The Garden Tour
Strowe, Cairndow, Argyll, Scotland
We have recently come back from another garden tour and 1 thought it might amuse you to hear about it.
We joined the tour at the first garden, Ross Priory, (they were three quarters of an hour late on arrival I need hardly say!) and there were a lot of reunions with friends of previous tours, back slapping, "how nice to see you." "I know her face but what was her name?," "was it Devonshire or Perth that we last met?, etc., etc. The whole tour seemed to thaw out rather quicker as so many of us knew each other. Dr. Cowan made a few introductions but on the whole we had to find out particulars for ourselves, which is half the fun. The American members are soon spotted by their accents--or ties, and you will no doubt remember a lady nicknamed "the beehive." A real horror quickly appeared in the shape of Lady X who trod on everybody's toes. I had known her for many years and so was much amused and able to reassure those who were duly snubbed by this fierce personage.
We were quite honestly disappointed in Ross Priory. The brochure rather misled by saying "Modern hybrids." There seemed to be very few of the griersonianum crosses but a great many of the old nurserymen's hybrids such as 'Mrs. G. W. Leek'. I think the garden was rather past its best, this having been rather an early season. The house is not particularly attractive but the views across Loch Lomond are quite perfect.
Glenarn was among the best gardens we saw. It was quite small and cultivated almost entirely by our host and his family. The plants were beautifully placed in relation to one another, not in great masses of each variety but well mixed. The rhododendrons looked very happy and 1 was fascinated to see R. bullatum growing all over the place. The Primulas were lovely.
We returned home the first night and went round our own garden which was looking its very best which was too sad as last year when the tour visited us the azaleas were not out and this year they did not come to us. We had a terrific flourish this season and both rhododendrons and azaleas made a lovely show.
We did not rejoin the tour until the evening of the second day as my husband had to he on the farm. Thus we missed Auchincruive and Culzean, both of which we had previously visited.
There was a lovely panty at Turnberry Hotel the second evening with all the local hosts from round about invited to dinner and a most interesting talk by Dr. Coe of Washington with beautiful slides.
The next morning we went to Bargany which was among the loveliest gardens one could wish to see. It has really got away on its owner which to my mind is the first essential of a really satisfactory garden. The R. luteum was a sight that will not soon be forgotten and as they are all round a lake one got a double effect with the reflection; out of the yellow jungle grow grand Larches, Scots and Oaks and there were bays cut out in which had been planted many colored hybrid azaleas. It was amusing to note that the R. luteum that was riotously swamping everything did not dare venture beneath the grand Beech trees. There was a charming rock garden and a terrific walled garden of red brick, which is not often met with in Scotland. It has the most unusual circular doorways which were most attractive. Inside there was a magnificent display of Embothriums and a very lovely honeysuckle among other things. The house is yellow harled and beautifully placed (well away from all flowers in typical Scots fashion!) in green park land above a river.
Lochryan is the most attractive small house and the garden must have been lovely and will be again no doubt but it suffered great neglect during the war. It had a charming small avenue of clipped bay trees and many tender rhododendrons including one of the largest maddeniis in the Country which was flowering beautifully.
Logan is my first love among the gardens I think. It contains the most wonderful collection of plants most beautifully arranged. It is the most tropical of the Scots gardens - with its pools and palms it might be placed in many Countries - but if asked one would be unlikely to say Scotland! It was made by two old brothers who were very odd I believe but certainly knew how to garden. There were so many lovely plants at their best that I cannot begin to name them but one of my chief joys there is a R. oreotrephes hybrid (unnamed now) which is quite lovely. The Primulas are quite fantastic and were at their best. We drove down a path of them for quite half a mile - it was the sort of thing that might have happened to a character in a Walt Disney Cartoon!
After seeing Logan Dr. Cowan took us down to the Mull of Galloway, the Southernmost point of Scotland. We watched the puffins skim the waves and could see Ireland quite plainly on our right - unless it was America!
The morning of the fourth day we went to Corsewall which is a smaller garden again and rather the worse for the war years. It has some lovely plants of great size but I fear the present owners are not great gardeners-as yet! The house is charming and the flower decorations by Mrs. Carrick-Buchanan quite lovely. The party was lavishly entertained as usual. People really are most hospitable -or else the tour has acquired the reputation of having to be constantly fed!
Lochinch needs a look written about it. If it is a "stately home" you are after then you need go no further. The house is enormous and not too bad considering what some of the large Scots houses are like and the grounds are quite lovely. The house looks across green fields to a lake and the garden runs out on a long promontory into the water so when walking there one seems to have water on all sides. Avenues are the "theme song" as it were of Lochinch; Avenues of Camellias, Avenues of Monkey Puzzles, Avenues of Embothriums. Off the Avenues are plantations of every sort of Rhodie. Mr. Rye, the head gardener, is first class and very keen. He has done a lot of hybridying himself. I was lucky enough to go round the garden with him. I have seldom walked further faster! (Dr. Coe will agree I think!) The most startling sight were the Embothriums by the water. It seems that the more exposed these trees are the better they flower.
I regret to say that we missed out the fifth day of the tour as we visited friends. I gather we did not miss much! We did not go to Abbotsford either but spent a happy morning in Traquair which the tour had to miss out which was very sad as it is the most remarkable house but no garden. When we rejoined the tour and asked how this was we were told "The usual story-some of the ladies got into one of those fancy shops and we couldn't get them out"!
Stobo Castle is not very attractive but the water garden is charming. It is not big and extremely tidy (thus losing a lot of charm to my mind!)
Dawyck I know fairly well. It has tremendous charm and is quite remarkable when one thinks how high and exposed it is. The house is not too large and built of a nice warm colored stone. The main features of the grounds are the Conifers which are not my strong suit but I can appreciate that they are beautiful specimens and a wonderful collection. Dawyck is at its best when the daffodils are out. I have never seen such a display (they were over when the tour visited them alas). They pour down a glade cut in the wooded hillside and burst round the house in a sea of yellow and white. The scent is really divine.
And so the tour ended with many regrets and hopes for next year.