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Island gardens


by James Alexander-Sinclair

Suddenly you are confronted with spectacular magnolias, towering cordylines, magnificent tree ferns, a vast Monterey pine and an avenue of gorgeous cinnamon-barked myrtles...


Detail of Colonsay House Gardens, Isle of ColonsayThere are few things as dreary as other people's holiday pictures and I am fully aware that I am skating on very, very thin ice by blogging about my holiday two weeks in succession, but…

I really wanted to write about the biggest garden on the Isle of Colonsay, Colonsay House Gardens. It is not the only garden: there are a few smaller gardens on the island - including what must be one of the most spectacularly sited vegetable gardens in the world: they have used stones set on end as fencing (here is a distant view down onto the garden).

Now, I have to declare a slight interest here as I have done some work replanting the odd bit of border but the magnificence of the garden has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me. Colonsay is a warm island (the Gulf Stream sees to that) but susceptible to ferocious winds. Fortunately, many years ago a far-sighted fellow planted a thick shelter belt of trees around the gardens, which saves them from the worst winds.

The gardens were laid out in the early 1930s and consisted of immaculately maintained pathways through fabulous exotic plantings. Since then the garden staff has been reduced from 12 to one and the mood of the garden has changed to one more in keeping with the relaxed attitude of the island.

The paths are a bit overgrown and there are spectacular thickets of wild fuschia and ferns but the bones are still visible and there are plants there that take the breath away. Suddenly you are confronted with spectacular magnolias, towering cordylines, magnificent tree ferns, a vast Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey pine) and an avenue of gorgeous cinnamon-barked myrtles. It is also considered one of the best rhododendron gardens in Scotland.

Closer to the house the gardens are less wild and include an area based around the lens from the old lighthouse on the neighbouring Isle of Islay: I believe it was bought for a few bottles of whisky and reassembled here.

The gardens are open on Wednesday afternoons, and you can get a slice of  particularly fine cake). You can get a day trip ferry beginning in Kennacraig but you would be better off staying a while.



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Talkback: Island gardens
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Gardeners' World Web User 21/08/2009 at 16:23

Am I in the correct place to start a new blog I wonder? Well here goes.I purchased a young Robinia Frisia last spring and its not doing too well.I can see new growths on it every now and then but they soon wither away.Any Ideas any-one?

Gardeners' World Web User 06/01/2010 at 06:22

Nice post. Colonsay is an island of scotland. rhododendron gardens in Scotland is a amzing garden, garden was planted mostly in the 1930’s, near most scenic islands in the area. These gardens cover almost 20 acres. Christian statue is a located to the left of the garden entrance.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:39

I can also recommend Jura House garden, spectacular wild flower border at this time of year, and try visiting Isle of Gigha in the spring. Beautiful.

neil roger 12/09/2013 at 12:26

I am pleased you have chosen to include my photo of the Monterey pine in your blog but unfortunately I cannot recall that you asked my permission to do so-please forgive me if you asked me a while ago! If not you do need to acknowledge the photo with my name inserted after it and ask my permission first, (If you are seeking permission to use a photo/image found on Flickr, please note that you must contact the user who posted it directly and you must be a member of Flickr to do so. Please move your mouse over the buddy icon and click the little arrow to activate the “person menu.” From there, select “Send FLICKR Mail” to compose your message. Some members display their email address on their profile too so you might be able to contact them directly.)