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Gardens of Dumfries and Galloway


By AndrewR


I recently travelled north from Bracknell for a short break, looking at gardens in southwest Scotland. This area has up to three times as much rain per year as balmy Berkshire, so everything looked very lush with plants growing 50% taller than at home.

Our first stop was at Crawick Multiverse. To quote from the website about it: “This major land restoration project, on the Duke of Buccleuch’s Queensberry Estate has transformed a former open cast coal mine into a spectacular artland …. The ecology of the site, and the materials found within it, inspired its design which is based around space, astronomy and cosmology.” What you get is not a flower garden but a giant land sculpture, interesting to visit once, but not my cup of tea. The two hills apparently represent the Andromeda and Milky Way spiral galaxies

We then moved on to the Duke’s home, Drumlanrig Castle, built in an elevated position in the late seventeenth century

From here, you look down on immaculately maintained formal parterre gardens

The extensive grounds also contain the first Douglas Fir to be planted in Britain, and a red oak planted by the astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1972.

Smaller in scale but still pretty large (the “pond” covers two acres) is Glenwhan Garden. The land, ”fit for afforestation” was bought by a couple more than thirty years ago, while the ruined cottage, furnished with copious amounts of sheep droppings, was pronounced as “where we are going to live” by the wife. The Gulf Stream offers a benign climate for “many tender plants from around the Southern Hemisphere” as well as a large collection of rare trees and shrubs

Now part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Logan Botanic Garden is located on the southwestern tip of Scotland. Surrounded by the coast on three sides, it has a very mild climate with a typical minimum winter temperature of -3C. This allows for a breathtaking array of plants from Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America and Southern Africa to thrive, along with many half-hardy perennials. Where else in Scotland can you see a grove of tree ferns like this?

Cally Gardens is a working nursery, specialising in unusual perennials. For many years, this was run by plant hunter Michael Wickenden who sadly died in 2016 while on an expedition in northern Burma. The gardens and nursery stood neglected for two years before being bought earlier this year, and the current owner is now working to restore them, a huge task with limited resource. A lot of plant buying occurred here (they do not currently offer mail order) with four plants accompanying me home by train and underground across London! This photo shows some of the fiery hardy lobelias that have survived the garden’s neglect

Next day was spent in and around the small town of Kirkcudbright. The impressionist artist Edward Atkinson Hornel bought Broughton House in 1901, adding a studio and gallery to create and display his work. By also purchasing land from the neighbouring property, he was also able to create a garden of two acres, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the era, plus Japan which he visited twice. The planting consists of informal mixed borders, but with a nod to contemporary style with a few grasses which would not have been used in Hornel’s time

Next, we visited the Elizabeth MacGregor Nursery on the edge of town. Inside the entrance is the trials ground, where new plants bred by the owner are grown and assessed (anemone ‘Wild Swan’ was bred here). You then enter a walled garden where plants are grouped according to colour, with a white section near the gate and hot colours at the far end. Finally, there is a nursery, although I manged to resist this time (although I do have a copy of their catalogue for future reference!)

Threave Garden and Estate is a series of gardens owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Originally a private estate, it is now home to a practical School of Horticulture. This is mainly based on the walled garden, while the wider estate is run as a nature reserve

Our final visit was to Dumfries House. After being in the same family for almost 200 years, the house and contents, including several pieces of furniture made by Thomas Chippendale, were put up for sale in 2004. “Due to its significance and the risk of the furniture collection being distributed and auctioned, after three years of uncertainty, in 2007 the estate and its entire contents was purchased for £45 million for the country by a consortium headed by Prince Charles.” Since then, a major restoration of the house and grounds has been undertaken

The five acre walled garden is located a mile away from the house, beyond a newly planted arboretum

This part of Scotland is blessed with a good climate for gardeners, although they might complain about the amount of rain it receives. If the weather is settled, a trip there will be all the more enjoyable

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Andrew, great blog! Very interesting. I’m from Ayrshire but have never travelled to these particular gardens and areas in the other counties. The ferns at the Royal Botanical Gardens look amazing, especially as I really love their lushness! I must make the effort when next back in Scotland. I was in Ayrshire briefly - recently, but, I was there visiting my father who was ill at the time...

25 Aug, 2019


A most interesting and informative blog Andrew, I know of Cally Gardens, pleased to hear it is being restored.....
So what did you buy then? We have been in At Alban's, and visited an enormous GC, and came away with nothing!!.....a first for mel

25 Aug, 2019


DD - I'm hoping mail order will restart at some point as it's a long way to go to buy plants! But mail order is a time consuming process so there are other priorities there just now. The garden is being restored with the help of a few volunteers.

I bought:
Gentiana lagodechiana - similar to G. acaulis but flowers in the summer
Cypripedium reginae - I've tried, and failed, with this twice before. Third time lucky I hope (and it was a lot cheaper than I've seen elsewhere)
Eucryphia intermedia Dwarf Form - grows three to four feet tall instead of twenty to thirty
Mahonia sinensis - similar to M. 'Soft Caress' (which is stupidly expensive). Again, three to four feet in height

25 Aug, 2019


A good selection, I shall look forward to seeing them in flower..and good luck with the Cypripedium.......(⊙_◎)

25 Aug, 2019

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