Secret gardens reveal
From a treeless landscape in the 16th Century to a beautiful present-day estate, the grounds of Dunninald, near Montrose, have followed the path of history. Now open to the public until the end of this month, the gardens share their secrets, as Helen Brow
THE STANSFELD family has been at Dunninald since the 19th Century and the current children are the sixth generation of Stansfelds living there. Mary and Edward Stansfeld moved in five years ago from the farmhouse at Dunninald Mains with their two teenage children Katharine and Harry and sharing the house with Edward’s parents Jonathan and Rosalinde.
Mary Stansfeld explained: “Katharine is a guide this year, with Louise Leslie, from Montrose — they are both currently students — and will be taking groups around the house.”
Dunninald has been opened to the public for four summer weeks each year for the past 15 years and has already had snowdrop and bluebell openings in 2013. Of particular note is the walled garden on a south-facing slope, with trees around the wall — the north wall is unusual in that it is curved, which suits the fruit trees, pruned into fan shapes. There are fireplaces within the garden wall which would have warmed it to protect the blossom from frosts.
Mrs Stansfeld added: “I love the big picture of the whole landscape. For me, a favourite is very definitely the wild garden and the woodland walk — I take the dogs there and I love the informality of it. This is the time of year when the roses are coming out, the sweet peas are flowering and by the end of the month, the hoheria will be in full bloom. In July, the herbaceous borders along the central path are an abundance of colour — blue, yellow and white, delphiniums and cephalaria standing high at the back. An unusual thistle-like plant, cirsium, is very popular with bees. Two rows of espalier apple trees, planted to celebrate my parents-in-law’s silver wedding in 1991, frame these borders and separate separate the flowers from the vegetables. The walled garden is a family garden, providing vegetables for the house, as well as a peaceful place to retreat to and enjoy.
“Visitors love it too; it’s a classic secret garden. It really brings a smile to people’s faces — there’s definitely a ‘wow’ factor when they walk in.” The iron gate at the north entrance is known as the Union gate, designed and made in 1907 with thistles for Scotland, roses for England, shamrocks for Ireland and daffodils for Wales.
This year, a new gardener, Gordon Watson, has taken up his post, coming to the estate from looking after the garden at Auchindoune, the dower house of Cawdor Castle, near Nairn. After qualifying through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, he comes with a wealth of experience of everything from tackling hospital grounds, such as Corstorphine and Beechmount in Edinburgh, through to Border estates, including Manderston and The Yair and the Queen Mother’s estate at Birkhall. He didn’t know the Dunninald gardens before he arrived but quickly recognised their individuality and beauty.
“They’re full of wonderful plants and sections. There’s so much variety — with my colleague Barry Watson (no relation!), I’m getting to grips with vegetable growing in the beds and greenhouses, as well as planting more thyme and getting straight lines on the grass!”
Dunninald Castle and gardens, Montrose, Angus, DD10 9TD, are open until July 29 (closed Mondays), between noon and 5pm. The first tour of the house is at 1pm, then hourly thereafter. Admission to house and gardens is £6 and to the gardens only £4. Students and over-65s cost £5 and children under 12 go free. Website: www.dunninald.com.
The gardens play host to many varieties of plant and tree.