Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Larcenous in Scotland Stealing Ideas from Beautiful Gardens

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Larcenous in Scotland Stealing Ideas from Beautiful Gardens

Article excerpt

FIND I FEEL two ways about gardens: I am awestruck at the impossibly beautiful and left feeling larcenous by the beautifully possible. Show me a garden with an idea I can use, and my eyes narrow, and I reach for my notebook and pen so I can steal it. That goes for inspiration on plant materials, too. There was a creamy, rosy Japanese anemone I had never seen until September in Scotland; it has lodged in my mind's eye, bobbing on those long goofy stems in a gentle autumn breeze.

My definition of the impossibly beautiful was extended in Scotland to include things like 15-foot hedges of not the privet so widely used here but of dense yew, boxwood, beech, copper beech or hornbeam, used to create a wall around a garden. How gorgeous flowers look against a wall - of vegetation or of stone - and how useful walls are where wind can be punishingly hard on a garden, as in Scotland.

Kellie Castle, in Fife, has a glorious garden of perennial borders sheltered by an 8-foot stone wall. Far to the north in the Highlands west of Aberdeen, 4 acres of gardens flourish behind a wall at Crathes Castle. But I am going to neither build an 8-foot wall nor wait for one to grow.

Nevertheless, my notebook collected a goodly number of gardening ideas that can be successfully transplanted. The largest number came from the loveliest of the many gardens I saw, those at House of Pitmuies, a few miles due north of Dundee. The house from which the gardens spread was built in 1730 by an Ogilvy and bought in 1945 by an unrelated Ogilvie, whose son, Farquhar, and daughter-in-law, Margaret, have devoted themselves to the gardens.

It shows. The gardens radiate the presence of a single imaginative vision, a sure and affectionate guiding hand. And they are a treasure trove of things to copy. A freestanding perennial border, with 6-foot-high foliage in the center and flowers stepping down on each side to shin-height plantings, has a secret: carefully hidden poles down that center spine support a webbing of delicate black plastic window-pane fencing that slopes down on each side like an open-work tent. The fencing is unseen but provides wonderful support for the flowers, which grow up through it. …

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