Historic Pitmedden Garden gets ready for Scotland’s changing climate

The National Trust for Scotland is celebrating the completion of a pioneering project, bringing a 21st century approach to one of Scotland’s most historic gardens, focussing on its future sustainability and a less resource-intensive approach to its care.

Chris Wardle (left) Chris Breadshaw (middle) Phillip Long (right). (Pic:Michal Wachucik)
Chris Wardle (left) Chris Breadshaw (middle) Phillip Long (right). (Pic:Michal Wachucik)

The conservation charity has been working with renowned garden and landscape designer, Chris Beardshaw, on the redesign of the upper parterres of one of Aberdeenshire’s most famous gardens, Pitmedden.

Pitmedden Garden has a history dating back to the 17th-century and is famous for its formal parterre layout, using box-hedging. This structured design was very much the trend of that time and needs constant care and attention to maintain.

The new design created by RHS Chelsea Flower Show 14-times gold medallist Chris Beardshaw transforms one of the great garden’s upper areas using modern horticultural practices to maximise floral reward, biodiversity and aesthetics, and reduce resources required in its care in the interests of sustainability and the changing climate. Amongst the species planted are grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa, beautiful blue cornflowers, prairie plants like helenium and three different types of peonies. Planted throughout 2021 by National Trust for Scotland gardens staff and students and specialist contractors and suppliers, this summer is the first opportunity to see the new parterre in full bloom.

Alongside the hedging, borders and 200 fruit trees throughout the rest of the garden, the biodiverse nature of Pitmedden really is a delight for the senses and has something for everyone to enjoy.

The project is part of the National Trust for Scotland’s ten-year strategy, Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone, and contributes to the charity’s engagement objectives to:

provide inspiring heritage experiences, and be a learning organisation by championing skills to support traditional innovation and growth

It will also help support the charity’s efforts to become carbon negative by 2031/32.

The project was inspired by and has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Professor Ian Young and his wife Sylvia, who enjoyed a long association with and a deep love for Aberdeenshire.

Philip Long OBE, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The National Trust for Scotland wants to preserve the rich history that Pitmedden Garden represents whilst bringing in modern practices that will make the garden more sustainable. As the climate changes, we need to be sure that Pitmedden Garden will continue to thrive in the future. Chris Beardshaw’s wonderful and inspiring design will help us achieve that and give visitors an even more enriching experience at this beautiful place.

“We are very grateful to the generous donors who have made this project possible. Thanks to support like this, our gardens can provide a place for plants, wildlife to flourish and people to enjoy, giving everyone the chance to enjoy nature, beauty and heritage.”

Chris Beardshaw, Landscape Designer, said: “My designs for the Upper Parterre centre on the concept of establishing a modern response to the regimented geometry of the 17th and 18th century parterres that were said to have inspired the original designs for the wider gardens. These would have been traditional patterns on the ground intended to be viewed from distance and elevation. For the new scheme there was a clear need to present designs that embraced aspects of a formal pattern, but establish this utilising carefully designed robust communities of plants to deliver a sequential floral reward, while being mutually supportive. The planting was specifically selected to maximise biodiversity and aesthetic reward but minimise resource demands, and importantly, place the viewer amongst the design pattern allowing an immersive ‘de-constructed parterre, experience. The planting will take a few seasons to bed in and fully establish, but already we are seeing the broad design intent starting to emerge offering a wonderful complimentary experience to the traditional lower formal parterres at Pitmedden.”

Neil Young, who’s late father Ian and mother, Sylvia, supported the project, said: “Our late father, Professor Ian Robert Young and our mother, Sylvia Young, took great pleasure in their frequent trips to Aberdeenshire.

“As a keen gardener our father was particularly drawn to the development of the upper terrace at Pitmedden. He was no passive observer of the project but took great interest in the work as it developed. We think he would have been delighted to see how the Pitmedden vision of Chris Beardshaw and the National Trust for Scotland has been turned into a stunning reality.”

Professor Young was raised in Aberdeen and studied Natural Philosophy at Aberdeen University before completing his Doctorate there. He pursued a career as a Medical Physicist and was a major pioneer in the field of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for which he received a number of awards, including an OBE. After he retired, he and Sylvia developed strong links to the National Trust for Scotland in Aberdeenshire. They supported some key projects at Crathes, Craigievar and Drum Castles.

Established in 1931, the National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity and cares for, shares and speaks up for Scotland’s magnificent heritage.

Over the last 90 years the Trust has pioneered public access to and shared ownership of some of the most magnificent buildings, collections and landscapes in Scotland. It cares for more than 100 sites, from ancient houses to battlefields, castles, mills, gardens, coastlines, islands, mountain ranges and the plants and animals which depend upon them.

Scotland’s largest membership organisation, the National Trust for Scotland relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work.

To get involved, and to plan a visit to Pitmedden Garden, visit www.nts.org.uk