Mail in Sunday's amusing gossip column.
Now people are wondering if a touch of horticultural snobbery is at the root of it all. Was Charles afraid that people might think his gardens vulgar, common, or even a bit New Money?
One of the surest distinctions between Old Money and New Money is the type of plants in the garden. Chi-chi restaurants might decorate your plate with edible nasturtium heads, but you are unlikely to find them, or indeed any other orange flowers such as marigolds, in an Old Money garden.
The same colour avoidance applies to bouquets. I once saw a countess’s eyes glaze over and her smile freeze when presented with an arrangement containing bright orange gerberas. If you give an orange nosegay to the Duchess of Cornwall, expect it to be passed quickly back to a lady-in-waiting and dispatched with all due haste to the nearest hospital. It will most certainly not be included in the floral displays at Highgrove or Clarence House, Charles’s London home.
In fact Charles has had one of his flower arrangers retrained to cope better with the aristocratic method of using country garden blooms rather than those found in florists. The indoor flower displays should reflect the variety of the Old Money garden according to the seasons. More delicate flowers and potted plants are kept in massed ranks in heated greenhouses, ready for staff to bring in for parties, lunches, and dinners.
The poshest gardens are nearly all green, with topiary, statues, and fountains. Most aristocrats like old-fashioned roses, tumbling peonies, delphiniums, lavender, and lupins in summer; daffodils and tulips in spring; berries in winter. Chrysanthemums, gladioli and dahlias are usually avoided — they are often considered fit only for municipal parks for the masses to enjoy. All hues of bronzes, yellows, and reds are acceptable in an Old Money arboretum in the fall, but no orange flowering plants.
However, there is one exception to the no orange rule: oranges themselves. Many palaces and stately homes have large orangeries, designed to protect potted orange and other citrus trees which cannot withstand the cold of North European winters. But in summer they are brought out and placed in conspicuous locations, so that your Old Money host can present you with an orange.
Charles gingerly inspects orange flowers