This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
This beautiful estate was purchased by Charles Tennant, Esq., the present proprietor, about twenty years ago; and since then various improvements have been going on on a very extensive scale in every department, and now it is one of the most lovely and beautiful places in the south of Scotland. The Glen is situated in Peeblesshire, about eight miles from Peebles, and three from the thriving village of Innerleithen, near which is situated the " St Ronan's Well" of Sir Walter Scott. From the latter the road leads across the Tweed, and to the right stands the old venerable mansion-house of the Earls of Traquair, said to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, and the church and village of Traquair: before entering which the road turns sharply to the right, crossing the Quair by a neat stone bridge, and leads along the north bank of the stream. On the north of the road the hills are both high and steep, and purely pastoral. To the south of the river the ground rises with a gentle slope, and for a considerable distance up the hill-sides the ground is well cultivated.
The stranger in passing along this road has little idea of the treat that is in store for him at The Glen, and how near he is to it, when in looking at the surroundings the eye takes in next to nothing but lofty mountains on all sides. Passing on, the porter's lodge is reached, a neat substantial building, and over the gateway is cut in stone the word "Welcome," which shows to the visitor that he is not looked upon as an intruder by the generous proprietor. Here the roads part: the one leading to the right is used as a service road to the Home Farm steading. The approach from the gate is half a mile long, leading along in gentle curves, and is of the most delightful description, through a beautiful park of large extent and parallel with the river. Here the landscape is diversified with large clumps of Rhododendrons, and all the new and rare varieties of Coniferre, in groups, and planted out singly. To the left there is a fine lake, surrounded with shrubbery interspersed with winding walks. At the east end there is a pretty cascade, the rippling murmur of which is very pleasing in hot weather. The mansion-house is a noble pile, in the old Scottish baronial style of architecture.
From it, in the distance, may be seen the hills that shadow the "dowie dens of Yarrow," and also the lofty Minchmoor Hills, over which Montrose fled after the battle of Philiphaugh. Here is also the scene of the fine old pathetic ballad "Lucy's Flitting." After the completion of his mansion, Mr Tennant had all the old cottages on the estate pulled down, and new and substantial houses erected in their stead, with all the newest improvements; and as soon as they were habitable, they were filled with his own workpeople, who in their own sphere soon became participants of the goodness which Providence has bestowed on their kind employer. When Mr Tennant assumed The Glen, about twenty years ago, the community numbered 20; and now there is a population of nearly 200. Mr Tennant has also erected a school-house for the benefit of those connected with the district, in the management of which, I understand, Mrs Tennant takes a great interest. From the position in which the house stands, and the ground rising pretty sharply towards the Flower-garden, advantage has been taken of it to form some beautiful terraces to the south and west. Rhododendrons and other rare shrubs have been planted in groups with good effect.
If fault could be found in this department at all, it is in this: that too many early-flowering Rhododendrons have been intermixed with those shrubs, the buds of which seldom escape the early frosts. South-west from the house is the Flower-garden proper. This is surrounded by a very substantial wall of blue whinstone. Towards the south, and facing the mansion-house, the wall is semicircular, with abutments at equal distances. This wall has recently been planted, according to suggestions from Mrs Tennant, with the most approved sorts of hardy climbers, due regard having been made to have the foliage as well as flowers well contrasted. Another instance was brought under my notice in connection with Mrs Tennant's fine taste in those matters. She has had a large number of deciduous trees (of such sorts as change the foliage in autumn) planted in the most prominent positions all through the plantations. As they are not of any great size, the distinctive characters are hardly developed yet at a distance, but in time they must form grand objects in the landscape.
Adjoining the mansion-house there is a very large span-roofed Conservatory, running nearly south and north, 90 feet long by 20 broad, and as the entire length of the inside of this house is seen from the windows of the mansion-house the effect is very fine indeed, as the plants in it are all in the finest possible health. The climbers in this house are remarkably well managed. Connected with the conservatory, and entering from it, are three span-roofed houses running east and west, which are to be converted into Plant-houses. Indeed, one has been done so already. In it I found some magnificent plants, such as Cycas revoluta, 10 feet in diameter, two fine Tree Ferns (Dicksonia Antarctica), with trunks 8 to 10 feet high, and fine heads, Areca Bauerii (Palm), with fronds 8 feet long, Latania Borbonica (Fan Palm), 9 feet in diameter, Croton angustifolium, 4 1/2 feet high and 3i feet in diameter, a very fine plant of Maranta Yeitchii, of large size, - a telling plant in any collection, - Geonoma Schottiana (Palm), 6 feet high, Anthurium magnificum, fine, Croton variegatum, 6 feet high and 5 feet in diameter, - beautiful plant, - Nepenthes hybrida maculata, 12 feet high, hanging with pitchers, Maranta zebrina, good plant, Anthurium Scherzerianum, a most charming plant, just coming into flower, Medinella magnifica, with 30 trusses of flowers, Pandanus utilis (Screw Pine), 7 feet in diameter, in fine health, well-grown plant, Sphserogyne latifolia, 5 feet high, lovely plant, Hyophorbe Verschaffeltii (Palm), good plant.
The other two houses in this range are a Fig and Peach house, and which are to be done away with as soon as the present crop is removed, and converted into plant-houses. The range close to the flower-garden contains the following: - Orchid-house, 30 feet x 10, containing a very select and well grown collection of Orchids, among which we noticed fine plants of the following: - aerides Dayii, with four fine flower-spikes, Cattleya crispa, two fine plants of Vanda tricolor, Vanda teres, Miltonia spectabilis, aerides virens, Cattleya Loddigesii, Cattleya Mossice, Cattleya Dowiana, Oncidium Weltoni, Dendrobium nobile, grand plant, Dendrobium Dalhousianum, and Laslia Barkeriana. Connected with this range are a very neat Heath-house, 30 x 18 feet, with a nice well-grown collection of Heaths, in the best possible health, a thing seldom seen nowadays, and another span-roofed house filled with Calceolarias, which, at the time of our visit (24th June), were in full flower. At this place there is a very fine strain of this lovely plant, of a bushy dwarf habit and striking colours. Adjoining is a Pine-stove, half-span, 60 x 15 feet. The one-half is filled with smooth Cayenne. A good many were swelling their fruits, and promising to be of large size.
The other half was filled with Queens, all fine dwarf stocky stuff. Adjoining this house is a Succession-pit, 80 x 7^ feet. At the back of the Flower-garden, and connected with another range, there is a very nice span-roofed Pine-pit, 30 x 14 feet, filled with Queens in splendid condition, many of them swelling off their fruit. Returning to the former range, there is a Vinery, 45 x 12 feet. This is entirely a Hamburg-house, with a very fine crop. Adjoining is a Muscat-house of the same dimensions, with a magnificent crop of fruit in it. Many of the bunches promised to be of large size and good weight. Returning to the former range, there is a large Greenhouse, 60 x 15 feet, filled with a miscellaneous collection of very nice greenhouse plants, among which we noticed the following to be very superior - Erica elegans, Victoria, Austiniana, Aitonia superba, Cavendishii, ventricosa coccinea, Fairyana, gran-diflora, tricolor Wilsonii, and tricolor coronata. Adjoining the above, there is a span-roofed house, 50 x 12 feet, filled with Azaleas, Camellias, etc, of what may be termed half-specimens. The propagating department has not been neglected here, as there are ranges of upwards of 200 feet long, fitted up on the most approved principles.
To the west of the mansion-house lies the Kitchen-garden, of 2 1/2 acres in extent, surrounded with most substantial stone walls, with a rather sharp declivity towards the south. At the top of the garden, and on the back wall, there is what may be termed a late Vinery, 100 x 12 feet. It is to be regretted that this house was not made 10 feet wider, as from the luxuriance of the Vines, it is quite evident they would require all this scope to fully develop themselves. To the east and west of this house there has been recently added a Peach and Orchard house, 80 x 12 feet. I cannot conclude this notice without complimenting Mr Stewart, Mr Tennant's head-gardener, on his high skill and judicious management in every department. There is one thing I would like particularly to mention, and that is, that cleanliness seems to be carried out, I may say, to a fault: Mr Stewart seems to take for his motto that no tool gives so much satisfaction as the broom.
John Downie. West Coates Nursery, Edinburgh.