-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Aberdeenshire inspiration

We’ve just got back from 4 days in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, spent mostly visiting castles and gardens albeit in somewhat drizzly weather. As is usual whenever we travel now, we came back armed magpie-like with ideas for Amherst! You can see the full set of photos here but these are the main ideas:

For the garden:

My favourite of the gardens we visited was at Leith Hall, as it was the most ‘English’ of the lot with a huge zigzagging herbaceous border and lots of flowers and specimen trees. Ideas it sparked included:

Gates that shut themselves by means of a heavy stone weight tied to them
082 leith hall

Having a circular gateway like their moongate. Not sure how hard it would be to make, but in the right spot it could be really effective.
101 leith hall

Mowing the grass to make a pattern. I’ve seen this done before to create walkways, but never as effectively to create a decorative pattern.
104 leith hall

A close second to Leith Hall of my favourite gardens was at Crathes Castle. It was the first we visited on this trip. Ideas we got from it:

Lupins lupins lupins. They were everywhere in full bloom, especially in the garden at Crathes Castle which had an entire border full of them. They really looked spectacular. I’m going to give them another chance in our London garden, plus put them on the list for the ‘cossetted’ secret garden area at Amherst.
015 crathes castle

Square rope like netting stretched between stakes all along the herbaceous border was used at almost all the gardens we visited, but we saw it most at Crathes. I’d not seen it before, I guess because we’d not visited early enough in the season before the plants had grown. It was put about thigh height and the plants just grew up through it so that it provided them with support and held the flower stalks up straight. A very clever idea I shall definitely borrow, a lot easier than attempting to stake individual plants.
011 crathes castle

Gravelled paths but letting the edges go a bit wild so that succulents and little creepers can spread in the margins
034 crathes castle

Garden gates made of curved metal strips. I love cast iron gates but as I don’t know any friendly blacksmiths I figure we won’t be able to ever afford them. But, perhaps we will be able to find some readymade curved metal strips which by judicious weaving and screwing together, and black paint, we could get this effect.
006 crathes castle

Dave found a lovely creeper which has pink and white mottled leaves as well as green. It is called actinidia kolomikta.
025 crathes castle

The only non-castle-attached garden we visited was Pitmedden Garden. I learned once and for all that I do not much like parterre style beds and elaborate planting out schemes. Which is good as I’ve now spared myself a trip to Versailles! But we did see some things we liked there, including:

Apples and other fruit espaliered not against a wall, but along and over a curved arch walkway, like you would more commonly see with roses.
067 pitmedden garden

Double rows of limes (or linden trees as Dave prefers to call them) planted close enough and pruned to create a walkway.
068 pitmedden garden

Carefully chosen sculpture can really enhance a garden – we both loved the lifesize boxing hares on the main lawn.
069 pitmedden garden

Drum Castle was the last of the castles we visited, and we spent a lot of time in the garden as we got there too early! Most of the things we'd seen elsewhere though, so although it was lovely we didn't get any new ideas. The sole exception was that there was a spectacular tree, called davidia involucrata... aka the pocket handkerchief tree!
137 drum castle

For the house:

There weren’t as many ideas as you might expect considering we visited 5 houses, but with only one exception they were all very different to the usual style of place we visit. They were mostly castles, and Scottish style castles at that, which tended to have a lot of narrow towers with lots of winding stone steps. We visited in order, Crathes castle, Haddo House, Leith Hall (like a mini-castle), Craigievar castle and Drum castle.

Some of the ideas:

The importance of rugs. You can never have enough rugs it seems, and if you can’t get giant ones that cover a room, then just get 3 or 4 and scatter them around. They don’t even need to match to look good provided they’re all of similar style, and they look even nicer when they’re worn. So I’m on the lookout for old rugs, I wonder where you get them from?

Tapestry seats on chairs. I might even experiment with re-upholstering the new dining chairs with tapestry seats, if I can find some ready-done tapestry. I’ve seen it come up on Ebay occasionally. I just don’t have the patience to do the lot myself!

Little flaps, about the width of a bookmark but lying perpendicular to the book, hanging from the top of each shelf in a library. It stops the dust getting onto the books in the shelf below. Dave reckoned we could do it using Velcro to hold the strips on and then just have a piece of wood that sits over the top to give the illusion of a straight edge. When it got dusty you could just peel the Velcro off and wash them.

Dave is keen on the idea of having a ‘Great Hall’, aka a long room with barrel vaulted ceiling. We talked about maybe having the library at Amherst in this style. I was also wondering about putting the giant stained glass lamp in there, with a skylight above it, but would have to try it out in SketchUp to test it didn’t disrupt the symmetry.

Rather than having a chair that converts to a 2-step stepladder, have instead a longer bench or stool that converts to a 4-step stepladder.

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