Gateway to Rouken Glen Park walled garden in Glasgow
THE SCOTTISH GARDEN - WHAT IS IT?
'Garden', according to my dictionary, is 'a piece of ground on which flowers, etc are cultivated, adjoining a house.' So, there you go. What else do you need to know?
Scotland has many gardens, from the grand spectacular jobs attached to castles and stately homes to smaller floral oases that are indeed adjoining someone's house. Between these two extremes are many variations, like walled gardens in parks (nae hoose - can we still call them gardens?), botanic gardens with bubbly glasshouses, and beer gardens. Actually, rarely will you find many flowers in a beer garden, as many beer gardens are rather ungardeny lumps of tarmac in which one may merely sup ale outside (two exceptions spring immediately to mind: The Tower, at 81 East High Street in Crieff, and The Village Inn in Arrochar - both true beer gardens and quite lovely).
I suppose the main thing that links all these things is man. For a garden is invariably something that man has created. Flowers and trees grow quite happily in the great outdoors. They do not need man's attention to blossom. But when man starts arranging them, planting trees and flowers, creating borders and paths, in a manner that leads to a greater pleasure than the individual plants can bring when left to their own devices, well... that's a garden.
GATEWAY TO THE WALLED GARDEN IN ROUKEN GLEN PARK, GLASGOW
Scottish Gardens text heading
MELROSE AND SCOTCH RED ROUGH
Scotland's gardens were created, and exist, for a variety of reasons. We didn't just suddenly create gardens that looked nice. We built up to this visual and aromatic splendour over many hundreds of years.
I suppose the first gardens were those where folk grew things, food to eat, like fruit in the shape of apple trees or raspberry bushes (check out the apple and pear orchard at Elcho Castle near Perth, or the Melrose apple trees and Scotch Rough Red gooseberry bushes at Jedburgh Abbey), or sundry herbs and vegetables that both flavoured our food and gave us nutrition. Even if you were rich enough to have your own castle you still needed to eat, and many castles would have had an area where plants were grown for eating.
Some of these gardens would have been subdivided, with areas put aside to provide food, and areas where special herbs were grown, herbs that might have been used in medicinal potions. Herb gardens were common. The oldest house in Glasgow - Provand's Lordship - once the manse for a nearby hospital in the medieval period - had its own herb or physic garden, used to provide material employed in the treatment of patients.
When castles ceased to perform a defensive role, and the rich men who owned them had time and money on their hands, many castle gardens truly blossomed, although it didn't happen overnight.
SCOTLAND'S GARDENS TODAY
Scotland is awash with gardens. Walk along the street in a suburban area and chances are you will see gardens attached to people's houses, and it is incredible what man can do with a small plot of land to transform it into a thing of beauty. You can see botanic gardens in Glasgow and Edinburgh and other big cities, and public parks all over the country often conceal a walled garden. The walled garden in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow is a good example of how delightful such places can be when in full bloom. The National Trust for Scotland has a number of gardens under its care, and it's always worth popping into one if you come upon it. Priorwood Gardens in Melrose, for example, is a good place to see strange apple trees bearing varieties like 'Tower of Glamis' or 'Galloway Pippin'. They also look after Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright, a lovely little garden with streams and trees and a jumble of snaking paths.
Then you have the big houses, the stately homes, the palaces and the castles. Falkland Palace, for example, has a garden, a most peaceful place to spend a while. Or Pollock House in Glasgow, whose garden is as sumptuous and picturesque as the house itself. There are gardens in castles in Stirling, Aberdour and Edzell, and such green retreats invariably offer a small wonderful moment or two of respite before plunging up or down another tight spiral stair.
If you were to ask me what my favourite Scottish garden was, it would be a difficult one. It would be hard to beat the walled garden at Bellahouston Park when the flowers are in full bloom. And yet, my heart is drawn to Dunfermline. For behind the big orange house that is the Abbot House Heritage Centre is a small yet perfectly formed garden where thistles grow and kings doth feast.
Visit a Scottish garden. You know you want to.
FROM TURNIPS TO MAZES
My theory is that way back in the mists of time someone stood in a castle garden and thought, 'Michty me, but that row of turnips looks braw. Ah wonder if ah planted them in a pattern it might look even brawer? Next year, ah'll plant a maze o' turnips!'
Or maybe someone thought the mint he had in his garden made the air smell nice, and he thought to plant more mint not just to use in food but to smell when he was out of doors in his castle garden immersed in thought. The history of Scotland's gardens is of course a tad more detailed that what I give you here. The folk who tell the story of Scottish gardens invariably end up using big words like 'Renaissance' but, to be honest, I've never really known what 'Renaissance' means so I generally just miss it out altogether. I feel the history of Scotland's gardens is easier to grasp if one sticks just with turnips.
A great deal of effort was put into the design of such gardens, and what emerged from much sweat and shifting of earth were some of the most beautiful manmade places on Earth. You only have to visit the gardens of Edzell Castle, Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran, Culzean Castle, or Drummond Castle near Crieff, to see how magnificent such gardens became, in particular Drummond Castle Gardens which are truly breathtaking.
Of course, as well as the pretty side of things gardens still needed to be functional and provide food. Walled gardens in big country estates were created to keep the castle or country house's food safe from animals that might eat it, and perhaps to protect the plants from the worst of any wind and weather that might otherwise be thrown at them. As I mentioned above, some public parks have walled gardens, and these were at one time part of an estate with a big house, the whole estate now turned into a park and the big house more often than not long gone.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
July 2013
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SCOTTISH GARDEN GUIDE

   
BROUGHTON HOUSE
The garden attached to this house in Kirkcudbright is small, rambling, and quite charming. The Scottish artist E. A. Hornel once owned the house. [See Kirkcudbright pages.]
Broughton House Garden, Kirkcudbright
PROVAND'S LORDSHIP
This old house, the oldest in Glasgow, was once the manse for a hospital. The hospital would have had a herb garden. The garden here is modern and very nice. [See Glasgow pages.]
The garden of Provand's Lordship in Glasgow
PRESTON TOWER
Although Preston Tower in Prestonpans is no longer open to the public, its garden is open, and a very nice peaceful garden it is. A good place to rest awhile. [See Prestonpans pages.]
The garden of Preston Tower in Prestonpans
POLLOCK HOUSE
Pollock House, on Glasgow's outskirts, has a rather beautiful small garden, complete with hedge knots, stone urns, and all that kind of thing. Most certainly worth a trip to see.
The garden of Pollock House in Glasgow
DRUMMOND CASTLE
I hope this small photo conveys a little of how stunning Drummond Castle Gardens are. Although the castle is not open, it's gardens are. [See Muthill & Crieff pages.]
Drummond Castle Gardens, between Muthill and Crieff
ABBOT HOUSE
This garden is at the rear of the Abbot House Heritage Centre in Dunfermline, beside Dunfermline Abbey. You can sit in it and eat food from the cafe. [See Dunfermline pages.]
The garden of the Abbot House Heritage Centre in Dunfermline
PRINCES STREET
These gardens, more a small park, sit between Princes Street and the castle in Edinburgh. Look out for the large flower clock. [See Edinburgh pages.]
Visitors admiring Edinburgh Castle from West Princes Street Gardens
BRIG O' DOON
There are gardens around the Burns Monument in Alloway, between the monument and the Brig o' Doon. A most scenic location. [See Alloway pages.]
Gardens by the Burns Monument and the Brig 'o Doon in Alloway
THE HILL HOUSE
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House in Helensburgh has a garden with apple trees. Might be best to ask before you sample one or two! [See Helensburgh pages.]
Apple trees in the garden of The Hill House in Helensburgh
BRODICK CASTLE
Brodick Castle and Garden are on the isle of Arran, so if you wish to visit them then an adventure is required, and a most memorable adventure at that. [See Brodick pages.]
The gardens of Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran
Bee on a Scottish thistle - clan and Royal symbol of Scottish kings
Bee on a Scottish thistle - clan and Royal symbol of Scottish kings
Scotland's online tourist guide's July 2013 News page - A Scottish Gardens Special
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Bellahouston Park's Walled Garden in Glasgow
BELLAHOUSTON PARK'S WALLED GARDEN IN GLASGOW, IN FULL BLOOM