Friday, 30 June 2017

Manderston House

On a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, a minor misunderstanding led to a serendipitous visit to Manderston House, a mile outside Duns in the Scottish Borders.  The house, which sits in 56 acres of ground, was completely remodelled in the early years of the last century by the architect John Kinross, who had also worked on the restoration of Falkland Palace in Fife.

However, much of the garden was completed in the latter part of the nineteenth century and has been influenced by the many styles common at this time.

The main entrance to the house is to the north and is reached via a large sweeping gravel drive, edged to the north by an expansive lawn, planted with specimen trees.

To the south is an Italianate parterre terrace. Box edged beds planted with roses are contrasted effectively with mass plantings of hostas and yew and box clipped into abstract shapes.  To my mind, this prevents the terrace feeling too formal and restrictive and also helps to link the terrace with surrounding landscape.  And certainly the abstract topiary shapes are very much in keeping with the style of the Italian gardens of the nineteenth century.

The symmetrical design also incorporates two circular raised pools that greatly helped to cool the air on this hot afternoon.  And, with the weather as it was on this day, you could be forgiven for thinking you were wandering the Boboli gardens in Florence or Villa Rufalo in Ravello.

Looking south from the terrace, out over a lower grass terrace and a boating lake you can see the influence of the eighteenth century picturesque movement. The spoil from the lake has been used to create a bank of rhododendrons, that flows into, what was originally called, the Pheasantry Wood, which, in turn, sits comfortably within the landscape beyond.

The general effect is a harmonious blending of the formal style of the nineteenth century garden with the open, more natural sensibilty of a picturesque landscape. 

To the east of the terrace, passing through wrought iron gates with piers adorned with griffins, and down a flight of steps, you reach a tennis lawn and down another flight of steps you come to a croquet lawn.

To the north of the house, beyond the lawn is a walled garden.  Through gilded gates (to reflect the light of the setting sun) is a central path, the full length of the walled garden, lined by borders of roses.  I would have loved to see these planted more fully with a mix of roses, shrubs and perennials which would have made this quite a spectacle.

Off to one side of the central path is an orchard, whilst the other side is part formal garden, part nursery.

The formal garden is prepared for summer bedding around a central marble fountain, and is bordered to the north by a rose pergola.

The nursery area, on the other hand has a more neglected feel and was once the location of a series of glasshouses. However, all the glasshouse foundations still exist, and it is fascinating to imagine the ranks of benches and planting pits that would have been the engine room of the garden.

In a sense, moreover, this merely adds to the understanding of these gardens.  They are all a trip back in time that allow you to conjure a sense or impression as to how they were when they were in their full pomp and ceremony, but also, how circumstances have changed over time and the effect this has had.

The gardens are open from May to September on a Thursday and a Sunday and on bank holidays, from 11.30am to dusk, and are well worth an exploration.

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