Those who know me, know I don’t travel.
And those who know me, know that there are very few gardens in Britain which I admire. But here is a garden we travelled from South Wales to Scotland to visit. (That’s 359 miles, which is a very long way in the UK) And I’m pleased to report that we were both thoroughly delighted. Amazing.
We were visiting Broadwoodside, https://broadwoodside.com/ which is not far from Edinburgh. Two good friends who know quality in gardens had recommended it and the makers of the garden, Anna and Robert Dalrymple, were kind enough to permit us a visit: they open to the general public once a year, and by appointment.
Above is a glimpse of the house, from the perambulation round the outside. Now, I’m not sure I’d recommend that perambulation, especially if there was a deluge the day before. There are interesting bits, but it was a long muddy way.
On a less muddy day and in want of exercise, you may love perambulating and seeing the other interesting bits.
Here is another interesting bit, just in case you never get there:
I was really just wanting to get back to where we started, to visit the best bits all over again.
What was good?
For me the Broadwoodside pleasure is in the dramatic, pleasing simplicity with countless additional delightful details. The ideal in garden design.
If you’d like explanations and the history, please read the account, and the 1001 magazine and newspaper articles about it, on the website.
And you’ll also find regular updates on Instagram.
Meanwhile just enjoy this play on greens and shapes, and little splashes of colour. It is, as it has to be, given the nature of this part, maintained immaculately, mostly by the dedicated gardener, Guy Donaldson, who we were lucky enough to meet. A man who rises to the challenges, loves his job and the garden.
In this courtyard, tidily enclosed by beautiful buildings, there’s a loggia, providing shelter and pleasures.
And an ominous message:
Patterson Webster was understandably inspired to steal this quote for her own garden.
Which is fair enough, as Robert Dalrymple is also such a garden thief:
Then through to the next courtyard:
Above you see an example of the satisfying, delightful planting. Robert says ‘The planting seems to work best when the idea behind it is immediately apparent; where a limited palette of plants is repeated en masse.‘ And, of course, he is right.
Through to the next part:
There is lots more, but this is especially great:
The drama of this long long planting is hard to capture in a photograph. Closer it looks like this:
Wonderful. A delight.
So, for those of you who may never have the joy of a visit to Broadwoodside, what is there for you?
Here is Robert, with weed, reading to Charles, and sounding embarrassingly as if he’s quoting me, though he had no idea or intention of doing that. He’s just – spot on. (This is enormously reassuring) He says, in the leaflet about Broadwoodside that visitors receive: ‘What no-one seems to tell you is that gardening is really really difficult. To get a group of plants to give a pleasing display over successive seasons, and from one year to the next, is a demanding skill.…… No wonder, in the sort of gardens you see illustrated in glossy magazines, that the role of the garden designer has gained such traction in recent years. By definition, experts can do it better. However it is widely perceived that the most interesting and atmospheric gardens are the most personal ones. And personal means DIY.’ See what Tim Richardson has to say about this – here.
Most garden tours in the UK visit dead people’s gardens, widely revered as the best. But Broadwoodside has made its way on to that visiting list. How many more such brilliant, personal and contemporary gardens are there? Made and being made right now, by the maker? If you know of more, please let me know.
I think Robert Dalrymple feels a little in the shadow and influence of Little Sparta, which is not far from Broadwoodside. But Broadwoodside tops it aesthetically and in the accessibility of the words and ideas. If you had to choose to see one or the other, visit the live person’s garden. (Here is Tim Richardson on Little Sparta.)
Why is Broadwoodside so good? Clearly it is well gardened. And it has been designed by a graphic designer, as the maker of another brilliant UK garden, Ridler’s Garden, (sadly, no longer open) was. I believe that kind of background helps. And I think it may help if the maker dislikes gardening, as Robert Dalrymple acknowledges he does. You are less likely to get distracted by collecting plants and wanting to faff around with them.
There are also three influences – I’m not sure what the gardener, Guy Donaldson contributes to the design, but inevitably he must. And I understand that Anna Dalrymple adds the touch which helps to undermine potential rigidities.
The garden is full of fun, ideas, surprises, little treats for the mind and eye. Simplicity and detail. Most of all, it is beautiful.
Here is our tribute/theft. At Broadwoodside:
And now, at Veddw: