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Logan Garden

Scotland's Tropical Garden

Warming Gulf Stream winds have turned Logan Botanic Garden into
a plant lover's paradise, where spring comes early, winter arrives late
and the flowers never stop blooming.

BY KEITH AITKEN

One of the many jokes that are told about the Scottish weather involves the assertion that Scotland has a subtropical climate... something like 30 degrees sub. Itís not terribly funny at the best of times, but the laughter would falter especially swiftly were you to be told the joke just as you passed through the gate of the Logan Botanical Garden near Stranraer. For there before you, slap bang in the middle of the Rhinns of Galloway, is a tropical garden. Not subtropical; tropical... compellingly so to the expert and the layman alike. Swaying Chusan palms, statuesque tree ferns, swathes of exotic colour and dense, lush undergrowth. Truly tropical. This is not just smart gardening. This is a horticultural coup de theatre.

Scotland has other temperate gardens, of course, most famously Osgood Mackenzieís much-loved Inverewe in Wester Ross, which, like Logan, benefits from the warming wash of the North Atlantic Drift, the current that gently bathes Scotland's western shores in the sultry waters of the Gulf Stream. Inverewe is certainly lush, astonishingly so for a West Highland promontory, and many tender plants shelter behind its artfully planted screen of conifers. But Logan isn't just lush. Logan is properly tropical.

It is one of the three outposts of the world-renowned Royal Botanical Garden of Edinburgh (RBGE), along with Dawyck in the Borders and Benmore on the Cowal peninsula of Argyll (see Scottish Life issues Winter 2007, Spring 2005 and Winter 2013 respectively), and it is quite the weirdest of them. Dawyck is an enchanted glade, lit by rare rowans and rhododendrons; Benmore, a mountainside cathedral, pillared with noble redwoods. But Logan is a steamy tract of Africa, Australasia or Central America, magically transported to southwest Scotland, and cocooned in a secret valley with the windy expanses of the Irish Sea and Luce Bay less than a mile away to west and east respectively.

Waiting to greet Scottish Life at the ticket counter is curator Richard Baines. It is no reflection on his expertise or experience – he has both by the furlong – to suggest that he doesn't look much like most people's hackneyed idea of a garden curator. Baggy corduroy and patched tweed are nowhere to be seen. Lean, youthful and crop-headed, he might easily be an A&R man for a small but audacious indie record label. But you need to hear only a sentence or two of his high-velocity conversation to recognize both his knowledge and his massive pride in the garden.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2014 issue of Scottish Life.

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