28th December 2020

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, Head Gardener Tim summarises the challenges and triumphs for the Abbotsford gardens this year and outlines some exciting plans for 2021!

After going into lockdown in March, we had a limited gardening team without our usual team of volunteers. Not knowing when we’d be able to re-open, the team maintained the upkeep of the gardens as though they were actually open during this period. This meant we could confidently open the garden gates in July with a vibrant sea of colour greeting our visitors from the many annual plants sown in the spring which included Cosmos Sensation and Dazzler, Dahlia Bishops children, Rudbeckia, Cornflowers, Nigella and a variety of sunflowers. These annuals provided companion plants for our vegetables which had a very good growing season with many being available for sale in the visitor centre. The courgette crop was particularly pleasing, a variety called “Pantheon” which produced a great crop. The cabbage “Rodima”, leek “Northern Lights” and onion “Ailsa Craig” also did well.

The team were delighted to have so many garden volunteers back working with us from mid-July onwards. They all stated how pleased they were to return and how the garden provided a place of positive health and wellbeing and a focus away from the ongoing covid outbreak.

August presented us with some challenging, unseasonal weather and with the help of the volunteers we were able to maintain the gardens to a high standard. Dead heading, tying in and staking were the order of the day with the wind and rain constantly battering the vegetation. Everyone’s hard work certainly paid off and we had many positive comments about the garden and how much colour there was, even into early November.

As we moved into the autumn and with spring in mind we have many different varieties of bulbs being planted. The Tulip Fire we suffered from has meant reducing the number of tulips we plant. However, we have added to the tulips in the espalier borders and Morris Garden, with subtle palates of colour in areas of the walled garden complementing our perennial planting. We will be adding to our alliums from last year in the perennial borders within the walled garden and throughout the South Court and Morris garden. The allium which caught the eye and was subject to much interest from our visitors was a variety called Schubertii.

A large mix of bulbs including Narcissi, Chamassia, Muscari, Scilla and Puschkinia will provide a colourful display early to late spring to grass banking’s in the Morris garden. Adding to our array of bulbs for the spring, we recently joined forces with Galashiels Rotarians in planting four thousand Crocus. They kindly donated the bulbs and members helped plant them on October 24th, World Polio Awareness Day, with polio having an historic link to Sir Walter Scott.

Looking ahead to 2021, planning is in progress for a new mindfulness garden which we’ll open as part of celebrations for Sir Walter Scott’s 250th anniversary year. We plan to include a water feature and seating to provide a calm, relaxing place for reflection at Abbotsford.

We are also looking to add areas of interest to the east wall of the Morris Garden. Studying planting from early 1800 the addition of ornamental trees and shrubs to provided variants in height, along with perennial planting and intermittent wildflower sowing will add to the planting flow as visitors move from the walled garden through to the South Court.

Amongst plans for 2021 we will be planting 450 free trees from the Woodland Trust to enhance biodiversity by providing food in the form of seeds and berries. We’re also planning various activities for local community groups, academic establishments and visitors.