Passionate about Plants
Some advice on the delightful gardens to be found in Dumfries & Galloway
Christmas has come and gone and now all the travel companies bombard us with holidays. If you like visiting gardens I would suggest a trip to Dumfries and Galloway where you can visit a wide range of gardens all well worth the entrance fees. Bathed in the Gulf Stream, ample rain, mild winters and acid soils mean they can grow a varied range of plants bordering on the exotic.
The following are a few of my favourite gardens.
If you stay in or around Castle Douglas then most of them are within easy reach.
Threave Gardens - Castle Douglas
This garden is one of the National Trust of Scotland (NTS) gardens. It has good facilities and the gardens are extensive; A joy to walk around, visit here when the Hydrangeas are out and you will see a magnificent display and one of the best stands of hydrangea arborescens Annabelle, the flower are mop-head type and pure white, the flower size is truly remarkable a good 30cm across (12" in old money). The arborescens type tend to be more suckering shrubs which can be cut down to just above ground level as they will grow up to 6 foot in a season in these good growing conditions. They also have a walled garden with a wide range of herbaceous plants, A Rock garden with alpine Rhododendrons which is not surprising as we are in Rhododendron country and how!
If we now head off to the furthest part of Galloway you will find just south of Stranraer
Logan Botanical Gardens
This was originally part of Logan House but is now NTS. Typically good facilities which includes a coffee shop serving hot and cold food, but it's the garden that will impress, the range of unusual and difficult to grow shrubs is second to none. The most spectacular are the Gunnera Manicata's in the bog garden they grow so tall you can walk underneath them. You feel like you are going back to prehistoric times the huge leaves can be 5 to 8ft across.
But its Logan House gardens (still privately owned) that I like the best! This is real Rhododendron country. It has a wide range of large leaf species e.g. Sinogrande (leaves 80cm long and 30cm wide with the lower surfaces covered in a silver grey or fawn indumentums, flowers creamy white with a crimson blotch in huge trusses), the majority of these plants are tree type specimens. The Rhododendron trees are so tall you could imagine yourself walking through the wild woodlands with the seedlings growing in the moss at your feet below.
Jimmy the head gardener is very knowledgeable about the plants in the garden and when talking to him his pride and love for the garden is evident. The downside to the garden, if it is a downside, is that the as the rhododendron trees are so tall the best flowers are always at the top. When they come out in flower the sight is spectacular, very large trusses on a background of huge leaves.
Jimmy has been collecting young seedlings and growing them on to plant out amongst the older plants - but as he points out there will be crosses with other species so we have to wait to see if anything exciting comes from them, they will take many years to flower.
It is here that I first came across a good size fuchsia excorticate, unique, as it can reach tree proportions in its native New Zealand. Jimmy is very proud of a Magellanica type named Logan Woods his own selection, its flowers are riccartonii size but with white tips to the sepals which thus giving it a delicate red/pink effect.
I could talk endlessly about this garden and its treasures but just the other side of stranraer is:
Leave plenty of time to walk around this fascinating garden, as it is large you can even walk up to Lochinch Castle and Garden. As a family we were lucky enough to rent the chauffeurs flat attached to the castle for a week's holiday taking the dogs too. We were able to walk the dogs in the gardens as it was late autumn and the gardens were closed to the public. Castle Kennedy Gardens have an impressive avenue of Araucaria Araucana (Monkey Puzzle) trees, large enough and old enough to fruit. It was here I spent a little time talking plants with Lady Stairs, the Lairds mother, prior to her going gardening in her 4 x 4 pulling a trailer!
Another good find on this holiday was:
Glenwhan Gardens at Dunragit where I met the owners Tessa Knot and her husband Bill, who created the gardens, starting in 1979 and by letting nature be their guide they turned a hill (a Scottish hill!) into a wonderful garden. They originally fenced in 12 acres against deer and rabbits, made small lakes by damming boggy area this picturesque creation was hewn from a hillside covered in bracken and gorse. More recently they made an area called the John Bond memorial garden with many of the type of plants he collected and grew whilst being curator of the Windsor gardens. They have a lovely collection of hydrangeas with many new varieties of the species Paniculata and quercifolia. It was here I got the desire to start my own collection of Hydrangeas, but that's another story. They also have a Mooreland walk where you will get a glimpse of Ravens and Peregrine Falcons searching for prey, oh and look out for the red squirrels. When delivering plants I got a lovely close up view of one sat on the post on the way up to the gardens, Brill such a handsome chap!
Next month the art of seed sowing.
Paul Markwell, Quaymount Nurseries, The Row, Wereham
Telephone 01366 500691.