Thursday, 10 October 2013

Two days in Scotland: Dawyck

Great conifers dominate Dawyck Botanic Garden, but are in scale with the landscape. The two largest trees are 'original' Sequoiadendron from the 1850s.
The RHS Woody Plant Committee met in Edinburgh yesterday and around this a tour of Scottish gardens had been arranged for members. Unfortunately I could only spare two days, so on Tuesday I joined the others at Dawyck Botanic Garden near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. There we were given an excellent tour by Tom Gifford, Garden Supervisor, who took us all round the 65 acre site.

Dawyck is of exceptional interest, having had good trees planted there for about four hundred years, from the Veitch family in the 1600s, to the Naesmyths from 1691 and the Balfours from 1897 to 1978, when the garden was passed to the care of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, of which it now forms one of the satellite sites. A giant Abies alba survives from the 1690s in the garden, and there are more nearby, but the garden is a classic reflection of the 19th Century interest in conifers and the trees chart the early introductions. Most noteworthy, perhaps, are numerous huge Douglas Firs, Pseudotsuga menziesii, grown from David Douglas's own collections in the 1820s. The tall Sequoiadendron at the foot of the garden are also 'originals' grown from  seed sent back to Britain in the 1850s, and there are fine old specimens of many other, rarer species. Into this collection the Royal Botanic Garden has interpolated many recent accessions of both conifers and broad-leaved trees, with Sorbus and Betula being particularly conspicuous at this season. As it is an extremely cold site anything growing there has to be fully hardy.

Euonymus sieboldianus with conifers.

The very spiny Oplopanax horridus (Araliaceae) thrives in the cold climate of Dawyck: it's not easy to grow in milder locations.

The aptly named Sorbus amoena - amoena meaning 'beautiful or pleasing'

Sorbus commixta

Betula alleghaniensis

The original Dawyck Beech.
The most famous tree at Dawyck, now replicated in thousands of gardens, is the eponymous fastigiate Beech. The original still grows in the grounds of Dawyck House, which are private and not part of the botanic garden, but it can be approached quite closely. It was found in a wood on the estate and transplanted to this site in the mid-19th Century, though not propagated or named until the early 1900s. In 1912 the tree stood 14.m tall when measured by H.J. Elwes: the Tree Register of the British Isles now records it as nearly twice as tall, at 27 m in 2010, but it has retained its unique shape very well.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure from your comments John whether you approve of all those gardens with Dawyck beeches. I love my own golden form which I assume was a sport from the original at some time in the past.


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