12 Apr 2009

Kissing Yews: Malleny Garden

When I was a child there was an enormous boulder in the middle of one of our hay fields. Growing up around that boulder was a giant willow, the branches of which drooped over the stone and cast dancing shadows, particularly in the spring when the fuzzy catkins would burst from their pods.

In Malleny Gardens near Balerno, there are four huge yew trees known as the four apostles. They stand facing each other like stubborn chess pieces, each one daring the other to make the first move. Duck beneath the branches and you will find yourself in the midst of the standoff, until you notice how the light betrays the intimacy of the meeting braches, and you forget there was ever a war.

No doubt the height of summer is the best time to visit the garden, as that is when the 19th century rose garden is likely to be in its best condition. However any time of year is a good time to walk to the back wall of the garden, and follow the trail until it ends at the place where Malleny House begins to emerge from behind the bushes like some creepy mansion in a children’s story.

My other favourite site in the garden is the slime-covered fountain across from the house. The flow of water is down to a trickle, sliding off the green murk like ooze.

The garden is a small, quiet space that you can quite easily have to yourself, depending on the weather and the time of day. I image that early morning in the summer would best bring out the delicate features of the place, especially if the roses are in bloom.

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