The Scottish Country Garden is nestled in the picturesque rolling hills of the lowlands of South East Scotland. Centred around the two-acre walled garden of a Victorian country estate, this is now very much a family garden which has to compete for time with all the other pressures of a busy family existence. We have no outside help, so the garden has to be maintained at weekends, with the occasional day off here and there! We are like most people – keen amateurs on a limited budget.
Over the past fourteen years we have been here, we hope we’ve achieved some progress – there are more plant species, there are fewer weeds, we have started to cultivate and clear new areas, and perhaps we have established the limits of what we can do with the time we have available.
The garden is very much a labour of love and it demands attention all the year round from when the weeds start to grow in February/March to the pruning of the last apple tree in the early winter. It dictates our existence.
This blog has been established to chart the progress of this tranquil and beautiful place as the seasons advance and perhaps helps us justify the hours of mowing, hoeing and trimming we dedicate to it. We are not horticulturalists, we don’t have any national collections and the place is by no means in the same league as the many wonderful Scottish large and small gardens open to the public. And yet, despite this, we think there might be one or two out there who might find our occasional tales from a Scottish Country Garden of some passing interest.
The Scottish Country Garden – in a nutshell
The Walled Garden
A two acre walled garden, with a large and rather unusual T-shaped English Yew arbour dividing the garden into 3 segments. Formerly, this would have been the productive garden, the “larder”, providing the ‘big hoose’ with fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers. Aided by a nearby ice house, to keep produce fresh, the head gardener would have been expected to work alongside the estate farm to provide fresh and wholesome fare all the year round. The big house is now just a space in the woodland, its location disclosed by some tangled wrought iron fencing and one or two specimen trees still standing proudly marking a bygone age.
While we did have a sizeable fruit and vegetable garden in the early years, this proved very labour-intensive, and we have converted the productive areas over to lawn (for future development) and herbaceous. We do continue, though, to have two small, rather more manageable vegetable areas, and a herb bed.
Other features include:
-Deep herbaceous borders around the perimeter incorporating some fine shrubs and trees including a 12’ Eucryphia, some fine magnolias, acers and tree paeonies. New plantings include a north-facing shade border with ferns, foxgloves, hostas and aucubas. Our refurbished south-facing border includes lupins, nerines, Echinacea and eryngiums; in the late summer and early autumn, the buddleias and windfall fruit attract a wide range of butterflies, including peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells.
-A large range of apple and pear trees, some very old – free-standing, espaliered, fan-trained and pillar
-A traditional brick-based, timber greenhouse: an elderly vine is the greenhouse’s permanent resident, accompanied by a Phoenix Canariensis palm and pots of flowering agapanthus from Madeira in the summer. All our annual bedding and most perennials are raised from seed here.
-The orchard – two wild flower areas underplanted with a range of spring- flowering bulbs sheltered by the protective limbs of some very old free-standing apple trees, probably planted when the walled garden was in full production towards the end of the 19thCentury.
In order to create a focal point nearer to the house, in summer 2016 we installed a circular, raised pool in the south-west corner of the Walled Garden with an attractive fountain of a boy holding a fish.
The Pleasure Ground
Housing our collection of water lilies and home to a resident colony of newts, frogs and toads, this wildlife pond was originally built with a deep water area for over-wintering ornamental fish.
Occasional visits from heron, mink and possibly otter during the first winter put paid to them, however, and, as a result, the pond supports a far greater range of equally interesting invertebrate and amphibian species.
A row of huge sentinel lime trees, probably planted at the time the walls of the garden were built some 150 years ago, forms the backbone of our small woodland, home also to hollies, yew and oak species. We have started to plant an under-storey of medium- large shrubs including a few rhododendrons which shine out like beacons in the spring. In time, we plan to plant the woodland with more herbaceous, offering more summer interest.
The Drying Green and the Secret Garden
Located to the south of the walled garden, the Drying Green (formerly known as the Kitchen Garden) is a real suntrap with all the benefits of the heat-retentive qualities of the wall itself. Home to more wall-trained apples and pears and at its best in the late summer, with sweet peas, cosmos and dahlias to the fore.
At the end of the Drying Green, and partly concealed by a mature Laburnum tree is an area currently laid out to grass which we call the Secret Garden. Recently naturalised with scented Jonquila daffodils, this area in time may be planted out with a selection of flowering shrubs of various colours and forms. Around six years ago, we restored the original height of the beech hedge to the south of the Secret Garden which had reverted in past years into an avenue of tall, multi-stemmed beech trees. These were shading out the wall-trained apples and pears growing there and preventing them from flowering and fruiting.
Looking south east over a magnificent stand of mature conifer and broad-leaved trees, and down to a mist-wreathed meadow, the Glen is our wildlife area, where the natural scenery can’t be improved by artifice. Regularly visited by deer and foxes, and overflown by buzzards, owls and bats, this area hosts a wide range of meadow wild-flower species including exotic-looking orchids.