The garden at Ardtornish has been sculpted out of a rocky hillside from every part of which there are extensive views south west along Loch Aline to the northern hills of the Isle of Mull. The soil is shallow, stoney, acid, and wet or boggy in many places. Rainfall averages 85 inches (2150mm) and gales occur frequently. Despite these apparent drawbacks, many fine plants thrive here, plants which can be difficult in drier regions.
Faith Raven, whose family have owned Ardtornish since 1930, has written a brief history of the garden.
To the front of Ardtornish House is a fine, recently renovated verandah, adjoining a mixed border and formal lawn which had more Cotula (an unusual weed from New Zealand) and moss than grass until a recent re-sowing improved this. The verandah pillars support climbing and rambling roses, alpine clematis, Chinese gooseberry, ornamental grape-vine and honeysuckle. The mixed border has a large Camellia x williamsii "Donation" with the scarlet climbing flame flower (Tropaeolum speciosum) growing through it. There have been recent plantings of spring and summer bulbs in the border to add colour and interest. Other notable plants are a dark purple shrub rose with outstanding scent, a tall, upright, aged, white Escallonia "Iveyi" and, on the far side of the lawn, my favourite, the Coral Bark Maple which looks good at any time of year. Behind the maple is what was once a rockery but now is a rocky home to large plants though some of the large shrubs have been recently removed.
Coral bark maple in autumn
From here, there are 24 acres to be explored. Not only will you come across stunning views and fine ornamental plants, there are also many wildflowers and the interesting wildlife that a large garden supports. The garden can be divided into several distinct smaller gardens.
If you would like to take a virtual stroll round the garden, walk this way to the Primula Garden.
"The Ardtornish Garden" by Faith Raven includes a short history of the Garden, with photographs of the people who have owned it and of the people who have worked in it and of the plants they grew. It describes the changing colours of the seasons in the Garden and how the work of the gardener has to fit in with the difficulties of the climate. Take a tour of the Garden using the detailed maps and see some of the best view points and the most interesting plantings.
£10 plus £2.60 postage and packing, "The Ardtornish Garden"
All text and photos are by the gardener Ian Lamb unless otherwise stated. There is an admission charge of £4 per adult to help towards the upkeep of the gardens. Your dog is welcome but please keep it on a lead.
Self-catering holiday flats in Ardtornish House and nearby cottages are available for rent. Contact MacI at Ardtornish Estate