Just back from a lovely 10 days in Scotland, visiting old friends and family. The weather was, well, Scottish, with one or two exceptions, but visiting old haunts and memories, telling stories with old friends and family is always good for the soul. For those who have not been to Dawyck Botanical Gardens (pronounced Doik), near Peebles in the Borders- here are some very good reasons for going there.
Firstly, it is a beautiful, unfiddled-with woodland and glen landscape with good gardening going on in it. Secondly, it has a grand tearoom and outdoor space to enjoy your soup and scone or sticky bun. You need to know that I enjoyed both! Blue was the colour that drew me on this visit. The native bluebells were everywhere, nestling into the shade and the sun alike. A gorgeous mist of blue was everywhere. The native bluebell is not a showy thing, the colour is actually quite pale, and so the blue mist is only possible because the plants have colonised and spread massively over the years.
Green was also good. Sharp, bright green on the emerging foliage everywhere, and Dawyck has a wonderful collection of trees from all over the world as well as native specimens. Shuttlecock ferns, Matteucia struthiopteris, were powering up in the semi-shade, almost an army of green soldiers ready to set out on campaign.
But the king of blue, the Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard’ was gloriously flowering in large masses, both in the semi-shade and, surprisingly, the bright sun.
Blue poppies are such a haunting colour. The delicacy of the petals belie the strength of the plants, I think, and the colour, especially if caught by light, is irridescent. ‘Slieve Donard’ makes for quite a stately plant, flowerstalks reaching at least 90 cms, and whilst infertile, which probably increases the flowerpower, it clumps up well and is easily propogated by division. I have never grown it, but wish I had.
Clean air doth good lichen make. The trees were covered with what looked like fur. I loved the contrast between dark stems and trunks, and the pale green froth of the lichen.
Close up, it really does look like foam…
The blue theme was hypnotic to the eye, and I probably missed all sorts of other less showy triumphs being caught by the blue. But I did manage to catch one or two other lovely things. This delicate, arching berberis, Berberis lepidifolia, was really beautiful. The surprise being the small, hanging yellow flowers, like tiny lanterns- a bit like Euonymus or spindlebush flowers- which bobbed gracefully in the breeze. It was collected by the great plantsman, George Forrest, who travelled from Scotland to Yunan in China in 1904 and made 6 more expeditions before his death in 1932, bringing back many plants that grow in our gardens today.
I love them in other people’s gardens, especially in Scotland, but they are not for me- the rhododendron and the azalea are not my cup of tea. But the fragrance from Rhododendron luteum was like warm honey on the wind at Dawyck. It is a slimmer, finer flower than some of the more blowsy rhodos- much more to my liking.
Another plant that I have never grown, is the Trillium. Dawyck has substantial plantings of the classic crimson, Trillium erectum and Trillium grandiflorum, which has a delicate pink mottle to the white flowers as they age.
By the way, the Dawyck tearoom has the richest, most gingery parkin I have ever tasted. The complete garden visit really.