Ruth and Fred Mehlsen have created an outdoor paradise in Lasswade open under Scotland’s Gardens
‘WELCOME to paradise.” It’s with these words that Ruth Mehlsen greets visitors. The home she and husband Fred created has many rooms – not least in the garden. The site has been developing for 30 years from a wilderness to a cascade of distinct gardens.
It is one of three gardens opening in Broomieknowe, on the edge of Lasswade, Midlothian, this weekend under Scotland’s Gardens. When the Mehlsens were looking for somewhere to raise a family, Ruth saw Mount Ceres and fell in love. It had been a manse and had suffered 50 years of neglect. but she convinced her husband it was the house for them. Ruth and Fred had a background in the hospitality trade and they raised their four children at Mount Ceres, gutting the house and creating a garden at the same time. An extension was added recently and Mount Ceres is now open as a luxury guest house.
Ruth came up with a basic design, including a rock garden and beech hedges for the perimeter. They had returned from honeymoon with what Fred dubbed the first of their children: a waterboy statue – the pond it was to adorn was yet to come. It sparked a pattern that Ruth has followed since – acquire plants and ornaments, then find the space for them. Stone plinths she bought 25 years ago were another of the catalysts for the way the garden has developed, since only after acquiring such features did she decide to build rooms around them.
The archways, arbours and obelisks help to keep the garden’s secrets under wraps until the last moment. A sunken garden lies around a corner; though a small space, it can support two archways without feeling cluttered because of the central stone flags, and the height of trees and hedges around it.
From there it’s a cascade of rooms, with tunnels and ornaments providing keyhole-like glimpses of what lies beyond. A knot garden has a formal, Italian feel. From here a laburnum tunnel leads on to a white arch, the entrance to a white garden. This corner is secluded and slightly shaded thanks to the laburnum trees. The arch, table and chairs pick up the light, along with chimney pots salvaged from the house and painted white. Ruth has used dozens of complementary plants in white flowers or pale leaves. Narcissus, hostas, clematis, lilac, roses, peonies, delphiniums, ranunculus and poppies are just some.
A “thinking garden” next door started out yellow, and is a tranquil spot for contemplation. A path overhung from a raised rockbed rich with plants such as aquilegia leads to a vegetable and iris garden.
The path continues under a pergola planted with clematis montana and wisteria. This leads to a field with specimen rhododendrons and the Wendy house Ruth bought on eBay and restored. It is smothered in delphiniums, lupins and clematis.
It is as close to paradise as a garden can get; planting and structure beautifully married. It is saturated with a love of plants and a sense of accomplishment in showing them off in a stunning backdrop. Why have a garden with one great view when you can create at least a dozen? k
Mount Ceres is joined by two other gardens in Broomieknowe, Lasswade as part of Scotland’s Gardens opening today, Sunday 24 June, 2pm-5.30pm. For details of the guest house visit www.mountceres.com
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