Forget famous names like Versailles, Kew and Shalimar. Horticultural heaven might just be sitting on your doorstep. Discover the Scottish gardens really worth exploring in the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, for lovers of innovative landscaping, magnificent blooms and rediscovered treasures.
Here – in no particular order – are some of the Scottish gardens which will be opening their doors this summer.
1. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Portrack House
Open Day: 1 May, 12 – 5pm
With a name like that you would be expecting to step foot inside another dimension; never mind a garden in Dumfries and Galloway. And you’d be right! Quite simply, there isn’t another garden like it in the world. Open to the public for one day a year only, its designer, the landscape architect and postmodernist master Charles Jencks, has created an abstract and utterly beguiling outdoor space that takes its inspiration from an array of scientific and mathematical phenomena. Unconvinced? See it to believe it.
2. Gallery, Montrose
Open Day: 28 May – 16 July
Gallery is a show-stopper of a garden which featured in the March 2015 edition of Homes & Gardens. Composed around a traditional framework of privet, holy and box, this historic formal garden has been redesigned and replanted with a gold garden and hot border, and some added contemporary touches, which revitalise while respecting the authenticity of its original 17th century design. Admire the gorgeous collection of old roses and walk through the woodland garden to pay a visit to the rare breed sheep.
3. Drummond Castle Garden, Crieff
Open Day: 7 August, 1 – 5pm
Few gardens make an entrance quite like Drummond Castle Garden. Walking through the arch of the 15th century keep, the ground beneath suddenly gives way to reveal a breathtaking view over a sprawling, five-acre garden first laid out in 1630 by the second Earl of Perth, John Drummond. Sauntering around the Italianate parterre, pausing to take in the multi-faceted sundial and general splendour, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the courtly romance of Drummond.
4. Old Allangrange, Munlochy, The Black Isle
Open Day: 4 June, 11am – 5:30pm & 3 September, 11am – 5:30pm
Old Allangrange is the realisation of one gardener’s dream to create an organic haven for bees, birds and other wildlife. Carefully cultivated by the skilled green fingers of Jay Jay Gladwin, the 17th century lime-washed Old Allangrane House serves as the backdrop to sculpted hedges, a vegetable garden, orchard and a grove of ancient yew trees. All these elements strike a lovely contrast against its centrepiece: a flourishing little wilderness of wildflowers and attractive weeds.
5. Dun Dubh, The Trossachs
Open Day: 15 May, 2 – 5pm
Rescued from a sea of rhododendrons by the former head gardener at Crathes, this late Victorian garden has emerged from obscurity to become one of the country’s true horticultural gems. Spectacularly set on the shore of Loch Ard, Dun Dubh boasts towering mature conifers, a colour-themed formal garden spanning three terraces, and a new Victorian-style glasshouse overlooking a terraced kitchen and fruit garden. Follow the lower walk that runs from the boat house to the main lawn to enjoy majestic views west to Ben Lomond.
6. Highlands, East Voe, Scalloway
Open Day: 1 May – 30 September, 9am – 9pm
Facing high winds and dry soil, gardeners in Shetland have a real challenge on their hands. But this didn’t deter Sarah Kay from persevering with Highlands, her own private garden which unfurls down a steep, rocky slope, flourishing in spite of these less-than-perfect conditions. Pay a visit and wonder at the incredible variety of plants, vegetables and fruits that thrive here, from delicate but hardy native species to geraniums, strawberries and purple cabbage.
Other gardens worth exploring…
12 July 2 – 3:30pm
The grounds and gardens of this spectacular 18th estate are a popular choice for visitors during the summer months; but for one special day in July you can experience a rarely seen side of Culzean during a guided walk around the Walled Garden and the Fountain Court.
Parkhead, Rosneath, Helensburgh
Open Day: 1 May – 30 September, prior arrangement only
Uncover this ‘secret’ garden brought back to life after 44 years of meticulous restoration. Wander this stunning Italianate formal garden with its elegant topiaries, lily pond, sundial garden and foot maze.
Ardmaddy Castle, by Oban
Open Day: 1 January – 31 December, 9am – dusk
Visit in early summer to experience a riot of colour courtesy of blooming candelabra primulas, irises and rodgersias. The magnificent rhododendrons in the Walled Garden are a sight to behold.
Glenwhan Garden, Dunragit, by Stranraer
Open Day: 1 April – 31 October, 10am – 5pm
Regularly cited as one of Scotland’s most beautiful gardens, the only thing more stunning than Glenwhan itself is its elevated view overlooking Luce Bay and the Mull of Galloway.
1 April – 31 May
The second Scottish Festival of Rhododendrons is currently underway in Argyll and Bute. Visit participating gardens to enjoy exhibitions, crafts, talks, guided walks and demonstrations, all centered around this dramatic flowering plant, which has become as much a part of the Highland landscape as that other vivid-hued purple weed – the thistle. There will be plenty of other spring flowers on show as well, including bulbs, trilliums, paeonias, cherries, and magnolias, making the festival a must for garden-lovers everywhere.
Fun fact: Scotland’s wild Rhododendron Ponticum was artificially engineered by Victorian plantsmen. A hybrid of Spanish and North American species, it was developed to withstand Scotland’s harsh climate and planted to prettify Scottish estates and provide game cover.
Get back to nature this summer and discover Scotland’s gardens, parks and National Park and visit scotlandsgardens.org for more information. If anything catches your eye, be it a particularly impressive floral display, striking water feature or beautifully constructed glasshouse, share it with us using #IAD2016 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and declare your #ScotSpirit.