Pitmedden Garden was originally created in 1675 by Sir Alexander Seton and his wife, Dame Margaret Lauder. Since the laird of Pitmedden came from a respected family of Scottish landowners, he enjoyed an international education which allowed him to travel through Europe. After his retirement as a successful advocate, he found the inspiration to create a formal walled garden as a showpiece of his status. He would have been greatly influenced by contemporary French gardens such as Vaux le Vicomte and Versailles. Their formality and design appealed to him greatly and were becoming increasingly popular during his time. Over the centuries the garden has changed and sadly, a devastating fire in 1807 destroyed any records about Pitmedden. As a result, the garden’s original layout is unknown today. When the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) took over care in 1952, the decision was made to reinstate a historic formal garden. With no hint of the original design, the NTS researched other contemporary garden plans and decided to use the 1647 bird-eye view of Edinburgh for inspiration to create a new formal garden design. Being laid out over two levels, the lower level of the garden shows the impressive box-hedge parterres in four designs, three of which were influenced by the bird-eye view: the Daisy parterre, the Lion parterre, and the Tempus Fugit parterre. The fourth parterre is called the Seton parterre and has been created to honour Pitmedden’s former laird and founder. Surrounded by the Scottish flag and thistles, it depicts the coat-of-arms and mottos of Sir Alexander Seton’s family, his and his wife’s initials and the founding year.
Seeing the garden in its grandeur today with its straight lines in hedges and lawns makes it hard to believe that there was a time when the garden was filled with bushes and trees filled with fruit. After the fire in the early 19th century, the garden was maintained by the Keith family. During the Great World Wars, Major James Keith transformed the garden into a farm and kitchen garden to supply Aberdeen and the Shire with a large healthy crop. The redesign of the garden by the NTS led to a complete restructure of both levels. Espalier apple and pear trees along the great walls and the magnificent herbaceous borders are remnants of the farmer’s life at Pitmedden.
Pitmedden Garden combines its 17th century origins and more recent agricultural past into a unique experience in the North East of Scotland. A lot of effort and care is put into the maintenance of the garden, with up to 30,000 colourful flowers planted annually into the great box-hedge parterres. An addition from 2014 is a formally designed Orchard at the southeast corner of the garden, complementing the herb garden and potager as new additions in the past decades. As in years gone by, fruit and vegetables from the garden are used to create homemade bakes, salads and soups, served freshly in the tearoom – Major Keith’s former dining room – every day.
–Pitmedden Garden & Museum of Farming Life
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Tel: +44 (0) 1651 842352
Fotocredits: Pitmedden Garden / Deborah Feingold / Eric Stephen