Moves to protect Scotland's weird and wonderful modern landscapes

They broke new ground and allowed a fresh, new playful vision to grow.

Charles Jencks' Garden of Cosmic Speculation is considered one of Scotland's finest modern landscapes with a project now underway to locate other post-war gardens that broke new ground. PIC: Contributed.

Now, moves are being made to protect Scotland’s modern gardens and landscapes with Historic Environment Scotland searching for the best post-war spaces where new ideas flourished.

Led by pioneers such as Charles Jencks of the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House and Ian Hamilton Finlay, who devised Little Sparta sculptural garden in The Pentlands, which he barely left in 40 years, Scotland’s embrace of the modern landscape holds firm.

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Urban features, such as the municipal mushrooms made of concrete in Glenrothes and the campus of Stirling University also illustrate a willingness to boldly grow a new style of space.

The late Ian Hamilton Finlay at his sculptural garden Little Sparta in the Pentlands. PIC: JPI Media.

Historic Environment Scotland now hopes to add more post-war landscapes to the nation’s Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

Dr Julie Candy, senior designations officer at Historic Environment Scotland, said Scotland’s modern landscapes and gardens were “an overlooked part of our post-war heritage” with a project now to identify, record and celebrate the spaces now underway.

Dr Candy added: “We think gardens and designed landscapes dating to 1945 to the early 2000s are currently underrepresented in our records.

"As part of a new project, we’ll be busy recording sites, improving our online records and considering the most important places for designation on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.”

Detail from the Little Sparta sculptural garden in the Pentlands. PIC: HES.

The Little Sparta Garden by Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Susan, which is found at Stonypath in the western Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, is perhaps one of Scotland’s most intriguing spaces

Dr Candy described it as a “a unique sculptural garden recognised internationally for its innovation and unusual beauty”.

She added: “Both poetic and provocative, the garden is created from the open fields and buildings of a former farm. Short word pieces and poems are carved in granite, marble, slate, garden tools and wood. Sculptures stand in woodland glades, across streams, or in heather where the garden edge meets the moorland beyond.

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The Colzium Lennox Estate near Kilsyth was designed in the 1960s by a local authority gardener and is the latest post-war landscape to be added to the national inventory. PIC: JPI Media.

“The artworks, produced in collaboration with other artists and craftspeople, explore themes of classical mythology, order and disorder, civilisation and chaos, war and the sea. Hamilton Finlay died in 2006 having barely left Little Sparta in 40 years. His legacy and collaborations live on in this amazing modern landscape.”

She also paid tribute to Charles Jencks, who died in 2019, describing him as “another giant of the landscape world.”

The founder of the Maggie’s Centres for cancer care, his land-based artwork projects can be found in Scotland, England, Milan, New York, and South Korea.

A 2001 landform in Edinburgh bridges the gap between two of the Scottish National Galleries, the Modern One Gallery and the Modern Two across the road. It is a grass-covered, stepped, serpentine mound with two large crescent-shaped pools and a small tooth-shaped pool.

Charles Jencks' landform at The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. PIC: JPI Media.

Jencks’ other works in Scotland include the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House, and the more recent Crawick Multiverse, Sanquhar, both in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Colzium Lennox Estate in Kilsyth is the newest addition to Scotland’s national inventory of gardens.

Designed by James K. Brown for North Lanarkshire Council in 1968, the garden has a Japanese-style feel, and one of the best dwarf conifer collections in Scotland.

Heathers and pines from China and a large snowdrop collection of over 100 varieties help define the celebrated space.

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