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The Sherpa House - Craigieburn Gardens - Moffat

By TrotterFechan
The Sherpa House - Craigieburn - Moffat.

Check it out on my Flickr page.

There can be few gardening partnerships forged from more dramatic beginnings than that of Janet Wheatcroft and Dawa Sherpa. In 1995 Wheatcroft was crossing the Arun river in Nepal as a member of a plant-hunting and botanising expedition. The river was in full spate, the water roiling, when a landslide upstream sent a torrent of mud and boulders the size of London buses towards the group.
Dawa clung to Wheatcroft, exchanging terrified glances. He eventually hauled her to safety. As incredible as it was that he saved my life, she says, it was the realisation that he wasn't going to leave me and would rather go down as well that will always stay with me. Wheatcroft and Dawa stayed in touch and, a few years later, she invited him to visit her and her husband, Andrew, at their home at Craigieburn near Moffat close to the Scottish Borders.
The foothills of the Himalayas have a summer climate very similar to that of south-west Scotland. At Craigieburn a steep sided gorge that cuts through one side of the garden created a microclimate almost identical to that of Dawa's home village of Kharikhola. A brook runs through the gorge; the water flow is reduced to a gentle stream in summer but in winter, or after heavy rainfall, it rushes through the valley, crashing over the boulders that form the sides of the gorge. The atomised water creates the perfect moisture-laden atmosphere in which Himalayan plants thrive.
The gorge became the site for what is now known as Dawa's Sherpa garden. Cleared of sapling trees and undergrowth, the soil was dug over and improved using nothing but what Dawa refers to as his sherpa power his own muscles and tenacity. In just four months it was made ready for planting.
Dawa describes his career as a gardener as his fourth life. He spent time as a camp cook and trail guide, trained as a Buddhist monk and then worked as a sherpa. In this role he summited Everest twice, so the challenges of the gorge at Craigieburn and the persistent attentions of the small yet incredibly irritating biting midges that are a feature of this part of Scotland in summer must have seemed like small beer. And as he points out, growing the vegetables you need to stay alive on the side of a mountain has a far greater urgency than making an ornamental garden.
At the foot of the Sherpa garden, great swaths of Himalayan big blue poppies (Meconopsis) thrive, a sea of electric blue blooms shot through with iridescent silver and violet. There are numerous species and cultivars of Meconopsis in the gorge and elsewhere at Craigieburn, from Meconopsis grandis and Meconopsis sheldonii to George Sherriff Group hybrids. Their desirability is matched by their complex cultivation requirements, but the gorge suits them well. The soil is humus-rich, moist but well drained while the high tree canopy provides dappled shade, a key requirement for Meconopsis and many other Himalayan woodland edge plants.
Dawa claims not to have lost a single specimen from the hundreds of plants that went into the gorge, and not to have read a single gardening book in its making either. This latter claim is subsequently verified and qualified by Wheatcroft when she confides that Dawa has never learnt to read. What is clear, though, is that he has used an intuitive knowledge of the native flora of his home in making the garden.
Stands of Cardiocrinum giganteum (a bulb that produces a forearm-thick stem topped with huge, lily-like flowers) are planted not in deep, leaf-litter enriched peat soil, as the books suggest, but right at the edge of the stream. Farther up the gorge are stands of Arisaema speciosum, a malevolent-looking beast with dark purplish-black, white-veined flowers that look ready to devour any unsuspecting animal that might be passing by.
On a less epic scale are the ground-covering plants that spill over the rocks and weave through the taller plants, but these diminutive gems are no less interesting. There are at least three I've never seen before. Parochetus communis is a spreading clover, found on Himalayan riverbanks; its bright green leaves and intense blue flowers rival the Meconopsis in colour if not in size and profusion.
Growing with it is Primula geranifolia looking every inch a geranium rather than a primula with deeply cut leaves and dusky pink flowers, and Fragaria daltoniana. This rare Nepalese strawberry Wheatcroft believes these are the only plants in the UK arrived at Craigieburn by accident in a shipment from the Himalayas, and have slowly made the garden their home, lighting up dark corners with dark red drupes and leaves so glossy they look as if they have been polished. Mixed in with more widely available ground-covering plants such as Dicentra Langtrees and Epimedium cultivars, the resulting tapestry is so lush that even the few weeds that grow among it take on an exotic air.
It is evident that Dawa's mischievous delight in his convention-bending approach to gardening has spilled into the rest of the garden. Topiary animals stride across the tops of the hedges that frame classic herbaceous borders; prayer flags and the occasional (and tastefully placed) stone Buddha peek out from among shrubs. Wheatcrofts seemingly effortless talent in designing and planting has collided with Dawa's raw intuitive skill to make a memorable and unique horticultural experience.

Tags: Window Cottage House Architecture Moffat Sherpa Craigieburn

Voters: woolybill1, bobpaige1, nstewart and 11 more

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pablophotographer 8 1.3k 355
15 Dec 2016 9:40AM
A storytelling image with beautiful lighting, bravo!

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