I’m sure that Logan is still lovely on an overcast day (of which Scotland has a few) but it was at its very best on a hot sunny day when the eucalyptus and many sub tropical plants look perfectly at home against a bright blue sky.
The star of the show was a magnificent Metrosideros umbellata – a tender New Zealand tree I had never heard of before – not only was it a fabulous sight, it was alive with bees who clearly loved it as much as I did.
Other plants that particularly caught my eye included a Polylepis australis with its extremely shaggy bark (and an opportunistic fern that had taken up residence) and a worth-copying-at-home planting of blue agapanthus with thalictrum delaveyi. Definitely worth a visit.
There’s a lovely little ferry that takes just 5 minutes to cross from the northern tip of Bute to Colintraive on the mainland. Last time I visited Bute I left this way to continue driving up the west coast, this time, we drove to the ferry, went across as foot passengers to eat at the Colintraive Hotel and then caught the ferry back to Bute. It was a lovely thing to do on a beautiful evening – just check the time of the last ferry as it is a very, very long way round if you miss it.
The sunken fernery has had a chequered history since its heyday in the 19th century when it was an object of considerable wonder. Carved out of solid rock and topped with a glazed roof, it housed a magnificent collection of ferns from around the world. Along with the surrounding garden and the house it fell into disrepair and dereliction after the 2nd World War but was rediscovered, restored and replanted in the 1990s. Recently, new owners have taken over and are working hard to revitalise the surrounding garden and ensure that the Fernery remains the remarkable place it is.
The last time I visited Mount Stuart was shortly after the estimable James Alexander Sinclair had designed and planted the garden leading to the new visitor centre – it looked wonderful then and it was good to see that it is looking just as good now, several years on.
After a bit of a lull when things were kept ticking over, the gardens and parkland are the focus of restoration and reinvigoration with the brand new Head of Horticulture, Don Murray, bringing his experience in the same role at the Eden Project to move things forward with the Curator, Graham Alcorn. There are many stories to be told about the gardens and they are determined to uncover them, as well as doing practical things like opening up vistas, re-establishing pathways, lifting crowns on trees and replanting borders.
I hadn’t previously toured the house, but encouraged by garden photographer Andrea Jones, we did a tour that focused on the many botanical references in the house. The 3rd Marquess of Bute, who built the money-is-no-object neo-gothic house, had local flora incorporated into the carved capitols of marble columns, wood carvings, tiles, stained glass, tapestries and even the door furniture. It is all quite jaw-dropping. Photography is not allowed in the house so you will need to go there to see it. If possible ask for Bob to guide you round as he is finding more and more floral details and loves to share his discoveries. Check well ahead of your visit to make sure Mount Stuart is open – it’s a popular venue for celebrity weddings and is sometimes closed, even in high season. I was so over-excited by the house tour that I forgot to take any photos in the garden, so Andrea Jones has generously supplied me with some of hers. www.mountstuart.com