Check back here to follow the exploits and achievements of the newly reinstated Volunteer Friends of Crarae Work Crew. Have in mind when you read the blog that the gardens are over 50 acres in size and there are currently only two full time gardeners employed by the National Trust for Scotland. Additional resources come from volunteers, either through the Friends programme or NTS Thistle Camps and occasional specialist contractors.
In 2020 all Thistle Camps and volunteering was cancelled and both gardeners were also furloughed for the entire growing season (March to July). This blow to the garden maintenance schedule compounded the challenge already facing the relatively new staff due to significant periods of time in 2017, 18 and 19 when the gardens had either no Head Gardener, no garden staff at all or just one full time stalwart!
There are years worth of projects and remedial work to catch up on, in addition to new paths to create and diversions to manage. Periods of very wet weather in 2019 and 2020 resulted in landslides and flood damage along the burnside. If you are local and fancy helping out on a Thursday morning or one Saturday a month please email email@example.com and Victoria will add you to the crew!
Victoria Winters 2021
More pics and weekly adventures on instagram or twitter whilst I catch up with blog entries!
Thursday 1st September 2022
The usual work crew of four alongside Kirsten, Derek and Joe today working in the mill lade area, regrading the slopes and steps to make them easier to walk up and down. Jock watched us all as patiently as ever. We dead wooded some rhododendrons and trees and Jock even carried some of the sticks int he right direction for the bonfire. It was a beautiful day and it was lovely to chat to the visitors and their dogs as they made their way past us to the flagstaff hill and the viewpoint (no flagstaff but an amazing view over Loch Fyne).
Thursday 11th August 2022
The crew of 4, John P, Anne, John and me, assisted by Jock completed the fabulous new loop to the view point over Crarae Lodge and to Loch Fyne. Derek and Joe helped out and chipped the arisings so we could rake and mulch the path. We also headed to the car park with loppers and thick gloves to tackle the largest bramble tangle in the world! Jock was not impressed with the springy, spiny thorns and hid under the hedge with a stick.
Thursday 28th July 2022 No work crew photos - have a look at the Power of Water to see why!
Todays work crew of 3 were distracted from working and taking photos of the little pruning that we did manage, by the aftermath and sheer power of the deluge that had reeked havoc down the burnside during the previous weekend. Read more and see the pics on the Power of Water page.
Thursday 21st July 2022
A volunteer work crew of 3 today, John H, Victoria and Anne. We were assisted by Derek, Joe and new recruit to the gardener team Kirsten. The task was to level up and replace rotten boards in the series of giants steps up the gulley short cut between the forest track and the burn-side pond garden. We barrowed tonnes of chippings, made new steps and also tidied the entrance to the white walk which heads to the fabulous walk up to Sir Georges Seat with far reaching views of Loch Fyne. A great job done!
Thursday 14th July 2022
The work crew of 3, John H, Victoria and Anne returned to The Poplars at the very top of the garden today. John dismantled and deadwooded rhododendrons and took out a few more large aspen and Anne and I 'disappeared' the arising 'North of the Wall' We also built mini-beast hotels. The mini-beasts were definitely exploring our coats and backpacks so we had to check for slugs and frog passengers before we finished up and hiked back to the lower garden. Whilst we worked on tidying the area, Robert single-handedly strimmed and cleared the paths of the entire quadrant. It looked amazing after he had finished.
Thursday 7th July 2022
Work crew of two today John P and Anne worked with Joe to spruce up the carpark. First they had to move the rotten logs delineating the edges of the carpark and pile them in the tractor bucket, then re-edge the entire area and remove all the weeds, finally giving the carpark a rake over to crunch up the chippings and remove the weeds. What a difference they have made.
Thursday 30th June 2022
Work crew of four today John H and Victoria plus John P, Anne and the welcome return of Jock the collie, who carried sticks for us, although mostly in the wrong direction today. Our two main tasks for the day were to carry out a dead tree that Joe has conveniently cut into pieces for us and place it in the trailer on the forest track and to relocate an old arisings pile and safely manage the bonfire. Moving the entire pile rather than just lighting it in situ means that we can manage the size of the fire and take care of any livestock temporarily using the pile as a home. The toads were all carefully relocated. We were also wowed by an enormous Rhododendron just bursting into flower.
Thursday 23rd June 2022
Work crew of 2 today John H and Victoria plus Joe. Joe has pre-strimmed a new path into the work area - we needed the shortest route possible as it was going to be heavy going! Our task for the day was to replace a rotten bridge. All materials need to be man-handled in and out of site, vehicular access is very limited. The timber sleepers for the bridge are 3m long, and extremely heavy. John and Joe dismantled the old bridge, we all carried in the new timber and they built up the new bridge on site amongst the midges. I pruned back the rhododendrons to gain a straight access line to the new bridge. Whilst John and Joe were building the new bridge I headed up to the viewpoint on a pruning mission to make access to the fabulous view far easier, you can now walk walk on the actual path. Finally we all carried the rotten sleepers up the steep bank and cleared up! What a difference in a mornings work, but my muscles ached the next day. Rotten wood is heavy (and slimey!).
Thursday 16th June 2022
Work crew of 2 today John H and Victoria. We were back at the secret squirrel hide, it was raining quite steadily so I didnt take many pictures. We cleared the brash pile from the north end of the secret path and fixed up a squirrel feeder and a roosting box in the squirrel hide where little birds had been roosting. Hopefully the squirrels will discover where their food is soon!
We also discovered a newly flowering Rhododendron in the nursery plantings and an immense specimen flowering way above our heads. Youll need to head to the Instagram account for a video of that one!
Thursday 9th June 2022
Work crew of 2 today John H and Victoria. Our task was to fix and make ready the steps for the secret squirrel hide, clean out the hide and prepare the feeding station. This part of the garden is fast becoming one of my favourites, the bark path means that you can walk quietly and hear the birdsong all around you. We then headed to The Poplars and 'disappeared' all of the pre-cut alder to 'North of The Wall' . Thanks to inspiration from a recent article in the RHS magazine Victoria created a 'dead hedge' behind the wall. Using the human chain principle of John and Joe they passed up the cut saplings and she stacked them neatly out of sight. On our way back to the carpark we also helped the main gardener team carry out the old timber from a bridge that they had just replaced. When you are working in the gardens you make sure you are using your journey to and fro the work site efficiently.
Thursday 2nd June 2022
Work crew of 4 today John H, Victoria, Anne and John P all under the watchful eye of Jock the collie who returned with John P after a busy lambing season, plus Robert . We worked in the lower garden re-edging and weeding the herbaceous borders plus trimming the lawn edges. Jock took his role of guardian of the tools very seriously, except when he borrowed the bamboo canes that we were using to stake out the new line of the border for a game of hide the stick. Luckily we managed to find them all. It was a very midgey day and when you're head down in moss they come at you in clouds, hence the fabulous fashion items the midge net! I hope youll agree the flower beds all look much better?
Thursday 26th May 2022
Work crew of 3 today John H, Victoria and Anne plus Robert and Joe and then Derek with a chipper! We worked in two areas, beginning with the secret redwood plantation where we removed blow in sitka spruce and ponticum to let more light through to the young trees. Derek and the chipper made light work of the piles of debris. We then moved to the top of the garden to begin on The Poplars. This area is named on the old maps of the garden - and very aptly described. The aspen had run riot, growing through overwhelming and crowding out many of the specimen rhododendron and camellias here. We left a very large pile of Aspen to be disposed of! You can now see through to the Remarkable tree - a Nothofagus menziesii and catch glimpses of the forest garden.
Thursday 19th May 2022
Work crew of 3 today John H, Victoria and Anne plus Robert following with a rake! We were tasked with removing the bamboo from around the redwood and generally tidying blow in trees from the top of the gorge. It was also very satisfying to be set free to wander the upper trails with a giant pair of secateurs and a saw and be able to remove the blow in oaks and rowans from the specimen rhododendrons, opening out the vistas for our visitors as we cleared. So we treated ourselves to some vistas as we walked back through the gardens. Thrilled also that Mecanopsis Crarae is flowering in the gardens again! Joe had been on mowing duty and had picked out the bluebells and the flower beds perfectly.
Thursday 5th May 2022
A wet day when the garden touched the clouds! THe crew of 2, John and Victoria were helped by Joe. Luckily we were all in full on waterproofs. Poor Joe I think this was his first wet day in Argyll as April had spoilt him weather wise! We were scaling the bank by the gorge removing blow in trees and tidying up the accessible path. We had received good news about the burn from SEPA so the team have a plan for remediation work for the flood damage and we can carry on with our approach to managing the banks. Joe was wielding an extendable pruning pole that was about 3x his height. We had a tea break in a downpour - check out our instagram for the video of that experience! It was definitely good weather for frogs.
Thursday 28th April 2022
A work crew of 2 today, John H and Victoria. We met the new gardener Joe, Peter left his seasonal gardener role to whale watch from the stern of west coast ferries earlier in the month! How amazing is that!
John removed some more bamboo from a stunning camelia that was flowering for the first time in years since he rescued it last summer and we collected all the dead wood from the Rhododendron falconeri grove and cleared old bamboo arisings. These amazing specimens were planted in 1918. There was a bonfire for the bits but we made a bug and mini beast hotel with the larger sections. Proud of this new approach. Mini beast friendly and it means there will be far less dead wood to carry out of the garden or to chip or burn. They are quite neat so I hope our visitors enjoy them too.
Thursday 21st April 2022
A work crew of 3 again today, John H and Victoria, plus Anne. We headed back to the secret squirrel path to create a pipe bridge and a step into the hide. The young rhododendrons were in flower it gladdened our hearts. We are the first gardeners to witness their flowering in over 10 years. Chiff chaffs were singing their hearts out and we heard our first cuckoo of the season.
Thursday 7th April 2022
A work crew of 3 today, John H and Victoria, plus Anne. We were set to work at the entrance to the lower garden. John waged war on the bamboo that was surrounding a beautiful rhododendron, Anne and I weeded and dead-wooded a side bed and then moved to raking the lower garden and removin gmore leaves, braken and ferns. Finally I was in the burn (water was low) and removing the brambles. Much to the amusement of visitors walking past. It was a cracking day. The dogtooth violets were just stunning and we were asked about them by so many visitors. Luckily I had cleared the dead ferns that were hiding them plus the magnolias were sneaking out.
Thursday 31st March 2022
A work crew of 2 again today, John H and Victoria. We were set to work at the entrance to the Visitor Centre - which is OPEN yaaaaaas! Pruning of hydrangeas, removing of old leaves from the flax and raking birch twigs, ably assisted by Peter who was collecting all our brash!
Thursday 24th March 2022
A work crew of 2 today, John H and Victoria. We focussed on getting the other half of the secret squirrel path chipped. John and I worked from opposite ends, met in the middle then piled a few more logs and the feeding station before we called it a day! We moved 2 trailer loads of wood chippings between us. A glass of something was called for that evening I can tell you.
Whilst I work out why the pics are horizontal and refuse to turn, I will carry on writing the blogs and fix this later!!
Thursday 17th March 2022
A work crew of 4 today, John H, Victoria, Anne and John P plus Jock. It was John H's birthday today. So tea break involved cake!
We were at the forest trail side near the secret squirrel trail and a Loch Fyne viewpoint, clearing brash from beneath the enormous Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce) and other immense trees in the area, revealing mossy mounds, roots running just below the surface and ancient tree stumps. Just look at the size of the base of the tree versus Anne. We had great fun exploring the crevices, its a perfect space for hide and seek! The bonfire pile we created was significant too, John H is 6'1". We also played spot Jock. Can you see him, he's beneath a towering Abies? The Eucalyptus happily growing at the horizontal has amazing bark. We are all loving the moss garden that we are revealing in this rarely explored part of the garden.
Thursday 10th March 2022
A work crew of 4 today, John H, Victoria, Anne and John P plus Jock. It had been a very windy night so we helped Robert walk every trail of the garden so he could open safely. We were looking for any fallen trees or tree limbs and any hang up branches caught overhead or across the rhododendrons.
Jock came with John H and me by his mistake at the start of the morning because he wanted to play in the stream. 30 minutes later he realised John P, his master wasnt with us. He decided to head off to find them. I could see where he was headed from our vantage point and we had walkie talkies between the teams, so it was amazing how he negotiated the trails from one side of the gorge to the other and just knew where John and Anne were waiting for him!
We piled all the fallen linbs that we found safely on our respective walks and declared the garden open. What a wonderful excuse to find and photograph newly opened flower buds and play with your favourite dog!
Thursday 3rd March 2022
A work crew of 4 today, John H, Victoria, Anne and John P plus Jock were back at the Secret Squirrel hide trail. Today was woodchip and dismantle ponticum day. Jock enjoyed the mossy mounds and exploring the undergrowth whislt we worked. See if you can spot him, he also had a sneaky sleep!
The two Johns dismantled the large Rhododendon ponticum and carried on removing the larger blow-in trees John P took it in turns to help shovel the bark chippings for the path into the wheel barrows. I barrowed the chippings in and Anne raked them into place. We shifted and entire trailer full of chippings and completed half the path. What an achievement. The path is fantastic to walk on, it's silent and springy and is perfect for creeping up on any wildlife.
Thursday 10th February 2022
A work crew of 3 today, John H, Victoria, John P plus Jock were back at the Secret Squirrel hide trail. It was snowing gently and very atmospheric. Jock was given a tennis ball but preferred to play with eucalyptus bark. Fetch with Jock is a one way street, you throw the ball, he charges off, finds it and then looks to you for more entertainment. This sheepdog doesnt retrieve unless the subect has legs and goes baaaa!
We also removed the protective wire cages from the rhododendrons, they had all out grown the protection, it took ages to cut the wire carefully around new branches.
We also continued to remove the tiny fir trees and western hemlock seedlings and began to pile deadwood to create the feeding station. We hope to attract squirrels, pine martins, woodland birds and woodmice. It was such a beautiful peaceful and sheltered place to work. This is fast becoming my favourite spot. If you find a pair of black bi-focals on your walk along this path, they're mine!!
Thursday 27th January 2022
And we're back, the hardy work crew of 4, John H, Victoria, Anne and John P plus Jock were reunitied with Robert Head Gardener for an exciting new project. The Secret Squirrel Hide. We were working in a hidden part of the garden. Our remit is to create a quiet circular walk with a spur to what will become a red squirrel hide and feeding station.
This long forgotten part of the garden to the west of the forest road boasts some of the youngest rhododendron planting from the last plant hunter expedition by the Head Gardener Nigel Price with a number of specimens from South Korea. We are all excited to see what colours will appear as non of us have witnessed them flowering before!
First job, pulling and cutting down of hundreds of self sown western hemlock seedlings and moving dead wood and fallen sticks off the beuatiful moss mounds. Jock loves working here, he helped us pull sticks and galloped up and down the mossy paths as we carried the seedlings and brash out to a central pile for chipping. The pile was taller than me!
Derek and Peter built the replacement bridge as we pulled the seedlings.
Thursday 9th December 2021
The final work crew of the year, before COVID guidance sadly stopped us working with the team as we were from more than 3 households. John and I were joined by Lennie and the guys were dispatched, with Derek, on leaf duty whilst I weeded the herbaceous borders - I had to work quickly because each bag of leaves were to be applied as mulch to the cleared border. I only slowed down when I discovered a huge mouse nest under the Schizostylis leaves (river lily). I missed having Jock along after his antics the week before, but dont think the mice did!
Thursday 2nd December 2021
A couple of weeks off as the Garden inspectors were in! Todays work crew of four plus Jock the collie had a ball. Jock was extremely happy to be back in the gardens and decided that galloping and rolling around playing and photobombing was the only way to cope with the very frosty conditions - see our Instagram feed for a video of his antics. He had a stick or stole magnolia leaves from raked piles and encouraged everyone passing to throw them or play pooh sticks in the river with him. We drew the line at that, it was too cold! John, John, Anne and I the serious members of the crew, were on leaf and storm damage mitigation, collecting the little twigs and branches, swathes of eucalyptus bark and huge magnolia leaves. The sunrise at 08:20 was awesome too!
Thursday 18th November 2021
A work crew of three plus Jock the collie, who spent a lot of time under trees as it was very wet and cold. Thank goodness for thermals and waterproof over trousers! We cleared a significant amount of herbacous growth, ferns and grasses from around the exit gate and plant sales area (they were taller than me!). We also uncovered the area around the old stone wall. We filled the trailer very quickly with arisings.
Thursday 11th November 2021
A work crew of four today - John and John installed coldframes at the workshop whilst Jock snoozed in the greenhouse. Anne and I were on herbaceous perennial and shrub pruning duty. We then all headed to the gorge side and helped clear up the huge prunig/deadwooding job that Derek and Peter had started with one of the arboreal rhododendrons. We managed without dropping any in the river, falling in the river or blocking the stairway and path for visitors - result! And we were all captivated by the faery tent village that appeared in the pond garden.
Thursday 4th November 2021
A work crew of three, John, John and me (oh and Jock the collie, but my phone was playing up) we were blessed by a fantastic sunrise as we were leaving for the garden, John and John were on leaf clearing duty from the lower lawns and then headed into the woodland garden to replace the wire netting on the overlook at the burnside with Jock at their heels. I diligently worked on edging the lawn and cut back some lawn-side bamboo and some herbaceous perennials. Then raked everything up! Phone battery died afer an hour so my photo diary was cut short.
Thursday 28th October 2021
After a week off for good behaviour (and the tree surgeons were working in the gardens so the drive was closed) John and I were a work crew of two working with Derek and Peter - Robert the Head Gardener was away as he had been married on the 26th! We deadwooded the species roses and weeded out the persicaria so the strimmers could follow us in. We also pruned back and tidied up the clematis that had overtaken the toilet block (it was even growing in through the window). Working in the lower garden is always a pleasure, we get to meet more visitors this way, they are always happy to stop and chat after they have been around the garden. Derek got to meet a fellow grand scale gardener today and the feedback was lovely. He was amazed with the scale and variety of planting and he said there is nowhere like Crarae! We agree.
Thursday 14th October 2021
Back down to the entrance this week, more Gunnera wars and a lot of hydrangea pruning in the rain. Jock was with us but as we got closer to the road he was put on guard duty in the landrover, which involved a lot of sleeping in the dry. Very sensible. We had to perform emergency overhead pruning as an enormous coach appeared, it was the largest vehicle to drive along the entrance road since MArch 20 lockdown, no way was it going to fit under the 18 months of growth and damp overhanging cotoneaster without bogging down in the verge or scraping the paintwork. We got thumbs up from the driver!
Thursday 7th October 2021
A very damp work crew of four today. The two Johns, under the watchful eyes of Jock, replaced the chicken wire anti-slip measures on the top bridge over the burn whilst Anne and I reclaimed the pathway from the overgrowth. It was very wet again. Jock was an unofficial ambassador for the garden as he welcomed some hardy souls from a coach party across the bridge. Derek and Peter covered the little bridges further up the glen after leaf blowing duty.
Thursday 30th September 2021
A work crew of two today working with Robert and Peter who were in the ditches stopping a flood. John and I cleared the overhanging trees from the boundary line to give us better access to the planting areas. For 3 hours. It was a VERY wet day, the ditches were running full pelt by the end. Jock was in a huff as he didnt get to join us - you can see him huffing in his kitchen on our twitter feed!
Thursday 23rd September 2021
A work crew of three today working with Derek and Peter. The war on self-sown Gunnera began in earnest. John and John cut down the enormous rhubarb like leaves and dug out the roots, I was on piling up duty and removing brambles. Jock was supervising and watching the amazing blue drangonfly that was darting around. Derek and Peter cut down a tree and discovered a waterfall, we also found a lazy wasp nest when collecting the branches, hence no photos from that area! Ouch John.
Thursday 16th September 2021
A work crew of five today working with Robert. We headed back up to Sir George's seat. The gunnera roots were dug out, Jen and Anne cut back and unwound ivy from a collection of small trees. Both Johns wielded pruning saws, spades or shears taking down and out the blow in trees and Victoria continued to tackle brambles, ferns and bracken. We were accompanied by Jock who took his supervisory role very seriously and lay under a bush in the shade until tea break. Robert followed us with the strimmer, opening up the paths. There were clouds of goldcrests below us and the sun was very kind. It was a magical day to be working outside.
Thursday 9th September 2021
A work crew of one today (Victoria) working with either Robert or Peter in turn. Today was actually the first rainy day since the work crew Thursdays started, which in itself is amazing! Working below the canopy gave pretty good shelter but the long wet grass definitely overwhelmed my old and only partially waterproof work boots. They gave up being waterproof about an hour in. We worked on the trail either side of the forest track, dead-wooding, removing blow in trees and pulling bracken. There was a fair bit of spiky and very dead berberis to be removed, I had to resort to guantlets. We found a wasps nest that had been raided by a badger - the wasps were desperately trying to save their grubs, moving them to a new location. It was fascinating to watch but we decided not to work too close to their nest in case they decided to blame us! Even though the crew was dimished in number we still managed to create two trailer-worths of arisings.
Thursday 2nd September 2021
Four of us in the work crew plus Jock the sheepdog and Peter tackled undergrowth today. We were working up at the far reaches of the garden below the Fagus sylvatica 'Crarae', the Crarae beech - which, if you havent discovered it yet, please do investigate, it is the only mature specimen that we know of. We removed blow in trees, gunnera, brambles and Peter and John P brashed a swathe through the bracken ready for the strimmers to follow behind. Our Chairman John H is actually in the 2nd photo! somewhere. Anne and I pruned out what felt like a million western hemlock babies and pulled brambles, before she escaped the work crew with Jock to give a presentation at a conference and I dead-wooded the pentanthera rhododendron collection that lined the path. These are some of my favourite summer flowering rhododendrons and a riot of bright colours. We discovered a rare double-flowered Eucryphia glutinosa and a patch of harebells on the long walk back to base.
Thursday 26th August 2021
Two of us in the crew today, plus Peter and Eilidh. Peter and John H cleared the gully ditches, Eilidh barrowed away the spoils and I climbed the banks and deadwooded the rhododendrons and shrubs over hanging the paths. I also swept up after the team and was spotted pushing a barrow up side of the flight of steps! Much to the amusement of all. It was also Eilidhs last day as a volunteer as she begins the next chapter of her life in Edinburgh at University. Robert Carroll did her (and us) proud, laying on a suprise tea break with CAKES! He did the big reveal, setting up the table, including table cloth and flowers! in the tool shed and opening the sliding doors to much applause. Thank you Eilidh for all of your hard work and we all wish you the very best for the future.
Thursday 19th August 2021
Today was the day I forgot my phone/camera. There were 5 in the volunteer crew today plus Eilidh. She and Anne P painted the new guard rails on the gorge walk and then cleaned up the seating area by the burn, removing all of the moss and encrusted lichen. I dead-wooded rhododendrons, removed a weeping cotoneaster that had grown over the path and seating space and pulled out a huge pile of brambles from the river bank plus all of the blow in wild raspberry canes. John H and John P barrowed in, raked and laid down about 20 barrow loads of sand as a base for the new surface of the accessible path. We were also joined by a curious set of robins and Jock the sheepdog who kept us all amused and did a fair bit of PR welcoming garden visitors to the new path.
Thursday 12th August 2021
Today's 4 teamed up with Head Gardener Robert Carroll and 1st Gardener Derek Shankland to tackle the low level accessible path to the gardens. There had been flood damage and bank erosion over the winter and earlier in Spring and whilst a long term solution is in the plans and budget Robert thought it vital for our less mobile visitors to create a temporary fix. John H our Chairman single handedly tackled the bamboo walk and pruned it back to create a light airy and much wider trail alongside the burn. New volunteers Jen and Keith P joined us. Keith set about cutting back part of the upper bank and removing tree stumps to ensure an appropriate width of path ready for when we moved the metal sleepers into place. Jen worked with Eilidh removing the gunnera and blow-ins from the river bank and I tended the bonfire for the arisings. Bamboo makes a sound like firecrackers when burnt - who knew?
Thursday 5th August 2021
Today's 3 teamed up with 1st Gardener Derek Shankland and seasonal gardener Peter to remove silt and self-seeded grass and weeds from the pond. John P, Derek and Peter all donned wellies and water proofs. John H barrowed tonnes of silt away. We were joined by NTS volunteer Eilidh who gave her time throughout August before heading to Uni. She and I dead-wooded roses and removed all of the blow ins all along the trail leading to the pond garden. Once there I concentrated on removing chickweeed, brambles and wild raspberries from the plants in the area and Eilidh set about pruning back the hedge and entrance to the bridge. I also removed a buddleia that had finished flowering so that the view from the bridge towards the 103 year old Rhododendron falconeri grove was opened up again, showcasing some beautiful still flowering Rogersia. I went back a couple of days later to take photos of the pond after the disruption had settled and the surface was mirror perfect.
Thursday 29th July 2021
Today's 3 teamed up with 1st Gardener Derek Shankland and newly appointed seasonal gardener Peter to tackle some dead wood. We set about dismantling a long dead Acer micranthrum and various old rhododendrons, clearing up the arisings and fixing broken steps and hand rails on the access path to the mill lade valley. We also started on a stand of creeping bamboo, pruning it back to discourage it from taking over the footpath near one of the wonderful giant redwood trees in the gardens. Peter, John H and V all left John P halfway up the flight of steps awaiting a hammer........he may still be there.
Thursday 22nd July 2021
Today's 3 teamed up with Head Gardener Robert Carroll with a view to improvement. We trekked through the gardens to the Flagstaff Viewpoint. A rocky promontory beyond Crarae Lodge accessed via the cool shady mill lade valley path with, usually, a magnificent view down over the lower gardens to Loch Fyne and the hills of the Cowal peninsula. The hedge of the deciduous, golden yellow flowered, deliciously scented Rhododendron luteum had outgrown its space, the only view to be had was by standing on the bench! Armed with secateurs, loppers and a hand saw plus lots of water, flasks of tea, hats and sunscreen we set about lowering the planting and removing rogue self-seeded plants. It was hot work on a very sunny day but the sense of achievement amazing! Anne and I reckoned that Robert and John H looked like Himalayan plant hunters in their unintentionally matching hats amongst the greenery! We ended up with a pile of prunings taller than me, about twice that in the pic above.
Thursday 15th July 2021
The first volunteer work crew arrived at the Gardens. The intrepid 3 teamed up with Head Gardener Robert Carroll and tackled a thorny problem. Knee pads and a spike proof jacket was the order of the day for the Secretary of the Friends of Crarae Victoria (and no there arent any pictures (well I hope not!)). She spent a good hour crawling into shrubs and azaleas in the lower garden and digging out or cutting out blackberry suckers. Some of them were so entrenched it took all three volunteers to pull them out. We filled the garden trailer with brambles, blow-in ferns, bracken and prunings in just under 3 hours. We nearly lost John P amongst the bracken on the azalea bank and Anne did a fabulous job pruning the hydrangeas; whilst Robert removed a tree stump, pruned an unruly crab apple to reveal the stunningly beautiful magnolia beneath, repaired the lawn surfaces and diligently cleared up all of our weeds and prunings.
June 8th 2021
Before the volunteer work crew was formally 'inducted' into garden volunteering, Victoria (who had volunteered at the garden in the past) snuck in to do a spot of weeding! The midges were fierce that damp morning and all seemed to live in the moss and weeds that she was lifting! There was way more than one barrow full. Both herbaceous beds were tackled over an eight hour stint, seriously earning gin-related brownie points and negating the need for additional exercise for at least the next 3 weeks.