Gates open again on a magic garden

Willie Duncan
Willie Duncan

BBC ‘Beechgrove Potting Shed’ favourite Willie Duncan is one of 12 Fife gardeners opening their gates to the public this weekend (May 18-20) in aid of the Fife Diamond Garden Festival.

The ticket-only charity event brings together enthusiasts from across the Kingdom who want to support Scotland’s Gardens and the Fife-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) which funds cutting edge research both here in the UK and all over the world.

Carole Baxter from the BBC Beechgrove Garden programme previewed the festival weekend by visiting the garden of Willie Duncan and Barbara Whitelaw in Drumeldrie, by Upper Largo. The programme will be screened tomorrow (Thursday) on BBC2 Scotland at 7.30pm.

Organised under the ‘Growing and Giving’ banner by the Fife branch of Scotland’s Gardens – a charity which facilitates the opening of Scotland’s finest gardens to the public as a means of raising funds for other worthy charities – the garden festival is in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year.

At Strathmore Cottage, Drumeldrie, Barbara and Willie have created mixed borders and an orchard with more than 100 different varieties of apples, such as the rare Scots Dumpling. Willie, a professional gardener and plantsman, well-known for his ‘Beechgrove Potting Shed’ advice, uses traditional grafting methods to grow new trees at the rural cottage. He uses the same method to grow pears and is quietly confident that the rarer native varieties of both fruits will not be lost, thanks to more conscious conservation in recent years.

The green-fingered couple used to open their garden to the public regularly in their younger years and were persuaded to open their garden again for the Fife Diamond Garden Festival because of the good causes Scotland’s Gardens supports. Willie previously served for 10 years on the charity’s executive committee and for the same period on the National Trust’s advisory gardens committee.

Drumeldrie’s mild, coastal climate allows plants like the evergreen shrub, Pitossporum Tenufolium from New Zealand, its Antipodean neighbour, the Cordyline Australis or ‘cabbage tree’ and the Chusan (Windmill) Palm from China, to thrive.

“These are exceptional,” explained Willie, “because here at the coast we get less frost. Our Ceanothus or Californian lilac, is 20-foot high. The variety we grow here, Zanzibar, flowers most of the summer.”

Proceeds from the Fife Diamond Garden Festival will go to Scotland’s Gardens charities, including Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and the Fife-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). Tickets can be obtained from Cambo Estate, Kingsbarns, or online from