Scottish Garden of the Season – Ard DaraichOctober 2nd 2017
Like many gardens, Ard Daraich has two seasons. Having a large collection of Rhododendrons, the first blousy season is in April and May. Camellias (mostly pink) and Rhododendrons clammer for attention, sometimes one against another in a garden planted for the value each specimen adds to the collection and determined largely by the availability of soil.
The second season, less well known in the Highlands because of the expectation of bad weather, is the autumn. As Rhododendrons prefer dappled shade the planting has developed with the introduction of a wide variety of trees to break up the light and so a woodland garden has emerged. It is these trees, with their spectacular autumn colour that make the autumn a blaze of colour and along with the native Aspen and Birch the approach to Ard Daraich is burning with red, orange and yellow. There is a large collection of Sorbus and Acer and it is these along with some vibrant Quercus that mark Ard Daraich as a colourful autumn garden. Please come and walk round the winding paths, catching glimpses of the loch beyond, framed by vegetation of ever shade and hue.
Anna and Norrie have been influenced by Geoffrey Dutton’s book ‘Some Branch Against the Sky’ – while Norrie has been using the phrase ‘marginal gardening’ for many years – another phrase might be ‘gardening with the elements’ Not only do we battle against the ravages of weather; high rainfall, storm force winds and periods of temperatures below freezing, we also have very little soil. Ard Daraich is sited on alluvial gravel. Behind the house rises a granite hill, thinly overlaid with pockets of blanket peat; thus we are making a Rock Garden. Between the months of November and February the sun never rises high enough to reach over the hill and so we sit in shade for three winter months.
Our gardening technique involves working away from the eruptions of rock that break through the surface. Loosening the vegetation we roll the roots, moss and any traces of soil into a Swiss roll, which we leave at the bottom of slopes or in the hollows between seams of rock. Where the bedrock has accumulated more soil than we can clear, we make beds. These we use as planting pockets to coax a mixture of trees, shrubs, perennials or bulbs to grow in, whilst occasionally topdressing with leaf mould, compost or seaweed depending on the time of the year and what is available. By following the design of the rock and its structure, we are allowing the hill to dictate the design and along with the wind and the frost; it is the hardier species amongst us that thrive here. The soil is very acid and makes the perfect medium for growing shallow rooted ericaceous plants and the Malaren’s (father and sons), have chosen to grow a large selection of ericaceous plants.