Gar­den of the Week

This idyl­lic Scot­tish gar­den set in rolling coun­try­side is strong on colour, struc­ture and char­ac­ter, even in the cold­est months

Garden News (UK) - - News - Words Fiona Cum­ber­patch Pho­tos Ray Cox

Abrand new house with a largely empty, fea­ture­less gar­den ini­tially pre­sented Sally and Jim McCul­loch with a chal­lenge when they moved in some 13 years ago. The set­ting, with views over rolling coun­try­side just out­side Glas­gow, was idyl­lic, and the house was ev­ery­thing they wished for, but with three young daugh­ters and lit­tle gar­den­ing knowl­edge, they weren’t sure where to be­gin out­side.

Sally turned to gar­den de­signer Anne Mac­fie, and they’ve worked as a team to trans­form an empty field into a struc­tured space, full of rich, glow­ing colours and in­ter­est­ing plants, which is ca­pa­ble of stand­ing up to some harsh weather and strong winds.

“I al­ways knew we couldn’t have lit­tle del­i­cate flow­ers and pots in this gar­den as we’re ex­posed here, and win­ters can be cold,” says Sally. “We needed hardy shrubs and strong plants which would ma­ture, de­velop and ideally flow into the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. I’m not keen on plant sup­ports, I don’t like the look of metal in a coun­try gar­den, so our choices were also in­flu­enced by that.”

Even at this time of year, the gar­den is ablaze with colour, from Sally’s favourite ac­ers fram­ing her front door, which will be dec­o­rated with lights in the fes­tive sea­son, to the glo­ri­ous mop­heads of her hy­drangeas planted near the gates of her home, which change from

cobalt-blue to the rich­est rasp­berry-red in the au­tumn. A mass of golden rud­beck­ias have just gone over, but the multi-coloured leaves of a kat­sura tree are lin­ger­ing. Care­fully main­tained ev­er­greens pro­vide shape and or­der in the borders.

Sally and Jim wanted to cre­ate de­fined ar­eas in the gar­den, with a pa­tio at the side of the house, a fur­ther seat­ing spot near some cir­cu­lar paving, and screen­ing along the plot bound­aries. They chose paths to join the zones to­gether, and asked de­signer Anne to help them cre­ate sea­sonal in­ter­est and colour all year. “While it’s a large space, there aren’t too many ar­eas of hard land­scap­ing. In­stead, I used swathes of plant­ing to de­fine ar­eas and of­fer screen­ing and in­ter­est,” ex­plains Anne.

She planted with small spec­i­mens, but a regime of ju­di­cious feed­ing and main­te­nance has paid off, and the gar­den looks as if it has been in place for far more than its 13 years. “It’s proof that if plants are well cared for they’ll es­tab­lish well and grow healthily,” points out Anne.

Jim, a keen golfer, loves well main­tained green lawns. Ini­tially, the gar­den suf­fered from poor drainage, and this pre­sented a prob­lem. Field drains were in­stalled, and with reg­u­lar tin­ing, sand­ing and feed­ing, the grass now looks healthy, al­though it’s an on­go­ing process and Sally ad­mits that it still gets soggy in win­ter.

The soil was poor when the McCul­lochs be­gan, and it has taken many loads of top­soil, plenty of fer­tiliser, par­tic­u­larly blood, fish and bone, and sul­phate of iron to en­rich what was there. Com­posted bark is reg­u­larly added to re­tain nu­tri­ents.

“We have help from our gar­dener, Gor­don, with the con­stant feed­ing that’s needed in the grow­ing sea­son, and also to shape the hedges and ev­er­greens and keep on top of the borders,” says Sally.

“I’m very en­thu­si­as­tic, and my love for gar­den­ing grows ev­ery

year, but I do the tin­ker­ing rather than the hard graft!”

She and Jim have a pas­sion for cer­tain plants. “We love rhodo­den­drons and they grow very well here in our acid soil. We have pale pink, lilac ones and deep crim­son, and they re­ally make a beau­ti­ful dis­play in spring. I’ve a herb gar­den just out­side the back door, as I love to cook, and I grow my favourite le­mon thyme, lots of rose­mary and laven­der.”

Jim favours aza­leas and the cou­ple have lined their drive with yel­low ones. Other er­i­ca­ceous plants which thrive here are camel­lias and pieris. For the win­ter gar­den, Sally also loves helle­bores in deep colours, low-main­te­nance skim­mias and scar­let-berried holly.

While the win­ters might be harsh, Sally, Jim and their two labradors con­tinue to en­joy their gar­den through­out the year, of­ten sit­ting out on their bal­cony to watch the sun set over the fields. “You just can’t beat the colours here,” says Sally. “I knew noth­ing when we started here with Anne, and I’m still no ex­pert. But it’s an on­go­ing project and the joy I get from my gar­den is just im­mense.”

Gar­dener Sally and Jim McCul­loch Lo­ca­tion 2 Cy­press Grove, Bridge of Weir, Scot­land Size of gar­den Around an acre Soil Acidic Been in gar­den 13 years

The gar­den is full of colour and life right now, along with plenty of char­ac­ter. Care­fully shaped ev­er­greens by the front door pro­vide struc­ture and a “touch of cheek­i­ness in the borders”

Gravel and slab path­ways con­nect the dif­fer­ent zones of the gar­den but hard land­scap­ing has been kept to a min­i­mum, with hedges pro­vid­ing di­vi­sions in­stead

Gold rud­beck­ias and jewel-bright asters make the per­fect pair­ing

Hy­drangeas thrive here and their bright heads turn to rasp­berry-red in Novem­ber

Even now the borders have a lot of in­ter­est. Here rhodo­den­dron, pho­tinia, holly, cot­i­nus and Ja­panese anemones jos­tle pret­tily to­gether

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