Arduaine Garden, Arduaine, By Oban, Argyll.
Arduaine is a twenty acre garden in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland. Situated on the southern slope of a promontory beside the Sound of Jura, the garden is just off the A816 twenty miles south of Oban and around 100 miles north-west of Glasgow and is owned and managed by The National Trust for Scotland. Arduaine, a Gaelic name meaning the green promontory or point, is usually pronounced roughly as Ar-doo-an-ie, though various Gaelic speakers favour differing versions.
The garden was begun on a bare hillside in 1898 by James Arthur Campbell of Inverawe and continued by two succeeding generations of his family. In 1965 changing fortunes meant that Arduaine House had to be sold and it became the Loch Melfort Motor Inn, later renamed as the Loch Melfort Hotel. The garden was kept on by the family for a few years but was finally sold in 1971 to Edmund and Harry Wright, nurserymen from Essex, who after restoration and development gave the garden to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992.
In addition to being a wonderful tourist destination for visitors to Argyll, Arduaine is an exciting garden for real plant lovers and is also important as a collection of plant species, many having been collected in the wild or having descended vegetatively from plants collected in the wild. There’s a certain conservation value in this which is part of the remit of the NTS of course. This side of the garden is less well-known and we would like it to be more widely appreciated – it’s disappointing to be seen merely as a pretty garden and not as the great plant collection that Arduaine is. As the headland is open to all the winds that blow, the garden hides behind a shelterbelt of exotic conifers and native broadleaves that keeps out the worst of the wind and salt spray and allows us, with a little help from the North Atlantic Drift, to grow many tender plants.
Arduaine is well-known in rhododendron circles for its wonderful collection of species, many of which are considered tender elsewhere and grow largely under a canopy of mature Japanese larch. Our rhododendron collection is very extensive, containing close to 400 species and 80-90 hybrids. These range from the large-leaved species such as RR protistum, sinogrande and macabeanum to the small-leaved, high altitude plants which are often classed as rock plants, of which we grow many species, a sample of which would include RR fastigiatum, impeditum and orthocladum. Among our special plants are many rhododendron species and hybrids in the Maddenia subsection, which is the subsection probably best known for containing hybrids such as ‘Fragrantissimum’ and ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam’, most of which are tender, white and highly scented and usually inhabit the conservatories of large country houses. The naturally occurring species in this subsection come from the East Himalayas, Yunnan, Upper Burma, Vietnam and similar places at comparatively low altitude and at Arduaine they all grow outside, generally flowering in early to mid May.
The garden has a number of other rhododendron hybrids and a great variety of flowering shrubs and trees, bamboos, ferns (including tree ferns), a large perennial collection in many mixed borders, and numerous small ponds and watercourses growing water lilies, primulas and other marginals.
Our second range of special plants is an expanding collection from South America, particularly Chile. We have many fine specimens of Chilean shrubs and trees, among them Gevuina avellana, Podocarpus salignis and Embothrium coccineum as well as herbaceous perennials such as Alstroemeria, Libertia, Calceolaria and that rampant delight, Tropaeolum speciosum. Other Chilean plants that grow well here include subshrubs such as Asteranthera ovata and Mitraria coccinea and even those spiky relatives of the pineapple, Puya and Fascicularia.
Although our plants come from all over the world, and from East Asia and South America in particular, we also have many native plants such as ferns, mosses and wild flowers growing here, all enjoying our damp climate and cool atmosphere. While particularly good for azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias in April and May, sometimes earlier, the garden has a long summer and autumn season of flowering perennials and shrubs too and the discerning visitor will find something in flower on every day of the year. The garden is managed as far as possible in the way that it was in private days - in an age of large-scale tourist attractions we like to think that we are able to allow the garden to retain its personal atmosphere. Our reward is in our visitor’s enjoyment and we are delighted to receive enquiries or comments by phone or email at any time.