Real gardens: Blair Castle

I fell in love with the Hercules Garden at Blair Castle in Perthshire when I was a young teenager. It wasn’t difficult: a walled garden complete with bothy, Japanese bridge, a folly, vegetables beds and fruit trees running down in stripes to a lake. The beds are beautiful from Spring to late Autumn, as pictured above and below, and have a painterly, broad-brush look, contained neatly within the stone walls.

One of the most haunting things about this garden, which lies within the grounds of the stunning Arts and Crafts Blair Castle, is that for nearly half a century it lay hidden under a thick planting of Christmas trees.

In 1984, gardeners removed the trees, which had grown enormous, and discovered the original Georgian form of the nine acre garden. It had been developed by the 2nd Duke of Atholl in the mid-18th century, but had fallen into disrepair following the two world wars and increased financial pressure from the new death duties.

The trustees of the castle decided to embark upon an ambitious 10-year-long restoration programme, in which they studied archive material and commissioned a detailed survey of the garden. This survey provided them with valuable information about its original layout.

Sarah Troughton, head trustee of the castle, says: ‘Traces of the original design remained. You could see where the peat lined ponds and paths had been. I felt very strongly that it would be lovely to put the shape back because you could see that it had been there historically.

‘The garden is now finished or as finished as a garden ever is. Anything we do now consists of improving or adding.’

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