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Meet Helen Carmichael – Princeland House

February 5th 2020

My love for gardening and the beginning of Princeland House


I got the feel for gardening in my late thirties. That feel became an obsession, so much so that after attending a few short courses at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, I started a small but successful gardening and design business, which carried on for eighteen years.

Four years ago my family moved to Perthshire, to a neglected house and garden, the policies of which total just under 8 acres. I won’t deny that the garden is a labour of love, but the reward from working in it almost every day is supremely satisfying. I can almost hear the garden breathing with relief as a new season begins, bringing with it a sense of anticipation and satisfaction as the garden evolves into a creation that slowly, but surely resembles the painting inside my head.

I drive my family to distraction with torrents of creative ideas – and even more so when I start to implement them. The achievements in this garden are a result of a huge family effort. I’d like to leave a legacy of having created something special here, and I’m hoping that our hard work will pay off soon when my “bright ideas” come to fruition.

The inspiration for the garden comes from a scarf given to me by my husband. It was full of swirls and paisley-patterned shapes with rounded feminine corners and not one straight line. I wanted to emulate this in my design for Princeland’s gardens by following the rolling peaks of the glens in hedges that we planted, which now divide the lawns that we made. These hedges are almost ready to be shaped, and this will be an exciting job (I can hear my husband groaning again).

I often get asked about what it is that inspires me and drives me. Truth be told, I was diagnosed with cancer just before we moved to Princeland. So, every day is now a bonus. I’m hoping to have the chance to bring the garden back to life, and to be given the time to do this.

I like the garden to evolve and the design to flow from one area to the next. It is important to me to keep the integrity of the house and its surroundings, and in doing so there is an element of trial and error.  The Iris bed is on its last warning and is now on the cusp of being ditched. The mature yew hedge (planted when we arrived) is almost established, but still needs TLC.

However, the successes outweigh the irritations: the snowdrop path, the start of a Himalayan garden, the beginnings of a topiary garden, new hedging and tree replanting. I hear birdsong every morning in the gardens here. I’m a very lucky lady.