The Great Garden dates back to 1675, when it was originally laid out by Sir Alexander Seton, a retired Court of Session judge in the reign of James VII/II. Sir Alexander’s close associate William Bruce undoubtedly assisted in its seminal design, and was influenced by the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte and the Palace of Versailles.

After the National Trust for Scotland took on the care of the Great Garden in 1952, we began to reconstruct the layout to bring it back to its glorious 17th-century formality. A lack of documentation (due to the Pitmedden House fire of 1818) led to initial difficulties in determining how it should look. However, when we discovered a bird’s eye view plan of the Palace of Holyroodhouse (another Bruce design) from around 1647, we found our inspiration! Three parterre layouts were created in the lower garden: the lion, daisy and Tempus fugit parterres respectively. A final design was created by Dr James Richardson HRSA in homage to the Setons: the coat of arms parterre. In addition, Lady Burnett of Leys, Lady Elphinstone, William and Thelma Marjoribanks and Dr John Cowan all provided further assistance in the re-creation process. George Barron was Pitmedden’s Head Gardener at the time (also of the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden fame) and he led the team on the ground implementing the proposed works.

Fast forward to today and this brilliant design, along with meticulous maintenance, gives Pitmedden Garden its unique, highly formal charm. With almost 4 miles of clipped hedging, the parterres at the heart of the garden are a masterpiece of intricate patterns that house 30,000 annual bedding plants to provide sparkling summer colours. Ornamental pleached trees, centuries-old trained apple trees lining the walls, obelisk yews running along the central axis, and herbaceous borders all add to the long seasonal charm.

New to the Upper Terrace are the reimagined parterre gardens, designed by Chelsea Flower Show garden designer Chris Beardshaw in 2021. These recent additions have been designed to showcase plants in a format that is contemporary to modern garden design whilst still resonating with the past. The new floristic parterres create an interactive experience, where visitors can walk along the weaving paths through the beds. The design is inspired by the history of trade between Scotland and the near Continent, as well as textiles and furniture. Buzzing with insect life, the new plantings have been created to work in harmony with the natural environment – using no sprays, feeds or additional inputs – and to be as low maintenance as possible.

Find out more about some of the plants we’ve chosen