The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia)

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia)

The highlight of our trip to Scotland in early June was a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh has the tallest glasshouse in the world to accommodate the large tropical trees in their collection.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh has the tallest glasshouse in the world to accommodate the large tropical trees in their collection.

The garden comprises over 70 acres in easy walking distance of the Stockbridge neighborhood that we were staying in.

The RBGE dates back to the 17th century but is impressively modern in its approach to preserving the botanical world.  This is not where you go to see the latest hybrids for the garden but it is very much where you go to see how to grow an incredibly wide variety of species in environments that resemble their native ecological niche.  Along with their annexes in three other Scottish locations (Benmore, Dawyck, and Logan) they maintain 7% of the worlds plant species.  And they do it in a way that is wonderful to look at.  The grounds are free to enter and wander in, but I highly recommend the tour by an expert guide.  Ours was full of detailed comments about the plantings.  In addition to a large professional staff we saw many interns and volunteers, with multiple projects under construction.

The RBGE is alive with enthusiastic gardeners.

The RBGE is alive with enthusiastic gardeners.

This is a living breathing garden and the enthusiasm of the staff was palpable.

The centerpiece is probably the glasshouses.  They have probably the tallest glass house in the world housing their temperate palms (72 ft high).

The Temperate Palm House is 72 feet high and is only one of 25 glass houses on site.  It dates back to 1862.

The Temperate Palm House is 72 feet high and is only one of 25 glass houses on site. It dates back to 1862.

There are 25 glass houses in all and about 1/2 of those are open to visitors for a modest fee.  The design is unusual from the outside but it maximizes the light that penetrates to the plants.

Greenhouses added in 1967

Greenhouses added in 1967

They are extensively interwoven with audio tour spots where you can hear the person responsible for that collection speak with such enthusiasm about the plants. Don’t miss the example under the South Africa Greenhouse below.

Example of one of glasshouses

Example of one of glasshouses

Water Lily

Water Lily (Nymphaea ‘Pamela’)

Each glasshouse reproduces a particular ecological niche

Each glasshouse reproduces a particular ecological niche

South Africa

South Africa

Listen to this wonderful description of South Africa’s Plants.     SouthAfricaaudio

Outside I was overwhelmed by the new Alpine House that has been constructed with a state-of-the-art tufa wall.

We saw the construction of a new state-of-the-art Alpine Garden House with a vertical Tufa Wall

We saw the construction of a new state-of-the-art Alpine Garden House with a vertical Tufa Wall

Tufa Wall detail

Tufa Wall detail

Tufa is a particular form of limestone that is almost fibrous in nature and it is known to provide excellent growing conditions for small clumping alpine plants such as Dionysia, Primula, Draba, and Saxifraga.  The intent is to provide a wider range of growing conditions than they have been able to provide with their conventional Alpine House that offered damp shelter and partial shading.  The tufa wall has air circulation, snow cover, and a water circulation system behind it to wick the water to the plants as needed.  They are only just to point of planting out this new environment so it will be very interesting to see how it develops.

Of course the existing Alpine House, cold frames, troughs, and rock walls provide lots of interesting plants as well.

A More traditional Alpine House

A More traditional Alpine House

Iris iberica var. elegatissima

Iris iberica var. elegatissima

 

A cornucopia of Lewisias

A cornucopia of Lewisias

Note the many troughs in use for the alpine plants

Note the many troughs in use for the alpine plants

A more conventional rock wall

A more conventional rock wall

In a completely different area of the garden there is an extensive dedicated area for rock garden enthusiasts, with miniature mountains and water features.

Building new Rock Gardens with all the tools you need

Building new Rock Gardens with all the tools you need

Many micro-environments for the plants

Many micro-environments for the plants

A wonderful water feature

A wonderful water feature

A constant are the Blue Poppies which grow as well in Scotland as in their native environment.

Himalayan Blue Poppies

Himalayan Blue Poppies

And Rhododendrons are also a big feature of the gardens.

One of many Rhododendrons

One of many Rhododendrons

They are everywhere and very large.  They’ve been growing there for over a hundred years.  They have been historically a big part of the plant explorations.  Including even tropical Rhododendrons under glass.  There are 700 of the 1000 species in the world growing in the various parts of the National Botanic Garden.

We ended up joining the RGBE.  When you see what they are doing and how they are working with countries around the world to establish botanic gardens in places like Turkey, Nepal, and Columbia how can you not want to support them?

One comment on “The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

  1. Les

    If one blue poppy is a miracle, what do you call a field of them.