Tag Archive: pools


WP_20160512_21_47_51_ProOK, I’m sorry. It’s two months since we got back from Scotland and the roll out of my pictures and stories is painfully slow. Put it down to ‘getting back into the garden’, as those of you who read my letters to my friend Walter, will know.

So far I’ve shared my experiences of two clan seats on Skye- at Dunvegan and Armadale Castles- and in particular the splendid gardens. Today I thought I’d do a sort of composite post picking up the various other things and places we did/went to before moving back for a couple of days to Glasgow.

We were sharing a rather nice house with 6 friends in the north west of the island. The weather, and especially the sunsets (see the picture above) were amazing for early May…27 degrees C on one or two days. First, then some shots of our immediate area…

Second, some from some of the walks (and swims!) we did…Coral Beaches, Fairy Pools and a long trek across moorland towards Talisker Bay…

We also went on a boat trip where we managed to (just about) see some White Tailed and Golden Eagles as well as a good range of other sea birds….

Finally, and most spectacular of all, we went on a rather longer walk up and around the ‘Old Man of Storr’ up in the north east of the island- some breathtaking scenery here…

Well, hopefully you get the flavour of what was a fascinating and fun week- including a themed Scottish evening meal with us all wearing ‘See you Jimmy’ hats (and hair)!! no pictures to protect the innocent…

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Old School Gardener

WP_20160511_15_17_27_ProOur second garden trip whilst in Scotland this year involved a bit of a trek to the south-western coast of the Isle of Skye, from our base further north. The 20,000 acre estate of the Clan Donald is centred on an historic castle (now a ruin) and gardens, along with a rather interesting museum that guides you through 1500 years of history and culture of the ‘Kingdom of the Isles’.

Our visit, with friends Richard and Ann, was once again blessed with warm, sunny weather. After arriving and a light lunch at the Castle restaurant, we set off along Lord Macdonald’s Drive via a coast-side walk and viewpoint across the sound, towards the imposing shell of Armadale castle. As the Castle’s website explains:

‘The Clan Donald established itself on Skye in the 15th century, occupying castles at Dunscaith and Knock, both within a few miles of Armadale, and Duntulm Castle at the north end of the island.

From the 1650s, the MacDonald chiefs also began to stay at Armadale. From the 1700s onwards, the mansion house at Armadale was used as a dower house (a large home occupied by the widow of a late owner or chief) and then rented out to others.

A number of famous historical figures have visited Armadale over the years. Flora MacDonald, famed throughout the world for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to flee Scotland after the Jacobites’ defeat at Culloden, was married here on 6 November 1750. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited in 1773.

Around 1790, a new mansion house was built at Armadale and this, combined with the start of the plantings you see around the gardens today, became a real demonstration of the wealth and lifestyle of the landed aristocracy.

In 1815, the mansion house was extended to form Armadale Castle, designed by the renowned architect James Gillespie Graham. In 1855, fire destroyed much of the original house, which was replaced by the current central section (designed by David Bryce). In 1925, the MacDonald family moved to a smaller house leaving the castle to the wind and rain.

Today, the Gillespie Graham section is a sculptured ruin and garden with the staircase and facade often used for wedding ceremonies. Housed in what remains of the original mansion, dating from around 1790, the Somerled Rooms offer a unique conference facility.’

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From the castle we took in the formal gardens and woodland walks and eventually arrived at the Museum of the Isles, which was fascinating. Even more impressive were the linked pools outside where gardeners were preening the planting and the sun reflected beautifully off of the water surfaces.

Armadale Castle Gardens are testimony to years of patient restoration; the result is 40 acres of varied gardens and woodland, featuring some magnificent trees, some almost 200 years old. Through spring and summer there are carpets of bluebells, orchids and wildflowers and there is clear evidence of long-term thinking as below the giant trees are the young firs which will eventually replace them, as well as the growing collections of elegant birch and beech trees.

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Plants from around the world thrive in this sheltered spot, including the ‘Chilean Fire Bush’ (Embothrium), Himalayan Birch and Celmesias from New Zealand. More recently developed areas such as the ponds, herbaceous borders and terrace walks provide a tranquil place to sit or stroll, with walks through dappled shade and delicate woodland planting linking these sunny havens.

Further information: www.clandonald.com

Old School Gardener

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The second garden visit on our last day in Portugal took us a little further towards the mouth of the River Tagus, but still within the town of Oeiras. The Gardens of the Palace of the Marquis of Pombal convey an even more prosperous feel and are altogether larger – almost a ‘landscape’ scale. It is easy to imagine these high baroque walks, lawns, borders and water features as the scene of some serious 18th century showing off, flirting and general fun. 

The 1st Marquis of Pombal
The 1st Marquis of Pombal

The Town Council now occupies the former palace. The Marquis of Pombal, one of Portugal’s most famous leaders, was rewarded with the palace, the title (and the title Count of Oeiras) for his service as first minister to the Portuguese King Dom Jose I in the mid- late 18th century. The surrounding gardens are typical of Portuguese landscape art, inspired by eighteenth century European designs but holding to the tradition of the Portuguese stately house. They are richly decorated with marble busts and statues, low walls and marble staircases along with many murals composed from azulejos (glazed tiles).

Here too is the Poets’ Waterfall, with excellent busts of the four epic poets (Tasso, Homer, Virgil and Camoes) looking out over the gardens and carved in marble by Machado de Castro. At the fountain’s centre lounges the figure of a ‘river god’ modelled on the one that existed at the Belvedere Gardens, in the Vatican, Rome. As in the garden we visited earlier at Caxias, the fountain is a fantastic structure made out of pitted stone which conveys a truly antique feel. There are also splendid views of the surrounding gardens from the stairs that wrap around the sides of the construction.

The gardens form one part of a wider estate which is planned to a rigourous geometry and divides recreation spaces, great gardens and surrounding farms, all reflecting the style of the well-to-do families of the age.  The gardens saw cultural events such as theatre, ballet and musical performances, a tradition kept up to the modern day (Roxy Music performed here in 2010!).  Here are some pictures of the formal gardens lying to the side of the Poets’ Fountain, with empty pools resting near to the remains of a ‘bousquet’ (a sort of woodland in miniature) and the wonderful (empty) pools and fountains of a large water garden with some beautiful glazed tiles that must look really vibrant when wet.

Related article:

Portuguese Gardens: Baroque Splendour at Caxias, Portugal

Old School Gardener

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Water Lily Beetle- image from Donsgarden.com

Today’s GQT comes from Adele Inwood from the lsle of Wight:

‘I have a new pool in my garden and I want to know how to deal with the main pests and diseases of pool plants please.’

Adele, the worst pest of pool plants is the Water Lily beetle- it’s larvae are like small slugs, dark on top and pale underneath. They feed on the leaves of water lilies.

The small brown beetles hibernate in the hollow stems of other aquatic plants, which should therefore be cut down in the autumn and burnt. You can control the larvae by laying a double thickness of newspaper over all the foliage from the first appearance of the pest (indicated by holes chewed through the foliage). If this is done in the evening and the papers removed in the morning, and the process is repeated at weekly intervals for at least four weeks, you should find that the beetle larvae will have been eaten by other water life.

Remove the worst damaged leaves. This method of control is also good for the reddish-black aphids which can seriously damage the leaves. Hosing off the aphids and beetles is also effective – but be careful not to add too much new water to the pool.

You might also see a thick green scum appearing on the surface of the pool. If the pool hasn’t been filled for a matter of only a few days or weeks, remove the worst of the scum with a fine mesh net. The scum – really an algae – appears after you change the water, before it settles down again. The presence of foliage on the surface will help to speed up the process by preventing light from getting to all of the water, stopping the formation of the algal ‘bloom’. So perhaps look at trying to cover more of your water surface with plants – about a third coverage is a good target.

Pond algae can be reduced by increasing leaf cover on the water surface

Pond algae can be reduced by increasing leaf cover on the water surface

Further information:

Water Lily Pests

Old School Gardener

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In this latest article about different garden styles I turn my attention to Country Gardens, trying to capture their essence in a few words and images.

Country Gardens are usually fairly large (in some senses they can be seen as a larger version of the Cottage Garden). They tend to follow a pattern of straight-line formality or other clear geometrical shape near to the house, with increasing informality as you move further away, where the garden becomes more and more integrated with the surrounding countryside. Likewise, planting tends to be more formal near the house (possibly featuring topiarised shrubs), but becomes more naturalistic towards the edges. Other key features of Country Gardens are:

  • Luxuriant planting

  • Large pools and/or streams

  • Views into the surrounding landscape, sometimes ‘framed’ by boundaries or planting

  • Sweeping lawns

  • Hedging and other screens that might divide up the garden into different areas

  • Natural materials, especially as the garden moves away from the house

  • Garden structures, furniture or specimen plants that act as eye catchers/ focal points

Let me know what you think makes a Country style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Other posts in the series:

Modernist Gardens

Formal Gardens

Mediterranean Gardens

Cottage gardens

Old School Gardener

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