Crarae Glen Garden in Crisis
Appeal by the National Trust for Scotland
John M. Hammond
Running in a north-easterly direction, the bent finger of Loch Fyne claws deep into the Highlands of Argyll on Scotland's West Coast. On the north-western shore of the sea loch, the ribbons of woodland provide a shelter belt that grows as luxuriously as the stands of Rhododendron ponticum along the roadside leading to Crarae Garden which enjoys an average rainfall of around 80 inches (200 cm) each year. Herb Spady's detailed article Crarae Glen Garden in the Fall 1988 issue of the Journal provides a very useful introduction to the historical background, the layout of the garden and the wealth of material to be found therein.
At a high elevation overlooking the steep mountain glen is this
superb example of the A. M. Williams hybrid R. 'May Day', which
is typical of the high standard of hybrid material in the garden.
Photo by John M. Hammond
Back in 1993, I asked George Smith, a Scottish Chapter Director, to write the article Rhododendron Species in the Great Garden at Crarae which appeared in the pages of the Winter 1995 issue of the Journal. Quoting from George's article: The first impression one gets of Crarae Glen Garden is one of a very rich mountain woodland: the word 'garden' does not immediately come to mind. Having been to Crarae four times in the months of March, April, and May, I am filled with wonderment and admiration of its natural beauty! I will certainly return to it time and again in the future." George's health was not good at this time. He had suffered acute heart problems at high altitude on a Himalayan plant hunting expedition, his health further deteriorated shortly after completing the article, and he was unable to return to Crarae before passing away. George's legacy is a fine perspective of this remarkable garden in which he outlines the many attributes which are special about Crarae: the natural beauty derived from an area of wild woodland, the steep mountain glen carved out by the torrential Crarae Burn, and the perceptive planting by Sir George Campbell which has created some wonderful contrasts between forms of leaves and flowers throughout the garden.
Past articles written on the gardens of Argyll tend to be highly oriented towards rhododendron species and make only passing reference to hybrid material within the gardens, which is unfortunate as many of the gardens contain significant collections of hybrids which do well in the temperate climate. Crarae is no exception in this regard. Indeed, it could be contended that the hybrids at Crarae are one of the key attributes within the garden, as there are superb examples of many well known older hybrids together with rarer material, some registered, some not, which deserves to be safe-guarded, propagated and more widely grown.
Crarae Gardens Charitable Trust was formed in 1978 to handle the maintenance and upkeep of the garden. Since that time a great deal of new work has been carried out to secure the infrastructure, but in more recent years the Trust has found itself in financial difficulties. The National Trust for Scotland (N.T.f S.) appear to be confident that the garden can be saved providing that a realistic level of donations are made in regard to their target of £1.25M ($US1.75M). The alternative is unthinkable.
At Burlington, Massachusetts, last May, the ARS Board of Directors meeting agenda included the Crarae Appeal. The Board adopted the motion: "The Board of Directors of the American Rhododendron Society encourages its members to support the appeal of the National Trust for Scotland for funding to save Crarae Garden for the education and enjoyment of all plant and garden lovers." Those members who visited Oban for the 1996 ARS Annual Convention will recall with fond memories their visit to Crarae. The aim of the N.T.f S. is to secure the future of the garden so that others may have the same opportunity of enjoying this diverse collection of plants and trees in a wildly romantic setting. Last April the N.T.f S. organised an initial mailing of an Appeal brochure to those members who attended the Oban convention in 1996 and in July a more wider mailing was undertaken.
You are invited to support this Appeal by making a donation towards the creation of an Endowment Fund, the interest from which will be used to maintain the garden. The Appeal brochure sent to North American members was specially customised and outlines the means by which a tax-deductible donation can be made via:
Scottish Heritage USA Inc.
P.O. Box 457
Pinehurst, NC 28370 U.S.A.
Tel: (910) 295 4448
Fax: (910) 295 3147
Scottish Heritage USA Inc will issue a Tax Deduction Letter upon receipt of a completed Crarae Appeal brochure. You can obtain a copy of the brochure from the above address or directly from the N.T.f S. at the following address:
Crarae in Crisis Appeal Coordinator
National Trust for Scotland
28 Charlotte Square
Edinburgh EH2 4ET, Scotland
Tel: (0131) 243 9300
Fax: (0131) 243 9301.
Members residing outside of North America can write directly to Lorna Stoddart for details in regard to making a donation if they have not received a copy of the Appeal brochure.
John Hammond, a member of the Scottish Chapter, is ARS Chapters at Large Director.