The Garden at Broadwoodside Captures The Magic of Scotland
The garden at Broadwoodside in East Lothian, Scotland was once a farmstead that narrowly escaped derilection in 2000– and today, it stands as a beautiful example of the magic of the Scottish countryside.
Since its inception around the turn of the millennium, everything on the Broadwoodside estate has been planted and maintained by Master Gardener Guy Donaldson, who has worked and lived here with his family since 1999, “when the garden was no more than an idea”. Live-in Master Gardeners, of course, are a staple of any Scottish garden worth visiting, as the care and attention to detail that defines so many of the world’s most iconic UK gardens necessitates their presence.
On a recent trip to Scotland, GC paid a visit to the property to glean some insight on a place that so beautifully encapsulates the spirit of a traditional Scottish walled garden. After a lovely morning rendezvous at the nearby Haddington Farmers’ Market (where we purchased Scottish whisky, local heather honey, and hand-made bog myrtle lotion), the simple elegance of Broadwoodside became the cornerstone of an afternoon well-spent.
Broadwoodside, like Scotland itself, is an ancient settlement. In 1591, John Robeson of Broadwoodside was one of the jurors in the trial of Agnes Sampson (the most infamous of the North Berwick Witches,) who was executed in Edinburgh for “raising a storm against the ship in which King James VI was traveling”. As a result, James became obsessed with the threat posed by witches and wrote The Daemonologie in 1597– a seminal work in fear-mongering with respect to witchcraft, which is thought to have inspired Shakespeare when he was writing Macbeth in 1606.)
On a lovely spring day in May, the garden at Broadwoodside was radiant as a fairytale.
Chickens run around in dew-covered grasses overlooking mossy glens, and the orchard, topiary walk, geranium beds, and willow pond make the old stable yard look effortlessly lush– everything in the garden as been laboriously planted to look accidental, and the dense planting reflect this attention to detail. Donaldson oversees a kitchen and cutting garden that grows leafy butter lettuce whose pest-free leaves we can’t help but admire, and the garden is dotted with sculptures commissioned from local artisans (the golden apples in the orchard were made by Brian Caster at Powderhall Bronze Edinburgh, and The Aviary in the upper courtyard was made in Haddington by Stewart & Buglass; William, an African grey parrot, lives inside). Parts of an old farmhouse from 1680, meanwhile, have survived to the present day in lime mortar that has been dated back to the era. The age of the estate, like the garden’s immaculate capacity for growth, is seemingly unfathomable.
One of the most compelling aspects of Broadwoodside (besides its impossibly-lush design) is its strategic planting. The flower beds surrounding the perimeter of the walled garden are about a meter below the level of the fields on the other side of the wall– as a result, they remain permanently damp, which contributes to the border’s photogenic appeal (its almost impossible for these plants to die from neglect, as they receive a steady stream of nutrients, naturally). The willow pond in the kitchen garden, meanwhile, is fed by run-off from the steading’s extensive roofs– a hidden boon ensuring low-maintenance upkeep. The willow hedge is cut back every winter and would grow up to 9 feet over the summer if it was not trimmed– but that doesn’t stop Donaldson from doing it in a way that allows overgrowth to look attractive. Plants, moreover, have been trained to grow into their meticulously-kept home in a way that feels organic– even when it is anything but. The garden at Broadwoodside is carefully maintained to look like it grew that way on its own.
For more information or to plan a visit to Broadwoodside, visit the property’s website.
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