Armadale in Skye
Head Gardener at Armadale.
Speed, bonny gardener, like a bird on the wing... over the sea to Skye.
That's the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where I recently visited two wonderful gardens. And there's a bridge, too. Firstly I went along the coast road to visit the gardens at Armadale.
Armadale is near the car ferry terminal, which takes intrepid drivers to Mallaig on the mainland. It is the seat of clan Donald, and has gardens, a cafe and museum, and a ruined castle.
So far, everything looked normal for a West Coast of Scotland garden. But a signpost looked promising, pointing to a castle ruin, a laundry ruin, and ponds.
Bridge in the Gully
I didn't notice the 's', and so I thought I'd try the pond (singular) first, mentally preparing myself for a Monet bridge and some large lumpy Gunnera plants. Little did I realise what was in store.
An Armadale Pond
Suddenly, amazement, wonder, excitement - the entry in my notebook, underlined, in upper case letters - THREE PONDS!!!
Armadale has three beautiful ponds, side by side, but on slightly different levels, water flowing between. One was fringed by fluffy Astilbes, and I loved the hostas and a beautiful maroon-flowered thistle perennial planted alongside. The upper pool even had a rockery.
The Perfect Water Feature
These three ponds together formed the most perfect water feature that I've ever seen. Hmm... Now that's something to think about in my own garden back home!
I learnt something interesting from Armadale, concerning weeds and so-called wildflower meadows. Here I saw my first really weedy border, full of tall grass stalks, dock weeds, campion, Euphorbia Griffii, blackberry, and the odd flax. The trick was in the edging - a neatly mown strip beside the path.
Wildflowers or Weeds?
I found yet another weedy area, again with a mown edge. This looked awful - until I saw the sign saying 'Wildflower Meadow'. Ah! So that's what's happening. Instantly forgiving the messy look, my thoughts zoomed to the Moosey garden, snoozing in the wintry depths of New Zealand. I could erect evocative signs - like 'Wilderness Weedery' - and get away with all sorts of gardening nonsense!
Bronze Flaxes and Daylilies
Bronze flaxes (Phormium tenax) were the New Zealand native in vogue in Armadale's gardens. I found a thick row of them near the self-catering cottages, as well as many solitary no-friends specimens in the larger borders. Many were surrounded by fussy apricot primulas - an interesting combination!
Bronze Flaxes in a Scottish Garden
But flaxes were definitely becoming old hat for this well-experienced garden visitor. My camera was full of photographs of flaxes in Scotland - how about finding something different, like the romantic old castle?
I found some ruins up some steps, but they were disappointingly small. No problem - this turned out to be just the castle laundry.
And I've got a Laundty Garden back home, so I can relate to this cute little garden room, with pots of hostas and ferns.
But back to the signpost I went, to find the correct path to Castle Armadale. Would I have enough room on my camera for photographs of the actual castle?
I found it easily - what a beautiful place! The castle ruins have been incorporated into the garden, with gravel paths, beds full of roses, maples, hostas, flaxes, stachys, and bergenias. Original castle rooms have been transformed into garden rooms!
The Castle Cat
And I met a black and white castle cat, sitting on one of the outer crenulated walls. I took lots and lots of photographs of him. Oops.
Armadale Castle Cat
Against one of the castle walls a wide border has been richly planted with a mixture of perennials and shrubs. Red Cotinus, Viburnums and golden-leafed Spiraea took their places alongside traditional flowers, like Astilbes, foxgloves, and maroon thistles.
A Beautiful View
The view of the borders from above was wonderful. A kind visitor took my photograph in front of the walls, just before my camera card ran out. Blast!
View of Armadale Gardens
I also loved the plantings of New Zealand Cordylines. They weren't just squashed into urns or pots, but grew in the lawns. Some of the red specimens were quite mature. Oh dear! I had to take just a few more red-cordyline pictures...
Over the Sea to Skye
If you're anywhere near Skye - definitely head for Armadale - you can go over the sea by ferry, or by bridge. Take a spare camera card, though, because you'll take heaps of photographs.
And lovers of water features will be dangerously inspired by the three ponds! Well, I was...