Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not hot, not cold - just perfect for gardening in Scotland

Mixed planting of veg, grasses, perennials at Whitburgh House, by Vincent Dudley for Elizabeth Salvesen. The purple Prunus hedge at rear is a Scottish classic design element, originally seen at House of Pitmuies. That low northern light coming through to backlight the leaves just glows.

The opinion of many southern English gardeners is that Scotland is probably not a great place to garden, and many of my colleagues on the garden lecture circuit refuse to go up there - 'it's too far' they say. My frequent trips there over the last few years have convinced me it is actually a very good place to garden, if not to sunbathe. Plants rarely suffer from drought, even on the dry east coast, as summers are rarely hot enough to cause drought stress. Winters are often moderated by the sea of a heavily indented coastline; the cold is nothing compared to central Europe or much of the USA. 

Seriously cool modernist box by Vincent Dudley at Whitburgh House.
The result is gardens with an extraordinary habitat 'mix and match', and lots of the lush plantlife which gardens further south can only grow in shade or waterside or bog situations. You get used to seeing vast sprawling rodgersias, meconopsis and huge drifts of Himalayan primulas. 

I've just led a Gardens Illustrated tour in Scotland, although we stuck to the area around Edinburgh. We started off staying at Whitburgh House where Vincent Dudley's gardening for Elizabeth Salvesen is resulting in a new garden with some fantastic colour combinations and sculpture.
There is a great deal of innovation here. Intellectually (think Little Sparta and Charles Jencks at Portrack) and in planting design. We visited some gardens with some incredibly disciplined planting, the sort of thing that you feel real gardeners might not be capable of carrying through. Robert Dalrymple at Broadwoodside freely confesses he hates gardening (but has a gardener) and achieves some very powerful effects through 'less is more'. The man is a graphic designer - and it shows. Would I like to let a garden designer loose on designing a book - I'm not sure.
Hands up gardeners who would have the self control to limit a border to only Cotinus 'Royal Purple' , Euphorbia schillingii and some (invisible) geraniums. Broadwoodside is a great place to see simple effective planting.
Allium sphaerocephalon hovering above Geranium nodosum at Portmore.
Portmore has some quite traditional formal garden spaces but a lot of very simple planting revolving around strong colours. The power of the repetition of a good idea. Alchemilla conjuncta used as a very neat, well-behaved edging attracted attention too. There were some more complex colour combinations too.
Salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain, Nicotiana langsdorfii, Lythrum salicaria and Verbena bonariensis at Portmore.
Portmore also had some wonderful old fashioned greenhouses with lots of streptocarpus and other exotica. I love these places. Plants just being grown for the simple love of growing them, an exuberant spirit of horticulture as Victorian as the cast-iron of the structures that you find in gardens with history.

Here's our group with Skye Hopetoun at Hopetoun House - she is someone to keep your eyes on (and I'm good at spotting talent in the garden world as you may have noticed by now). She is creating an incredibly ambitious new garden in the old kitchen garden of the house. Very brave of her to let us in in the plastic ground cover, portaloo, piles of debris stage. We felt very privileged being in at the beginning of what could be a very bold new garden.

The planting above, just completed, is particularly interesting. It is based on a kind of repeating pattern, but developing a rhythm as certain plants come in and out of particular blocks.
I find this seriously interesting. Very few other people are doing this kind of thing. A lady and a garden to watch.

Never seen so many geraniums in one place in a garden. Underplanting wtih G. endressii at Teases, designed by David Redmore.
Valeria Hermida and Amalia Robredo enjoy Cambo
 We had quite an Argentine/Uruguayan element to this year's tour. Its so special that people travel all that way to tour with us. 

Finally, nocturnal plant shopping at Cambo. There's more about Cambo on my latest GGW post here.


The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Oh, they came all the way from Uruguay - so I have no excuses for not participating despite being in Singapore...!

I loved the "wavy" border, the organic design is a lovely exquivalent to Alvar Aalto's architecture (have you seen his wooden ceilings rolling like waves for example in the Viipuri Library?). Very attractive.

Also, what chance would we poor gardeners have in Sweden and Finland, if Scotland is too far north? I think sometimes the challenge of not-ideal conditions make the results shine ever more (and the long, white nights give an extra boost to what grows up there).

Lovely report. I promise to come along to one of your tours very soon. Do you have any plans for anything here in Asia, in case I can't quite make it to Europe?

James Golden said...

Hopetoun's patterned planting recalls the patterns Fletcher Steele used in the rose garden at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, many decades ago. Very different use, though.

Alice Joyce said...

Brilliant tour and one I wish it would have been possible to experience.
Appreciate being introduced to Dudley's skillful & imaginative design work. And I do yearn to see Portrack.
Hope to be in the loop if you present another tour of Scotland, Noel.

Shirley said...

Gorgeous photos Noel, just found your blog, nice to see like minded people no matter one lives. We migrated to Aus over 30 years ago but love to garden and produce some of our own vegies, eggs and fruit.

Shirley :)

Ezzirah said...

Very beautiful! I love the simple but elegant designs! Inspiring!

Unknown said...

That was beautiful and artistically designs landscape... very creative...

Garden designs Edinburgh

Island Threads said...

thanks for posting, it's nice to see some gardens in Scotland for a change,
I've noticed most of the professional garden presenters in the media have gardens in the south of England,
I also notice that the gardens shown above seem to have high walls and tall trees for protection, Frances

Kumar akom said...

your photos just reminded me a thing i wished to do when i was young. paving stones in the garden . its alovely feeling to walk barefoot in the pavment in cold seasons. :)