Mount Stuart

Mount Stuart

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.ferns and hostas modern planting designs

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.  more traditional 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.

Isle of Bute

Isle of Bute

the isle of Bute

It’s a few years since I last visited Bute and despite the 35-minute ferry crossing being eye-wincingly expensive (if you take your car), it was lovely to return to the island. Rothesay, the island’s town, was once a fashionable resort  but is tired and down at heel these days, but Munro’s B&B perched above the town with panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde is a great place to stay – contemporary, comfortable and friendly with delicious breakfasts. We were on Bute to visit two places – Mount Stuart and Ascog Victorian Fernery.


The Walled Garden at Culzean Castle

Another glorious day in Scotland – and another wonderful garden.

annual flowers at Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle planting
Culzean Castle purple flowers
long border at Culzean Castle
pleached circle
annual flowers at Culzean CastleCulzean Castle plantingCulzean Castle purple flowerslong border at Culzean Castlepleached circle

The annual flower mixes clearly love the conditions – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a planting look quite as good – and in the crystal clear light the flowers positively vibrated with colour. The walled area is a mix of productive planting, magnificent herbaceous borders, extensive glasshouses and lawns planted with specimen trees.  Get there early and you will have it to yourself – as we left about 10.30am families were arriving with lots of excited children – still lovely, but not as tranquil.

What’s new from Thompson & Morgan

What’s new from Thompson & Morgan

I’ve recently been to a press preview of new varieties from the Ipswich seed company and have whittled down the many to the few that I found most interesting.  Top of my list is the Wasabi Rocket with leaves that really do have the tang of wasabi.  I will be making the first sowing this weekend.  I also got a top tip from Colin Randall, their vegetable guru, who really does know his onions, potatoes, tomatoes – in fact any vegetable.  If flea beetle is a problem, sow vulnerable plants in containers at least 30cm tall – this is higher than fleabeetles can jump.Colin Randall giving tips and Thompson and Morgan

Pea Terrain and Mange Tout Sweet Horizon are also interesting new late varieties – they are very mildew resistant and I was told that if I sow them this weekend I could be picking peas and mangetout in autumn right up to November.

home grown at T and M peppery wasabi rocket leaves

When it comes to flowers and foliage plants, there was no shortage of colour, but my tastes are usually for subtle shades.  There’s a lovely new soft yellow cosmos called  Xanthos and a delicate colour-changing Argyranthemum Honey-Bees Light Pink with flowers that slowly fade to pink and a striking hardy begonia called Garden Angels.Argyranthemum Honey-Bees begonia called Garden Angels  new soft yellow cosmos

I have mixed feelings about petunias – I love their fragrance and some of the soft-hued varieties, but I find them quite hard work to keep looking good over a long period – this probably says more about me than the petunias – but whatever the reason I generally don’t grow them.  For those who do though I thought Indian Summer and mustardy-coloured Dijon were both really attractive and I’ve included a photo of  Night Sky because it is so weird – it looks like a careless decorator has splattered it with paint.Indian Summer Petuniamustardy-coloured Dijon Petunia Night Sky looks like it has splattered it with paint