Like many of you, I’ve really enjoyed the extra time I’ve had to spend in my own garden this year, gardening with my family, says Brian Cunningham.
As well as pottering away over the summer keeping the place tidier than usual, we’ve extended our herbaceous border giving the bed a more eye-pleasing curved shape and, crucially, leaving me room for more plants. I’ve also splashed out on a few new pots for our seating area, too.
The biggest difference has been the purchase of a new cylinder mower which leaves a lovely stripe, now setting the main part of the garden off beautifully. We’ve gone more “green” purchasing a push mower rather than one with a petrol engine. One unexpected benefit I’ve found is the amount of time this new mower has saved me. My son likes the mower so much he now wants to cut the grass – allowing me to sit back with a brew and supervise! He’s doing a braw job.
I’ve felt a bit more pressure to keep on top of my own garden this growing season as – due to the lockdown back in April and May – I’ve had to film pieces for Beechgrove from home.
The series has now come to an end for this year. At first, I was relieved with one less thing to worry about – but the other weekend I was thinking of the raised bed I’d look to put in this winter for growing veg and also about the gravel extension I’d like to add to my alpine garden. Suddenly, I felt disappointment as I realised I’d have nobody to show off my garden to anymore.
Scotland’s Gardens is a scheme that was founded in the early 1930s to help support the training and pension of district nurses through the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland. Money was raised by the owners of private gardens by opening theirs to the paying public who wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy them.
Nearly 90 years, the charity is still going strong. If you walk through the garden gates signposted with the familiar yellow “Garden Open” banner, 60% of your admission fee is donated to the garden opener’s nominated charities with the remaining going to Scotland’s Gardens current beneficiaries, giving valuable support to our local communities.
Understandably, many gardens that would normally open for charity under this scheme have been unable to do so this year – but thankfully many have. The other week I wanted to visit some gardens that I hadn’t been to before. I was able to find these easily through the Scotland’s Gardens website, and off we headed north.
The first stop was to the garden of Logie House in the beautiful Findhorn valley. Hard to believe this garden is the result of major works just 10 years ago.
A once-piped burn has been opened up and now meanders through the walled garden, lined with good paths and over nice bridges complete with some wonderful drystane dykes. Japanese maples, berried cotoneasters and flowering hydrangeas are just some of the 2,000 new plantings showing seasonal displays. Without doubt, the highlight for me was the sight of the most colourful katsura tree I have ever seen.
The setting, garden design and layout make this as good as the perfect garden for me.
As a lover of trees and historic gardens, I was keen to pay a visit to an arboretum in its infancy. Burgie House sits four miles east of Forres and is now home to a collection of trees and shrubs from around the world, growing in an area of wood devastated by Dutch elm disease.
A loch, quarry garden and Japanese garden are some of the zoned areas with plantings including monkey puzzle, sorbus and acer trees still yet to reach their autumn peak thanks to the Moray Firth climate.
What makes this garden special for me is the passion and commitment of the owner, working with limited resources, growing most of the plants from seed in a Georgian greenhouse.
Trying to keep the whole family happy, I had promised the kids we would complete our trip with a visit to Loch Ness to see if we could find the monster. What I hadn’t told them was to do this, we would be visiting Abriachan Garden Nursery that sits on the steep hillside with a magnificent view of the loch. As far as I was concerned, we both got our wish.
Tight, winding, woodland paths with a mix of native and exotic plants not only make this a garden worth visiting but also an opportunity for the novice gardener and plant specialist to stock up for their own garden.
Thanks to Scotland’s Gardens I got to see three new gardens and – with the generosity of the garden owners – knew I was making a contribution to good causes. Plus, I finally managed to find a Chilean flame bush I’ve been desperate to get a hold of for so long.
If you are wishing to stay safe at home but still see some wonderful gardens through the eyes of their owners, virtual tours can be viewed from the website. Or, if you feel you’d like to treat your fellow gardeners, why not share your garden, allotment or community space for charity next year? You’d certainly make me happy.
Brian Cunningham is a presenter on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden. Follow him on Twitter @gingergairdner