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Self Catering Cottage
Ard Daraich Self Catering
Ard Daraich Self Catering

gardening with the elements...

Anna and Norrie have been influenced by Geoffry Dutton's book 'Some Branch Against the Sky' - while Norrie has used the phrase 'marginal gardening' for many years - another phrase might be 'gardening with the elements'. Not only do we battle against the ravages of weather; high rainfall, storm force winds and periods of temperatures below freezing, but we also have very little soil. Ard Daraich is sited on alluvial gravel. Behind the house rises a granite hill, thinly overlaid with pockets of blanket peat; thus we are making a Rock Garden. Between the months of November and February the sun never rises high enough to reach over the hill and so we sit in shade for three winter months.

Our gardening technique involves working away from the eruptions of rock that break through the surface. Loosening the vegetation, we roll the roots, moss and any traces of soil into a Swiss roll, which we leave at the bottom of slopes or in the hollows between seams of rock. Where the bedrock has accumulated more soil than we can clear we make beds. These we use as planting pockets to coax a mixture of trees, shrubs, perennials or bulbs and are occasionally anointed with leaf mould, compost or seaweed depending on the time of the year and what is readily available. By following the design of the rock and its structure, we are allowing the hill to dictate the design and along with the wind and the frost; it is the hardier species amongst us that thrive here.

The soil is very acid and makes the perfect medium for growing shallow rooted ericaceous plants and the Maclarens (father and sons), have chosen to grow a large selection of Rhododendrons. With the arrival of Anna, we have extended the flowering season and introduced a variety of other plants.

The garden is largely left to its own devises and we watch the increasing invasion of wild flowers including the occasional orchid. The summer work involves a little weeding and strimming but most of the work takes place in the autumn, winter and spring when we slowly make our way up the hill hoping to create a fine collection of plants in this very special and natural setting.

Garden Visits are available through Scotland's Gardens which Ard Daraich has supported once a year for over thirty years and the garden is now open every day for visitors for £3.50 a head.

Open by appointment only to specialist gardening groups where guided tours and catering are available by arrangement.

Mentioned in Kenneth Cox’s book on “Scotland for Gardeners”.

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