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Meet Ian Lamb from Ardtornish

August 3rd 2017

Ardtornish Gardens

The garden is over 25 acres and is low-maintenance having one part-time gardener who gets occasional help. Most effort goes to keeping around Ardtornish House looking cared for and to maintaining the extensive lawns. Despite this, it is a wonderful garden and the semi-natural feel is much appreciated by visitors.

To me, the ability of a gardener to identify seedlings is important. In the borders round the house, suitable seedlings are left to help create a complete ground cover that greatly reduces subsequent unsuitable ones. The time I now spend weeding is greatly reduced. Lesser celandine, pignut, bugle, self-heal and aquilegia are used in some of the beds to enhance, not detract from the ornamentals. Foxgloves are left in some beds and encouraged in wilder beds away from the house. Some weeds which are removed from the house borders are left elsewhere e.g. creeping buttercup looks good with candelabra primulas, an accidental but worthy association.

Ornamental seedlings too may be kept if they are of value. One of my favourites is Eryngium giganteum, “Miss Willmott’s Ghost” named after the gardener who loved it so much she dropped seed in gardens she visited and flowers would appear a couple of years after her “passing”. One of the best trees at Ardtornish is Cercidiphyllum japonicum which has pretty leaves and a wonderful scent in the autumn. It usually produces a few seedlings each year and I have planted out a good number of these. One of the davidias has produced some seedlings (it probably always did but they would have been weeded out in the past) and these lovely trees can be expensive.

Rhododendrons produce many seedlings and I leave these if they look interesting. Rhododendron ponticum gets pulled out when young. Deciduous azaleas also produce lots but I always leave them. Some attractive ornamentals such as buddleja and cotoneaster produce too many seedlings.

Wildflower seedlings are just as important. There is an area which was managed for bluebells by John Raven, a fine botanist; after he died, it was mown weekly once the bluebells finished flowering and they gradually faded. About 10 years ago, I decided to broadcast lots of bluebell seed with the help of Mrs Raven and reduce the mowing to once a year. The bluebells are now looking good again and there are lots of later wild flowers too. Remove the mowings from the site, usually after leaving a week or so to let any seeds shed, keeping fertility low to discourage vigorous grasses.

Ian Lamb