Crarae Garden

The history of the great Scottish garden at Crarae dates from the first years of this century, when the Lady Campbell of the day, an aunt of that celebrated plantsman Reginald Farrer, whose English Rock Garden is one of the classics in garden literature, planted the first rarities in the garden. Many of her trees have now grown to forest size and present a splendid picture whether in their vivid spring leaf, brilliant autumn colour or, if they are evergreen, sculptured form all the year round.

The garden has been allowed to grow naturally, on the steep banks of a burn. The soil is acid, and perfect for the many rhododendrons for which Crarae has become famous.

Trees and shrubs from all over the world have been collected and brought to Crarae, as they have been to other gardens in Scotland and England with similar soils and as gentle climates; but at Crarae there seems to be evidence of a very special taste and knowledge in their arrangement. Sir George Campbell, father of the present owner, must have been in close communication with the feeling of the place, the differing plants being grouped so well and so naturally.

It might be asked what memories the visitor to Crarae carries away with him when he leaves. That must depend on whether he is the average garden visitor, delighted with the natural beauty of the garden-pictures which everywhere at Crarae meet his eye, or a horticulturally-minded expert.

Crarae Garden

Above: A view of Crarae Lodge, which is set in a garden full of rare rhododendrons. On the left is R. Goldsworth’s yellow, campylocarpum caucasium, and the brilliant Ivery’s Scarlet, an early rhododendron hybrid.

Of the natural beauties, the long views through high groves of trees towards Loch Fyne will surely linger in the memory – as will the banks and slopes golden with primroses in spring, and misty with starred bluebells in early summer. The average garden visitor does not need to be a professional botanist to appreciate the brilliant sheet of colour presented by the massed azaleas on Flagstaff Hill, or to be astonished by the exotic size and shape of the gunneras, from Brazil, by the burnside. And he will certainly enquire about the scarlet-flowered embothriums from Chile, rare trees which were first grown in Britain in 1851 and are still unfamiliar to many.

But, as it has been said, ‘to the botanist, to the real expert, Crarae offers endless treats’ – Groves of young plants of Eucalyptus urnigera from Australia; the pale-flowered Hoheria Lyallii from New Zealand; and that great plant collector George Forrest’s very own Rhododendron racemosum from China. Some of the treasures of the garden at Crarac are Pittosporum tenuifolium, ‘whose size often astonishes visitors from New Zealand, its native heath’, and a fine collection of williamsii camellias.

Crarae is a garden which amply rewards the thousands of visitors who come every year. But it is on so grand a scale that however many people throng it, it never seems crowded. It is surely one of the greatest and most naturally beautiful gardens in Scotland.

OPEN March 1st-October 31st: daily, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

LOCATION 1 mile from Minard on A83, midway between Inveraray and Lochgilphead.

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