Windsor and cadmium lemon, bismuth, chrome and cadmium yellow, Naples and Indian deep and light yellow, jaune brilliant and yellow ochre have been splashed and dripped across Ardivachar headland as the sun has irradiated the islands for the past month. The machair is in its yellow period and the early summer flowers are glowing and radiating with the golden light of the sun. The palette begins with subtle hints of primrose but quickly gains energy and sparks with the acid citron of charlock; warming to gold as the buttercups, celandines, silverweed and kingcups occupy centre stage only to be eclipsed by the rich aureate tones of the bird’s-foot-trefoil.
As we move into mid-June this golden glory is softened as the grasses begin to flower and swathes of red fescue drift across the fields in a gentle maroon mist. The floral kaleidoscope has been twisted and the first blue spikes of the tufted vetch appear as the spectrum changes from yellow to blue and the tapestry of flowers becomes more complex.
Alas the cottage garden lacks nature’s refinement and is defiant in flaunting a riotous mix of colours, forms and textures. There is no restraint, kniphofias flaunt their brilliant orange and yellow spikes defiantly amidst a swathe of aquilegias which profligate and promiscuous create an amalgam of the palest and most delicate of pinks with deep violet and blue.
Purple pompoms of chives sit against the fronds of fennel feigning refinement before marching off down the path to parade their glory against the candy floss pink of the thrift and London’s pride. Pillows of blue geraniums spill over the path, smoothering the primroses, their dominance soon to be upstaged by the flaming scarlet of the opium poppies. In the strong light of a hot June afternoon, the garden hums with the sound of insects as the exuberant flowers offer a surfeit of delights.
There are no contrived vistas in this garden, no artful arrangement of rooms, as beyond the garden walls there is an unrivalled panorama of sea and shore, distant islands and natural grassland. The eye is always drawn to the horizon and the extrovert carousel of colours in the garden is a mere distraction. However, there are tiny oases of calm which sit quietly in shady corners and form miniature green refuges.
There is no gardener’s restraining hand strong enough the constrain the summer revelery in the cottage garden, nor a garden designer’s scheme to discipline the arrangement of plants. It is the same on both sides of garden wall, plants grow where it suits them. I am the servant of the garden, I nurture the plants that choose to grow and replace the casualties. I might suggest a planting plan, but it is generally ignored and I suspect that left to its own devices the garden knows best.