This 30 mile stretch is home to 21 golf courses and to the many impressive properties that, from the Victorian era onwards, were built to accommodate the visitors who were attracted to East Lothian by the sport.

One of the finest of these is Greywalls in Gullane. Built in 1901 as a holiday home for the politician Alfred Littleton, it is one of only two examples in Scotland of the work of the most celebrated architect of the arts and crafts era, Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was famous for spending as much time designing the gardens as he did the houses that occupied them and Greywalls is no exception. Built from yellow ‘rattlebag’ stone, its unusual curved facade is approached along a driveway that is flanked by smooth, green lawns that stretch out to meet the high walls that surround the garden.

These walls are not just decorative, they also play an essential role in allowing plants to flourish because all that stands between Greywalls and the stiff breezes that whip in from the Forth estuary is the 10th tee of Muirfield golf course.

Since 1924, when the house was bought by James Horlick, creator of the malted milk drink, the house has remained in the same family and today it is a luxurious country house hotel with Chez Roux restaurant.

Roz Weaver and her husband Giles, who is James Horlick’s great-grandson, have recently handed management of the hotel to their own son, but Roz has remained in charge outdoors where she and head gardener Neil Davidson, have been moving the garden in a new direction, taking bold decisions about what goes and what remains and wielding the pruning saw with bravura if necessary.

It’s an invigorating process and one where the balance between period charm and the desire to do something different has to be carefully assessed.

“This is a classic house of the Edwardian era and the garden must always be consistent with the time in which it was built, but that doesn’t mean it should stand still,”  says Ros, who has never been afraid to challenge convention as the photographs on the walls of the garden pavilion showing the Formal Garden as it was in the 1950s, demonstrate.

“My mother-in-law had planted it up with hybrid tea roses, but when I came here in the 1980s these had all been afflicted with replant disease. I tried replacing the soil and replanting with new roses, but nothing worked, and so in the end I decided that they had to go.”

Ros worked with designer Laura Mackenzie on finding an alternative and what eventually replaced the roses was a series of square and triangular beds filled with a froth of romantic perennials. As  summer advances the south-facing terrace  is submerged beneath flowers and foliage. White hydrangeas flourish in the coastal climate and blue agapanthuses relish the free-draining, sandy soil. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and rudbeckias add bright colour while stature comes from tall grasses and several clipped Pyrus salicifola ‘pendula’ that billow outwards from the walls.

“This part of the garden is consistently three or four degrees hotter than anywhere else,” says Neil, who resists the urge to reduce the large fuchsias that grow in the corners to ground level in late autumn because of the structure they give during the winter months.

“The roses tied in round the walls are also useful in winter for precisely the same reason,” he says.

Over the last few years the hornbeam hedges that lead from the Formal Garden towards an Oeil de Beouf set into the far wall, have been reduced in width and height.

The process was tackled in stages so that the work would not be immediately evident to guests. “Some things are tricky to do when your garden surrounds an hotel,” says Ros.

“It has to look good at all times, it can never ever look a mess.

Scottish Gardener: Densely packed borders line the path to the greenhouses.Densely packed borders line the path to the greenhouses.

Now new box-edged beds have been created in front of the slimmed-down hedges in order to continue the sense of formality out into the wider garden, and these have been planted up using pale-colours, including the silvery foliage of Crambe cordifolia, in order to increase the sense of perspective.

Some of the mature cherry trees that grew behind the hedge have already been removed and the jury is still out on those that remain.

“We might yet take them out,” says Ros, who is delighted by the light that now floods in here.

To the other side of the hornbeam hedges, an overgrown border has been rejuvenated by the simple use of standard hollies and Hydrangea paniculata underplanted by Alchemilla mollis, which acts as an effective ground-cover and helps to suppress weeds.

One of the most popular areas with guests is the Wild Garden, where an avenue of overgrown hornbeam trees have been severely pruned as the first step towards training them as formal, square-sided pillars. Here chickens forage amongst the long grass where, beneath apple and pear trees, fritillaries and muscari bloom in spring and yellow rattle helps to suppress the mare’s tail that would, if left unchecked, run amok.

Beyond the Wild Garden lies the Kitchen Garden, with its greenhouses filled with pelargoniums and raised beds containing herbs and salads which are used by the chefs.

“We couldn’t possibly supply everything for the kitchen, but the chefs do ask us to grow vegetables that they can’t find anywhere else,” says Neil.

During Lockdown Roz and Neil worked with a slimmed-down team and faced the challenge of seeing the formal garden flooded.

“It has never happened before and it was followed by freezing weather but surprisingly most things survived,”

Over many years of working on the garden, Roz says her style has gradually changed and that she has learnt what works best within the elegant framework created by Lutyens.

“I now do more block planting which creates a bold effect without being fussy but I think the garden looks at its best when it is at the point where it could tip over into chaos and that’s quite a tricky balancing act to maintain.”

Scottish Gardener: Left: High walls shelter the gardens allowing flowers and climbers to flourish. Middle: Hydrandea paniculata and clipped hollies are underplanted with Alchemilla mollis in a shady bed. Right: Kniphofia (Red hot pokers) relish the sandy soil.Left: High walls shelter the gardens allowing flowers and climbers to flourish. Middle: Hydrandea paniculata and clipped hollies are underplanted with Alchemilla mollis in a shady bed. Right: Kniphofia (Red hot pokers) relish the sandy soil.


The soil at Greywalls is pure sand and this influences what grows here.

“You can improve the soil, and we do, but it will still be sandy, so there is no point in trying to grow Meconopsis,” says Ros.

“Instead you have to look around and see what does well in this sort of situation.”

Grey-leaved plants such as lavender and sea holly (Eryngium) are obvious choices and South African plants, including Crocosmia and Agapanthus, enjoy the combination of sharp drainage and high levels of sunshine that are enjoyed along the coastline. Stachys attracts bees and old-fashioned pinks add delicious scent.

Yet none of these would flourish at Greywalls if it wasn’t for Lutyen’s walls. Shelter is an essential feature of gardening next to the coast and even where windbreaks do exist, shrubs can be severely damaged by salt.

At times it is a case of choosing between the garden and what lies beyond and along the northern side of Greywalls, with its spectacular views across the Firth of Forth to the Kingdom of Fife, no attempt is made to grow anything. Instead the grass around a sunken lawn is neatly mowed and nothing impedes the uninterrupted views across the world famous golf course to the choppy waters of the Forth.


Garden Notebook
Muirfield Gullane
EH31 2EG