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Started by: Tim Ingram

A Tour of Nurseries and Gardens in the Scottish Borders

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 14 September 2011, 14:13. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 13 September 2011, 15:02top / bottom of page

On Saturday we travelled up to Ron McBeath?s nursery, Lamberton, before it finally closes at the end of September. As an added bonus Ron and Robert Potterton had arranged a talk by the Swedish gardener Peter Korn. The description of his garden, using sand beds on a large scale, but also with areas of woodland and bog utilising the natural features of the land, was truly remarkable and inspirational. He grows the widest spectrum of plants imaginable from cacti and dryland alpines of North America and the Mediterranean, but in other areas European alpines such as Ranunculus glacialis and self-sowing Pulsatilla vernalis, or a whole meadow of hundreds of blue Meconopsis. And all in one of the wettest parts of Sweden with an annual rainfall of 150cm (60in) or more! His success is based on a deep understanding of the plants in their natural habitats and a refreshing ability to throw away all of the ?rules?, plus a big dash of hard work! A very enjoyable day with many thanks to Ron and Susan McBeath and to Robert Potterton.

On Saturday night we stayed in Coldingham before visiting Edrom Nursery in the morning. The owner of our guesthouse knew Edrom as the ?nursery with no flowers!? and it struck me, however unfairly, that this could succinctly sum up the AGS and alpine plants to the average gardener. What nonsense(!) you will say as you return from a Show, but here the flower power is concentrated at one event and only at certain times do you get anything like the same effect in the garden. This and the fact that many of the plants at the Shows are really not so easy to grow, either in the garden or alpine house, must tend to distance the Society from many gardeners, and in particular younger people. To change this image is no easy thing, even if it is possible or welcome. But in view of the huge pleasure and knowledge we gain from these often subtle, always beautiful and distinctive flowering plants, we should try our best to make the Society more approachable.

There is a dilemma between what probably many growers would regard, and quite accurately, as a ?learned? Society, recording and documenting plants and their cultivation, and sharing the joy of exhibiting them, and the less rigorous ?gardening? aspect of the Society - though the two are obviously by no means mutually exclusive (at least to us within the Society!). On the logic that ?gardening? carries with it a greater capacity for the propagation and distribution of plants, and the long term encouragement of specialist nurseries, I would argue for more promotion of this latter aspect of the Society in the future, and notably in the image that the Society presents to knowledgeable gardeners who are not yet members. There is an irony that the very aspect of plants that we cherish, their flowers(!), are essentially a form of advertising, and yet it is so difficult to present the Society itself under the same principle. From a personal point of view gardening also helps overcome severe challenges in life, as well as bringing a degree of individual enlightenment, and it seems absurd to overlook this, even if it is only implicit in what we do. The essence of this is the sense of freedom that knowledge and craftsmanship brings, and the democratic spirit in which this is shared. Gardening is timeless.

Sunday afternoon on this expensive plant buying tour saw us visit Cally Gardens at Gatehouse of Fleet. Michael Wickenden grows an eclectic and very different range of plants, including hardy species of Impatiens, many wild collected perennials and all sorts of oddball species of familiar genera. The collection of plants in the walled garden is extremely extensive and fascinating, even with the proviso that the climate of south-west Scotland differs a little from north-east Kent! I picked up several plants I had had and lost, including the soft-yellow catmint Nepeta govaniana and the native umbel ?Spignel? or Meum athamanticum, one of the loveliest foliage plants imaginable. But we are also trying the hardy Impatiens rothii from Ethiopia, a small Mediterranean Dorycnium pentaphyllum and a very un-ajuga looking Ajuga incisa (amongst others I hasten to add!).

The car now being full we travelled to our final destination, Logan Botanic Garden. This is an immensely interesting garden for its very mild, albeit windy(!) climate, with a wonderful collection of Southern Hemisphere plants, and a paradise for lovers of ferns. Here there is an astonishing specimen of Philesia magellanica, the shrubby relative of Lapageria rosea, covered in its waxy pink flared flowers. There must be the finest collection of Blechnum species of any garden, and many fine specimen trees including the Andean Polylepis australis with its beautiful golden peeling bark. Even the small plant we have in our garden is rather good. Other highlights included the vivid violet-blue fruits of Dianella, and the magnificent foliage of huge plants of Tetrapanax, a decided failure with us! To show how mild is the garden, in the wall of the ruined castle grows a plant of one of the shrubby echiums, its old flowerheads standing proud. How amazing this must look when in full flower!

It is a long way but I think we may be back! (Some photos to follow...)

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 September 2011, 13:23top / bottom of page
Edrom & Lamberton

Autumn gentians and Cyananthus - both these are very difficult to grow for any length of time here in Kent, but they are so beautiful at this time of year that we may try to make some special troughs for them in the coolest parts of the garden.

Edrom & Lamberton

No pictures of Lamberton but there are some great plants and we came back with a box full as shown below. There is nothing like such a fine alpine nursery for creating that sense of excitement! So how can this be transmitted to gardeners not yet in the know?

Cally Gardens

This is a very large protected walled garden at Gatehouse of Fleet, and the long drive to it through the woods is reminiscent of that wonderful approach to Ingwersen's Nursery, with that same sense of anticipation. here are numerous stock beds planted out with a great variety of perennials, and many extremely unusual and rare plants.

Cally Gardens

Contribution from Tim Ingram 14 September 2011, 13:46top / bottom of page

Salvia glutinosa, very striking this autumn; Berkheya sp., these South African 'thistles' are fascinating and in many cases reliably hardy in the garden; Sedum cauticola, a superb small spreading species of such a useful autumn genus of plants.

There are also many Begonia species and varieties on the nursery, some in large pots and growing usefully in quite deep shade. This one I had never seen before and thought particularly striking and 'different'.

Logan Botanic Garden

This is a very special garden and one that would be worth visiting again and again - would that it were nearer! An intriguing feature is the long avenues of Trachycarpus and Cordyline, but the garden is full of treasures and plants I have only read of and never seen.

Logan Botanic Garden

The Lobelia is the variety 'Bee's Flame' - about the most flamboyant of all forms and hybrids of cardinalis. Adjacent to the restaurant is a long raised bed planted out with succulents, a nice feature that can be done on any scale, and near to this is that magnificent specimen of Philesia alluded to earlier - really a plant to covet!


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