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15 Mar 2018

The Orangery renovation at Culzean

Written by Tim Keyworth, Gardens and Designed Landscapes Manager, Ayrshire & Arran
The Orangery at Culzean
The Kennedy family would have valued being able to produce rare and unusual fruit to impress their guests, and this is reflected in the quality of the design of the Orangery. The renovation of this building is one of the exciting projects happening at Culzean.

The Orangery is situated beside the Fountain Court and the castle terraces and is believed to date back to 1840. We think it was designed by John Patterson, a Scottish architect who trained with Robert Adam and worked with him on several important projects.

The earliest record of oranges being grown in Britain was at Beddington, an estate near London. In 1580, Sir Frances Carew managed to grow orange trees from the seeds of oranges brought back by Sir Walter Raleigh from one of his expeditions. Remarkably, these original plants thrived and were said to be around 160 years old before they died.

The earliest structures built to protect citrus and other tender plants were known as houses to overwinter evergreens, from where the word greenhouse comes. Some of these evolved into orangeries in the 18th and 19th centuries, and were a symbol of prestige and wealth for their owners.

The Orangery was the setting for Nicola and Chris’s wedding (image courtesy of Tub of Jelly photography)
The Orangery was the setting for Nicola & Chris’s wedding-image courtesy of Tub of Jelly photography

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the finest orangery considered to have been built is at the Palace of Versailles. It was completed in 1685 and sparked a craze for growing citrus fruit in France. At this time, the three varieties most commonly grown were Seville, China and Bermuda oranges.

The Orangery at Culzean was very much in need of refurbishment and we have been carrying out work on the building over the past few months. As well as painting it, the vents have been serviced and we will shortly start on the planting.

We have ordered a range of citrus trees from the Citrus Centre in Sussex, including specimen clementines, blood and navel oranges, a lemon and a lime. Additional planting in the Orangery will be simple but highly scented.

‘four seasons’ lemon
The reliable ‘four seasons’ lemon, one of the plants purchased from the Citrus Centre

The newly restored Orangery will add to the overall visitor experience in the gardens, as well as providing the perfect space for small weddings and events.

This work has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Trust USA Foundation.

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