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 Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - House & Home -

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.

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