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The Scottish Gardens

The two largest Japanese style gardens in Scotland, the water gardens at Kildrummy by Alford and Stobo in the borders, have much in common. They were both created at the turn of the century by Japanese gardeners, in both cases streams were altered to create pools with numerous small stone bridges and waterfalls. Scott -James (1979) states that ( it was the water garden, which the British took to their hearts), and the majority of gardens created at this time were of this type. James Murray of the Perthshire Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) remembers a water gar den at Kilfauns Castle which was dismantled prior to World war two and a similar garden at Charleton in fife has fallen into disrep air in recent years. It seems those, which remain, have done so by virtue of being plantsmens gardens, perhaps the finest of these being at Kildrummy Castle.

Kildrummy Castle

The slowly decaying castle and grounds were revitalised in 1900 by the arrival of Colonel James Ogston. According to Truscott (1988), Ogston was spurred into action by the remark of a visitor that he had no garden. Thus, in 1904, a firm of Japanese land scape gardeners was hired to oversee the ( laying of the perfectly interlocking granite stones, which form the various channels, waterfalls and stone cantilevered bridges of the garden) . Ogstons aim, was not to create a Japanese garden, but an enviable one. Its survival is testament to his success, a suprisingly northerly example of Embothrium coccineum shelters against a wall whilst other rarities such as Metaseqoia glyptostroboides and an impressive Acer coccineum are found in this immaculately manicured garden. The garden is situated in the remains of a quarry that was used to ex tract the stone for the Castle and there is an awareness of the potential of stone as a garden feature. The tall, rather unusual rock features planted up with alpines, dwarf pines, brooms and Cytisis species although effective , do not imply a Japanese a esthetic though none is intended. A few miles away, there is a commercial horticultural retail shop specialising in water features, capitalising on what is undoubtedly the main feature of this garden

Stobo water garden, near Dawick

Whilst arguably re ceiving less maintenance than it deserves, this garden achieves a naturalistic appearance which is almost deliberate. Created at the turn of the century, again by Japanese craftsmen, the many Japanese plantings such as mature specimens of Cercidiphyllum japonicum, numerous Acer palmatum and a splendid multistemmed Thuja plicata , lend this garden an authentic appearance. The river is divided into numerous small streams, creating several islands with small Japanese style stone bridges and stepping stones thr oughout. The presence of several Japanese stone lanterns add to the authenticity and it can be argued that the attempt to marry both the Japanese and western styles has succeeded. The high maintenance cost involved in the upkeep of the garden led to its being offered to the Royal Botanic Garden but it was felt that the dam which created the large loch adjacent to the garden was unstable and without extremely costly repair may collapse at some time in the future, an event which would devastate the garden.

Duthie Park Japanese Garden- Aberdeen

This small garden in the grounds of Duthie Park was designed in the eighties by a Japanese designer who was in Britain to design a garden for the rock star Freddie Mercury. At present, although the rock features and small streams remain, it is so badly ov ergrown with conifers and Berberis as to be not only unrecognisable, but literally impassable, resembling more a maze than a garden. An attractive feature of this garden however is the numerous Haiku poems inscribed on stones throughout the garden According to the gardeners, there had been a karesansui garden constructed indoors in what is the largest greenhouse in Britain, though repeated disturbance by children led to it being planted with Cactus. The only indication of its existence today is a small pond with live turtles. This garden is an example of the problem that Japanese gardens pose. Without an interest and understanding of the requirements of such a design, the plantings quickly over run the garden and t he original concept is lost. The plants chosen seem to have proved inappropriate for the design unless it has been a tea garden effect that was originally intended. A much sparser planting regimen using more ground cover plants and clump forming Azaleas may have created a much more easily managed, low maintenance garden which the existing staff would have been better able to interpret.

Torosay Castle Japanese Garden-Mull

A previous owner, Colonel Miller, created a Japanese garden in the grounds of Torosay Castle during the 1960,s. A small pond surrounded by gravel with a lacquered bridge and small Japanese style pavillion was planted with small Japanese Acers and dwarf pines. According to Truscott (1988), the garden uses the shakkei or borrowed landscape principle to frame a view of the distant Duart Castle and beyond to Ben Nevis.

Itoh (1973), suggests that a shakkei view must fulfil certain requirements in order to qualify as such. These are-

The garden should be within the premises of a building.

The object to be captured alive.

Trimming, the device by which the designer limits the features he wishes to show.

Linking the borrowed landscape to the garden by means of intermediary objects.

The shakkei view where framed by the sky should imitate a Japanese painting in that the emptiness of the sky balances the object to be captured. The object itself should find itself echoed by some object in the garden, often a stone lantern which establishes a conn ection between the two, linking the garden with the view. Often, the outline of the captured sky is suggested as the partner to a rock feature, one being the mirror opposite of the other (Bring 1981). Framing the object is often done with hedges or tree s in a very formal and precise manner, or most famously by a window as suggested by Nitschkes (1990) right angle and natural form.

For these reasons it appears that the view of Duart Castle does not constitute a true shakkei view.

Shah-rak-uen, Cowden by Dollar

On her return, in 1907, from a three year journey through Asia, Ella Christie, the daughter of a Lanarkshire mine owner embarked on the creation of what was to be possibly the largest Japanese garden in Britain (Swan 1989). The garden was set out over an area of some seven acres with a large loch and three islands created by the damming of a burn. The garden was named Shah-rak-uenor place of 'pleasure and delight' . Taki Honda of the Royal School of garden design at Nagoya was engaged to lay out the numerous stone groupings and shrubs from all over the world. Later came the carefully designed footpaths, bridges,tea-houses, gatew ays and lanterns. Professor Suzuki of the Soami School Imperial Design who visited Kew to supervise on root pruning, also advised at Cowden and regarded it as the best in the western world (Stewart 1955). In winter, the carefully pruned trees and shrubs delighted the eye while in summer azaleas,cherries and iriseswere a glory of colour and scent (Stewart 1955). That the garden was truly authentic is hinted at in that many stones were named and the symbolism so characteristic of Japan is evidenced here. The welcome stone for example was where Ella would wait to greet her guests. The stone lantern was imported fro m tokyo with the shippers being instructed to douse the lantern with water in which rice had been cooked to encourage the moss which covered the stone. The fame of this garden is evidenced by the visit there of Queen Mary (Swan 1989). Maintained by a Japanese gardener named Matsuo until his death in 1936 and then Christie herself until her death in 1949, the garden finally opened to the public for the last time in 1955 and soon fell into disrepair. Vandals destroyed many of the wooden structures and ove r time the loch silted up. Swan (1989) alludes to plans at the time to restore the garden though funds were diverted to restorations at Culzean Castle and the garden remains closed to the public at present

Dundarach. Pitlochry

The garden at the Dundarach hotel has completely vanished, though a leaflet produced by John Dixon (1906) as a guide, indicates that it achieved a high degree of authenticity. Built round a pond, the garden used stepping stones, a large stone lantern, a Shinto gateway or Torii and contained a representation of mount Fuji, a practice common in Japan. Many Japanese plants such as bamboos, maples and azaleas were planted as well as two kiri Paulownia imperialis, the emblem of the Imperial family. That the garden was well regarded is evidenced by a visit by Osgood Mackenzie, the founder of Inverewe garden, and the participation of Tsunesuke Tanaka,the nephew of Count Yamada who codified the laws of the Japanese Empire. Several stones were arranged round the pond for ' their picturesque character' and one at the entrance as a guardian stone.

There are several gardens, which have completely disappeared over the years. As well as the garden at Kinfawns Castle, the 1922 document of sale for Taymouth Castle includes a Japanese garden, though today, only a few Japanese maples and some rock groupi ngs to the west of the walled garden serve as testament to its existence. Similarly, a garden at Pitreavie Castle has vanished and Christopher Dingwall of the Garden History Society has no doubt that others remain undiscovered

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