There are several terrific nurseries near Inverness, but my absolute favourite is Abriachan Nursery on Loch Ness. Not only does it have an interesting selection of Auriculas, primula and other herbaceous perennials that thrive here in the Highlands, it also has a beautiful garden that shows many of the plants in situ.
Like my back garden, Abriachan is a steeply sloping woodland garden, with both dry, sunny and cool, shady areas. It faces South (unlike my East facing slope). And whereas I am exposed to winds straight off the North Sea, Abriachan faces Loch Ness, benefiting from a remarkably mild & stable microclimate, given the latitude. So, while Abriachan may be a week or two ahead of my garden and probably doesn’t get quite such heavy frost, I can be near certain that if grows there, it will grow 10 miles away on my slope (provided I plant it right!)
Saturday I popped over to the nursery with my camera and spent a hot, sunny hour pottering around their garden. I had the place pretty much to myself and was lucky enough to see one of the most delightful botanical sights I can recall.
I emerged from a shaded path into a more open, sunny border and there was a single Himalayan Blue Poppy, backlit in the bright morning light. There was no distracting planting competing with it. As a result this single plant had a far more dramatic impact than the drifts I have seen (for example at Aberdeen Botanic Garden). Not only was it absolute star of the garden yesterday – it looked like it had just arrived pristine from another planet.
Naturally I had to buy one! I already have one establishing in the back, but at just £3 for a young plant, I decided to give one a go in the front as well. They need to be kept well fed in order to really establish, apparently. Heck, mine can have sirloin steak if it wants it.
To accompany it I bought a lovely maroon and yellow Euphorbia for a newly created sunny spot in the front – and happily this divided naturally into four plants when I unpotted it. I found a lovely spotted leaved Pulmonaria for a shady spot in the back and a dark leaved creeping violet to set it off. All these plants are welcome to spread to their roots’ content!
Given it was the lure of a fine display of Auricula that drew me to the nursery in the first place (courtesy of their blog and Flickr group), I couldn’t leave with a choice new addition of my own. I picked up three new Auricula, including two in shades of blues. I already have a lovely red and yellow one for the same nursery, which I have divided into three over the years, so now I am well on my way to having a collection!
Arbriachan had a fine, shelved display of potted Auriculas, with a simple black cloth showing off the blooms to full effect – a traditional “Auricula Threatre.” I can see why people used to part with a week’s salary for a choice variety, though £4 per specimen was my limit (clearly I’m not a real addict).
So a definite shopping spree (I blame the fabulous summer-like weather) – but there is definitely enough choice plants to keep my coming back to Abriachan for a long while yet. Just as well give that the front garden has now been totally overhauled and has lots of tempting gaps that need filling!