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26 Jul 2022

Celebrating Pitmedden’s stunning new parterre

Written by Murray Hope
Looking from above at the upper parterre in Pitmedden Garden. Manicured hedges enclose squares designed garden space filled with plants and flowers. A winding pathway of grass cuts through the middle.
Pitmedden Garden’s new parterre, designed by Chris Beardshaw | Image by Michal Wachucik
The pioneering project to redesign the Great Garden parterre brings a fresh 21st-century focus on sustainability, while thoroughly respecting one of Scotland’s most historic gardens.

Specially invited guests, including community leaders and members from the local area, joined the project team and supporters to enjoy afternoon tea, raise a toast and celebrate the floral ribbon cutting ceremony. This was also a fantastic opportunity for keen horticulturalists to enjoy a personal tour of the displays and seek tips from our own expert gardeners, volunteers and the project team.

Pitmedden Garden in Aberdeenshire is one of Scotland’s most treasured gardens with a history dating back to the 17th century. Its famous formal layout, using six miles of box-hedging, iconic parterres, intricate vibrant floral patterns and meticulous manicuring, creates a very structured whole that made the garden a trend-setter of its time. Sir Alexander Seaton’s head gardener, influenced by the Palace of Versaille, had previously laid out gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

This was however in a time of less concern for environmental impact or the resources to maintain. As Chief Executive Philip Long OBE, explained:

‘As the climate changes, we need to be sure that Pitmedden Garden will continue to thrive in the future. This innovative approach will help achieve that and give visitors an even more enriching experience in this beautiful place.

‘We are very grateful to the generous donors who have made this project possible. Thanks to support like this, our gardens can provide a place for plants, wildlife and people to flourish, giving everyone the chance to enjoy nature, beauty and heritage.’

Two men in semi-formal clothes of shirts and unbuttoned suit jackets stand amongst plants and flowers.
Trust Chief Executive Philip Long with garden designer Chris Beardshaw | Image by Michal Wachucik

The new design created by Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist Chris Beardshaw uses modern horticultural practices to maximise floral reward, biodiversity and aesthetics, while being mindful of the need to reduce the inputs – material, financial and human, with a focus on the changing climate.

Chris related his approach:

‘I was excited to explore the different opportunities that would maximise biodiversity and responsible resource management. With much of the original layout plans being compromised in the early 19th century, the source material on the original design process was sparse and left much open to creative interpretation. I’m excited to see the public’s opinion on the new additions to the garden as they walk through the deconstructed parterre in the Great Walled Garden.’

Amongst the species planted are grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa, beautiful blue cornflowers, prairie plants like helenium and three different types of peonies. The garden has been designed to offer a ‘floristic reward’ throughout the year, so visitors will always find something new to enjoy no matter when, or how often, they visit.

Planted throughout 2021 by gardens staff and students and specialist contractors and suppliers, this summer is the first opportunity to see the new parterre in full bloom.

The project was inspired by and has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the late Professor Ian Young and his wife Sylvia, who enjoyed a long association with and a deep love for Aberdeenshire and had strong links to the National Trust for Scotland, especially in the North East.

Neil Young, son of Ian and Sylvia, said

‘As a keen gardener our father was particularly drawn to the development of the upper terrace at Pitmedden. He was no passive observer of the project but took great interest in the work as it developed. We think he would have been delighted to see how the Pitmedden vision of Chris Beardshaw and the National Trust for Scotland has been turned into a stunning reality.’

A man in a shirt and suit jacket with a name badge shows a group of people around a garden.
Garden Manager Chris Wardle showing guests of the opening around Pitmedden | Image by Michal Wachucik

Alongside its hedging, borders and 200 fruit trees throughout the rest of the garden, the biodiverse nature of Pitmedden really is a delight for the senses and has something for everyone to enjoy.

The project is part of our ten-year strategy, Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone, and contributes to our engagement objectives to provide inspiring heritage experiences, and be a learning organisation by championing skills to support traditional innovation and growth. It will also help support the our efforts to become carbon negative by 2031/32.

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