Duntreath Castle, home to beautiful gardens, has been in the Edmonstone family for nearly 700 years
Holly Kerr Forsyth visits Duntreath Castle, Scotland. Q&A with Helen Young.
Now that spring is approaching in Scotland, gardens will be stirring. One is the 10ha garden that rolls out around Duntreath Castle, in the shadow of the Campsie Fells in the lower Highlands. Duntreath Castle has been the seat of the Edmonstone family since it was built 1345. The lands and Barony of Duntreath were awarded to the family in 1435 by King Robert III of Scotland and have remained with them in direct succession since.
“Something of an achievement given Scotland’s turbulent history,” says Julie Edmonstone.
The garden and lakes date from Sir Archibald (widely known as Archie) and Julie’s marriage in 1969.
“No ornamental gardens of significance ever existed and the two world wars saw the end of the large kitchen garden staff,” explains Julie. Today, lakes, expansive lawns, a formal rose parterre, waterfall gardens and woodland walks are looking marvellous.
Wanting a garden “that sat comfortably in the Scottish landscape rather than the English style of enclosed garden rooms”, Julie edited the dark conifer woods to afford views of the beautiful hills and down the valley to Loch Lomond. The property’s blackface sheep, grown for their meat and because they are hardy in the tough climate, graze in the near distance. “My favourite part of the garden is the waterfall garden we carved out of the woods either side of the front drive,” Julie says. Designed in the Edwardian era, this area had never been planted out. “By the 1970s all the pools had silted up so we restored them and landscaped with large boulders from the surrounding hills.” With a growing season of just three months, from May to July, foliage plants and autumn colour play a key role in this garden. The stone walls of the castle, and its fortified Norman keep, support Virginia creeper ( Parthenocissus quinquefolia), with its crimson autumn foliage. Among Julie’s muchloved trees is the Japanese katsura ( Cercidiphyllum ja-
ponicum), which also colours brilliantly in autumn. “Snow on conifers is beautiful in winter, as is the frozen lake, but mostly we just have rain,” she says.
Semicircular stone steps, guarded by cones of the low-growing Alberta spruce ( Picea glauca var. alber
tiana), lead from the lawn to a terrace supported by a wall, home to small perennials that have helped themselves to any damp spaces between stones. At the top of the stairs a long sweep of the catmint,
Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, which is better suited than lavender to the damp conditions, leads to the castle and the chapel with its autumn-colouring vines.
Although roses can struggle in the severe climate and high rainfall, the terrace is planted in a parterre created with squares of tightly clipped box that encase roses in pinks and creams. Favourites include ‘ Wedding Day’, ‘Peace’, ‘Albertine’ and ‘Constance Spry’.
The scented rambler ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ romps up many of the trees at Duntreath. “This year I have planted them up an avenue of cherry trees and I know the effect of these giant parasols of scented pink blooms will be spectacular,” Julie says. Clematis ar
mandii is a favourite due to its hardiness.
They wanted a garden ‘that sat comfortably in the Scottish landscape rather than the English style of enclosed garden rooms’