Friday, 27 June 2014

Abbotsford Gardens

Sir Walter Scott took as much care in the design of his gardens at Abbotsford as he did in the design of his extraordinary house. Just like the house, his garden reflected Sir Walter's passion for history and for collecting. Sir Walter used the social contacts that his fame and celebrity had brought him to seek horticultural advice from the great authorities of the day.  His gardener was William Bogie, former assistant to James MacDonald, head gardener at Dalkeith Palace, seat of his friend the Duke of Buccleuch, which was widely admired for its productivity and its innovative ideas. While later generations of his family to live at Abbotsford made inevitable changes to the garden they remain much as Sir Walter had left them. The gardens were conceived as picturesque settings for viewing the house and were divided into three walled areas or garden  'rooms', each having its own distinct character.


The South Court is the first of the three outdoor 'rooms' at Abbotsford. Work  began in 1823 on the  cloister walls to the south and west and the arcade on the east with the two battlemented corner turrets. Niches in the south and west walls were made to provide settings for Scott's collection of carved stone fragments that he prized. . This garden was originally planted in the regency style with a honeysuckle and rose pergola along the south and west walls and narrow beds of hollyhocks and roses against the walls.  Lawns were laid in front of the house, broken by shrubbery beds of trees , flowers and shrubs. These were swept away in the 1850's by Scott's granddaughter Charlotte and her husband John Hope-Scott in favour of the Victorian arrangement that remains today.

                                   
Carving of a hunting scene from a Roman burial crypt.


Figure of Mars, Roman God of War, one of five sculptures Sir Walter Scott acquired from the Roman fort of Voreda near Penrith.




The main entrance to Abbotsford was reached via the imposing main gate or 'portcullis' in the west wall of the South Court
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The sunken garden to the east of the house was known in Scott's day as the East Court,  second of the garden rooms at Abbotsford. Today it is known as the Morris Garden, named after the sculpture of Morris, the devious character from Rob Roy. He is depicted begging forgiveness from Rob Roy's wife Helen MacGregor,for his involvement in her husbands capture by the authorities. The sculpture is by John Greenshields who died before the work was completed and it was presented to Abbotsford in 1850


The third of the interconnecting rooms at Abbotsford is the walled kitchen garden, reached by an imposing gate from the Morris Garden.


Of all the gardens at Abbotsford this remains much as Scott himself had left it, the herbaceous beds running up to the Gothic conservatory were his conception.



Sir Walter was at his happiest outside working in the woods, perhaps as a relief from the hours spent writing at his desk. He enjoyed chopping firewood as much as planting trees, or just walking in the woods with his beloved dogs, whom he treated as friends and whose effigies are found all over the house, and garden.