A visit to the gardens of Dumfries house

Back in June we visited the gardens of Dumfries house in Ayrshire. Set in a large estate surrounding the house, tucked away at the far end of the new arboretum in the grounds of Dumfries house is the walled garden and education garden. The walled garden covers five acres and is reckoned to be one of the largest in Scotland and with a significant slope from top to bottom it certainly is an interesting walled garden. Restored over several years and opened in 2014 by her majesty the Queen, the Queen Elizabeth gardens are well worth a visit if you are near Cumnock in Ayrshire.

One of many pavilions and buildings dotted about the estate, this one is made from wood!

We started our visit from the car park and coach house cafe where we had coffee and cake to keep us going. On the walk there are plenty small buildings, bridges and interesting features to watch out for. As it's name suggests the Coach house cafe is situated in exactly that and in parts you can sit amongst the old horse stalls and have your lunch.

A Chinese themed bridge spanning the Lugar Water

Once fed and watered we walked along the road and over the stunning stone bridge which takes us over the Lugar Water. Just after the bridge take the path to the left and walk along the banks of the river heading towards the huge walls of the garden you can see in the distance. You can of course also wander through the arboretum too. The arboretum was planted up over the past few years, turning a boggy, scrubby area into a collection of over 500 tree specimens. Though still small you can see the potential of these trees in years to come. At the centre of the arboretum sits the woodland shelter, a magnificent structure created by the students of the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. 

An amazing border of Delphiniums and Phlox run along the bottom path of the gardens

We were lucky enough to visit in June when there was plenty of early summer colour enjoying the shelter of the walled garden. Ranged along the lower side of the gardens is a border stuffed full of Delphiniums and Phlox. The Delphinium were incredible, so tall, stately, so many colours and combinations of colours, singles, doubles...... amazing. I have to confess I took a lot of photos, and these are a tine selection. The smell from the phlox was enticing too, reminiscent of gardens I've worked on in the past.

A gorgeous creamy white Delphinium

Look at all those blues

It's all in the tiny details

When the gardens were restored and re-designed by Michael Innes, there were no definitive existing garden plans of the original gardens so a new design was created, made more interesting by the steep slope. This has been dealt with by a series of retailing walls dividing up the garden into terraces running East to West.

One of the terraces with ground cover beginning to sprawl over the walls and
colour highlights added using the pale blue benches

On the lower terraces there are beds of vegetables, annuals and perennials, moving through to mixed borders of shrubs and perennials as you climb up through the stairs and terraces. In the centre of the lower garden is an impressive fountain, providing movement and sound in the gardens.

Part of the fountain in the walled garden

Eryngiums in full bloom in the walled garden

There are two glasshouses, one on the top terrace with has comanding views over the walled garden and surrounding estate and at this time of year is fronted by a colourful combination of Catmint and Alchemilla mollis. The lower greenhouse sits at the top of a formal flight of steps, surrounded by borders of architectural plants, some more tender plants and planting combinations of blues, greys and pinks.

Greenhouse on the top terrace

An imposing entrance to the greenhouses

A corner outside the greenhouse to sit and enjoy the gardens

Not open to the public but used for education for school children and the wider community is the Education garden. Placed at one end of the walled garden behind a hedge, it is a hive of organic productivity. This was one of the main reasons for visiting Dumfries house, to meet up with Chris the head gardener there and see where some of the plants she bought from us earlier in the year had gone.

There are a few pot men dotted about the education garden

The borders of this garden fan out form the building in the centre and Chris uses a six year crop rotation programme to make the best use of the land. The fruit and veg produced from the gardens goes to the cafes and helps local school children learn where their food comes from and how to grow it. 

The Education garden

Old water troughs recycled into sinks for the kids to wash vegetable in

We spent an enjoyable time chatting with Chris about gardening organically and the pros and cons of it all. They try to grow as much plant material as possible by often need to source in larger specimens to get projects completed in time, which is where we came in earlier in the year and because we work organically we ticked all the boxes for her sourcing in plants. 

The Education Garden

The curious flowers of Phacelia, an annual
green manure

We had an enjoyable afternoon exploring both gardens at Dumfries house, we ran out of time to visit the house as we were going to visit eldest son and take him out for dinner. 

If you are interested in visiting Dumfries house and it's gardens and grounds you can get information on their website here

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  1. Looks lovely! That delphinium border is like a blue dream. And the blue seats look fabulous too!

    1. Hi! It was quite a sight all those Delphs, an interesting garden to visit.


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