Here in Perthshire, we are lucky enough to boast some of the country’s most stunning outdoor scenery. We have incredible landscapes and colourful gardens that are the envy of other regions across the UK. There are not many places that this is more apparent than at Scone Palace.
A long-term restoration project is underway to resurrect an historic walled garden at the crowning place of Scotland’s Kings. The garden was a major part of the grounds in the past and after falling into disrepair and being out of use for decades, the team of gardeners at the Palace are ready to restore it to its former glory. Who knows, the area where the garden lies now may have been one of Robert the Bruce’s favourite spots to chill out in the 14th century!
The man leading the project is Scone Palace’s head gardener Brian Cunningham – who has years of experience working in some of Scotland’s finest gardens, including the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Brian and his colleagues have big plans for the project and have set out a long-term plan to make the walled garden another major attraction for one of Perthshire’s most famous tourist hotspots.
The restoration will take some time and progress will rely heavily on funding, so Brian is reluctant to put a timescale on its completion.
“Normally, this type of project would take around five years but there would probably be a huge budget thrown at it just to get it done. We’re not working like that – nor do we want to work like that. We’re going to develop it a little bit at a time and it’ll happen organically.
We’re hoping to open to garden up to the public this year though, so that they can follow the progress from the very beginning and see how it’s being transformed!”
Brian has a team of four full-time colleagues to help him, but also relies on help from students and volunteers who give up their time to provide additional hands. He uses his contacts to reach out to lecturers at local colleges to provide work experience and internships to youngsters and in return, those who do well are offered paid work over the summer months. However, Brian is still hopeful of attracting more volunteers to help get the restoration project moving.
“The arrangement we have with the local colleges is great and benefits both the team and the students. If they do a good job, I am always keen to give them paid summer work. It looks great on their CV and we get a boost to our team.
We have a volunteer programme too and it also makes a big difference. We have a bank of about 10 regular volunteers who each take pride in their part of the garden. As always though, the more help we can get the better especially when we are working on a budget so we always welcome volunteers and anyone who is keen on gardening and wants to lend a hand, we’d love to have you on board!”
Work on the walled garden is underway and Brian and his team are already growing vegetables for use at the Palace. He’s planted an area which will become an apple tree orchard, and has earmarked a spot which could potentially host wedding ceremonies by 2019. The picturesque area has a fantastic backdrop, with Victorian pine needle trees that have been there since the 1830s towering in the background. The perfect place to tie the knot!
The ever ambitious Brian’s ideas don’t stop there, with the thought of building a pavilion area inside the garden that could potentially host wedding receptions also in his mind. He would also like to put in a café which uses the vegetables grown in the garden, and hold cook schools with local chefs to teach people how to make the most of home-grown veg. Despite all of these ideas bursting out of his head, his focus in the short-term is on getting the first stages of the project complete.
“I have a solid plan in place for the next three years and I believe we can really get it off the ground and have the garden looking fantastic. But it’s a long-term project and we need to take small steps and complete it one stage at a time.
We have lots of ideas on how we’d like it to be used – wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions and workshops where chefs can teach gardeners how to make the most out of the vegetables they grow. However this is all future plans and my immediate focus is getting to work on the first stages of restoring this fantastic walled garden!”
Keep your eyes peeled for more updates from here at Small City on when the walled garden will be open to the public!