Gardens: Anne Crawford and Richard Laing built their own walled garden
Can’t find your ideal walled garden? Then build your own, as Anne Crawford and Richard Laing did
WHAT do you do when you long for a walled garden and have searched for years without success? The answer, in the case of Anne Crawford and her partner Richard Laing, is that you find a spot and build your own. Meanwhile, you live in a mobile home on site so the garden has top priority in everything you plan and do.
“Richard has always had a fascination for a walled garden, having worked in one at Letham, in Fife. But they were either in bad repair or too difficult to buy. So we thought building our own would be the best thing,” says Anne. Eight years ago, the couple found their perfect site, part of a 70-acre plot of land with cottages, on the top of a hill near Culross, in Fife, which is reached from the south up a single track road through woodlands.
The land, with dramatic northerly views over unspoilt farmland, was worth waiting for, Anne admits. The cottages were sold off and the couple acquired a snug mobile home.
They then spent time deciding exactly where and how to site the one-acre garden to maximise wind shelter and catch the sun. “We spent days pegging it out, deciding where to build the walls,” Anne says. The result is square to the south and slightly offset to the north.
The ground, a field until five years ago, was levelled. To build the yellow sandstone walls needed 1,200 sqare metres of stone, 680 square metres of block, 60 tonnes of builders’ sand “and a lot of cement”.
Meanwhile, the surrounding land was landscaped and planted with conifers and 20 pallets of plants that were donated by Anne’s parents, themselves keen gardeners. Scattered throughout the garden, these plants are faring well in the free-draining, sandy soil – although there was a shaky start when the first 300 trees were eaten by hares. Some of those dead trees have been retained for the striking shape of their skeletons; combined with rocks exposed by the landscaping and excavation, they add a surreal, contemporary dimension to the design.
Back inside the walled garden, Anne laid out a symmetrical design, based on a central gravel path that runs under a pergola smothered in roses and clematis. Built last year, the pergola adds height while making a strong impact on the space. Wide perimeter beds were laid out and planted with a combination of shrubs and herbaceous plants: they now thrive thanks to a mulch of green compost from Fife Council. The shady, north-facing border stands out with hydrangeas, hostas and grasses.
The large vegetable patch produces salad leaves, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, parsnips and leeks. Different varieties of potatoes include early Sharps, King Edwards and Golden Wonder. The latter are “fantastic for roasting”, according to Anne.
Strawberries, she adds, are mainly Cambridge favourites, while the raspberries are different varieties, planned for successional fruiting.
Buoyed by the success of the pergola, the couple have gradually been adding other features: these include a small polytunnel, the perfect place for starting young vegetable seedlings. The volume of plants growing here is your first clue that this is a working garden, with much of the produce intended for sale. A summerhouse was built this year, close to the large potting shed – incorporated into the west wall – and visitors are now served meals there.
Much of the planting, including patches of heather, has been planned with wildlife in mind. New beehives, in a young orchard to the east of the walled garden, are also working well: the bees will help pollinate 100 fruit trees.
From the outset, Anne and Richard were keen that this should be a working garden but did not have a clear idea as to its direction. “At the core of this project is the idea of selling plants and fresh vegetables,” Anne says. “We are taking it slowly and feeling our way forward bit by bit.” The couple started selling their produce at the Farmer’s Market in Culross, where demand sent Richard home to collect more stock. To cope with demand for fresh vegetables and soft fruit, the couple are now opening the walled garden five days a week.
Despite the hard work, both relish the challenge of developing a business that chimes with their love of gardening. “There is nothing better than coming out into your own garden and wandering round and watching things grow,” Anne says.
• Righead Farm, Kincardine, by Alloa (signposted off the A985), is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Home baking, salads and soups made from garden produce are available in the summerhouse. Jams, chutneys and a wide range of home-grown vegetables are on sale in the potting shed (07951 530571, Acrawford67@hotmail.co.uk)
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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