Scottish Field speaks to Richard Baines, curator at Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries & Galloway, to find out what there is to see and do at Scotland’s most exotic garden.
What’s special about Logan Botanic Garden?
Logan Botanic Garden is widely known as Scotland’s most exotic garden. Nowhere else in Scotland can such a large collection of southern hemisphere plants such as Chilean fire thorn trees, giant rhubarb, bananas and pre-historic tree ferns be seen growing outside. Located at the South West tip of Scotland on the Scottish Riviera and warmed by the Gulf Stream, southern hemisphere plants flourish in this plantsman’s paradise. It’s the only garden in Scotland to hold both five-star quality assurance from VisitScotland and a gold Green Business Tourism Award.
What are the unmissable attractions at the garden?
The driveway is flanked on either side by an avenue of nearly 400 exotic cabbage palms, which is just a taste of what lies ahead! Exotic palms, sub-tropical tree ferns and an array of stunning flowers meet visitors as they enter the walled garden. The sweet perfume of early flowering rhododendrons contrast with the exotic oils that vaporise in the summer heat from exotic eucalypts. Enormous koi carp cruise around the walled garden pond awaiting their daily feed at 2pm.
What new plants are you introducing this year?
We’ve planted a lot of exotic palms in the last few years to enhance the sub-tropical effect, with palms from Vietnam, China and South America thriving here. One of the most spectacular introductions is the abyssinian banana, with enormous, green and red leaves. Basking in the sunshine against a south-facing wall, this is one of those plants that stops you in your stride. At Logan we have three national collections including gunnera. Gunnera manicata ‘giant rhubarb’ always acts as a source of fascination for youngsters with its enormous scallop-shaped leaves. It has the largest leaf of any plant that can be grown in a temperate climate. This year we are also introducing a range of rhododendrons from northern Vietnam that were recently collected during a botanical expedition led by myself.
What’s your favourite feature of the garden?
If I had to choose one it would have to be eating lunch beside the formal pond in the walled garden. Overlooked by giant cabbage palms which are more than 100 years old, it is the closest thing on earth to pure tranquillity. Acoustics are provided by a steady stream of water entering the pond, which is complimented by exotic-coloured oriental koi carp.
Tell us about the visitor centre?
The discovery centre near the main entrance offers information on the garden and its history. There are microscopes for viewing flora and plant life in detail, which is exciting for adults and children alike. Various newspaper cuttings from Logan over the years provide an interesting overview of its position as an integral part of the local community. We also have a variety of exhibitions each season including plants and photos from Vietnam and coastline exhibitions in 2018.
Do you host activities at the garden?
Yes we do! Throughout the summer, Logan will host a wide range of family activities. We will have guided walks on Tuesday 8 May and then on the second and fourth Tuesdays of June, July, August and September. Children’s activities will take place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons throughout the summer holidays, including bird feeder building, mask making and kite making. We’ll also have a World Oceans Day festival on Saturday 9 June. The Logan Studio exhibition offers an insight into modern-day plant exploration with stunning photos from northern Vietnam. And you should make sure you get lunch at the Potting Shed Bistro which offers a delicious range of home baking and freshly prepared meals. Try the locally sourced crab salad and Ecclefechan tart!
What else is there to do in the local area?
There is plenty to do in the local area. You can visit the southernmost point of Scotland at the Mull of Galloway experience, where you can climb the lighthouse and visit the exhibition of lighthouse history and walk around the RSPB Scotland nature reserve. There are beaches galore in this region, many of which are deserted, and plenty of opportunities for fishing and exploring castles and gardens.
Logan Botanic Garden is open from 10am to 5pm from 1 March to 31 October and from 10am to 4pm until 15 November.