Benmore Botanic Garden

The second year of the HND/BSc at the Botanics has hit hard, and between the group presentations, endless Latin names, specialist project research, and revision there hasn't been much spare time to update the blog. I did, however, spend last spring and summer and even this fall visiting some pretty spectacular gardens in England, Scotland, and the United States. Eventually I will get around to sharing them here, but in an effort to be moderately timely let's start with one I went to last week: Benmore Botanic Garden.

Benmore is one of four gardens in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh portfolio, and as part of our class on managing and designing plant collections we popped over on the Dunoon ferry west of Glasgow for a couple days. Benmore is the wettest of the RBGE gardens, with more than three metres of rain each year, and the garden spreads up a steep mountain slope. The weather, topography, and sheer size of the trees (e.g., Sequoiadendron giganteum, or Giant Sequoia; and Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas Fir) in this collection make gardening there especially challenging, necessitating heavy machinery and skilled arborists.

The garden had a taxonomic layout until 1980s, when geographic areas were developed beginning with the Tasmanian Ridge, followed by the Bhutanese Garden, Chilean, and Japanese sections.

The garden is known for its fine collection of Rhododendron sp., and Magnolia sp., but in autumn the brilliantly colored Acer sp. steal the show.

The fernery, nestled into a gorge above a stream and grotto, was built in the 1870s by James Duncan, then owner of the estate. After Duncan's bankruptcy and sale of the estate, the fernery lay in disrepair until 2008, when it was sympathetically restored and reopened the next year. More information on the fernery and restoration is here

The combination of original stone gable ends and modern steel and glass roof is compelling and one of the nicest updates of a historical structure that I've seen. 

The Enkianthus campanulatus were a new discovery and stunning. 

 I like this photo because it's a pretty honest representation of what studying horticulture in Scotland is like: walking around an absolutely magical the pouring rain. 

You'll get no complaints from me as the day it chucked down rain at Benmore the quality of light and fog on the mountainside made for some pretty good picture taking. And of course, all that rain makes for some of the lushest mosses I've ever seen. 

Finally, a little close-up of a lovely new-to-me tree, and one that's been a favorite through-line of several garden visits this autumn: the white-flowered Eucryphia.