The Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna by Ray Perman

The (not so) Secret Garden of Canna House


There is something tantalising about a closed gate. The old green gate into Canna House garden always intrigued me when we walked passed on summer holidays long ago. It gave that hint of a secret place waiting to be discovered. A smart new garden gate is still closed but the garden itself is now open to the public and it is well worth a visit.

In three years of hard work, Neil Baker has done a wonderful job in restoring the old walled garden, reclaiming the herbaceous border from brambles and nettles, uncovering neat lines of rope tiles edging the paths, pruning old fruit trees, resuscitating rhododendrons and revitalising the escallonia tunnel that leads up to Canna House.  It is hard to remember just how wild it all looked four years ago (is it really four years!) when I first began exploring the Canna House archives.  Our first – and slightly nervous – visit to the island in many years coincided with a National Trust for Scotland work party heroically hacking through raspberry canes to find the old ghost of a pebble path. (See also Fay’s blog)

As you can see from the pictures Neil’s beautifully restored paths run straight through borders dug and ready for a new season of flowers, fruit and veg. The restoration of the garden has been funded by US patrons  of the National Trust for Scotland and when we were there on our most recent visit, in April this year, Neil was getting ready for a trip to New York with plenty of pictures to show Thomas and Anne Hubbard, just how well their money has been spent.

Neil and his family are now moving to live on Islay but he leaves behind a garden full of life, replenished with Margaret’s favourite roses  and fit for the birds and butterflies John loved.

If you happen to be visiting Canna you can see it for yourself. House and garden are now open to the public.  And through Scotland’s Garden Scheme Canna House garden is also open on 7th May and 17th August from 10.30 am to 4pm