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Garden of the Season – The Dulaig

June 4th 2020

“What a difference a day makes” Dinah Washington sang, but here at The Dulaig in Grantown-on-Spey in the Scottish Highlands we would have to say “What a difference 13 years makes”. On being invited to contribute to this Garden of the Season blog I reflected on how we have changed the house, built in 1910, and its 1.5 acre garden since my husband Gordon and I first saw and fell in love with both in late May 2007.  We bought on sight, moved in six months later, and for 11 years The Dulaig has been a 5 Star Gold luxury B&B (www.thedulaig.com) .  It took us a year to renovate the house…..the garden transformation is taking a little longer! As well as the front garden shown here we already have a vegetable, fruit and chicken garden (with 24 free-range hens). We are currently working on a Japanese-inspired garden area too.  There is always another project!

Our guests love to visit the garden but sadly, due to the Covid-19 restrictions we have no guests and are unsure when we may be able to open again. In the meantime we are delighted to share in this post a little of how we developed the garden and what is in season now.

Keen (if unorthodox) amateur gardeners, we developed our previous small garden on a new build plot on clay soil in wet Lancashire and felt ready to design and build a bigger project. We were thrilled that, though far larger, The Dulaig garden gave us an almost blank canvas, with a fringe of beautiful mature trees and a small wooded area including weeping purple beeches. Little did we know we would have to “relearn” gardening here as Grantown-on-Spey is one of the coldest, driest places in the UK and the garden is on a glacial river terrace of sands and gravels.

Taken at the same season 13 years apart, the pictures below show some “then” and “now” views of the front garden.

The view from the wooded area across the lawn in 2007


Our border now under the beeches has shade tolerant plants e.g. rhododendrons, physocarpus, aruncus, astrantia, persicaria, lilies and many more. We brought the prunus serrula in front of the house with us from our previous garden.

This thicket of invasive snowberry took us days to remove….

….and the corner has become our “Secret Garden”. Largely planted with white and pale flowers and accessed by two arbours. Beside the water feature is a lovely quiet spot to enjoy a morning coffee and the view of viburnums, acers and camassia, with peonies about to open any day now.

 

In 2007 the expansive lawn reached the house veranda.

 

The ground levelled, a terrace frames the veranda now with a view to our summerhouse and pond. This azalea is one of the rhododendrons which are at their best now, several heavily scented.

We wanted to give this fairly flat profile a bit of a lift.

The garden landscaping design evolved organically, here with deeper curvy borders, terrace, new steps and walling. The Clematis Montana on the house is one of the few plants remaining from 2007 and its scent is incredible – guests often think it is jasmine.

That gap between the trees near the fence would become a perfect site for our summerhouse and pond. We had no idea what rocky soils were under that lawn. Ignorance was indeed bliss!

Bare fence no longer visible! We have planted over 40,000 bulbs in our garden and these stunning lilies are just a few of those which appear in at this time of year. Rodgersia podophylla thrives on the rim of the pond and irises provide shelter for frogs, ducklings etc.

With our shorter growing season in Grantown trees are leafless for much of the year so we favour those with beautiful bark such this Betula Jacquemontii Snow Queen. The lily-like pale pink nomocharis to the left is a favourite plant in June.  This bed was largely formed from the soil removed when we built the pond and you can see a few of the smaller boulders we dug out peeking in at the bottom right.

Of all the changes to the garden, the one which we believe has made the biggest difference is our pond which looks beautiful and attracts a wealth of wildlife e.g. as well as frogs and newts, red squirrels, pheasants and hedgehogs come to drink and small birds to bathe.

We have learned (expensively) that we cannot keep waterlilies as the wild ducks eat them but this Carex on the margin makes a fantastic nesting spot for a mallard. Look closely – Pat the mallard is in there on eggs! The bank is a great place to relax in the sunshine with your family…..

The bank is a great place to relax in the sunshine with your family…..

….and the summerhouse a lovely vantage point from which to watch the sunset.

The garden is now a wildlife haven. Bees love the variety of flowers like this Chaenomeles. Though there were very few in 2007 we now have hundreds of birds living here.

You could have eaten your dinner from the previously bare woodland floor, dry and dark under the trees and so tidy!

Tidy no more, we raised the skirts of the beech trees and have allowed this patch of Doronicum Paliardes, loved by bees, to brighten up a shady corner. Our bluebell wood is progressing slowly.

This area was once a bare, straight path but no longer. Our “wiggly path” leading to the wood is a year-round tapestry of colour.

Pat Mallard with some of her ducklings and one of our many friendly blackbirds in front of our Acer Griseum bed. Guests always ask for the name of the pink Azalea Homebush: behind it you can see other rhododendrons including a white Azalea, a hybrid of Luteum and Snowbird – what a pity you cannot smell its gorgeous scent!

I hope you will agree that in the past 13 years we have made a difference to The Dulaig garden. Who knows how will it develop over the next 13 years? We and the wildlife have loved the transformation so far, and our guests tell us they have loved it too.  Hopefully we will soon be able to welcome visitors here again and in the meantime we hope you stay safe.

Website – www.thedulaig.com

Telephone – 01479 872065

Admission – The garden is only open to guests at The Dulaig B&B or for occasional Open Garden Days for local charities.