Artmap Argyll unearths secret garden

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A review with words and pictures by Hannah O’Hanlon

An enchanted garden was one of the attractions at Kintyre’s only Artmap Argyll location.

A wander round Christine Russell’s five acre sloping garden makes it easy to see where she gets the inspiration for her stunning sea and landscape paintings.

Located at her home, An Ceardach, Peninver, Christine’s studio is set among the tranquil, greenery of her glorious garden, featuring 400 different species of rhododendrons and a variety of unusual trees and shrubs and several water features.

The studio itself was once a ruin but is now converted into a greenhouse come studio, with grapes and tomatoes flourishing inside.

Tended to by only Christine and her biologist husband, Livingston, the grounds are impressive enough to rival any professional garden.

What is even more astounding is that when the couple moved there in 1990, the land was completely overgrown with briars and weeds.

Christine and Livingston have spent almost 30 years turning it into the beautiful, peaceful place it is now.

An Ceardach is a treat for ‘children of all ages’ with seven, secret fairy doors, hidden all around the garden – see if you can spot them all.

A warm welcome awaits anyone who wishes to visit the studio and gardens, which are usually open by appointment for a contribution to charity.

Last weekend, it was part of Artmap Argyll’s red dot trail of studios open throughout the county.

Artmap Argyll, which is celebrating its 10th birthday, exists to promote and advance the development of professional visual artists and makers working in Argyll, and to seek solutions to the barriers encountered by the remote rural community in accessing high quality visual and applied arts.

Christine has been a member of the organisation for around five years, and last weekend joined the 48 other members in opening up her studio.

At the moment, An Ceardach’s chosen charity is the Campbeltown Picture House restoration and during the weekend £300 was raised.

One weekend visitor said that she often visits An Ceardach to get inspiration for her own garden, and for whatever reason you seek motivation, the garden and tranquil setting are sure to provide it.

Christine Russell with her gallery of sea and landscape paintings at An Ceardach. 50_c35anceardach01_christine russell

The grapes which grow in Christine’s studio. 50_c35anceardach03_grapes studio

The beautiful, sloping garden. 50_c35anceardach05

There are numerous water features around the garden. 50_c35anceardach06

You could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in Hobbiton, as this fairy door suggests. 50_c35anceardach10_fairy door

Another of An Ceardach’s fairy doors – keep your eyes peeled for all seven. 50_c35anceardach11_fairy door

It is easy to see where Christine gets the inspiration for her seascapes. 50_c35anceardach15_orb sea view

This fairy door is apt for An Ceardach’s seaside location, overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound. 50_c35anceardach16_fairy door

Most of the land at An Ceardach was covered in wild briars when the couple bought it in 1990. NO_c35anceardach17_1990

An Ceardach from above – there are lots of paths to take around the garden. NO_c35anceardach18_garden now

Looking out to the Kilbrannan Sound from the Russell’s garden. 50_c35anceardach14_sea view