Kincardine Castle Gardens
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. The size of these trees is best judged if you see them with someone standing at the foot of the trunk.
In 2009 our gardens opened for the first time as part of Scotland’s Garden Scheme. This event raises money for charities and our opening in 2015 will give funds equally to CHILDREN 1st and Kincardine O'Neil Village Hall.
The gardens proper consist of three main sections.
- The Wilderness (or Woodland Garden)
- The Lawns and Park and
- The Walled Garden.
The Lawns and Park: The lawns set off the house splendidly and merge with the park beyond. Wild flowers grow in the park and management activity is ongoing so as to encourage more.
A recent addition to our this area 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 write in and say 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 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.
In 2014 we brought back the old Victorian terrace (my great-grandmother's cricket pitch). Within a month or so the scars should heal as grass grows. This will, in due course, provide 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.
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.
Climate: 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. The good fortune we have of the temperate climate sustained by the Gulf Stream also gives us the unpredictable weather for which Scotland is well known. That gives us the wonderful greenery of our summers, mild winters and no need for air-conditioning. 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 the winter of 213/14 the mildest for many years we had just 6 days of snow and very little frost - a contrast to the hills where they had 10m of snow-pack.)