Discover two remarkable gardens under the Scotland’s Gardens Scheme this Sunday – and help a great cause.
Braevallich Farm, by Loch Awe, Argyll, is opening this Sunday for charity under Scotland’s Garden Scheme. The scheme benefits over 250 charities each year, many are small, local and close to the hearts of the garden owners.
The Farm Garden at Braevallich Farmincludes dwarf rhododendron, perfumed azaleas, drifts of primula and meconopsis, bluebells and an orderly, impressive kitchen garden and greenhouse.
The Top Garden, developed over 30 years with birch and oak, was expanded to 10 acres in 2017. Extensive winding paths, 226 species of rhododendron, a dramatic new suspension bridge over a deep ravine and two winding streams creating sound and reflections.
Braevallich gardens are a breathtaking example of what’s humanly possible in taming the wild.
‘I’m an obsessive gardener,’ owner Bowden-Smith admits. ‘I grew up on a heather farm. My father and sister were horticulturists. It’s in my genes.’
Having also tried his hand at fish farming and rhododendron cultivation, he is now devoted to his biggest love – besides his wife, Sarah – his 11 acre garden!
Its sheer scale would have most people quivering. He has packed it with 226 varieties of rhodies, 60 azaleas and evergreens and 700 cuttings in the greenhouse.
The Farm Garden has a calmingly orderly and flourishing vegetable patch. Favourites to grow are peas, broad beans and potatoes.
Philip’s most recent project has been to expand his woodland, Top Garden. There are interesting new paths, dry-stone retaining walls and a phenomenal suspension bridge spanning a deep ravine.
A profound feat of engineering, this bridge enables a circular route past expansive tiered shrub and tree planting with spectacular vistas to Loch Awe.
‘I formed the bridge’s footpath with wood from trees I had planted as saplings…’ Philip throws in casually. For decades, he has stayed focused and ambitious for his garden yet completely unassuming. To create a garden on this scale, you need courage, vision and graft and, without doubt, it’s become his life’s work. His spirit is all around.
Meander along paths, down shallow steps, round corners to a riot of azaleas in vibrant bloom. Two tumbling streams provide a relaxing backdrop of sound and reflection. Stroll through the canopied glen and notice that everything has been placed with consideration and care.
Philip added: ‘At nearly 80, I’m going to concentrate on keeping what I’ve got. Oh, also a bit of propagation and planting..’
A wry smile appears at this understatement. ‘The garden is my escape. It’s what I live for. It never fails to bring a sense of peace and happiness.’
That’s guaranteed for visitors too, who will find two bountiful spaces, tenderly cultivated with rhododendrons and perfumed azaleas, woodland burns, primula, meconopsis and peaceful open vistas.
They can enjoy delicious teas, take home some unusual plants and feel inspired.
Braevallich Farm Gardens, by Dalmally, open this Sunday 19 May, also 9 June, 1.30-5pm, £5 in support of Mary’s Meals, who provide over a million meals a day to hungry children.
Also opening in the area is Maolachys Garden, Dalavich, on Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 May from 2-5pm.
It’s a chance to see the new bridge and pinks, blues and whites of early summer floweringm, with secret paths, tumbling burns, rhodies, azaleas, wild flowers, veg patch and polytunnel. Entry is £40 in aid of Hope Kitchen. Children free with delicious home made teas available.
Also open is Ardno and Strachur House, Cairndow, on the same weekend. Stroll in the romantic walled Ardno garden, through the old oak wood, past a gorge and waterfall. Enjoy a beautiful meadow walk with irises and unusual trees down to Loch Fyne. Open 10–5pm.
Strachur House offers magnificent beeches, limes, ancient yews and Japanese maples shelter a flower garden. Enjoy rhodies and azaleas, herbaceous borders and a wildlife-rich lochan. Open 1-5pm. £7.50 for both gardens or £4 for one. Scrumptious teas and plants for sale. Children free. Dogs on leads welcome. This event is supporting The British Red Cross and Fiddlefolk.
Visit scotlandsgardens.org for more info and directions.