Estate & gardens blog: January

It’s hard to believe that the last blog was written in October. Where does the time go?

As we head firmly into 2021, the gardens are still sleeping but the team are not. We are working hard to tidy and prepare the gardens for Spring. As many of you know, we have taken the decision to lock the gates for the time being. We didn’t do this lightly, but as we have very limited staff due to Covid-19 furlough, we are unable to maintain our usual maintenance procedures and checks in the grounds. We do wish it were different.

In November, Kathryn and Lisa drove a Luton van to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) to collect over one hundred young conifers, and several dozen Chilean shrubs, to be planted in our gardens. Many of these trees are under threat in the wild and we are planting them as part of our exciting new collaboration with the RBGE’s International Conifer Conservation Programme. The van was packed within an inch of its floor space before we drove it very carefully back to Armadale. Here the team unloaded the trees, noted the species and accession number of each, and placed them carefully into our polytunnel.

We planted three conifers before Christmas and also enjoyed being featured on Radio Skye and the Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba. As the weather warms up, we will plant many more of these important trees and shrubs for us all to enjoy in the future. We also plan to offer community planting days and volunteering opportunities when Covid restrictions allow. And we’ll soon be launching opportunities to ‘adopt a tree’, so everyone has the chance to support and be involved in this fantastic initiative.

The winter days can bring beautiful sunrises at Armadale, and despite being on lockdown (again!), the temporarily reduced team have been making the most of the sunny and sometimes cold mornings. We’ve given the area at Ramsey’s Well an overhaul, removing Rhodendron and Skimmia  to make space for new plantings. There are a number of beautiful self-seeded birch in this spot which we want to encourage. The herbaceous border always keeps us busy too.

The snowdrops are out in the gardens which gives us all a glimmer of hope for warmer weather. We’re also working on a planting plan for the big bed at the Stables, which we will plant up in Spring. We also have a resident woodcock which has been amazing to see as they are very elusive.

Over the coming months we will be carrying out some major tree work, felling and pruning within the gardens to follow up on our recent tree surveys. This will ensure we continue to maintain our veteran trees for many years to come.

On rather more mundane (but important!) matters, we have applied for planning permission to replace our troublesome outflow on the foreshore along with a new up to date tank system for our Stables building. Despite the pandemic we hope this is approved soon so we can start the works in the summer months.

Elsewhere on the estate, we have carried out fencing inspections and repairs on our various woodland enclosures, along with a ‘beat up’ survey of our commercial woodland to replace some trees that were lost due to deer damage and bad weather.

Deer stalking has been continuing when appropriate on the estate, though unfortunately without the many guests that had booked to come and had to cancel due to the pandemic.  There have been several incursions into the garden over the winter period, with several gaps in the immediate deer fencing having to be repaired.  There are a couple of Roe still within the garden and our hope is to move these out soon, but while they are here, it is nice to see them.

Until next time …