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Prince Charles opens the gates to his organic gardens

In his new book, he reveals how this environmentally sound approach has beautified his British estates.

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It's true that the Prince of Wales has long been known for his advocacy of organic farming and gardening. Still, it's difficult to imagine him picking hornworms off tomato vines or turning the compost pile at one of his estates.

And the gorgeous photographs in his new book, written with Stephanie Donaldson, "Elements of Organic Gardening," might cause readers to mutter, "Well, I could do that, too, if I had unlimited funds and a veritable army of gardeners to do my bidding."

While both reactions are valid, they in no way lessen the value of this beautiful book. It works on several levels – as coffee table volume, organic gardening primer, and landscaping how-to, as well as being of interest to Anglophiles and royal-watchers.

Long before organic went mainstream, Prince Charles was an avid proponent. He recommended improving soils with compost instead of pouring on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. He also advocated recycling kitchen and garden waste for compost and collecting rainwater to provide moisture for plants. Charles endured years of jokes about his views, which were considered a bit odd – but he didn't back down. And he put his money and personal influence behind them – most notably at his Highgrove estate.

Most of the book is devoted to Highgrove – with shorter sections on Clarence House, showing what can be done in an urban garden – and Birkhall, on the edge of the Balmoral estate in the Scottish Highlands, where plants and gardeners cope with a cold climate.

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