Tuesday, 10 June 2014
A preview copy of the newly updated Kenneth Cox book Scotland for Gardeners landed on the door step of Vialii Towers this weekend and, as usual, we didn’t delay in checking it out and putting it to good use…
We already have a very well thumbed copy of the original version of Scotland for Gardeners. It is packed full of pieces of paper and leaflets and paraphernalia relating to the wonderful array of gardens contained inside.
For those who haven’t come across the original, Scotland for Gardeners covers literally thousands of gardens throughout Scotland. From the grand estates with coffee and gift shops to the private gardens which are only open on certain days of the year the book is a must have for anyone who loves to visits gardens on their travels. There are also nurseries, wildflower walks, parks and all sorts of lovely public areas to explore. If it’s a garden and it’s open to the public then you will likely find it in this book. Scotland for Gardeners is the largest survey of its kind and also the only guidebook dedicated solely to visiting gardens in Scotland. The newly updated version contains over 100 new gardens.
Those who have met Kenneth Cox and been regaled of his wonderful knowledge of rhododendrons and gardens in general you will know that this book has been well researched and lovingly put together. Kenneth has a passion for gardens and for Scotland in particular and the book reflects this wonderfully. The book is also crammed with beautiful, full colour photographs taken by Ray Cox, Kenneth’s brother.
The only criticism we could make of the book are the maps and even then it is a minor point. The maps are invaluable but we feel it would be clearer if those parts of the map which don’t relate to the chapter in question were greyed out. Perhaps a page number over that greyed area linking to the relevant chapter would help too? That way if you are on the border of a region it would be much easier to explore the surrounding areas. A small point but perhaps one that can be considered on the next update.
We have already used the original Scotland for Gardeners to explore a great many gardens on our travels. Here are some of our favourites which you may want to include in your own itinerary…
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, the garden belonging to its designer Charles Jencks, is a firm favourite of ours. Nestled just outside Dumfries and only open one day a year, you need to make a bit of an effort to see this one. But, boy, is it worth it! From the infamous Jencks landforms to woodland walkways and sculptures at every turn, there is never a dull moment in this garden. The garden is inspired by mathematics and science and beholds features such as the Blackhole and the DNA garden. Entry money goes to the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres which were set up in memory of Charles’ late wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks.
Tucked away beside the Solway Firth in the South West of Scotland, Logan Botanic Gardens enjoys being situated in the Gulf Stream, thus allowing for exotic plants to flourish. From its mighty tree ferns to a gunnera bog, Logan can showcase plants you wouldn’t normally expect to see in Scotland. We particularly loved the serenity of the Water Garden. Kids will love to explore through the gunnera jungle or if you are a fan of plants, enjoy meandering around the Walled Garden which is a blaze of colour from Spring through Autumn and is a real celebration of the world of plants. Or if grasses are your thing, the Rock Gulley showcases grasses from around the world.
These gardens are just a stones throw away from our home yet we only discovered them in recent years. The public can’t access the Castle, but who would want to with such amazing gardens to explore? The gardens are a perfect example of formal gardens in the style of the 17th Century Scottish Renaissance. They were recreated in Victorian times and then renewed again in the 20th century. The symmetry is stunning, the topiary first class and there are some fine examples of statues throughout the garden. If you like your gardens well kept, you are unlikely to find a finer specimen. The reveal as you arrive at the top of the steps at the entrance to the garden will simply take your breath away.
Another wonderful garden near Stranraer, Glenwhan is a series of discoveries and wonders. Filled with sculptures, ponds, walkways, wildlife and stunning plants you can happily ensconce yourself in Glenwhan for the day. Plants range from rhododendron and magnolia to lovely bog garden favourites such as rodgersia, primulas and hostas. Take good footwear as there are lots of hills and rocky terrain to climb to take advantage of the best views. Not the best garden for wheelchairs and buggies but you will still be able to see parts of the garden. There’s a coffee shop and plant sales to revive you when you are flagging.
An Cala can be visited under the “Open Gardens” scheme in Scotland and we are so glad the owners allow people to share in the beauty of their garden. The garden doesn’t look too big when you enter but it has been cleverly designed with a myriad of paths taking you in all directions. Beautiful ponds, waterfalls and rills make water an important feature of the garden. There is a quirky gazebo decorated entirely in pine cones. Wire sheep sculpures add a bit of humour to the garden (and bring a new meaning to baa-rbed wire!) And from fragrant roses to delightful deutzias the planting is a dream too.
For more information on Scotland for Gardeners visit the publisher’s Birlinn’s website. Available from 27 June 2014, priced £25.
To read more about some of our own favourite gardens in Scotland and beyond click here.
Happy reading and garden visiting!
All at Vialii