Florists get glimpse of past after East Lothian garden discovery

Photographs from the walled garden during its heyday.
Photographs from the walled garden during its heyday.
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florists who have taken on a neglected walled garden in have unearthed a set of pictures which show the life of the garden – and those who worked in it – in its Victorian heyday.

Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers of Pyrus Botanicals, who took a lease on Saltoun walled garden, in East Lothian, a year ago to grow flowers and plants for weddings and magazine displays, have regenerated the garden, which had been left untended for a number of years.

Photograpgs from the walled garden during its heyday. Saltoun hallgardens

Photograpgs from the walled garden during its heyday. Saltoun hallgardens

But the pair have now uncovered a photograph album of early pictures taken by a keen gardener in the late 1800s/early 1900s, showing the men who worked in the garden, many of them living together in a bothy on the site.

The album had been in private possession of a descendent of one of the original gardeners for decades.

The photographs include a gardener called Bobby Clark playing the bagpipes, while four other workers are captured dancing “a Scottish reel” to his music.

Even “Maggie the garden pony” features, as well as young boys carrying baskets of produce grown in the garden.

Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers of Pyrus Botanicals at Saltoun Walled Garden near Pencaitland 20/10/16

Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers of Pyrus Botanicals at Saltoun Walled Garden near Pencaitland 20/10/16

One picture shows the workers trying to set up posed photographs in front of a grubby white sheet in the garden in front of the glasshouses. Meanwhile, another offers an insight into life inside the bothy, depicting the men reclining on their beds.

Ms Inglis said: “In the late 1800s, there would have been 30 gardeners on the site, living in a bothy and the potting sheds in the garden – some of which are still there.

“The pictures show what their life was like, living there altogether and creating all of the produce for the estate.”

Other photographs display the now-defunct glasshouses in all their original glory, when the garden would have fed the entire estate of Saltoun Hall, near Pencaitland.

Some of the Victorian era buildings were heated by hot pipes running around the side of the garden, which would allow gardeners to grow exotic fruits such as pineapples.

The estate, which is now split into flats and individual houses, is still home to descendents of the Fletcher family who have lived in the hall since the 1800s, who now have a property nearby.

A glimpse of the “upstairs” of the big house is also seen in the photographs, where the gardener-photographer has captured snaps of the inhabitants of the house playing tennis and of ladies in long dresses posing with the family dog next to bird cages. A snap of toddler “Miss Olive” on a donkey ride is also shown in the photos.

The florists, who both have a fine art background and met while working in another floristry business in Edinburgh, found the 2.75-acre site last year.

“The garden really just came to us,” said Ms Ayers. “We had been working on an estate and were looking for a new site. Then two separate people told us about it and took us to see it.

“As soon as we saw it we thought ‘we could do something with this’.

“You feel like you’re in a different world. It really has a feel of a secret garden.”

jane.bradley@jpress.co.uk