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I went on a spring tour of the Cruickshank Botanic Gardens today lead by the new Curator of the Garden, Mark Paterson. After a cold wet and windy day yesterday we were all very pleased that there were clear blue skies with a warm April sun shining for our tour today.  The late spring this year meant that the gardens were only just waking from the winter sleep with snowdrops just going over and Hellebores in full bloom. The tour was fascinating as Mark spoke with great enthusiasm about the plans and changes that are happening in the garden.  The Gardens have been without a curator for quarter of a century and was obvious in the last decade that the garden was being maintained in a holding pattern with very limited funds.  The recreation of the permenant post of curator has provided new leadership for the gardening team and the garden is now being actively managed for the future with the removal of overgrown trees and shrubs of little botanical interest and improvements to the vistas in the garden and movement through it.  In addition there is generation of new plant collections and themes. The curator is also able to source additional funding to supplement the limited direct University funding.  He has also been able to provide a focus for student and other voluteers giving a boost to the limited permenant gardening staff.

The tour began discussing the plans for the sunken garden which is totally overwhelmed by supposedly dwarf conifers.  The plans for the rose garden include removing a common large cherry tree to increase light levels and create a new entrance to the garden with a vista to a specimen hornbeam and extension of the parterre with herbs used in medicine, and revitalization of the roses with new plants from cuttings.

The crocus labyrinth has matured from last year and provides interest for the children.  The pond has been unchoked by a group of voluteers with people working in the Cruickshank building commenting that they didn't even know it was there! Plans for a inspection platform have been made.  Opposite the stunning herbaceous border alot of holly and yew have been removed, these plants were ordinary species of which there were other examples in the garden.  They were removed principally to improve the view round the path which was becoming a hazard for pedestrians as cyclist zipped along.

Improvements to the summer house are also planned as well as the compost area and maintaining access to the other section of the garden formally known as the rock garden.  The empasis is being moved away from rock gardens as these are labour intensive, again many of the trees planted here as dwarf confiers are no longer dwarf with the result theat much of the structure and line of the garden is lost.

Unfortunately we were unable to go into the Arboretum as the there were tree works underway which was a great pity. Near the entrance to the Arboretum we were shown an area that was to become a small piece of Caledonian Forest. It has become increasingly important for Botanical Gardens to contribute to conservation by growing local native plants and it is planned to bring Scots Pine and other species from the colest surviving forest in Aberdeenshire.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the garden and now understand better what they are trying to acheive in the most northerly botanically garden in the country and look forward to seeing the garden develop over the next few years.

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Copyright 2011 Heather Dale Garden Design, Burnbrae Farmhouse, Park, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, AB31 5HH

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