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Meet Craig Cameron, Head Gardener at Teasses Estate

July 3rd 2019

The gardens at Teasses house have undergone an enormous restoration project since the estate was purchased by the current owners back in the mid-90’s. As with much of the estate, the gardens had disappeared under pasture land for grazing livestock and little else. I like to think that the House and Gardens have saved from an almost certain future of demolition, so in a way we have our own ‘Lost Gardens’ story to tell.

Not only am I deeply passionate about plants…like many my biggest flaw is getting hold of plants but not having anywhere in mind to put them, before long you have greenhouses and poly-tunnels full of cuttings and seedlings. I am incredibly passionate about the development of the gardens of Teasses and the history of the estate. The lands of Teasses were first recorded in the 13th C. with a castle on the site and extensive acreage all gradually reduced over the following centuries. Notorious residents preceded over Teasses including famous Scottish privateer Admiral Sir Andrew Barnton, responsible for sinking and pillaging English ships in the Channel for King James IV and, Norman Leslie, Master of Rothes who was charged in the assassination of Cardinal Beaton at St. Andrews Castle in 1546. Mary, Queen of Scots had something to say about that and the lands were forfeited to the crown. The history at Teasses is fascinating and you can find out more on our website; www.teasses.com.

The present owners however are far more focussed on developing the gardens and have over the last 20 years, literally shaped the grounds around the house to allow for the development of what now stands at sixty-acres of bountiful gardens.

The Gardens at Teasses comprise of a great mixture of styles and plants. Around the Mansion house we have formal gardens including; the Sundial Garden. In this garden we have a host of beautifully scented old English roses mixed with the spicy scents of carnations and lavender. It is a wonderful combination and surrounded in dense yew hedging, the garden becomes a perfume filled box in the early evening. The Ravine Garden is an insightful take on the traditional terrace garden you find at large houses along the East-Neuk coast. The modern interpretation of this style of garden provides colour or interest all year. Early blooming Chionodoxa starts off a sequence of colour as the season continues; following on are the vibrant greens of early spring, Erica arborea, Narcissus, Paeonia, Nepeta, Salvia and many more besides. The shades in the Ravine start off white, pass through blue and purple and end triumphantly in the deep reds and purples of Fuchsia magellanica in Autumn. Rosa‘William Lobb’ and R. ‘Little White Pet’ are two examples of roses used in our Rose Garden seating area. Waterlillies in the pond are at their best over the Summer months.

The woodland gardens are less formal and punctuate our deciduous Millennium Wood and the coniferous ex-timber plantation. There are twelve little gardens throughout the woods each with its own character and named after members of the family.

The Walled Garden is where we grow fresh produce for the house which includes a wide range of cutting flowers. The Walled Garden is managed using traditional and organic techniques and the long borders have undergone a renovation over the winter to bring a range of previously outlawed colours at Teasses. Lewis, the Assistant Head Gardener has develop a fantastic planting scheme which encompasses all the colours of the rainbow in blocks.

Teasses was my first Head Gardener position and four years later I’m still revelling in it. Not only do I have the absolute pleasure of working in such a beautiful garden but its great to be in a space which has the support and resources to continue to develop. There is a real energy at Teasses which I believe has continued to radiate from the two decades of restoration of the house, gardens and wider estate. I like to think that I’m feeling the same emotion and excitement that the first gardeners at Teasses would have felt when the current Mansion house and Victorian gardens were constructed in the 1870s. Before Teasses I taught horticulture in Shropshire for four years but always needed that hands on, out door feeling and so I returned to practical gardening. There is a real gap in the employment of professional horticulturists in the UK and so I look back at my years of teaching as my contribution to get young people engage in the industry. I graduated from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh after four years with a BSC (Hons) Horticulture with Plantsmanship in 2011. During my time study at RBGE I had the great opportunity of spending a summer in the mountains of Yunnan, I was struck by the sight of finding plants we’ve come to know as garden favourites in their natural habitat, mountain sides covered in forests of Rhododendron decorum and grasslands brimming with Primula beesiana and P. Vialiiand of course the odd viper. You can’t really appreciate Thalictrum delavayi until you see it grasping to the side of a rock-face at 3,000m above see level and I’m sorry but a border containing Incarvillea has been ruined for me since my time in China. However, one plant genus which looks spectacular here or in its native environment whichever species it might be remainsMeconopsis.

Like most professional gardeners my interest was sparked while I was young, helping my grandparents weed and tidy their small garden in my hometown of Forfar, in Angus. A town which itself has a very interesting horticultural history. Birthplace of George Don Snr and George Don Jr., David Don, James and Thomas Drummond. All highly regarded botanists and horticulturalists in their own right and responsible for introducing/describing many plants we routinely know today. Check out the small but incredibly well kept Forfar Botanist’s Garden at the Myre in the town.

Working in this field is a real privilege not only do you get to spend most of your time in some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland but you also have a hand in creating them too. You in-put now will be remember in physical form for generations to come. You get the opportunity to develop plant collections and features like no one else. Sure the financial rewards can be limited but all the other aspects of the job make up for it. At Teasses the gardens are generally closed to the public and are open by appointment so its like Christmas Day every time you step out into your own little parcel of paradise. The garden is what you make of it and hopefully you’ll be as lucky as I have been to work with estate owners who share your vision and passion for the place. I’d encourage anyone who has an interest in gardening to genuinely consider it a career path. I’ve worked all over the place in the last ten years; Teasses, Côte d’Azur, London, China, France, Shropshire, India all off of the back of an interest in horticulture which in itself stemmed from the first plant I ever bought. A small dark purple Primula, from now long closed Charles Irvines in Forfar, which I proudly exchanged for the coins my Granny gave me for helping in her garden.