Inspirational places

Lindisfarne Castle Garden

Her heart and interest were not in the large estates with sweeping parklands, but in the small domestic gardens of England which lie within the reach of so many garden lovers. She naturally liked doing big gardens - they paid better - and she was always hard up ... but it was to the struggling small gardener she appealed. 
                                                                                                          F.  Jekyll 'Gertrude Jekyll: a memoir'

View of Lindisfarne Castle Garden in September

‘Gertrude Jekyll is ranked with Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton as one of the greatest garden designers. Her writings exert a profound influence on design and the use of hardy plants. She was already well established when she met the architect Edward Lutyens in 1889, but it was not until 1899 that she met Edward Hudson who persuaded her to contribute to ‘Country Life’ which he owned. From 1900, Lutyens houses and Jekyll gardens were proclaimed through this magazine.

Gertrude Jekyll stayed at Lindisfarne Castle in May and again in November 1906, having travelled by train in May with three shillings (15p) worth of bulls eyes, Edward Lutyens and a raven, Black Jack. While Lutyens spent much time constructing a cage for the raven, Gertrude explored the island, sketching and planting flowers in the rocks of Beblow Hill with the help of a boy from the village, Harry Walker, who was placed in a pannier basket with the plants and lowered from the windows of the castle.

Early morning sky over Holy Island

Edward Hudson wanted to develop the valley between the small walled garden and the castle as ‘a pretty water garden … that might attract a few birds … make a very good centre to the castle gardens’. The old walled castle gardens were to be a tennis and croquet lawn.

These grandiose plans came to nothing as the cost to restore and extend the castle escalated. By 1910, however, Edward Hudson was ready to establish a garden within the walls of the existing small walled garden. Edward Lutyens designed the paths and garden walls in January 1911and shortly afterwards Gertrude Jekyll added two planting plans: the first was for the initial year and comprised vegetables and annual flowers; the second was for a permanent planting of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals with a single border set aside for vegetables.

The splendour of Lindisfarne Castle

In her planting plan, the western border is filled with Hybrid Tea and Bourbon roses and edged with sown mignonette. The long northern border contains a repetitive planting of drifts of mallows, hollyhocks, sunflowers, Japanese anemones, anchored with fuchsias and edged with godetias, santolina and salvias. The eastern border was devoted to vegetables and fruit trees were grown as espaliers on the wall. In the island beds, the planting was graded in height to mimic the line of the lowered south wall in which an entrance gate was placed and fronted by a semi-circular apron of beach pebbles set as chevrons.

The north-south axial line is reinforced by 280 grey-leaved stachys byzantina. To east and west the grey foliage gives way to the blues and whites of campanula, centaurea, chrysanthemum, papaver and delphiniums and terminates towards the back of the island beds in a scrambling mass of pink and lavender sweet peas. 

Edging of grey-leaved stachys surrounding colourful sedums

In 1921, Edward Hudson sold the castle to Oswald Falk and two years later Gertrude Jekyll redesigned the garden sending many plants from her nursery at Munstead Wood. The character of the garden changed with the addition of many irises, asters and peonies. It was maintained from 1911 – 1966 by the Lilburn Family.

In 2002 The National Trust was in a position to restore the garden back to Gertrude Jekyll’s 1911 planting plan. During the search for the plants on her plan, the trust learnt a great deal about Gertrude. They discovered that she was a pioneer, choosing many contemporary early twentieth century cultivars. Although generally there was success in the search for Jekyll’s choice, sadly many cultivars have been lost. Half the plants in her designs were hardy annuals which give a spectacular summer show and are a perfect selection for the blustery weather conditions on the island.’.
                                                                                     Michael and Rosanna Tooley 2007

Cloudy beach mid-afternoon on Holy Island

Five of us visited Holy Island mid-September and were inspired by the landscape and the serenity - especially once the rest of the tourists had left as the tide rolled in at 2.30pm - variously to begin a poem, to design the painting for the cover of a new novel, to consider ghostly happenings, to walk in the early morning and to capture glorious photographic images for future blogs.

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