Garden · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: Virginia creeper

This is our neighbour’s Virginia creeper, seen from our side of the dividing wall between the gardens. Each autumn we get a splendid display as the leaves turn from a beautiful glossy green to magnificent fiery shades. On a sunny day, as it was yesterday when I took this picture, the whole wall seems to glow.

Virginia creeper
Virginia creeper brightening up a wall in sunny Perthshire.
Garden · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: River Tweed

I was on holiday last week in the Scottish Borders, and took this photo on a hazy autumn morning as the River Tweed flowed through the town of Kelso. Going by the water level, I suspect flooding could be a problem in times of heavy rainfall, but houses were well set back from the water, with long sloping gardens providing some protection.

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River Tweed viewed from Chalkheugh Terrace, Kelso, Scottish Borders.


Garden · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: redwood

The bark of a giant redwood tree is so spongy and robust that you can punch it without damaging either yourself or the tree, and its incredible thickness makes the tree essentially fireproof. Redwoods can live for hundreds, even occasionally thousands, of years, withstanding numerous fires that would burn and shrivel other trees. The tallest known tree in the world is a giant redwood, named Hyperion, located in California. In 2006 its height was accurately measured as 379.1 feet, but it’s still growing. It’s estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old. The redwood in my picture isn’t anything like as tall as Hyperion, but it’s still an impressive specimen. I looked up at it in awe yesterday during a visit to Dawyck Botanic Garden in the Scottish Borders.

Giant redwood at Dawyck Botanic Garden, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. 
Garden · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: piano bench

Someone recently gave my sister an old piano. It wasn’t in great condition, so she thought she might break it up and use the wood for something. Then she had the idea of turning it into a bench seat for her garden. She lives in a rural area and the local taxi driver has started pointing it out to visitors when he drives them past her house.

piano bench
Bench seat made out of an old piano. I’ve sat on it and it’s remarkably comfortable.
Garden · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: visitor

A week ago we had an unexpected visitor in the garden. After helping himself to a few strawberries and buttercups he spent some time sunning himself on the grass. He seemed quite at home amongst the herbs.

peacock in the garden

Peacocks are not a common sight where I live, so it was quite a surprise to see him. I think he must have moved into the neighbourhood recently because I’ve seen him a few times now.

Garden · Photography · Scotland

Scotland’s Gardens: Logan Botanic Garden

Logan Botanic Garden is one of three regional outposts of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (the other two are Dawyck in the Scottish Borders, and Benmore in Argyll).

Due to its position on the south-west coast of Scotland, Logan experiences the effects of the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current that runs up Scotland’s west coast. The particular climate of Logan allows plants to flourish there that wouldn’t survive in other parts of Scotland. Tree ferns and palm trees give the garden a tropical feel.

Cabbage palms by the fish pond at Logan Botanic Garden.
Tree ferns at Logan Botanic Garden.
Tree fern leaves and cabbage palm flowers at Logan Botanic Garden.
Cabbage palms at Logan Botanic Garden.

I’ve been going to the south-west of Scotland on holiday, and visiting Logan Botanics, for as long as I can remember. As a child I was always excited to revisit the terraced garden. I enjoyed running up the flight of broad flat steps lined with palm trees and rhododendrons leading to the top terrace. Logan is home to some species of rhododendron that are so tender they only thrive in a few locations in the UK.

Steps up to the top terrace at Logan Botanic Garden, with rhododendrons and palms.

In the summer, plants overflow the stonework of the terraces, creating luxuriant tiers of foliage.

Burgeoning foliage in the terrace garden at Logan Botanics in June.
Logan Botanic Terrace Garden in June.

Another part of the garden I remember well from my childhood is the gunnera bog. You can’t tell from the pictures below, but at Logan some of these giant rhubarb-like plants are taller than a tall man. Standing under gunnera leaves was part of our holiday tradition.

Some portions of the garden have been designed to showcase plants from specific areas of the world. In recent years a Tasmanian forest was created, which is now maturing into a lush part of the garden quite different from everything else. Earlier this year I noticed a section under construction devoted entirely to plants from Chile.

Some plants need a little more protection than the Gulf Stream provides, and for these Logan’s recently constructed conservatory offers the perfect environment. Completed in 2014, the conservatory houses a rare collection of South African flora.

Central section of the three-zone conservatory at Logan Botanic Garden.

One of the many wonderful things about Logan Botanic Garden is its cafe, the Potting Shed Bistro, which serves delicious lunches and home baking.

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The Potting Shed Bistro at Logan Botanic Garden.

Some of the fruits, vegetables and seafood come from the small village of Port Logan, less than 2 miles away.

Baked potato with cheese and red onion marmalade at the Potting Shed Bistro.
Tomato and cheese quiche with salad at The Potting Shed Bistro.

Logan is the only garden in Scotland to have been awarded both a 5 star visitor attraction status and the Green Tourism Gold Award for sustainability.

The garden is open 7 days a week from 15 March to 31 October from 10:00-17:00, and every Sunday in February from 10:00-16:00 for the Scottish Snowdrop Festival. Admission costs £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concessions, and children and essential carers get in free. Entry is also free for anyone holding membership of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Garden · Photography · Scotland

Scotland’s Gardens: Backhouse at Rossie Estate

The Backhouse family has a long history of working with plants. Throughout the past six generations the family has produced a number of horticulturists and botanists, including pioneering daffodil grower, William Backhouse II, who was born in the early 1800s.

Later generations carried on the tradition of daffodil development, and many varieties of daffodil can be seen each spring at Rossie Estate, home of the current generation of the family. In 2016 the Backhouse daffodils were acknowledged with National Plant Collection status, a conservation scheme for cultivated plants in the UK.

I visited Backhouse Garden, which is located just outside the village of Auchtermuchty in Fife, for the first time this week. Unfortunately I was too late to see the daffodils, but there was no shortage of other things to look at.

The first thing that caught my eye was a circular grass maze that reminded me of my youth. My mum used to leave the grass to grow long in our back garden and then mow a maze into it, for the entertainment of me and my siblings.

Circular grass maze at Backhouse Garden, with standing stone in the middle. (Note the intrepid adventurer about to enter the maze. My dad had a bash at the maze but after wandering around, sweltering in the sunshine and getting nowhere, he eventually gave it up as a bad job).

The maze was situated in a very large walled garden that had a number of interesting features. Around the inside, expanses of wall supported numerous varieties of heritage fruit trees. The apples from some of these trees go into the garden’s own apple juice, which I can confirm is absolutely delicious.

Apple trees in walled garden at Backhouse
Fruit trees growing against a bit of the walled garden. Dead daffodils can be seen in the foreground, in front of small box hedges. All round the garden there were decaying signs of the national collection of daffodils, remnants indicating what must have been a magnificent display.

Along from the grass maze was an extensive herb garden, filled with culinary plants. Two elegant seats and a table positioned among the herbs made me wish a waiter would appear with a silver salver bearing afternoon tea.

afternoon tea table at Backhouse

Beyond the herb garden lay a succession of arched trellises with roses growing up them. I imagine later in the summer when the roses come out it must look, and possibly smell, beautiful.


The wiggly path beneath the trellises was designed to represent the double helix of a DNA molecule. The twisting strands were picked out in grey stones set against a background of crushed white shells.

There were several other references to science and art in the garden, as well as a fascinating water feature. The water bubbled up into a well-like structure, creating vortices on the surface.

Water feature at Backhouse
You can’t tell what’s going on in this picture, but the water came up in the middle of the feature and swirled around the shallow curved areas in a quite mesmerising manner.

Disappearing again through the holes in the middle of the structure, the water reappeared at the bottom, pouring into a long straight channel leading to a pond guarded by lions.

Lions guarding the pond with water flowing down from the mesmerising water feature.

In other parts of the walled garden, flowers burgeoned in beds lined with hedges.

Burgeoning flowers at Backhouse

Beyond the walls lay other attractions for the visitor. These included a putting green, which I didn’t have time to investigate, and a tree-lined walk to a Covenanter’s Tomb, which I did go and see.

The start of the walk to the Covenanter’s Tomb.

It was an usually hot day and the dappled shade of young trees along a grassy path was very welcome.

grassy path to Covenanters' Tomb
En route to the Covenanter’s Tomb.

To get to the grassy path, a stone style had to be negotiated. It was challenging for someone with mobility problems but my mum, who is still recovering from a knee replacement operation earlier this year, managed it okay. The same could not be said for the second style that came after the grassy path.

Although she climbed gamely up one side, the other side proved rather too difficult, with the first step down being a 2 foot drop.

Style number 2 with a steep drop

She decided against attempting it and later learned of another way into the area via a flat path leading off the main driveway into the garden. (Something to remember for the next visit.)

Not being hampered by a dodgy knee, I went over the style and had a look at the Covenanter’s Tomb.

Covenanter's Tomb
The Covenanter’s Tomb, seen from one end of the building. (The wooden fence is there to deter people from climbing on the ruins.)

Deliberately constructed to look unimportant (there was never a roof, so that seen from a distance it would look like an abandoned building) the tomb is thought to contain the remains of Sir James Scott and Lady Antonia Scott, both of whom were Covenanters in the 17th Century. (The Covenanters were a group of Scottish Protestants who opposed the belief in the divine right of kings. Their name came from a document called the National Covenant, which supporters signed in 1638.)

Covenanter's Tomb 2

On arrival at the garden (before we saw any of the above) we went straight to the cafe, housed in an old stable block at the entrance to the garden, for a spot of luncheon.

Garden entrance with cafe on the left.

The menu was unusual, offering daily specials using ingredients grown in the garden. I was tempted by the prospect of homegrown asparagus on toast, but opted instead for Orkney cheddar and homemade apple chutney open sandwiches. My parents had bread with hummus, and mini croissants with cheese and ham. We all enjoyed Backhouse apple juice, which was extremely refreshing on a hot day.

Before leaving the garden we called in at the cafe again for afternoon refreshments. The ‘cake of the day’ was lemon drizzle and we each had a slice, with breakfast tea for the parents and Earl Grey for me. The teas were loose leaf and branded with the names of previous Backhouse botanists. The sturdy glass teapots held more tea than we could drink, but we certainly drank our fill and it was a splendid way to round things off.

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Tea and cake at Backhouse Garden. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a little vase of buttercups on a tea table before.

Backhouse at Rossie Estate is open from 1 April to 30 September, Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) from 10:00 to 16:00. Entry to the garden costs £5 for adults, £4 for senior citizens, £3 for children aged 5-16, and under 5s go free. If you’re a member of the Royal Horticultural Society you can get in for free on Fridays. If you’d like to read more about Backhouse, you can visit their website here: