Student Internship at Logan Botanic Garden

image

Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, one of the four Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, offers internships for students of horticulture and related subjects. In March this year, I was lucky enough to be given a 5 week internship and the experience was absolutely excellent; rich in learning opportunities and incredibly enjoyable.

The garden is famed for its tropical atmosphere and the fact that it is full of exotic Southern Hemisphere plants, all growing outside despite the fact that it is in Scotland. This is due to the fact that the peninsula it is located on is warmed by the Gulf Breeze, creating a climate that is much milder than other parts of Great Britain, with few extreme temperature fluctuations. The area also very rarely reaches freezing, meaning that tender plants can be grown outside throughout the year. Throughout the entirety of my internship, the weather was incredibly mild, particularly considering it was March in Scotland, and there were many days of clean, bright sunshine.

Students are provided with free accommodation as part of the internship; a clean, comfortable bungalow conveniently located right inside the gardens, meaning waking up for work in the morning is a breeze and there are plenty of opportunities for peaceful, after-hours strolls around the grounds. They are also driven into town twice a week to do grocery shopping as there are no shops in the surrounding area. The closest large town is Stranraer, (about 12 miles away) and though there are a few villages dotted along the nearby coast, none have anything beyond a single post office. Whilst I was there, I borrowed a bike, which I found to be the best way of getting around, as the local bus is a little erratic.

We worked the same hours as regular staff, which are 8.30am-3.30pm during the winter, and a 4.30pm finish in the summer months. The team at Logan is small, so each member of staff is involved with several different aspects of running the garden.

The garden itself is stunning, and completely unexpected. Coming in from the gorse speckled hills and muted palette of grey’s and sea green of the surrounding countryside, to suddenly find yourself in a bright, tropical paradise is pleasingly surreal. The long, winding driveway up to the garden is lined with hundreds of Cordylline australis, giving you a taste of what is to come. Inside, you are immediately surrounded by spiked heads of Trachycarpus fortunei, hot pink Fuschia majellanica, beds laid with a geometrically patterned carpet of purple, matt forming Aeoniums and bright blue Ceanothus creeping over the whitewashed office building. An extravagance of jewel-bright colours that makes an energizing introduction to the garden.

logan pond

The garden is full of whimsical touches, curved paths and secret doors. Based in the center of the garden, there is a large Victorian style glasshouse, glittering in the sun and overflowing with rare tree heathers and a Pelargonium collection. Inside the walled garden, there is an immaculate stretch of velvet smooth lawn, dotted with a number of stout Dicksonia antartica. A shady walkway leading off to a secluded seating area, is lined with a mixture of Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua, the brick floor littered with the crimson and blush pink petals of the showy blooms. A large rectangular pond is filled with carp, lazily drifting along in metallic flashes of gold and silver, the mirror sheen of the water reflecting the slender arched trunks of the surrounding Cordyllines.

image

Working there everyday was honestly a joy, and tasks as simple as weeding was totally absorbing, when working in beds filled with rare ferns and one-of-a-kind Rhodedendrons. The internship allows you to get involved with the work straight away, and the staff ensure you try a variety of tasks each day, broadening your learning. It’s hard to overstate just how giving Richard Baines (the curator) is with his time, especially considering how many different projects he has on and all the students coming through the program.

It’s such a cliche to say, but the 5 weeks honestly went by much too fast and I left feeling I had learned a huge amount, but also only really skimmed the surface of all the knowledge that Richard and his team have to share. I felt it really consolidated all my past horticultural experiences, as well as teaching me a huge number of new skills. Anyone looking to further their horticultural learning, I would recommend it absolutely.

Logan Botanic Garden Internship

Check the website to download an application form, and send to the curator Richard Baines. Applications can be made throughout the year, and tend to be with 1-4 months. Accommodation is provided for free, but students must buy their own food.

Port Logan,

North Stranraer

DG9 9ND

 

Advertisements

Sissinghurst

I never, ever use the word ‘magical’ to express myself, as it’s generally an unnecessary hyperbole with no relation to what it’s describing….BUT……..I might have to use it for my recent trip to Sissinghurst. In this instance, it’s entirely apt.

On a dreamy, hazy, sunny day, the place had a hush upon it that worked its way effortlessly into you, and as you wondered through wide stone arches, or slipped through tiny secret doors, it seemed that everything was trapped in one sublime moment of an eternal summer.

sissinghurst-roses

In the honey gold, late summer light, the flowers seemed somehow extra alive and the planting was so thoughtful, so sympathetic, vivid and vital, showing the art that only generations of care and toil can create.

The famous White Garden was absolutely everything I wanted to be. I had high expectations (of course) and they were absolutely surmounted, which is hardly a common experience in life.

There were the tall heads of white Agapanthus africanus, silky petalled Cosmos bipinnatus nodding above it’s frothy foliage, the punctuating spires of white Veronicastrum virginicum and the opulently frilled globes of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabel’. Glimmering in shades of moonlight, pearl and snow, with the soft drone of bees and a slight breeze ribboning its way through the leaves, it was an ethereal spot.

having-a-chat

I found the whole place impossible to photograph, as it’s tricky getting enough distance and detail at the same time, but suffice to say it had a charm over it that compelled us to linger, sitting in dappled shadows on a bench actually built into a Buxus hedge! (the place evidently called for very intense discussions too, as can be seen by the photo above.)

The garden had countless discoveries breathlessly waiting to reveal themselves to you, secret spots beckoning as you turned a little corner; the lush, deep mounds of rich green ferns in the Nuttery, the cool calm of the Lime Walk.

orange-gardenThe Cottage Garden was overflowing with exuberance and burning with bright colour in the sun. Deep crimson Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ adding spiky, insect like detail, butter yellow spires of Verbascum olympicum, rising above oyster grey leaves of softest velvet. Banks of  Dahlias in reds and oranges as brash and tempting as boiled sweets.

I would unreservedly recommend it.

Information

Adults are £13.30, Children are £6.85

The garden is closed from 1st November to December 31st

 

Chelsea Flower Show

I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket to Chelsea Flower Show this year. It was my first ever visit and I was overwhelmed. I went with few preconceptions, as I’d heard such mixed reports from various people, but of course I was intrigued, and I was not disappointed!

The first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the whole thing, and for colour, spectacle and just general masses of lovely rainbow prettiness- it delivered.

Of course most of the gardens on display showcase a level of horticulture the average punter cannot hope to achieve in their back yards, but I did come away feeling quite inspired by a few nifty little planting ideas.

nasturtiums

The first thing was that the whole show brought home to me that when it comes to planting, dense swathes of a small selection is infinitely more effective than too much of a mixture. For example the Tropaeolum majus above; (I love their leaves, like little cartoon frogs umbrellas), it’s a common annual, but planted in a generous mound like this, it looks gorgeous and vibrant. Likewise the Alliums at the top.

Other simple planting ideas that appealed to me was the use of strong, contrasting colours, such as the silver blue Festuca glauca (left), mixed with some tangerine bright Geums. 

Bright exclamations of colour on a silky background of mixed foliages, such as the Mattuecia struthiopteris and Hostas accented with again, Geums, and a few creamy spires of Digitalis purpurea, make a gorgeous shade display. (though Geum’s prefer sun or just a light shade.)

Orange and Purple have a been a big trend for 2016, and some basic Buxus balls (so boring but so useful) are really enlivened by being pared with some deep amethyst Salvia nemorosa, dusky purple Astrantia major and the ever present Geums!

Of all the show gardens, it was Support, The Husquvarna Garden, designed by Charlie Albone (left) with the rich texture of foliages, the subtle use of silvery tones to accent the strong purples, the pleached Beeches with that lustrous sheen on their green, green, green leaves, that was the winner for me.

A Modern Apothecary‘ designed by Jekka McVicar (right) was also stunning, celebrating herbs for their decorative as well as their medicinal appeal.

The Barbican Conservatory

cropped-barbican.jpg
I had an opportunity over the summer to visit the Barbican conservatory on one of it’s rare open weekends. I’m not personally a huge fan of the Brutalist architecture of the building, and so I was interested to see how this would translate indoors to a conservatory.

To my pleasure, I found that actually the combination worked very well. The stark use of metal and glass was a perfect, clean backdrop to allow the plants to shine. The conservatory houses over 2, 000 species of tropical plants and trees and it was genuinely enjoyable wondering through to see what could be spotted.

barbican-2

Based around a round pond in the middle, with high walkways above so you can see the whole thing from a birds eye view, the layout is such that you can feel really immersed in the humid, jungle atmosphere the place evokes. Beautiful, silky barked Ficus benjamina rose elegantly above beds planted up with huge Asplenium nidus and and the stiffly bristled fronds of Cycas revoluta. 

In a little area tucked away up high, reached by a pathway lined with deep purple Oxalis triangularis, there was the succulents glasshouse. In there, we found all kinds of seriously weird and very wonderful plants, more alien life form than anything we might recognize as an inhabitant of our planet. And even for people used to botanical names, some of them were a real mouthful; such as Austrocylindropuntia subulata f.monstrose (centre) , a striking cactus, which has red flowers in the spring/early summer and originates from South America, where it can reach impressive heights in the wild.

echinocereus

The fat, flopping legs of Echinocereus scheeri var. gentryi (above) drew a lot of attention, being both slightly disturbing and undeniably phallic. As you can see in the photo, it has plenty of small, fluffy buds about to burst into bright pink flowers, which may improve it’s naked, dangling appearance somewhat.

The Barbican conservatory provided us with plenty of interest for a whole morning, and I would highly recommend it for any plant lovers, particularly those seeking the slightly odd.

Information

Admission is free

Guided tours last 60 minutes and are £12.50, Concessions are £10.00

Opening times: Sundays only***, 12 noon–5pm

You can book a table to have afternoon tea in the Conservatory too. Fairly reasonably priced.