Looking out from Kincardine at the wonderful scenery of Deeside it is hard to see why anyone would want to try to improve upon the natural beauty of the place. The seeming naturalness of the wider countryside is, of course, an illusion. Man has had a hand in shaping almost everything you see. That the landscape looks as wonderful as it does is a reflection of the respect, understanding and sensitivity that previous generations have had for the land.
Within landscape such as this it is hard to say where the garden starts and stops. The many belts of trees that surround the fields and drives close to Kincardine are part of a designed landscape extending 3/4 mile from the castle. Within them are a great variety of exotic trees – some of which are huge.
In 2009 our gardens opened for the first time as part of Scotland’s Garden Scheme. This event raises money for charities and we split our share of the surplus between Children 1st and Local Charities – in recent years the Village Hall and Christ Church have benefited.
The gardens proper consist of three main sections:
The Wilderness (or Woodland Garden)
The Lawns and Park and
The Walled Garden
The lawns set off the castle splendidly and merge with the park beyond. Wild flowers grow in the park and management activity is ongoing so as to encourage more.
In 2014 we brought back the old Victorian terrace (my great-grandmother’s cricket pitch). This provides an excellent venue for marquees and other outdoor events. A Jubilee Diamond commemorating Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee will develop into a beautiful grove of Betula jacqumontii. We have recently started a small arboretum and add a tree a year.
A recent addition to the lawns is our thought-provoking Planetary Garden (2009). It contains to scale the ‘planets’ that give the names to the seven days of the week – Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Sun. Please don’t bother to tell us that the Moon and Sun aren’t planets – they were considered as such in mediaeval times and of course Uranus and Neptune weren’t discovered then and aren’t visible to the naked eye. The gravel symbolises the other stars in our solar system or galaxies in the universe (i.e. a great number). We have actually included the Earth in our garden so that one can reflect on how fragile our little planet is in the great universal context.
The Wilderness (or Woodland Garden) is best seen from its network of grassy paths in late May or early June when it is ablaze with azaleas and rhododendrons. One of the biggest management problems within the woodland garden is actually keeping the trees at bay! Time after time we have to cut out perfectly healthy trees in order to let light fall on the ground sufficiently to sustain the azaleas and other ground floor plants. We have recently planted to extend the flowering season of rhododendrons and azaleas from February to August. (In 2013/14 we had rhododendrons alone in sequential flower from December through to November). Wild flowers, grasses and ferns abound. We added another 45 rhododendron varieties in 2015.
The Wilderness is a garden under development. It is already a lovely place in which to take a stroll but there remains a huge amount of work to do.
The Walled Garden, until the early 1990s, remained a kitchen garden. Following the retirement of our late gardener Leslie Stephen the walled garden was let for a few years to market gardeners full of promises but low on action – with disastrous consequences.
In 1996, with the walled garden rapidly reverting to wasteland, a modest scheme of restoration was put in place. We had to start from the basics – the paths had to be re-laid and we have recently completed maintenance work on the wall itself. The pace of recovery has been slow limited merely by the lack of resources available to put into the project. Nevertheless it is now a wonderful place in which to spend some time. Our aim has been to create a Pleasance – in essence a ‘nice place to be. We hope you agree that we’ve achieved this.
The 60 yard long Laburnum Walk attracts a great deal of attention.
We have nurtured wild flowers as well as more cultivated varieties and the evolution of the garden into a haven has been an immense pleasure.
In viewing this garden it must not be forgotten that Kincardine is situated closer to the North Pole than is Moscow or Nain in Labrador. Our good fortune is the temperate climate sustained by the Gulf Stream which also gives us the unpredictable weather for which Scotland is well known. In turn that gives us the wonderful greenery of our summers, mild winters and no need for air-conditioning. We are situated in the lee of the Scottish Highlands which means we have far less rain than people expect – around 27 inches/year. We have a fairly short frost-free growing season – only a few years ago July was our only month without frost, but that was exceptional. Temperatures generally range between -4 to + 80 farenheit (-20 to +25 centigrade). The extremes we have recorded are -13 to 85F (-25 to +29C). We usually have between 3 weeks and 3 months of snow cover. In winter, when the sun can be seen, it rises to just 10 degrees above the horizon for six hours. Summer days are long and for a couple of months we get twilight at midnight.
Some kind words from our previous guests…
“One more spectacular Simmons & Co. European Energy Conference. Kincardine is fabulous. All our clients love it but all the Simmons clan enjoy it even more. Many thanks”. 2003