Sunday, 21 February 2010

Arduaine Gardens

A discrete sign by the side of the road whispering, “Scottish snowdrop festival,” tempts you down the path to this woodland garden. At the bottom of the hill, a louder, multicoloured sign confesses that the snowdrops are struggling but promises early blooming Rhod. nobleanum and Rhod. mucronatum.


You’re hooked and enter the garden. The sheltered hillside is planted with a vast collection of rhodies, camellias, azaleas and other exotics. Even on a bitter February day this creates a fabulous patchwork of textures and shades of green that stop you in your tracks.



Tranquil ponds reflect the sky and sea which you glimpse just beyond the trees.


And everywhere there is a promise of Spring.



The path leads you into denser woodland.


The canopy closes over your head and you marvel at the height of the tree rhodies, their elegant, crenellated leaves and the beautiful contrasts of bronzes and greens.


Are you feeling claustrophobic?


Don’t worry just around the corner a viewpoint opens up a breathtaking seascape.


Back into the wild and woolly wood. The damp climate means many of the older plants are draped with moss and lichen.

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Huge plate like leaves capture and hold fallen pine needles.


The incline is so gradual you don’t realise you have climbed half way up the glen until a break in the wall of green shows a tree rhodie just coming into bloom.


A gentle stroll brings you to the top and the garden spreads out beneath you.

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A rustling at your feet makes you jump. You look down and see a blackbird rootling industriously through the deep leaf litter. He glances up for a moment to meet your eye but he is used to visitors and returns, unconcerned, to his work. You are conscious, for the first time, that the garden is filled with bird song. Spring is round the corner and they have territories to defend. What a gorgeous habitat.


Now the path meanders down the hill, the rock faces are covered with a living tapestry of greens.

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You’re almost back at the car park. You turn to take a last look. It could be a long goodbye.


The future of Arduaine is uncertain. The garden is over 100 years old and houses a unique collection rhodies and azaleas. It was gifted to the public, in the care of the Scottish National Trust, by its owners in 1992. Last year the trust announced it could no longer afford the upkeep and proposed closing the gardens. Protesters won a one year reprieve and are trying to raise funds to support Arduaine.

Arduaine Garden

National Trust

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I dried washing outside!

I can hear the, "Yeah, so what?" bulbs pinging on all over the place but this is early February on the West coast of Scotland and I dried a heavy cotton wash outside. We should be having lashing rain and gales. Instead it is cold at nights with a dry wind and sun during the day. Lovely.
Cold temperatures always seem to be accompanied by beautiful sunrises. Sometimes the loch and sky glow with flaming orange.

The intense colour lasts for only a few minutes before fading to more subtle lilacs and then greys and gold that echo my winter garden.

One phrase I frequently read in gardening mags is that winter allows you to see the bare bones of a garden. I think my poor patch has scoliosis, rickets and brittle bone disease, but I can at least see the bare bones of the hydrangea mopheads. They have turned into delicate little puffs of antique lace.

I can't understand why hydrangeas have been labelled unfashionable and unpopular when they work so hard. My bushes flowered prolifically all summer in a radiant patchwork of electric blues, shocking pinks and lilacs. They flowered right through Autumn, getting frosted by degrees until December turned them into these beautiful skeletons. How can something so gorgeous be unfashionable?
Smudge has resumed her neglected-cat-inna-jug routine. We're having a slight dispute over what constitutes cat food. You'd think she'd be pleased that, after a summer on the Coops economy cat chow, she's been upgraded to Felix's, "As Good As it Gets." Ha! Apparently cats don't want, "nutritionally balanced, tender, delicious, meaty steaklets, cooked in their own juices for an unforgettable taste and aroma". A cat served with this dross will look with contempt at the offending handmaiden, sniff the dish with utter disdain and walk away with a fastidious shake of a hind foot. What cats really want is mango, papaya and passion fruit yoghurt, or cheese and ham sandwiches or hot buttered toast (pet food companies please take note). Cats who are denied their share will go and sulk by the compost bin and plan careful revenge, which usually involves eating a bellyful of grass and regurgitating it noisily all over the sofa.

Couldn't have a post without a robin pic.

But guess who has the last word.