Benmore through the seasons
Each season brings surprises of changing light, colour and fragrance to tempt you further in and higher up the slopes. Whichever route you take you will find something new.
The Garden through the year
Rhododendrons are already celebrating the end of winter by the time the Garden officially opens on 1 March. A sudden frost can turn the blossom brown but more often than not spring brings a burst of warm colours to the hillside; fiery scarlets and sizzling pinks joining the splash of yellow narcissus beneath the trees and shrubs. Rhododendron barbatum produces plum-coloured flaking bark and R. thomsonii a striking gold and sea-green peeling bark as well as vivid red flowers. On sunny days, magnolias are spectacular pink and white against blue sky between the Viewpoint and Golden Gates Avenue. Sweet smells fill the air from Osmanthus delavaji in April and Pieris japonica in May.
Young shoots bring sharp freshness to evergreens. Deciduous larches produce a flush of grass-green leaves. The myrtle beech, Nothofagus cunninghamii , is now producing a shock of brilliant new leaves of red and bronze on the Tasmanian ridge.
Late-flowering rhododendrons and azaleas blend spring into early summer. Deep red Chilean lantern bushes also carry the flame of spring's rich and riotous colour. Then a wave of white flowers arrives, delicate and sweetly scented, shining against the brilliant greens of the summer garden; tiny pink-tinged bells of enkianthas, fragrant, white droplets of Japanese snowbells (Styrz japonica) and elegant, downward-facing flowers on the luxurious, summer-flowering Magnolia wilsonii.
In July and August, the Japanese shrub Clethra barbinervis is covered in long strands of fragrant white flowers, to the delight of butterflies and bees.
Eucryphias, or leatherwoods, from the temperate rainforests of the southern hemisphere, thrive in Argyll's warm, wet climate and are a speciality at Benmore, their pure white flowers against glossy leaves bringing a spring-like freshness into August and September.
Benmore is spectacular in autumn. Enkianthus are now vibrant in yellow and scarlet foliage, rowans and cotoneasters are crowded with berries and deciduous azaleas turn glorious hues of red and orange. The area around the Pond is a blaze of colour as the flaming colours of the Japanese maples are reflected in the water. The apricot-tinged leaves of the katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japnoicum) smell of caramel.
The colour continues throughout the Garden and throughout the season. Behind Benmore House, the Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) has glossy purples, brilliant reds, oranges and creamy yellows. On the Younger Memorial Walk, Sorbus alnifolia - the largest in Britain - holds its leaves well as they turn yellow and bronze. In the last days of October the colours become more subdued. Skeleton branches hold on to the last red berries and conifers are defined against the soft gold of larches.
PLEASE NOTE that the garden is closed from 1st November and re-opens on 1st March.
During the short days of winter when the Garden is officially closed to visitors, staff are busy preparing for the new season.
There is a magical quality to the light which picks up the subtleties of a woodland at rest; the deeply fissured bark of Douglas fir with its almost prehistoric, dinosaur-skin look, the startling white of Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii), and almost everywhere the profusion of mosses, lichens and liverworts covering the ground with green, pink and rusty brown.
Red, pink and white berries on rowans and whitebeams often last well into December.