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Garden Remodel: A Landscape in Progress on the Coast of Scotland

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Garden Remodel: A Landscape in Progress on the Coast of Scotland

August 24, 2018

In a mild corner of Fife on the east coast of Scotland sits a small estate named Wormistoune. The estate and tower house, which have their origins in the 12th century, are being restored by James and Gemma McCallum, who have been working on the project for two decades.

Photography by Christin Geall.

Head gardener Katherine Taylor makes notes about what to add and subtract every year, constantly revising and refining the plantings. She tweaks her designs annually, keeping meticulous records of what worked and what didn’t.
Above: Head gardener Katherine Taylor makes notes about what to add and subtract every year, constantly revising and refining the plantings. She tweaks her designs annually, keeping meticulous records of what worked and what didn’t.

With such a long and rich history to draw from, the McCallums have chosen to pursue an 18th-century narrative to guide their work. Head gardener Katherine Taylor describes the aesthetic approach: “At that time the Laird (or owner) might have been on a Grand Tour to continental Europe, bringing back new ideas for his house and estate.”

A box parterre styled in the shape of interlocking Scotch thistles is interplanted with cosmos in summer. The serpentine ironwork here harkens back to a legend that the house was once the haunt of a dragon. A number of serpents appear throughout the garden.
Above: A box parterre styled in the shape of interlocking Scotch thistles is interplanted with cosmos in summer. The serpentine ironwork here harkens back to a legend that the house was once the haunt of a dragon. A number of serpents appear throughout the garden.

The walled garden, at just under an acre, incorporates a number of smaller garden rooms separated by yew hedges. These include a parterre, herbaceous borders, shade gardens, pavilions, ponds, a small meadow and orchard. One moves through the garden as if stepping into scenes, moving from shade to sun, from formality to loose abundant plantings.

A seating area in the potager at Wormistoune. The paths here are made from cockle shells.
Above: A seating area in the potager at Wormistoune. The paths here are made from cockle shells.
Queen Anne&#8\2\17;s lace and purple verbena mingle in the cutting garden.
Above: Queen Anne’s lace and purple verbena mingle in the cutting garden.
 Wormistoune&#8\2\17;s L-plan tower house dates from the \1\2th century but has been restored to its \17th-century appearance.
Above: Wormistoune’s L-plan tower house dates from the 12th century but has been restored to its 17th-century appearance.
The moongate at Wormistoune, draped in Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’. Taken in May, this picture shows the central herbaceous border, a vibrant planting protected by yew hedges.
Above: The moongate at Wormistoune, draped in Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’. Taken in May, this picture shows the central herbaceous border, a vibrant planting protected by yew hedges.

Two of the most impressive features of the garden are the pavilions set in the east corners of the walled garden. These ogee-roofed buildings were designed by Simpson & Brown Conservation Architects in 2005. Between the pavilions, a rill connects two ponds, which attract local newts, frogs, and damselflies.

Two pavilions sit at either end of the walled garden, separated by a rill and two ponds.
Above: Two pavilions sit at either end of the walled garden, separated by a rill and two ponds.
Outside the pavilions, traditional flagstone paving is enlivened by an arc of cobblestones and creeping thyme.
Above: Outside the pavilions, traditional flagstone paving is enlivened by an arc of cobblestones and creeping thyme.

Head gardener Taylor mixes perennials with occasional grasses but to loosen her borders, she also incorporates big bloomers such as peonies, dahlias, and roses. She explains, “I use roses and peonies to soften the plantings and make them more romantic and use dahlias to add a splash of late color.”

Ammi and Verbena mingle in a cutting garden at Wormistoune.
Above: Ammi and Verbena mingle in a cutting garden at Wormistoune.

With the walled garden, pavilions, orchard, parterre, and potager nearing completion, the garden restoration has spilled over to the adjoining 12 acres of woodland. A nuttery and several hundred trees have recently been planted to secure the future of the woodlands.

Late-season Sanguisorbas outside the stable block at Wormistoune.
Above: Late-season Sanguisorbas outside the stable block at Wormistoune.
October asters outside the stable block.
Above: October asters outside the stable block.

Wormistoune is open on Tuesday afternoons in the summer through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. The house and gardens will soon be available to rent for weddings and corporate events.

If you’re designing a garden or adding a hardscape feature, start with our curated Garden Design 101 guides, with ideas for Pavers, Decks & Patios, and Exteriors & Facades. See more inspiration from Scotland:

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