Exploring the life of the late Queen Mother's gardener

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A man whose love of the natural world led to a royal appointment as head gardener to the Queen Mother has been looking back at his career.

Colin Crosbie is one of Britain's best known horticulturists - he's spent his career taking on top roles, including a stint as head gardener at Windsor Castle.  

It all started just over an hour from his home in Ayrshire.

Colin said: "I had always wanted to be a gardener, or now by the fancy name a horticulturalist. I have been lucky, I started off at the lowest level and over a period of 30 years I worked my way up and had some wonderful jobs.

“My parents were interested in wild flowers and my nana was. She used to take me on walks round Kirkcudbright and started pointing out things growing in the hedge rose. Then one time I realised there were plants growing in people’s gardens that weren’t wild plants. I wanted to know more about them and that just started up a whole passion.

Colin enjoyed working with the Queen Mother. Credit: PA

“Growing plants is a proper job and we know now the benefit of plants and gardens for health and wellbeing. At the time you were though of differently for growing plants but it was what I loved. Nature is so interesting and it has taken me all over the world."

It was at Scotland’s main place to study agriculture where he got work experience which led to a place on a diploma course.

Colin said: "Part of that diploma gave me one year working in another institution. I was given an opportunity which opened me up to a range of other plants that were growing in gardens.

“I was asked to apply for a job at Royal Lodge Windsor Great Park and it was the home of the Queen Mother. It was where they were the Duke and Duchess of York and where they raised their family.

"It was a family home with a lovely garden and as a 25-year-old I applied. I thought there was no way that I would get that job but I was fortunate and got the job and I had four wonderful years working with the queen mother.

"She was a wonderful lady. She had a great garden and had a real interest in plants. You look back now and I think I was working with living history. She was in her 90s and was a great lady."

He says that the late Queen Mother was extremely interested in what was going on in the gardens.

He said: "When the garden was being created the Queen mother and the late King were very involved in the garden. They would work there at weekends, scrub out the brambles and things.

Colin was the head gardener for the Queen Mother. Credit: PA

"They created a very informal woodland garden. Whilst in her later years the Queen mother would not be so hands on she still had a great interest. She could tell you the story behind every tree and shrub that was in the garden.

“It was very informal I was fortunate where I would meet the Queen Mother normally every Monday when she was in residence and would have a wonder around the garden. We would talk about the plants and just have conversation about other things that were happening at that time.

"Sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you have been so fortunate to be in that situation. I look back and it was wonderful and she was such a lovely person."

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