The favourable growing conditions of Castle Kennedy Gardens lead it to being the home of 20 impressive Champion Trees. A Champion Tree is the tallest or oldest or most massive example of its kind recorded by the Tree Register. At Castle Kennedy Gardens, these include 6 British Champions, 11 Scottish and 25 for Dumfries and Galloway. The Rhododendron arboreum subsp. cinnamomeum is a Champion of Champions and Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides (Mountain Beech) a Scottish Champion. Look for the Champion Tree Trail guide in our shop which provides detailed information about these trees as well as a self-guided walk through the Gardens. Or check our Events listing for guided walks of our Champion Trees with Head Gardener John MacArthur of that Ilk.
At least 8 avenues of single species trees were planted in the isthmus in the mid-19th Century. They include avenues of Monkey Puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana), Noble Firs (Abies procera), Beeches (Fagus sylvatica), Evergreen Oaks (Quercus ilex), Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), Hollies (Ilex aquifolium), Cordyline australis and Thuja plicata providing majestic corridors of shade.
Castle Kennedy Gardens is best known for its collection of rare and hybrid species of Rhododendrons found throughout the Gardens. Among the most beautiful are the many tall Rhododendron arborum, and the British Champion (tallest) can be found growing near Mount Marlborough. Other notable examples include Rhododendron griersonianum, Rhododendron Loderi King George, Rhododendron Review Order and Rhododendron hodgsonii.
Rhododendron Cynthia is spectacular and can be found looming in the Sunken Garden at Lochinch Castle as well as overlooking the Round Pond (see above).
Many mature examples of the large leafed Rhododendrons can be found throughout the Gardens. These fine architectural plants have huge leaves up to 60cm long and those growing here include Rhododendron falconeri, Rhododendron macabeanum, Rhododendron kesaniae and Rhododendron sinogrande.
Many Rhododendron hybrids were bred at the Gardens, the most notable of which were by the 10th and 12th Earls of Stair and the prominent Head Gardener Rye, such as the fragrant Rhododendron Lord Stair, Rhododendron R W Rye, Rhododendron Lochinch Spinbur, Rhododendron Review Order and Rhododendron Lady Stair.
Also known as the Chilean Fire Bush, this species originates from the temperate forests of Chile (as the common name might suggest). In June its clusters of narrowly tubular scarlet flowers set the landscape alight throughout the Gardens, but particularly by the Dancing Green, in Dettingen Avenue and at the Canal Entrance.
Camellias were cultivated in the gardens of China and Japan for centuries before they were seen in Europe. Many of the species found in Britain today came courtesy of the East India Company as the tea trade expanded. At Castle Kennedy there are many beautiful examples of the Camellia x williamsii and Camillia japonica hybrids, including Camellia japonica Adolphe Audusson and Camilla Leonard Messel, which provide colour early in the year and are found next to the Walled Garden and in the Heather Garden at Lochinch.
Eucryphia cordifolia, namansay and glutinosa
Native to the southern temperate regions of South America, the Eucryphia at Castle Kennedy are exceptionally tall (up to 22 metres) and their sweet scent emanates from the flowers in the late summer into the early autumn as they guard the Canal Bridge and the southern gates of the Walled Garden. The Eucryphia cordifolia found near the Walled Garden is a British Champion, being the tallest and largest of its kind. The Gardens also feature the single and double flower varieties of Eucryphia glutinosa which are rare.
An old hybrid cultivar raised from a chance seedling found in the garden at Lochinch Castle circa 1940, the shrub’s parents are believed to have been Buddleja davidii and Buddleja fallowiana. One of the most popular Buddlejas of all time, ‘Lochinch’ was accorded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (record 672) in 1993 and reaffirmed in 2010. Look for it in the Walled Garden and at the gardens in Lochinch.