An inspired Angus garden
In the latest of our occasional series featuring gardens opening to the public under the auspices of Scotland’s Gardens, Helen Brown takes a look at an Angus garden brought back to life with imagination and loving attention to detail
VITA SACKVILLE- WEST’S iconic estate at Sissinghurst in Kent was famed for its white garden, an inspiration to garden designers ever since. The formal white garden at Gallery, near Hillside, by Montrose is certainly a striking example of white used to great effect and is only one element of a fascinating redesign that has preserved and extended its longestablished existing framework.
Mr John Simson and his late wife returned to Angus to live in 1995. His forebears had lived there for many years and he had fond childhood memories of staying with his grandmother nearby. Although he spent most of his working life away, the impetus to come back in retirement was strong enough for the couple to buy the lovely 17th century house at Gallery and create a garden designed both to preserve its historic elements and bring it into the 21st century.
Mr Simson explained: “There had always been a formal garden here but it had been neglected and needed attention.
“One of the first steps we took, not being gardeners ourselves, was to take on Ron Stephen and he has done wonders with the place. My wife trained as an artist and one of her art school colleagues, Veronica Adams, became a garden designer so we
Gallery, Montrose DD10 9LA is open tomorrow from 2- 5pm. Admission £ 4 ( children free), proceeds to SG Beneficiaries and Practical Action. consulted her about the structure of the place, also taking inspiration from the concept of ‘ garden rooms’ that we had enjoyed at Crathes Castle.”
The result is a garden of roughly oneanda- half acres described by Glendoick’s Ken Cox as “a garden of theatre” with striking focal points and something interesting around every corner.
There is an axis path with a listed sundial and circular central areas that form the link between sections such as the gold garden, summer garden and old rose garden. The gold garden is one of the most recent developments, over the past three years or so, with the golds, ambers and yellows, with blue highlights, created both by foliage and flowers including conifers, laburnum and peonies amongst many others.
A sunken garden was built by Ron using Carmyllie quarry stone adding different levels. Topiary has also been reshaped.
Ron explained that many of the original old roses had suffered badly in the terrible winter weather of recent years but new planting has been undertaken and the roses are beginning to make their mark again — he reeled off great traditional names such as Cornelia, Fantin Latour, Gertrude Jekyll, Queen of Sweden, Eglantine and Empress Josephine. One elderly lady visitor was so impressed she declared she was “in rose heaven.”
When Ron came to Gallery the summer garden was plain meadow land with fruit trees but now boasts planting for both colour and texture, including an informal rose hedge and banks of old yew.
There are also privet hedges throughout the garden.
The white garden, with its 17th century wall, is perhaps the most striking area, created around a fountain and pond, adding the gentle sound of water to the visual feast for the eye. More Carmyllie stone was used in hard landscaping and Ron managed to source old flags for pathways. A raised platform and pergola at the back offers wonderful views of both garden and house.
“The first two years were preparation and that has paid off with some of the results,” Ron explained. He hand- dug much of the ground and added feeding with trace elements. “We also altered elements of the planting plan to take into account Scottish conditions and what would grow well here.
“Gardening is all about proportion and there is enough space here to make sure everything works as a whole.”
Alongside the imaginative planting, there are also quirky elements, from stone mushooms in the hosta borders to castiron thistles rearing their heads amongst the genuine foliage.
There is also a woodland garden, with a walk taking visitors past a flock of rare breed Castlemilk sheep and a wide border of heathers on the outside of the original garden wall. This leads down to the River North Esk with lovely views over both the river and the surrounding landscape.