Sunday, August 15, 2010

Culzean Castle

We were at our local 'stately home' today - Culzean Castle - for a picnic. Last year I bought my husband a large picnic hamper for his birthday so that we could have civilised picnics, in the old fashioned way, with a tablecloth and real crockery! (Like the picnics which Mole and Ratty indulge in, in the Wind in the Willows.) To be honest, the weather in Scotland during July and half of August has been fairly hideous, so we haven't had a picnic since late spring - but today was the perfect day, so we packed the wicker basket with goodies, and set off. Culzean is the National Trust for Scotland's major attraction in this part of the world, so it tends to be extremely busy on warm sundays, particularly since this is the last weekend before the Scottish schools go back. But if you go reasonably early, you can find all kinds of quiet nooks and crannies, often with convenient picnic tables. Ours was at the back of the fabulous walled garden, so we had a walk round first and admired the herbacious border, which - at this time of the year - is wonderful. I'm so envious. Our cottage gardens look lovely in spring, but they never seem to look quite so beautiful in high summer. Culzean's Head Gardener is a woman, and - although I have been visiting the castle for years - I have to say that I have never seen the gardens looking so utterly gorgeous as they did today. Apart from the stunning borders, I particularly loved the row upon row of traditional, old fashioned annuals, such as Larkspur, Love-in-a-Mist  and Asters - plants which I haven't seen massed together like this since I was a child. The gardens sell plants, too - which is an excellent idea. And they aren't 'bought in' as they are at so many visitor attractions. These are genuine plants from the gardens, so that when you see something growing, and like the look of it, you might just be able to buy it. I came away with a deep purple astilbe called Purple Lance - a beautiful plant which I had been coveting as soon as I saw it in the border. 

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