UK Travel 2013 – Part 4, Scotland

Back drops of mature trees surround the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's rock garden.

A back drop of mature trees surround the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s rock garden.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) holds a special place in the minds of rock garden lovers. It’s famed rock garden inspires pilgrimages and imitations alike. I made the decision to start my UK visit in Scotland even though it would add several hours of driving time to my next destination in order to see RGBE for myself.

Blue skies are a welcome addition to the stunning landscapes.

Blue skies are a welcome addition to the stunning landscapes.

My initial visit to the rock garden could potentially have come at a better time. Edinburgh and much of the rest of Great Britain had been suffering under an unusually hot and dry spell for several weeks prior to my visit. The rock garden is indeed suffering a bit under the oppressive heat (lucky for me the 90 degree temps are breaking for my visit and low 80’s to upper 70’s should be the norm for the rest of the week) but the but the bones of the garden are spectacular and the plants from the hotter, drier mountain areas are thriving.

Dierama jucundumThe softly colored flowers of Dierama jucundum cool down the summer garden.

One of my favorite plants was especially loving the sun and heat – Dierama is an African corm with (mostly) evergreen foliage and tall flower spikes with gently dangling, brightly colored flowers giving rise to the common name of fairy fishing rod.

Dierama pendulum

Dierama pendulum grows especially well between rocks.

By all rights, I should have no problems growing many of these species in our dry gardens but I haven’t had as much success as I’d like. RBGE certainly wasn’t having my issues – the Dierama were simply stunning scattered throughout the rock garden, punctuating the beds with swaying flower stalks.

Dierama dracomontanum

Dierama dracomontanum hails from the Drakensburgs of South Africa.

RBGE is much more than a rock garden though. It was started in 1670 as a physic garden and was moved several times before landing at its current location. In the nearly 350 years since its establishment, it has grown into not only a beautiful garden but also a center for botanical research and conservation with 3 satellite gardens. The 70 acres in Edinburgh hold several hundred thousand plants and include much more than the rock gardens – conservatories, peat walls, woodland gardens, and the Chinese hillside to name a few of the riches.

A border of Primula poissonii near a pond.

A border of Primula poissonii near a pond.

I only had a brief time to explore the woody plant collections outside the rock gardens where I spent way too much time. Another visit is definitely on the horizon.

Who needs flowers with Rhododendron bureavii's rusty-haired new foliage.

Who needs flowers with Rhododendron bureavii’s rusty-haired new foliage.

An unnamed variegated oak labeled as Quercus palustris but looking more like Q. rubra.

An unnamed variegated oak labeled as Quercus palustris but looking more like Q. rubra.

A red bridge on the Chinese Hillside.

A red bridge on the Chinese Hillside.

The drive south along the east coast of Scotland left me impressed with the beauty of the region and wishing I could see more. Rolling hills of wheat and a few late fields of flowering rapeseed combined with the sheep, thickets of Scotch pine and elderberry patches are indescribably picturesque. The roadsides are all bright with purple, gold, and white wildflowers in sheets of color. The Epilobium was especially showy.

Epilobium colors the roadsides throughout much of Great Britain.

Epilobium colors the roadsides throughout much of Great Britain.

Hedges and fields defined the southeast Scottish region and the borderlands area of England.

Hedges and fields defined the southeast Scottish region and the borderlands area of England.

The occasional rustic house and old rock walls that look like they could date to the time of the Romans add to the scenic beauty as does the rare glimpses of the coast along the A1. Unfortunately the scenery is somewhat distracting and after an overnight flight I’m probably not at my peak for driving. A manual transmission and driving on the left side of the road does not help matters at all although shifting with my left hand is less of a problem than I thought it might be.

Old houses and walls are surrounded by flowers everywhere I drove.

Old houses and walls are surrounded by flowers everywhere I drove.

The coast was obligingly clear but with a very Scottish fog rolling in.

The coast was obligingly clear but with a very Scottish fog rolling in.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

One final shot of the Rock Garden.One final shot of the Rock Garden at RBGE.

Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum

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