Garden Portrait: Edinburgh Botanic Garden

It is almost 9 months since my visit to Edinburgh, where I finally met the restless lady who takes us on regular walks in the north-east of England and the Algarve where she spends all most some of her time. After a morning of walking the streets of the city we got on a bus and headed out to the Botanical Gardens for an hour or two.

The entrance gate is quite stunning.

Being the end of the summer season the main interest in the garden was seed heads. I found a few interesting ones.

Crab Apple – Malus sylvestris

Insects were still busy collecting the pollen.

We walked and we talked and we finally found our way to the Japanese garden area where the large lily pond enthralled us both and the red bridge enticed us further into the garden.

The not so subtle smell of candyfloss was in the air (Cercidiphyllum japonicum, known as the Katsura Tree) and the leaves on the acers were turning.

Eventually we arrived at the huge glasshouses, but decided against paying to enter as it was such a glorious day after the cold, damp, dreich day before and we wanted to make the most of being outdoors. Besides we really didn’t have the time needed to really take in what was inside.

The borders near the glasshouses were filled with late summer planting and a variety of colourful penstemons lined the pathway to the entrance, but deep in conversation we really only fleetingly took in the beauty of this garden.

Pausing to admire the view over towards Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat in the distance. Places that in order to explore would mean another meeting as our time together drew to a close.

Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat

It was lovely to finally meet up with Jo and to share a walk with her, so it is only fitting that this post is linked to her walks 🙂


Garden Portrait: Glamis Castle Italian Garden

In addition to the Walled Garden is the more formally designed Italian Garden, close to the actual castle. The garden  was laid out by Countess Cecilia, the Queen Mother’s mother, c.1910 to designs by Arthur Castings. The fan-shaped parterres of formal beds are separated by gravel walks. Between the two gardens lies the Pinetum which was planted c.1870 and has a variety of exotic trees, many native to North America.

Other features include pleached alleys of beech, a stone fountain and ornamental gates which commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.

Pleached beech trees

Like most formal Italian gardens there is a fair amount of statuary here.

And in September the beds were full of colourful dahlias of all sorts of shapes and sizes.


Garden Portrait: Glamis Castle Walled Garden

Glamis Castle lies in Angus, Scotland and is probably best known as the childhood home of the Queen Mother (Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon). At the age of four her father inherited the Earldom of Strathmore and Kinghorne and with it Glamis Castle and the family spent some of their time there.

It is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is referred to several times in the play: – “Glamis thou art” “and yet woulds’t wrongly win: thou’dst have great Glamis”. It is widely believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth.

Today it looks more like a French Chateau having been extensively renovated in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The walled garden is reached via a short walk through the estate alongside the Nature Trail and Pinetum.

Once used as a fruit and vegetable garden for the castle it fell into disrepair and only recently has major redevelopment work started, including the installation of a spectacular fountain.

Even in late September the garden was full of colour. Roses were still blooming.

The wide gravel pathways radiate from the centre of the garden with deep herbaceous borders on either side. Sedums, monarda, heleniums, echinacea, rudbeckia and asters were dominant.

Trellises and pergolas were still covered in flowering roses and clematis and more dramatic colour can be seen in the brightly painted Japanese bridge and the vivid red door in the wall.

Naturally I was drawn to the lean-to Victorian style glasshouses, which appear to still require a lot of work. However, the dilapidation has a charm of its own.

Next time we’ll have a wander around the Italian Garden.


Felbrigg Hall Walled Gardens

I visited Felbrigg Hall, a National Trust house and garden, which is close to the North Norfolk coast, in August 2013. The weather was perfect for visiting an English Garden and due to the late spring we experienced in the UK that year, many flowers were still in their prime.

I particularly liked the African Garden area where drought-tolerant plants such as sedums, osteospermums, euphobias, aloes and agave plants and palms were show-cased.

The Dovecote

The Dovecote from the African Garden

Felbrigg has a walled garden (one of my favourite kinds of garden) and the planting is spectacular. There are double borders filled with colourful perennials and annuals, communal fruit and veg allotments, beehives in the orchard, bantams, peacocks and guinea fowl roaming freely, an 18th century octagonal working dovecote and even redwoods in the west garden.



If you tire of the grounds or the weather is inclement then you can always visit the magnificent hall and library or have a bite to eat in one of the cafés.

For more information about Felbrigg’s Walled Garden click HERE

Lisbon’s Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico)

The University of Lisbon Botanical Garden was designed as a scientific garden, planting began in 1873 through the initiative of professors Andrade Corvo and the Earl of Ficalho. Tucked away in the Principe Real district, near the legendary Bairro Alto, the Botanical Garden is a lush retreat from the afternoon sun. Well that is what the tourist information says, but perhaps it should be renamed ‘The Lost Gardens’. When I finally found the entrance to the gardens I noticed a sign saying that “works are being carried out” but the only evidence of this was the red and white striped tape blocking off access to several of the crumbling pathways. Access denied.

The gardens look as though they have been neglected since 2008 – the notice showing which flowers are in bloom was dated April, 2008. My visit was in May 2012. The padlocked entrance was rusty and the paintwork was peeling. No-one had come this way for a long time. The bright pink Bougainvillea still managed to flourish though. The paths that lead through the park were uneven in places, rock strewn in others and covered in leaf debris from the winter. Treacherous smooth worn cobbled steps lead up to the Xerophyte plant area where drought-tolerant plants can be found such as aloes and cacti. It is steep and sloping here but indicative of the different species of plants from Africa, New Zealand, Australia and South America. There is a sign to the Butterfly House, but it is not clear which of the dilapidated buildings it is in.

Moving downwards I discover a man-made disused lake and river, both dry and empty of any life. There are no ducks, no fish and no sign of any gardeners either, though there is some evidence that the edges around some of the beds have been recently trimmed. I hope that this garden is restored as it is a tranquil oasis in the middle of a hot and dusty city; the sounds of the city are muted and the air is filled with birdsong. You can wander through collections of palms from every continent, creating a tropical environment. There are cycads too, real living fossils, now living in the undergrowth. There are bamboos, orchids, bulbs and grasses too, though few flowers were in evidence.

In addition to significant collections of preserved specimens and seeds, the garden housed the Astronomical Institute Observatory and the Meteorological Observatory, which was opened in 1863, with continuous records going back to the nineteenth century. Also located at Jardim Botânico is a department of the Science Museum, which visitors can see by appointment. Unfortunately many of the historic buildings are now in disrepair.

The €1.50 entrance fee will not help to revive this garden. I believe it was that price back in 2008. I hope that the economy of Portugal improves and civil and nature conservation groups get involved to rescue this important collection of plants which were brought here to assist their survival. That survival seems under threat now.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

I have written about visiting this garden in Vancouver, British Columbia in my Travel Words blog, but I didn’t post many photos from the actual garden so I thought I’d remedy that. It is a large garden (55 acres)  to walk around, but it is not difficult terrain. The garden displays plants, grouped by genus or geographic location, in picturesque landscape settings. There are vast lawns, quiet lakes, trails and pathways to stroll along, all with a background of Vancouver city and the mountains. I have been there twice – the first time was in 2005, the second in 2010 when there was a Zimsculpt exhibition which featured wonderful African sculptures naturally within the landscape.

Close to the Visitor centre you can find a lovely Fragrance Garden and the Phyllis Bentall Garden which features a lily pond and pots full of unusual pitcher plants. A short stroll brings you to Livingstone Lake, a Woodland Garden, the Mediterranean Garden and Southern Hemisphere Gardens from where you can cross the lake over a floating board-walk to the Heather Garden, a uniquely planted Black Garden and the Heritage Rose Garden. The natural planting in the Perennials leads you back towards the entrance along the great lawn and to the Rhododendron Walk. This leads to a lovely Korean Pavilion and Meditation Garden before heading up to  the Sino-Himalayan area where rocks and waterfalls can be found.

If you do find yourself in Vancouver then I urge you to make time to visit this lovely botanic garden.

(click on an image to take a walk through this garden)

Garden Portrait: Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst Castle in Kent is probably my favourite garden. The design by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson is similar to Hidcote Manor, but it has an extra element – romance. The first thing you see when approaching the gardens is the twin-turreted tower rising from the open farmland. This fairy-tale tower is the garden’s centrepiece and was built for Queen Elizabeth I’s visit in 1573. From the top of this tower you get a bird’s-eye-view of the gardens. You also get a feel of Vita herself as her writing room in the tower is pretty much as she left it – usually with a simple flowering pot plant on the table. Most of the borders or garden rooms are themed around a clearly defined colour scheme.

On entering the garden, before you reach the tower, is a courtyard where the plants echo the colour of the brick: salmon and copper tones. The first garden you come to after passing through the tower is the Purple Borders, though the colours are a mix of lilacs, pinks, blues, violet, magenta and purple. What I refer to as ‘bruised’ colours and my favourites. In my small space plants and flowers are grown in containers and the common theme is ‘bruised’ with a splash of orange, pink or yellow for contrast. Depending on what season you visit this garden you will find tulips, irises, wallflowers, geraniums and asters and clematis. It is difficult to describe this garden as there are so many different areas to explore and so many plants. I have visited in April and both late and early July and in each season it is different. (click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)

In mid-summer you cannot miss the Rose Garden, Irises, peonies, violas, pinks and alliums spread a Persian carpet beneath the old-fashioned shrub roses that were Vita’s passion. Reminiscent of the Orient. And the famous curved wall at the west end of the garden is covered with Clematis Perle d’Azur which is much-photographed. There is a lot more to this garden though – a moat walk, a herb garden, a pleached lime walk, woodland gardens,  the Cottage Garden a cauldron of hot colours – yellows, oranges and tropical reds – lawns and an orchard, and the most famous of all the White Garden. Filled with white wisteria, tulips, irises, hydrangea, pure white cosmos, sweet-peas, roses and lilies, it is a delight in the spring and summer months. Bear in mind that the rose over the canopy – Rosa Mulliganii – flowers early (mid June) Amongst all this beauty are Italian oil jars, urns and statues. And surrounding the property is the glorious Kent countryside. If you only have the chance to visit one garden in England then I would urge you to visit this one. You won’t regret it.

Garden Portrait: Mottistone Manor

Mottistone Manor on the Isle of Wight is another quirky garden in the Arts and Crafts style. With land varying from the head of a valley, the higher slopes offer you a view of the headlands over to Brighstone Bay. The garden flows down the valley bowl changing from light woodland to terraced compartments. The garden is entered through a large Tudor barn into a courtyard full of roses.

The garden has a Mediterranean feel with lots of colour. Proteas, ginger lilies and aloes add to this sub-tropical feeling brought here by Lady Nicholson who was brought up in the Sicily and who was a very passionate and hands-on gardener. Scented pittisporum, white African agapanthus and several varieties of banana thrive in the mild climate and even Oleanders grow by the house.

At the top of the garden, the borders and hedges give way to more open planting and areas – here wildflowers bloom and in spring you can find bluebells and daffodils and primroses. Close to the ‘Shack’, a wooden structure which is perched on saddle-stones, there is a bog garden complete with Japanese-inspired planting including masses of irises. Here you will find a traditional tea garden.

( click on a photo to take a walk through this garden with me)