Fernery

As to our second ruin, when the “jungle” was gradually cleared, we uncovered a large glazed structure in the undergrowth, almost hidden by a covering of ivy. Rustic steps led down to the sunken, dingy, interior full of broken glass, water, mud and brambles. This apart, it was a fascinating spectacle, with strangely fashioned walls as well as a clogged up pond full of rotting vegetation. Here and there could be seen fallen black fibrous “trunks”, which was all that remained of the tree ferns that had once thrived in this magical place.
This as we later discovered, had once been a magnificent fernery housing many exotic sub-tropical ferns. However, with so much time, attention and money needing to be spent on the house, we never at that time seriously considered the fernery’s restoration.
In the meantime, an article had come to light in The Gardeners Chronicle of 1879, which featured the fernery. This included not only a wonderful description of the place but also a complete inventory of the ferns – an invaluable record, should the fernery ever be restored.
Over a period of time we had an ongoing dialogue with Historic Scotland, and in 1995 they awarded a substantial grant towards the restoration of a new roof for the fernery. A good architect was employed, the right blacksmith was found, and the crumbling iron spars from the original roof were carefully removed. A new roof, identical to the original, was erected and glazed in 1996.

As far as the restocking with ferns was concerned, we realised this was going to be a huge undertaking, and we approached The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh initially for advice. However, when Mr. David Mitchell of the R.B.G.E. first viewed the fernery, his reaction was one of delight, and an agreement was reached whereby the R.B.G.E.’s involvement would be comprehensive. Using the Gardeners’ Chronicle as a guide, a new collection of pteridophytes (ferns) was planted in a style evocative of the original planting. The fernery opened to the public for the first time in June 1997.

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