The Gardens at Greywalls
If the enduring image of an Edwardian garden is of a place to promenade, of secluded seating areas where assignations can take place and of tea, cucumber sandwiches and lemonade served on the lawn on a warm summers afternoon, then Greywalls is the quintessential example. At Greywalls the visitor sees none of the harsh edges so often found in Scottish gardens. The gentle countryside drifts into the distance, echoed by the curving sky. The occasional clatter of a lawn mower in the distance and the cooing of wood pigeons conjures up a very pastoral and timeless feel.
One of the highlights of the garden at Greywalls is the walls, although why the house’s original name High Walls was changed to Greywalls remains a mystery. The walls are not even grey, but a mellow mix of yellow, cinnamon and pink brick, with pantiled copes of grey slate.
The arched doorways in the walls have beautiful detailing using these grey slates in an Art Deco design. There are straight walls and curved walls cunningly laid out to create rooms and vistas; radiating paths link entrances and exits through the doors, beckoning you through. It is the perfect place to wander.You can almost hear the swish of oyster-coloured satin skirts and smell the scent of rose and lavender water. The straight lines are softened by the curves of the walls and the proportions are totally satisfying, being neither too large nor too small but just right. Everywhere there are places to sit, in sun and in shade, in solitary contemplation, or in companionable conversation.
Click to enlarge images below
It is generally believed that the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens employed his gardening partner Gertrude Jekyll to plan the planting schemes within the walled enclosures of Greywalls. No plans exist, but the current planting is very Jekyllesque. Today Ros Weaver has taken over the running of ths delightful six-acre garden. James Walker was head gardener at Greywalls from 1920 until he retired in 1982. Without his continuous care and attention the important layouts designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens might have disappeared, particularly during the Second World War. The fact that half of the garden was laid down to vegetables probably prevented it from being completely dug up to aid the war effort, when people were urged to ‘dig for victory’.
Ros has spent time studying Jekyll’s planting at West Dean Park in Sussex and she employed designer Laura McKenzie to re-plant the garden in the same style. Together they banished the hybrid teas and floribundas so beloved of the 1950s and ’60s, with the approval of Jane Brown, the garden writer and an expert on Jekyll.
The planting is soft and voluptuous, reminiscent of the swagged and draped elegance of an Edwardian lady’s dress. Visitors are reminded of parasols and feathered hats, while the faded pinks and apricots of the climbing roses drape themselves over the walls like reclining beauties on a chaise longue.
Thanks to East Lothian’s microclimate, the envy of other, colder East Coast areas, there is rarely a frost at Greywalls. The soil may be sandy but behind the greenhouses there are huge compost heaps, lovingly tended, to alleviate the problem. The excellent drainage meant that the grass tennis courts could be reinstated in 1999 and, like the golf courses, can be used all year round. Today, over half the guests come for the golf, while the rest are able to summon refreshments while they sit and look out over the golf course towards the Firth of Forth. Heaven indeed.