I had an unexpected trip to this interesting garden in the Pentland Hills. Created by the poet Ian Finlay Hamilton in the Arcadian style, it it a fascinating piece of personal history and design. Love it or hate it, it is impossible to not feel the passion and delight that must have been integral to the development of the garden. Much of the woodland planting is very simple with Geranium cantabrigiense forming soft flowing borders curving away under the tree canopy, punctuated with ferns and astrantias. There is a feel of gentle decline, where nature is starting to take over from human habitation and that you are discovering evidence of past civilisations. His use of tomb-like and gravestone-style sculpture, carved with snippets of poetry is a little disconcerting and those who are more familiar with his written work may interrogate that, but in the context of the garden it is intriguing and by far the dominant theme which weaves through all the various areas.
The natural pond nestles beautifully into the natural rolling Pentland hills and is a throwback to everyone’s childhood. There are insects buzzing everywhere ( just examine the plants around the pond perimeter which are loaded with all sorts of colourful bugs and beetles), dragonflies and pond-skaters whizz over the surface and masses of tadpoles wiggle beneath. Naturalistic plantings of swathes of the lovely geum rivale, irises and bull rushes are flourishing in the marginal areas.
The water features play a major role in the garden, where small burns meander throughout the woodland. Each one has provided some sort of opportunity for either a bridge or a something playful. Timber rills carry water from point to point and create falls in random spots. It is difficult to tell if there is any plan to the layout of these burns and features or whether Hamilton has just played with what nature has already provided.
It is a garden site that many of us would love to get our hands on, but how would we personalise it? And could you even start to challenge the inspiration which drove this design?