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26 Feb 2018

North Walled Garden renovation at Culzean

Written by Tim Keyworth, Gardens and Designed Landscapes Manager, Ayrshire & Arran
The proposed sundial centrepiece
A two-year project is underway to transform the North Walled Garden. Focusing on production, a garden will be created to showcase a wide range of horticultural techniques and skills, from Victorian times to the present day, as well as testing new, innovative ideas.

Built in 1782, the Walled Garden at Culzean is one of the largest in Scotland and a significant garden in the National Trust for Scotland’s care. It is comprised of two sections, divided by a spine wall – the Pleasure Garden and the North Walled Garden.

Culzean was once one of the most innovative gardens in Scotland and our aim is for this to be the case again. Examples of pushing horticultural boundaries in the past include the cultivation of peaches, nectarines and apricots gifted to Sir John Kennedy as early as 1730, and the introduction of Onion ‘Ailsa Craig’, bred by one of the gardeners working at Culzean in the 1870s.

The transformation of the North Walled Garden will include: showcasing a wide range of horticultural techniques; adding colour throughout the seasons in newly designed permanently planted beds; and growing produce that can be used across the property, such as fruit for making jam and chutney.

Proposed layout of the North Walled Garden (designed by Jeremy Needham, a local garden designer)
Proposed layout of the North Walled Garden (designed by Jeremy Needham, a local garden designer)

Key parts of the garden design include:

A self-contained vegetable garden

Five large brick-edged beds have been created in the old plant sales area, which will allow a wide range of produce to be grown, including heritage and modern varieties.

Renovation of the sundial centrepiece and border surroundings

This is perhaps the most crucial space in the gardens and is currently a bit underwhelming. The sundial itself is a historically significant feature – it should be a main focal point and will be enhanced as a feature by this work.

The proposed sundial centrepiece
The proposed sundial centrepiece

Renovation of borders that run either side of the sundial

Continuing on from the enlargement and enhancement of the sundial space, these borders will be planted with herbaceous plants to give seasonal year-round colour and easier maintenance. It will also provide the Head Gardener with an opportunity to create a border in a different style to the main herbaceous borders.

Mixed orchards and a nuttery

Orchards will be replanted on three of the four lawns. We will choose larger trees and grow a wider variety of fruit, underplanted with spring and summer colour. Large yew cubes will be planted to add more height and formality to the garden. A nuttery will be planted on one of the four lawns, giving us an opportunity to grow a different type of crop.

Yew hedging

This will add much-needed height and divide the garden into ‘rooms’.

Herbaceous border restoration

In their heyday the double herbaceous borders were a firm favourite, with visitors coming specifically to see them each year. Images of them frequently appeared in magazines, books and Trust promotional material. They will now be restored to their former glory.

A brewing and herb garden

The creation of a brewing garden on two of the lawns will be a new feature for the gardens. It will extend seasonal colour, while adding to the productive theme. Archways made to resemble whisky barrel staves will set the scene and add a strong structure for climbing plants.

Renovation of an existing outbuilding to allow produce sales and an education space 

A small tea plantation

A small tea plantation is also planned in an area close to the walled garden – perhaps one of the most exciting and innovative elements of the whole project. The warm and wet west coast of Scotland could potentially provide the ideal conditions for growing tea. The idea is for Culzean to grow its own tea for use in its catering outlets, with a small amount to be sold in the shop. Along with the jam and chutney made from the fruit grown in the orchards, a Culzean ‘brand’ can start to be developed. There is also a theme here that can be linked to the Camellia House, which originally housed the family’s collection of camellias. The common tea plant is Camellia sinensis and the family could not have imagined that it would be possible to grow tea at Culzean, as the plants were thought to be tender. Many camellia varieties are now known to be hardy at Culzean. 

Installation of willow sculptures

Along with differential mowing, willow sculptures which are relevant to Culzean will add more interest to the garden, drawing the eye and enhancing the visitor experience.

This project should be completed by the end of 2019. Please ask any member of the gardening team for further information. We hope that you will be able to visit and see how the project is progressing in the garden.