HISTORY OF CRARAE GARDENS

by Sir Ilay Campbell
The garden as we know it today owes its beginnings to my grandmother. Born Grace Reynell­Pack of Avisford in Sussex, she married in 1887, Archibald Campbell who in 1874 succeeded his cousin as 5th Baronet. He did not however come into the family estates until 1904, on the death of the 4th Baronet's widow, Margaret.

The Cumlodden estate, on which Crarae stands, was only a secondary home of the family, who lived at Garscube near Glasgow, and only visited it annually for fairly short periods. Lady Campbell's sister was married to James Farrer of Ingleborough in Yorkshire and Reginald (1880-1920), the traveller, plant-hunter and writer was their son. We believe that he was a primary
influence in enthusing his aunt to develop the woodland garden at Crarae, others were my grandfather's cousins the Campbells of Stonefield and Sir John Stirling Maxwell of Pollok.

In the years before the First World War my grandmother planted the shrub borders to the east of Crarae Lodge, and the group of rhododendrons just across the burn to the west. In 1926 my grandfather made the estate over to his son Captain George Campbell, my father, who succeeded him as 6th Baronet in 1942, and the development of the garden became his consuming interest until his death. Long before this, Sir George had a deep interest in trees to which the Abies grandis, planted by him in 1908 when he was fourteen, and the Cunninghamia lanceolata brought from Dawyck, Peebleshire in 1917, bear witness. From 1926 Sir George began to plant the banks of the Crarae burn on either side of the paths which follow its course. Gradually he cut the natural oak, birch, rowan, alder and hazel, replacing it with exotics, planting conifers round the periphery to provide shelter, especially from the prevailing south-westerly winds.

The mild moist climate of the western seaboard and its acid soil, overlying rock and boulder clay, provide conditions ideally suited to the cultivation of rhododendrons, but Sir George was careful not to allow this genus to swamp the many others in which he was really more interested.

At Crarae can be found eucalyptus, embothrium, clethra, eucryphia, magnolia, malus, sorbus, acer, betula and pittosporum, among numerous unusual trees and shrubs, both broadleaved and coniferous.

My father had already planted Nothofagus, the southern hemisphere beech from Chile and New Zealand, in the early 1930s, but increased the collection following his visit to the latter country in 1952. We now grow ten species of this delightful genus, and Crarae has been designated a "National Collection" by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.

Gradually Sir George increased his plantings by taking in land on either side of the glen, so that today the garden covers some forty acres. Whenever possible he chose to plant groups of one species, thinning out as they grew. This has resulted in spectacular drifts of colour both in spring when the azaleas are in flower, and in autumn when the decorative hardwoods turn colour.

Sir George died in 1968, and a total reassessment had to be made. For ten years the garden had been open to the public Under Scotland's Gardens Scheme, but my wife and I realised that, even by retaining the proceeds, we would never be able to bridge the gap between income and expenditure. We therefore decided to set up a charitable trust, transferring to it most of the garden. This was done in 1978, since when all income has been devoted to its maintenance and improvement.

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