Cambo Gardens is truly one of Scotland’s hidden gems. Nestled on the east coast of Fife, Cambo is home to a stunning 2.5 acre walled garden that is constantly changing and innovating with the seasons. At the heart of the walled garden is the annual meadow area – a mix of four different meadow mixes that form the perfect sanctuary for insects, butterflies and birds throughout the summer. In July, the pastel toned flowers are in full bloom and set the perfect backdrop for a visit from Kirsty Wilson, Herbaceous Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and BBC Beechgrove TV presenter.
Discussing her new book, Planting with Nature, Kirsty shared her suggestions for improving the sustainability of domestic gardens. For Kirsty, wildflower meadows are one of the best tools we can use to create more diverse environments for local wildlife. As the beautiful meadow in Cambo’s carefully cultivated garden would attest, these meadows need not take over your entire garden or become an eye-sore. Instead of replacing a refined garden, a wildflower meadow can sit alongside a neat lawn, planters and boxes as part of a heterogeneous, ever-changing landscape.
Kirsty strongly encouraged a ‘mosaic’ approach to gardening, whereby we use a multitude of different yet interconnecting gardening methods to create a varied, robust garden. As well as the advantages of wildflower meadows, Kirsty drew attention to excellent compost at Cambo, which is used as a mulch throughout the walled gardens. This mulch fuels the extensive edible garden on the grounds, which in turn fuels visitors at the Garden Café in the newly renovated old carriage house. For Kirsty, a mosaic approach to gardening allows us to cultivate food in our gardens without the need to use harsh chemicals as defensive barriers against unwelcome wildlife. Companion planting can deter smaller insects that feed on edible gardens, as well as attract pest-eating wildlife. Many of the companion plants Kirsty recommends, such as sage, mint and thyme, can themselves become a delicious feature of your own edible gardens.
Furthermore, an important element of any sustainable garden must include fuel for pollinators. At Cambo, the historical rose collection fills the garden with the buzz of bees as well as fragrance in June and July. Throughout the walled garden herbaceous borders attract an array of pollinating insects in August, as well as the experimental range of annual potager that flowers right through to November. Chemical-free locally grown flowers can be purchased from Cambo’s Visitor Centre, though Kirsty recommends a wide selection of pollinator friendly flowers in Planting with Nature which are all easily accessible from any local garden centre.
Cambo benefits from a walled garden, winter garden, greenhouses, woodlands and even Kingsbarnes beach to cultivate a truly harmonious patchwork of sustainable gardening practices. It is important to remember however, that even small spaces and small steps can make a huge difference in tackling the impacts of the climate crisis on local wildlife. Planting with Nature is an essential guide to rethinking how we plan and enjoy our natural spaces for the benefit of the environment and for ourselves.