I used to be fortunate sufficient to pay my first go to to Haddo terrace backyard on a sunny day in early autumn. We had already had our guided tour of the home and had had a ‘sneaky peak’ by the home windows.
Our method to the terrace, or parterre backyard, was from the aspect. The pleasure of this angle was first seeing the decrease parterre beds, then coming not far away to search out ourselves in what’s a semi-separate aspect backyard. This backyard space, and the one on the far aspect, comply with the form of Haddo home itself. They every include a sundial, a up to date imagining of the sooner sundials which might have been within the backyard when it was first created.
There’s a cannon sitting within the nook, a reminder of much less settled occasions however now surrounded by herbaceous perennials. Turning to our left we saw the main parterres of the terrace garden stretching out in front of us and filled with a glorious tapestry of annual bedding plants and perennials.
Haddo Terrace Garden History
Had you visited here during the Second World War, you would have been greeted with potatoes, kale and other edible crops. Because like in virtually all, the priority was to grow food, to “Dig for Victory” to keep everyone fed when imports were risky and few.
But for the original garden, we go back to the mid eighteenth century. After the completion of the house itself, the architect William Adam advised upon the creation of a formal garden against the south east façade. This was to have raised, level parterres or flower borders. In order to create this, a great deal of earth-moving had to occur to level out the slope. Which is one of the reasons why Haddo Terrace Garden almost gives the effect of being on a table top.
More work was carried out in the early 19th century, both in the wider parkland and the formal gardens. These improvements included the addition of the central fountain.
Haddo Terrace Garden, James Giles and Ishbel
The Aberdeenshire artist James Giles was commissioned by Lord Aberdeen, the fourth Earl, in the early 19th century to draw Scottish castles, which he did between 1838 and 1855. Whilst this impressive display of 85 castles can be seen inside Haddo house, what is of more interest here, is that Giles also painted the gardens. This gives a real insight into how they would have looked in the 1840s and 1850s
But there’s more. Ishbel, Lady Aberdeen, took photographs of the gardens in the late 19th century. These are an invaluable visual record, as there is less room for ‘artistic license’. Although this is not the place to talk further of Ishbel, suffice to say she was a great supporter and inaugurator of social reforms, especially for women.
Haddo Terrace Garden – recreation of an important parterre garden
After the Second World War, plans were put together to re-establish the formal ornamental parterre on the terrace. Thanks to the drawings, photographs, estate plans and other documents, there was a wealth of information to draw from.
With the geometric beds once again in place, it is easy to appreciate how the Italian Renaissance gardens had originally inspired William Adam to create this design to complement the Palladian mansion.
Haddo Terrace Garden in Autumn
At this point, may I suggest that if or when you visit, you walk up the grand staircase from the terrace garden and look down. Not only do you see the full effect of the symmetrical parterre beds, but you can also enjoy the vista of a mile long avenue. This dates from 1738 and was part of William Adam’s original landscape design. The Lime trees form a double avenue and lead the eye from the parterre to the twenty foot high urn monument on the opposite hillside.
The parterre beds had some interesting and successful pairings of colour and texture. I’m told that the planting will vary through the seasons of the year and also, to a certain extent, from year to year.
During the nineteenth century, the formal geometric beds were filled with carpet bedding. (see below for a blog about this style of gardening). Although the current overall effect is in keeping with the original plan, the range of plants has changed. It is now broader, and reflects modern day concerns and benefits. For example, there is fodder here for numerous pollinating insects, with nectar rich flowers and seed heads left on. Other plants take note of climate change and aim to be tolerant of all that throws at Scottish gardens and gardeners. Drought tolerant and frost tolerant – there’s a challenge…
But the planting in Haddo terrace garden is inspired and the backdrop of parkland trees and nearer specimen trees helps the bright colours sing.
Normally open year round, due to the extent of the damage caused to the country park and driveway by Storm Arwen, Haddo will not reopen in 2021. For safety reasons, visitors cannot access the park until extensive works have been carried out.
There are other Scottish garden visit blogs in Plews Potting Shed for you to enjoy as well as English ones (no, I don’t know why I haven’t put the Welsh ones in there yet!). Plus there are articles with design ideas, gardening tips and tricks, in the selection below, in our monthly Tipsheet and regularly on Instagram and Facebook
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What are the Key Elements of a Formal Garden?
Bedding Plants – Carpet Bedding
Dunvegan Castle Gardens
Armadale Castle Gardens
Cawdor Castle Garden
Historic Gardens of Hampton Court
Flowers, Fruit & Bees, Walled Garden Fulham Palace