ART OF THE GAR­DEN

The own­ers of Shep­herd House in In­veresk have used their artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties to de­sign and shape their out­door spa­ces

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS - WORDS AN­TOINETTE GALBRAITH IM­AGES AN­GUS BLACK­BURN

There’s real artis­tic tal­ent on show in the tri­an­gu­lar walled gar­den of Shep­herd House in In­veresk

It’s the mid­dle of the win­ter but the gar­den at Shep­herd House, the tri­an­gu­lar walled gar­den in In­veresk be­long­ing to Sir Charles Fraser and his artist wife Lady Ann, is burst­ing with ex­cite­ment. Drifts of pink, white, pur­ple and some al­most black helle­bores glow in the bor­ders while Iris retic­u­lata and fra­grant Iris un­guic­u­laris fill the nar­row beds be­side the or­ange painted wall of the cot­tage.

There are drifts of un­usual snow­drops with names like Lit­tle Ben, David Shack­le­ton, Percy Pic­ton and Nerissa scat­tered through­out the wilder ar­eas of the gar­den where they min­gle with pur­ple and blue cro­cus, scil­las, anemones, frit­il­lar­ies, aconites and many more early spring bulbs.

‘Ev­ery morn­ing I go out into the gar­den to check which of the bulbs are flow­er­ing and which I might in­clude in the cur­rent paint­ing or pick for the kitchen ta­ble,’ Ann ex­plains. ‘I. un­guic­u­laris, the pur­ple Al­ge­rian iris, is a par­tic­u­lar favourite as it has a won­der­ful scent.

‘ Hard land­scap­ing and plant­ing schemes evolved slowly’

‘ We have strongly scented win­ter box Sar­co­cocca con­fusa and catch its scent ev­ery time we pass’

We also have the very strongly scented win­ter box Sar­co­cocca con­fusa be­side the path from the garage and catch its scent ev­ery time we pass.’

Such per­fec­tion took time to achieve but this year the cou­ple will cel­e­brate 60 years of liv­ing and gar­den­ing at Shep­herd House with a new laven­der gar­den. In Septem­ber, they will mark their di­a­mond wed­ding an­niver­sary with the in­stal­la­tion of a di­a­mond-shaped sculpture. It is made from pol­ished stain­less steel by Sus­sex-based artist Cameron Foye, whose work the cou­ple first ad­mired in their son’s gar­den near Kelso. Th­ese are just the lat­est in a se­ries of fea­tures that fill this gar­den and make it as in­ter­est­ing in win­ter as in sum­mer.

For the first 25 years the gar­den was a chil­dren’s play­ground. Charles did t he gar­den and Ann bought ‘the odd plant’, but once the chil­dren left home she be­came in­ter­ested in re­shap­ing the gar­den. ‘ There was no over­all plan,’ she says. ‘Hard land­scap­ing and plant­ing schemes evolved slowly, as the ideas came. We were in­spired by vis­its to other gardens and from read­ing books and mag­a­zines.’ The dry, free-drain­ing slightly al­ka­line soil was easy to work with the ad­di­tion of plenty of com­post.

Mean­while Ann en­rolled at the Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art in draw­ing and paint­ing, later com­plet­ing a course in botan­i­cal paint­ing at the Royal Botanic Gar­den in Ed­in­burgh. Here she de­vel­oped a pas­sion for tulips: her paint­ings of tulips, along with her other plants, fea­ture fre­quently in sell-out ex­hi­bi­tions.

The main gar­den is sit­u­ated to the rear of the 17th century house but the front gar­den with its in­tri­cate box parterre punc­tu­ated with

‘A flight of stone steps set in the raised alpine wall leads onto the up­per gar­den’

stan­dard ice­berg roses, sets the tone. Vis­i­tors will nor­mally en­ter the main gar­den, which is di­vided into two parts, through the side gate set in walls es­paliered with or­ange-berried pyra­can­tha.

The fo­cal point in the lower gar­den is the court­yard gar­den, where her­ring­bone brick paths di­vide four colour-themed beds, each planted with a stan­dard holly for height. Here Ann grows the tulips, tall bearded irises and ori­en­tal pop­pies which she loves to paint in a palate of colours from deep pink and pur­ple, to blues, whites and greys and yel­lows.

A flight of stone steps set in the raised alpine wall leads be­tween cor­dons of Malus ‘Red Sen­tinel’ onto the tulip mo­saic by Mag­gie Howarth and the up­per gar­den. Here the fo­cal point is the rec­tan­gu­lar, stone-edged pond fed from the cen­tral rill flow­ing from a clas­si­cal raised pond set with four foun­tains in the back wall. Edged in spring with Tulipa ‘White Tri­umpha­tor’, the pond is a spec­tac­u­lar sight.

In con­trast to the for­mal stone work, ap­prox­i­mately a quar­ter of the gar­den is de­voted to in­for­mal plant­ings of trees – among the favourites are Cor­nus ‘Ed­die’s White Won­der’ and deep brown-barked Prunus ser­rula, un­der-

planted with spring bulbs fol­lowed in sum­mer by wild­flow­ers.

As the ideas kept com­ing, a stone pot­ting shed with a live roof ‘that must be hand-weeded on hands and knees’, was built to match an or­na­men­tal sheep fank, com­plete with its own sheep clipped from box. Th­ese were fol­lowed by the in­trigu­ing Shell House de­signed by Lach­lan Ste­wart of ANTA Ar­chi­tec­ture, whose work Charles and Ann ad­mired at the Royal Botanic Gar­den Ed­in­burgh. Equally strik­ing is

Girl Wash­ing Her Hair at the pond, by the late sculp­tor Ger­ald Laing. Pot­ter­ing about, un­con­cerned, are Charles’s fluffy white silkies, which ‘scratch the beds but are for­given’.

For this in­spi­ra­tional cou­ple the work in the gar­den is on­go­ing and changes are al­ways be­ing planned. ‘The process is the pur­pose,’ says Char­lie. ‘We find the most ex­cit­ing thing about the gar­den is planning the next project.’

Clock­wise from top left: Daz­zling pur­ple cro­cuses; Ash­wood Gar­den Hy­brid Helle­bore ‘Yel­low Ham­mer’; box hedg­ing; snow­drops – a sym­bol of spring; a metal cock­erel in amongst the flower beds.

Above: Sir Charles and Lady Ann Fraser and dog Blos­som. Top: An or­na­men­tal sheep fank com­plete with ‘box’ sheep. Right: The Shell House by Lach­lan Stu­art of ANTA Ar­chi­tects.

Top: Scar­let, es­paliered Malus ‘Red Sen­tinel’ be­tween the court­yard and main gar­den. Right: Var­ie­gated red and white helle­bore. Be­low: A fluffy white silkie chicken on the loose in the beds.

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