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Glenarn is open as usual from 21 March 2024.

Here, our predecessors the Gibsons hybridised the big-leaved species rhododendrons – sinogrande with the largest leaves of all, macabeanum with butter-yellow flowers, hodgsonii starting dark purple red in bud and fading to pale pink and many others. The progeny are now mature trees, this year covered with flower from mid-February onwards. They illuminate the garden like huge beacons, positioned on banks and important corners so they are seen from many viewpoints, creating a show unrivalled outside the botanic gardens. The touch of frost last Friday was not enough to damage the flowers.

Glenarn is a private garden, largely created and made famous for its collection of species rhododendrons by the Gibson family. This garden was established in the 1920s and 30s, overlaid on the original Victorian layout, with some remaining trees and rhododendrons from the 19th century.

The garden lies in a protected hollow, falling to the south and west, with a steeply sloping Himalayan glen running its length and providing shelter for large-leaved and tender rhododendrons.

Early in the spring, tall Asiatic magnolias flower on bare branches creating dramatic effect, together with many large-leaved rhododendron species and hybrids developed at Glenarn. Crocus, narcissus and many other early bulbs create ground interest. Rhododendrons provide colour throughout April, May and June, with a wide range of shapes, leaves, trunks and flowers. From May onwards, other ericaceous plants give variety, including embothriums, crinodendrons and acers while later hoherias and euchryphias flower from July to September. New growth on rhododendrons can be as striking as flowers, sometimes white or electric blue, often furry with indumentum and occasionally scented or sticky to touch.

The Rock Garden was created in the 1930s from the old quarry and natural rock outcrops and gives us a range of habitats for smaller shrubs and plant material, in a more open location. There are dramatic views from the upper quarry path and top bench under the Osmanthus delaveyi, down to Rhu Church tower and the Gareloch. Here we can grow many smaller plants from dwarf rhododendrons and taller tree paeonias and to meconopsis, primulas and bulbs such as camassias, erythroniums and lilies in season, with additional herbaceous material for the late summer including verbascums, digitalis and aconites. This area has recently been deer fenced.

In the centre of the garden below the greenhouse there is a working vegetable and fruit garden which provides produce for the house.

Getting there: Off the A814 2 miles north of Helensburgh.

Facilities available: Wheelchair access in part/with assistance, Catering for groups available by prior agreement, Plants for sale, Guided tours by prior agreement, dogs on leads.
R augustinii
R falconeri tsp eximium
Contact Information
Opening Dates:
21st March - 21st September
Opening Times:
Dawn to dusk every day
Contact: Mike and Sue Thornley
Tel: 01436 820493
Address: Glenarn Road, Rhu, Helensburgh, G84 8LL
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