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Issue 72 - 10 best gardens

Scotland Magazine Issue 72
December 2013

 

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10 best gardens

Keith Fergus explores some of the nation's best gardens

1 Logan Botanic Gardens Galloway The generally mild climate experienced by the southern tip of Galloway, helped by the warm gulf-stream air, means that an extensive array of exotic plants flourish in Logan Botanic Gardens. Situated just a few miles north of the Mull of Galloway, on the Rhins of Galloway peninsula, Logan Botanic Gardens has many interesting features and a beautiful collection of plants more often found in the Southern Hemisphere. In and around the walled garden and attractive ponds are over 50 species of Eucalyptus trees, the giant-leaved Gunnera Bog, rhododendron and poppies from the Himalayas. During the summer months the garden is ablaze with colour and a hive of activity as butterflies, bees and birds are attracted to the kaleidoscope of different hues. Even as autumn approaches plenty of shrubs and flowers still prosper as the temperature rarely drops anywhere near freezing. An excellent Discovery Centre details what can be found in the garden as well as its history. The garden is open daily between the 15th March and 31st October.

2 Dawyck Botanic Gardens Scottish Borders The lovely rolling landscape of the Scottish Borders is home to the stunning Dawyck Botanic Garden. Just a few miles from the bustling town of Peebles, Dawyck has a number of gorgeous woodland walks, where you can immerse yourself in a beautiful landscape, one dominated by beautiful woodland. Scattered on the woodland floor is an abundance of lichen, mosses and fungi and a diverse array of wildlife from red squirrel and woodpecker. Garden terraces, ornamental urns and Italian stonework are other highlights. During spring the azalea terrace is incredibly colourful with snowdrops lining the burns and the Swiss Bridge is surrounded by an array of plants. The whole garden blossoms during the summer months. Yet autumn may well be the finest time to visit Dawyck with the beech, birch and Japanese maples forming a vibrant backdrop. Dawyck Botanic Garden is open from the 1st of February to the 30th of November.

3 Greenbank Gardens Glasgow Sitting on the outskirts of Clarkston, only a few miles from Glasgow city centre, Greenbank Gardens is an under-stated but beautiful garden dominated by its Georgian Mansion. The gardens have been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1976. The house and gardens date from the 1760’s when they were built for Glasgow merchant Robert Allason. Over the next 200 years the estate passed through several owners until William Blyth purchased it in 1962. He set about transforming the garden into an ornamental one and the National Trust has kept it in remarkable condition ever since. As well as a superb walled garden, intricate topiary’s and the house itself, Greenbank Gardens is home to a remarkable 3700 named species of plants, including a National Collection of Bergenias, which feature 111 varieties, and over 447 different named forms of daffodils. There is also an experimental garden, which is used to assess the suitability of plants for the Scottish climate. The gardens are open daily and Greenbank House every Sunday between March and October.

4 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Originally founded in 1670 near Holyrood, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has been located at Innerleith since 1820, and its collection of plants from around the world makes it one of Edinburgh’s top tourist attractions. It is also recognized as a scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation. The 70 acres of the Royal Botanic Garden are superb to wander around, relax in and enjoy the magnificent architecture (including the superb glasshouses) and the worlds tallest Palm Tree House. Extensive paths lead past the Chinese Hillside, the world-famous Rock Garden (home to an array of Himalayan plants), the Alpine House, which is a riot of colour, and the Woodland Garden where there are spectacular Redwood trees. Snowdrop, rhododendron, magnolias, yellow potentillas, and conifers are just a selection of plants and trees that can be seen at different times of the year. The gardens are open all year round.

5 Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens Argyll & Bute The vast region of Argyll & Bute is home to some of Scotland’s finest gardens, each having their own distinctive features. Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, which sits above Loch Fyne, near the village of Cairndow, is a beautiful and tranquil spot where species such as oak, redwoods, birch, cedars, and firs are plentiful. The garden is also renowned for its conifer collection, which dates from 1875. Horticulture at Ardkinglas dates back to the 14th century when an orchard and culinary garden serviced Ardkinglas House. During Victorian times new species of conifer were introduced to the woodland garden with the early 20th century seeing the establishment of a rhododendron collection. The garden today contains Britain’s tallest tree and the European Silver Fir, which has a remarkable girth of 10 metres. Red squirrels, red and roe deer, pine marten, badger and grey wagtails are just some of the wildlife that can be spotted when exploring the woodland paths. The gardens are open every day.

6 Crarae Gardens Argyll & Bute Another of Argyll & Bute’s superb gardens is Crarae, which lies 10 miles south of Inveraray. This dramatic, Himalayan-style exotic garden has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland since 2001 and is open all year. The Crarae Burn forms the garden’s centerpiece, where a number of bridges span the waterfalls and where many shrubs and plants nestle comfortably amongst lofty conifers. Crarae Gardens covers around 50 acres with eucalyptus, acer, and the National Collection of Nothofagus beech trees of particular note, with maples, birches and rowans providing a spectacular display of colour during September and October. Azaleas, camellias and magnolias are just a small selection of beautiful and striking plants that call Crarae home. Such is the diversity of flora and terrain that an exceptional assortment of wildlife exists at Crarae including treecreepers, ravens, woodpeckers, dippers, buzzards, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons.

7 Achamore Gardens Argyll & Bute The island of Gigha, which may translate as God’s Island, stands a little off the Kintyre Peninsula and is a haven of serenity and beauty. Sitting towards its southern end is Achamore Gardens, which are managed by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust, which was formed after Gigha’s historic community by-out scheme of 2002. Like Galloway’s Logan Botanic Gardens, the plants flourishing at Achamore Gardens are influenced by the warm Gulf Stream air, making snow and frost incredibly rare. The sandy soil of these coastal gardens also provides ideal growing conditions for a variety of plants from around the world. At its centre is the Horlick Rhododendron Collection, which was started by Lieutenant Colonel Sir James Horlick after he had purchased Achamore House in 1944. He gifted the garden to the National Trust for Scotland in 1962. Achamore Gardens are also renowned for their azaleas and the walled garden that houses some unusual plants. The gardens are open all year.

8 Drummond Castle & Gardens Perthshire It is the perfect symmetry of Drummond Castle Garden that immediately grabs attention; everything, from the paths, box hedges, deciduous, coniferous and maple trees, and the Copper Beech trees that were planted by Queen Victoria in 1842, has created one of the finest examples of formal gardens in Europe. Access to the Perthshire estate, from the 1st May to the 31st October, is equally astounding as a 2km driveway of beech trees leads to the imposing walls of the magnificent Drummond Castle and really sets the scene for a wonderful day (the castle itself is not open to the public). A myriad of paths visit all corners of the garden, allowing you to take pleasure in the wonderful selection of box parterres, each containing an astounding variety of shrubs from across the globe, whilst the glorious collection of trees include American Red Oak, Purple Leaf Plum and, within the Kitchen Garden, more than 20 different varieties of apple tree alone.

9 Crathes Castle Gardens Aberdeenshire The beautiful gardens of Crathes, four miles from the attractive Aberdeenshire town of Banchory, are overlooked by the pink walls of the stunning 16th century Crathes Castle. Sir James Horn Burnett planted the wonderful woodland that surrounds the estate around 1860. As well as common types of trees such as beech, oak and sycamore there are many more varieties from around the world. Within the woodland, and on the ponds and rivers, a superb array of wildlife resides like roe deer, red squirrels, woodpeckers, buzzards, kingfishers, herons and otters. The gardens themselves are a treat. The eight themed gardens are kept in incredible condition and play host to an amazing variety of trees and shrubs, including colourful herbaceous borders and the enormous yew hedges that were planted in the early 18th century. They are stunning examples of sculpted topiary. Today the National Trust for Scotland cares for both the castle and gardens, which are open all year.

10 Inverewe Gardens Highland You would be hard pushed to find a garden more idyllically positioned than Inverewe, which rests beside the stunning Loch Ewe, just a mile from the village of Poolewe in Wester Ross. Framed by the mighty mountains of northwest Scotland the gardens were gifted to the National Trust for Scotland by Mairi Sawyer in 1952. Sawyer was the daughter of Scottish landowner Osgood McKenzie, who created the garden in 1862. Today this renowned landscape is full of plants from around the world. Highlights include the most northerly planting of rare Wollemi pines, Himalayan blue poppies, olearia from New Zealand and rhododendrons from China, Nepal and the Indian subcontinent. Their success is again aided by the Gulf Stream. The plants are also sheltered from much of the Wester Ross weather by 100 acres of woodland. Inverewe Gardens are a must see for anyone visiting this incredible corner of Scotland and are open between the 28th March and 31st of October.