Meet Mo, Ally and Danny from Aberdour Castle and GardensAugust 10th 2021
Since summer 2018, Aberdour Castle gardens have been maintained by Mo and Ally, with Danny joining a year later. When the team was first established, the plan was to renovate the gardens to make them as much of a feature as the castle itself and, as a result, the bulk of the work has been focused on rejuvenating the four tired herbaceous borders within the walled garden and restoring the under-appreciated orchard.
Through the centuries
The gardens and surrounding grounds provide the backdrop for Aberdour Castle, parts of which date back to the 12thcentury. This makes it one of the oldest castles in Scotland. The gardens themselves were implemented in the 17thcentury and have been used for a variety of purposes, such as a market garden, pig enclosure, rose garden, bowling green, archaeological dig site, and pasture for sheep grazing. Despite the rich history, there is little documentation detailing exactly what the gardens were like back in the day, which has allowed us a certain freedom in creating historically sensitive, contemporary planting designs.
In a nod to the gardening trends of the castle’s heyday, we have used some simple techniques to recreate what the garden may have looked like. By mowing a design into one of the lawns, the sense of a traditional knot garden is evoked. We are also gradually introducing neatly clipped topiary and espaliered fruit trees, both of which would have been present in the pleasure gardens of that period.
For all seasons
We have selected different plants to incorporate as much seasonal interest as possible to ensure that the site is worth visiting all year round. In spring, thousands of bulbs bring some early colour- varieties of daffodil, tulip and muscarii really brighten the place up, while the orchard is filled with delicately scented apple blossoms. Euphorbia species and Wisteria follow shortly after, bridging the gap into summer.
The northmost border in the walled garden is the main star during summer. South-facing, it gets non-stop sun, and once it starts it stays bright all spring and summer. At the moment, Verbascum, Leucanthemum x superbum andAnthemis tinctoria ‘E.C. Buxton’ are flowering beautifully. We also grow a wide variety of annual flowers, bringing them on from seed in the greenhouse in spring to provide us with vibrant colours to fill any gaps in the borders.
The shaded and cooler South Border doesn’t get much sun until late spring, so is a little slower - but the rich colours of the plants that prosper in the shade are at their best in the autumn months, when a huge Parthenocissus quinquefolia provides vibrant red backdrop.
Over winter, there are a few lingering seed heads which provide some much-needed interest. Alongside several evergreen shrubs, and with the redevelopment of the final border in the walled garden, we are aiming to introduce several more architectural plants which will retain their form over winter and provide some visual interest as well as a source of food and shelter for wildlife.
During the lockdown of 2020, all work including gardening ceased at Aberdour and by the time we were permitted back on site, the grounds were, in a word, wild. The bowling green, orchard, and terraced lawns had become grasslands and although they were unruly, they were full of wildlife. The site was overgrown, but there was an undeniable beauty to the long grass swaying in the wind. Seeing how nature reclaimed the site, and how visually striking it could look has encouraged us to take a different approach to the intensive lawn maintenance which had become the norm. This year, large sections of the grass were left to grow long and after only one growing season we have already seen masses of wildflowers.
Our favourite things
One of the best things about working in Aberdour is the variety of microclimates the site features. There are shaded damp patches which are great for woodland edge plants such as lush ferns, Epimedium and Astrantia major. We also have dry, full sun areas where we can happily grow Mediterranean and South African species such as Salvia nemorosa and Kniphofia. Nearer the Dour burn there are areas of woodland, which is great fun to maintain, and provides a pleasant change of pace from the manicured borders and lawns. There is also the orchard where we are trying to establish a meadow. It provides us with great scope for learning and experimentation. We also use our greenhouse to display our succulent collection throughout most of the year, except when it all gets crammed onto one shelf to make space for the seed trays.