An unexpected discovery in sleepy Dumfriesshire is the Scottish National Museum of Costume, housed in a small baronial pile surrounded by a gently neglected but still beautiful woodland garden.

It’s too small a venue to offer more than a glimpse at the full collection which is a great shame as I love to see such displays, but in the gardens are a surprising (for me anyhow) array of rather successful living willow structures. Now, this is truly hat-eating time for me, as living willow is up there in my top 5 most hated garden ‘features’, alongside coloured crazy paving and all garden centre-derived ‘sculpture’.

Large enough to shelter a dining table for eight, the tightly woven willow wands hide subtle support structures of timber that maintain a ‘sharpness’ that most living willow lacks. The whole structure possesses a touch of Grimms’ fairytale-ness and somehow also a formalism uncharacteristic of willow – triumphant.  During our visit, occasional sunshine turned this large-scale willow pergola into a skein of intricate shadows on the lawn – though when I got my camera out the sun wouldn’t oblige. I suspect also that it’s ‘plucked’ to remove its untidy leaves  – it is oddly bare for midsummer.

All is not perfect though –  as you can see in the far right-hand corner the willow artist has failed to resist the lure of the ‘expressive figurative’ form that is their more familiar stock-in trade.

 

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