The ben­e­fits of cre­at­ing shel­ter

A plot barely a mile from the sea, in open arable farm­land, re­quired the cre­ation of shel­ter­ing com­part­ments be­fore the more de­tailed plant­ing could be­gin, finds Non Mor­ris

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

The sea­side plot at Black­dykes in East Loth­ian was a chal­lenge, finds Non Mor­ris

IN 1992, Hew Dal­rym­ple re­turned to his na­tive East Loth­ian with his wife, Janey, and their young chil­dren, with a plan to trans­form an un­mod­ernised, early-19th-cen­tury farm­house, about a mile from the coast, into a hand­some fam­ily home. ‘It was a plain house in a sea of arable farm­land,’ re­counts Janey, with a charm­ing grin.

We’re sit­ting in a scented cor­ner of the for­mal Top Gar­den, look­ing out over the elon­gated fin­gers of shadow cast by an av­enue of fine Ir­ish yews that lead out from the house be­tween glam­orously colour­ful bor­ders. ‘The house was com­pletely ex­posed to ex­co­ri­at­ing east winds. There was a sec­tion of beech hedge on the drive, but there was noth­ing else, not even a wall.’

As the house was el­e­gantly ex­panded and uni­fied with gen­tle off-white and moor­land­green paint­work, Janey got to work on the gar­den. Vis­its to Had­spen, Kifts­gate, Barns­ley House and the gar­dens of Ju­lian and Is­abel Ban­ner­man were sub­tly ab­sorbed for their struc­ture, the com­fort­able divi­sion of a fam­ily gar­den into a se­ries of shel­tered rooms and their cel­e­bra­tory ap­proach to plants.

A two-pronged ap­proach was adopted. The south-fac­ing Top Gar­den, next to the house, was laid out to be en­joyed as soon as pos­si­ble, with ‘titchy’ Ir­ish yews, skinny yew hedg­ing and the cre­ation of East and West herba­ceous bor­ders. This was quickly fol­lowed by a hand­some stone wall and steps down to the Rose Parterre.

At the same time, the Dal­rym­ples be­gan to tackle the is­sue of shel­ter, plant­ing hun­dreds of tree plugs—oaks, beech, alder —in the outer part of the gar­den and, the fol­low­ing year, ad­ding wind­break fenc­ing to tackle the buf­fet­ing ef­fect of the bit­ter, pre­vail­ing wind.

‘It took for­ever—12, 15 years, per­haps— for things to take off and for the gar­den to grow into some­thing mean­ing­ful,’ ex­plains Janey, but, de­spite the slow progress (with ad­di­tional chal­lenges from deer and de­mand­ing pock­ets of sticky clay), plant­ing con­tin­ued to cre­ate the bones of the won­der­ful gar­den that even­tu­ally emerged.

Hedges of box and beech were added—in­clud­ing a fine curved beech hedge that frames the park­ing area at the north side of the house—and two al­lžes, one of stilted horn­beam and one of yew, which lead out­wards to lay­ered views of fields and the coast be­yond.

For Janey, the cre­ation of the for­mal ar­eas of the gar­den felt straight­for­ward and in­tu­itive, but she has found the wilder area be­yond to be a con­stant chal­lenge. Al­most

as soon as the shel­ter belt had be­gun to make its ef­fect felt, the trees be­gan to need care­ful thin­ning and edit­ing: ‘I mull over trees all the time. I’m in a con­stant dilemma about which ones to cut down.’

Now, the hard think­ing and hard work— she’s helped for two days a week by gar­dener Mike Reid—plus, of course, an in­nate sense of style, are pay­ing off. There is now a mown path through a shel­tered, re­laxed wood­land walk, with a seat nes­tled against a ma­ture hawthorn, arch­ing stems of her favourite pale-pink species rose Rosa setip

oda and some choice young or­na­men­tal trees, such as the grey-green-leaved Sor­bus

hu­pe­hen­sis Pink Pagoda, with pink-tinged, white berries, and Cer­cidi­phyl­lum japon­icum for its won­der­ful au­tumn colour and scent of caramelised su­gar.

There are even some mag­no­lias—‘third time lucky’—which are fi­nally sur­viv­ing in their spe­cially drained and shel­tered home.

As you head back to­wards the house, the In­for­mal West Gar­den has a gen­tle, or­chard­like at­mos­phere, with crab ap­ples un­der­planted with pheas­ant’s-eye nar­cis­sus. Against the wall, half-hid­den among claret-leaved cot­i­nus and thriv­ing aga­pan­thus, is a bench to catch the late-af­ter­noon sun—seats in just the right place are, as ever, the sign of a much-loved and much-used gar­den.

At the end of the gar­den, be­yond the crab ap­ples, is a spring bor­der with snow­drops, cy­cla­mens, helle­bores and the del­i­cate, ear­lyflow­er­ing nar­cis­sus Elke. ‘It’s the first thing I look at in the spring. In Fe­bru­ary, I’m up and down, wear­ing a path to it, then never go back again,’ ex­plains Janey with smil­ing bru­tal­ity—a use­ful qual­ity for some­one with an ambitious gar­den in mod­ern times.

Nearer the house, next to the pretty, paved din­ing area with its sur­round­ing walls swathed in the volup­tuous stormy pink rose Al­ber­tine, there is the Peb­ble Mo­saic Gar­den. Here, around a mo­saic de­pict­ing the fam­i­ly­owned Bass Rock, are four crisply sculpted box com­part­ments, each filled with a stan­dard Prunus lusi­tan­ica and Iris pal­l­ida subsp pal­l­ida, the whole sur­rounded by a clipped beech hedge.

On the east side of the house is a hand­some mound, with views across to the Lam­mer­muir Hills. It was cre­ated from sub­soil ex­ca­vated when the kitchen gar­den was in­stalled. The fo­cus of this won­der­fully shel­tered area is a group of four square beds and four L-shaped outer beds all edged

in lux­u­ri­ant green box, which cre­ate a tone of lay­ered soft­ness and plenty.

The beds are filled with dahlias, sweet peas, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries and beans and, against the outer hedge, the crim­so­nand-apri­cot-flushed flow­ers of R. mu­ta­bilis and the bright-pink pe­ony Sarah Bern­hardt glows brightly against green.

Fi­nally, the vis­i­tor is in­tro­duced to the stars of the show: the Rose Parterre and the Top Gar­den. The for­mer is an in­spir­ing, or­dered space, with eight box-edged beds filled with Janey’s favourite roses. These are cho­sen for their colour—they range from pale pink to vel­vety claret—and their ex­cel­lent scent. There is Charles de Mills (her num­ber-one choice), Fantin La­tour, Tus­cany Su­perb, Belle de Crécy, Duchesse de Mon­te­bello, Köni­gin von Däne­mark, Is­pa­han and Maiden’s Blush.

They’re part­nered by Al­lium christophii and the floaty, pale-lilac gera­nium Mrs Ken­dall Clark. Ma­jes­tic four-limbed arches of

Sor­bus aria on one side and Prunus lusi­tan­ica on the other mark the en­trances and a dou­ble row of 12 beau­ti­fully shaped Cratae­gus x lavalleei Car­ri­erei un­der­planted with Gera­nium macr­or­rhizum Ing­w­ersen’s Va­ri­ety form a smart up­per tier.

The hawthorns all lean, just slightly, as a re­sult of the ever-chal­leng­ing wind, but this slight chink in the per­fec­tion adds to the over­all charm—some­thing that’s un­der­pinned by the depth of thought­ful de­tail. There are steps lined with col­umns of pros­trate rose­mary and laced with self-seeded wild straw­berry and there is an­other per­fectly placed bench—with a view to the Top Gar­den—flanked by the lovely green-white­flow­ered um­bel­lifer, Cenolophium de­nuda­tum, which rises above beds of Vi­ola

labrador­ica and ferns. The Top Gar­den is a tri­umph. The re­strained com­bi­na­tion of vel­vety Ir­ish yew, lime-green Al­chemilla mol­lis and a pair of top­i­ary green-and-white hol­lies (Sil­ver Queen) against the white and grey-green paint­work of the house has a sur­pris­ing en­ergy and the colours and tow­er­ing qual­ity of the bor­ders in high sum­mer are an up­lift­ing de­light. ‘When I first planted them, 20

years ago, it was rigidly blues and yel­lows on one side and soft pinks on the other,’ Janey re­calls. These days, there is some­thing more sub­tle go­ing on: the al­most dirty yel­low of Thal­ic­trum flavum ssp glau­cum, danc­ing clouds of Crambe cordi­fo­lia, the low-level slate-pur­ple fo­liage of Cerinthe ma­jor Pur­puras­cens and pools of claret and scar­let snap­drag­ons make an ex­hil­a­rat­ing foil to the dazzling elec­tric blues of the del­phini­ums. There are more roses, of­ten in in-be­tween shades, such as the apri­cot yel­low of Buff Beauty or Phyl­lis Bide, which is yel­low flushed with salmon pink.

In spring, the cel­e­bra­tion be­gins again with tulips in elu­sive shot-silk colours such as Bleu Aimable and Malaika balanced by the fresh­ness of Spring Green and the dark ac­cents of Havran.

At the be­gin­ning of my visit, Janey sug­gests that the gar­den is per­haps rather old­fash­ioned. I think it pos­si­bly is—but old­fash­ioned in the most ro­man­tic, up­lift­ing, com­fort­able way, gar­dened in­tu­itively by some­one who’s con­stantly in the gar­den look­ing, mov­ing a plant or try­ing some­thing new.

It’s a gar­den laid out so that there’s al­ways some­where to sit and al­ways a view through a gen­tly painted door­way clothed in a ridicu­lously florif­er­ous rose to lure you through to the room be­yond.

Black­dykes, North Ber­wick, East Loth­ian. Gar­den groups wel­come by ap­point­ment (01620 894019; janey@black­

Pho­to­graphs by Val Cor­bett

A flo­ral hide­away: Kolk­witzia am­a­bilis Pink Cloud with Iris Quechee and com­mu­nis subsp byzanti­nus sur­round a well-placed bench Gla­di­o­lus

Pre­ced­ing pages: The Top Gar­den viewed across the box parterre known as the Zig Zags to the East Bor­der. Above: The Kitchen Gar­den, with its box-edged beds

Mounds of cat­mint and white gera­nium soften the box hedges of the Rose Parterre, with Rosa Charles de Mills bot­tom right

The East Bor­der, with Paeo­nia lac­t­i­flora Bowl of Beauty, An­tir­rhinum Lib­erty Clas­sic Crim­son, Al­lium ni­grum and Rosa Fritz No­bis

Top: Trained over the arch, the ‘Shel­don Rose’ was grown from a cut­ting from the gar­den at Shel­don Manor—a present from Hew Dal­rym­ple’s aunt. Above: The crisply sculpted box-edged com­part­ments of the Peb­ble Mo­saic Gar­den

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