Botanical bliss in a Scottish spring

My brief stay in RBG Edinburgh gave me a great snapshot of this wonderful plant collection

My seventh work placement was in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (RBGE). It was my second botanic garden, and my only Scottish garden placement. During my time there I took advantage of beautiful Scottish landscape and hiked in the highlands, as well as visited the other three botanic gardens that make up the RBGE.

Rare shrubs

For the majority of my time in Edinburgh I worked in the arboretum, which for me was the most exciting area. Aside from weeding and mulching beds, I got to work on a couple of interesting projects in the arboretum.

  • Helping with a plant health survey of the declining Rhododendron species in the collection so that they could be propagated before being removed from the garden. Some of the specimens were original collections by George Forrest or Francis Kingdon-Ward, so their importance in the collection is both historical and botanical.
  • Replanting the Nepalese bed, which included plants of Himalayan origin, and reflected the recent work of producing a new Flora of Nepal. This was just one of many areas in the arboretum involved in the research being carried out by the science department.

Alpine to arid

I spent two precious weeks in the rock and woodland gardens where the mild climate allows for many alpine, and woodland species, to be cultivated and it is probably one of the most comprehensive collections in the world. Highlights were planting woodland plants such as MaianthemumParis, and lilies. My last week was spent in the arid glass section, where I got to work the display house and the backup house, weeding Opuntia and repotting Dasylirion.

RBGE: Benmore, Dawyck and Logan

It was wonderful to visit the other three gardens, which were all different in climate and plant collections to Edinburgh.

  • Benmore has an avenue of 150-year-old giant sequoias, a tremendous collection of Rhododendron species as well as a Chilean section, a Bhutanese glade, and a temperate fernery, all growing in thick carpets of moss.
  • Dawyck has an impressive collection of ancient trees, including many massive conifers, as well as stunning drifts of the Himalayan blue poppies, which were just about to burst into flower when I visited.
  • Logan, the mildest of the gardens, is home to a range of tender plants from New Zealand and Chile, as well as the only palms I saw outside in Scotland.

Career goals

My time in Edinburgh, as in every other garden, was all too brief, but I was lucky to be able to share it with friends I have made during my RHS/GCA programme. The primary focus of the RBGE is collecting and conserving plants and I left wanting to keep this awesome responsibility as a focus of my future career.


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