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.
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.
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.