Star garden in the Rhins draws the crowds

Visitors enjoyed seeing the stunning garden
Visitors enjoyed seeing the stunning garden

After a slow start there was a steady stream of visitors to Ardoch and Damnaglaur House gardens which were open with Scotland’s Garden Scheme recently.

The owners, Joy and Colin Hadley and Frances Collins, were delighted to see the return of many visitors who had previously visited their gardens, full of anticipation of the vast changes made to both.

They were joined by friends and neighbours, many of the Kirkmaiden community and others who were seeing the gardens for the first time.

Having seen that of Ardoch a couple of years ago many were delighted to see the massive changes wrought there. Many trees and shrubs had been removed or drastically pruned to open up previously hidden areas, now covered in an impressive array of new plants, many of which Joy had brought on from seeds in her overflowing greenhouse. During some of their ‘excavations’ they had even uncovered some of the precious plants found on the extensive list made by the original owners of this huge garden, John and Enid May. These include the Indian Toothache tree, tritillium, echium candicans and many varieties of lilies appearing this year.

While Joy never moved from her stunning Courtyard Garden – the admiration of all who entered it was well deserved following its change from a vegetable garden, in which they also had a chicken coop! – Colin could be found in various other parts of this huge garden. Only one section of the garden, where once had stood a poly-tunnel, had not been tackled – a Japanese area is planned, with a pond – but beyond it the rockery now contains more than couch grass, red campion and various invasive weeds. Bedding and alpine plants including the magic dragon Chinese foxglove and a hardy orchid have expanded in most of it while other banks, recently cleared, contain swathes of Heuchera and geranium, many of the last of these having been barrowed up from the Damnaglaur Garden! The Rodgersia podophylla, from the same source, is spreading wonderfully above the rockery, its tall panicles of white flowers rising above its large bronze/green leaves.

What had once been the vegetable garden of the last owner, renowned for her growing of quality produce, has now been grassed over and an area to the side of the large lawn has now been prepared for Joy and Colin to try to become as successful in one of their next projects. Their present, smaller vegetable patch will be landscaped – more progress for passersby to witness!

Frances wanted the first mention of her garden to be about the generosity of those who contributed to the funds raised for the British Red Cross, of which she is a strong supporter. Just over £300 was given by various people, notably the Wigtownshire Ramblers who had ended their walk there the previous day – from the Mull of Galloway – and had a tour around the two gardens before having tea and purchasing plants and books. Members of the Chiltern Alpine Society who had visited recently also left a contribution. Various fund raising schemes on the open day helped to swell the donation and more money has been given when her ‘Garden Open, Plants for Sale’ sign has been displayed since then – this will continue until all her plants have gone, she says. Entrance money reached £272 for the scheme, 40% of which will go to Homestart Wigtownshire.

‘You have a most wonderful garden. It’s like walking through a succession of little rooms. Only then are its contents revealed and what treasures you have!’ was one of the compliments given to this ‘obsessive’ gardener (her description!) as she wandered around talking to some of the many garden lovers. She is passionate about her garden and is constantly reinventing areas, her recent addition being based on a seaside theme – all it needs now is a deck chair, she says (any offers?!). The sea hollies are now in full purple/blue bloom, standing high above the other planting of sea campion, thrift and other grasses. A friend’s collection of shells are on permanent loan, gems amongst stones collected from countless shores locally, driftwood found on local beaches and on Arran, a creel and nets and an addition since the garden was open - two very special lifebuoys donated by a kind visitor to the garden.

Like all gardeners, she has her favourite areas and plants – the ‘sunken’ garden which has been given a lift with the addition of dark pink gravel; the entrance to a sheltered area, going under an archway with its wind chimes gently swaying; the pathway along the top of the garden where the purple leafed Hebe Tom Thumb thrives opposite a few different Cotinus; various prolifically flowering Deutzia and recently planted red salvias including the easily recognised ‘Red Lips’. The alpine garden is looking at its best following its ‘renovation’ before the visit of the alpine society and in the front garden Frances displays her collection of succulents alongside the many bedding plants she has nurtured in her new greenhouse.

The gardens have great differences, which made the visit to them both so worthwhile and their owners enjoy showing them off when they can. However, while future plans are progressing, another opening is not expected for the next few years. You can always call in at Damnaglaur House garden when its sign is displayed or after a warning phone call!