Monday, 27 February 2012

DUNDEE’S WOODLAND HERITAGE


DUNDEE’S WOODLAND HERITAGE

I was always aware that Dundee had a lot of trees in and around the town. I grew up in St. Mary’s. We were surrounded by woodlands and farmers fields, though slowly new housing blocks replaced a lot of the fields. The woodlands of St. Marys and Templeton woods were our playground all year round. That was a healthy way to start life in a rural environment, with the Sidlaw Hills only about  an hours walk away. Once my gardening life kicked in I began to learn what all about the different kinds of trees and where they came from. Whether it was Baxter Park, Victoria Park or Camperdown Park, they all had a very interesting history that explained how our wealth of great trees came to be planted.
Over two hundred years ago Dundee was beginning to prosper due to the expansion of the jute mill industries, whaling and ship building. This brought great wealth to the town and many people began to build big houses in both the west end and Broughty Ferry. It was fashionable to show off your wealth by acquiring rare exotic trees to enhance the gardens and estates of the land owners.
At this time plant hunters were travelling all over the world to bring back new specimens to try out in the UK. Very popular trees included the Monkey Puzzle, Cedars, Giant  Redwoods, evergreen oaks, weeping ash and elm, sweet chestnut and walnuts.
Many of these initial plantings have survived to this day and can be found all over the town.

Parks and estates
Mature specimens of walnut and sweet chestnuts can be found in the approach to Ninewells hospital where the land had been part of the Invergowrie House estate.
Jute barons had mansions and estate land outside Lochee where you can still see avenues of lime trees, cedars, monkey puzzles and giant redwoods.
Excellent specimens of weeping ash and a Corstorphine Plane can be found along the Perth road from the Bonar Hall to Blackness library.
Baxter Park and Caird Park were donated to the town and feature many rare trees including a weeping oak, elms and lime trees.
Victoria Park and Balgay Park were acquired by the town and hold some less exotic but very mature and attractive specimens of beech, oak and robinia.

Camperdown and Templeton woods
Thanks to the naval success of Admiral Adam Duncan at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797 we can now enjoy his estates and woodlands. These were planted by his son, the 1st Earl of Camperdown’s  head forester David Taylor. He introduced numerous Wellingtonias, Sequoias, Western Hemlock, cedars, sweet chestnut, weeping ash, oaks, sycamore, Douglas firs and beeches. He also found and nurtured the dwarf weeping elm, Ulmus glabra Camperdownii, which is now propagated and planted all over the world. There are beautiful specimens all over Dundee, but the original tree is still growing at Camperdown Park protected in a fenced enclosure.

Recent plantings
The Dundee Parks Department have continued to enhance the town with additional tree specimens. Dawson Park has a fine avenue of flowering cherries, Riverside Drive has upright oak trees, Camperdown has a mature flowering Eucryphia Rostrevor beside the Pinetum, and the Botanical gardens boasts many types of Eucalyptus and other trees from around the world.

Plant of the week

Betula jaquemontii, the white stemmed birch tree, has always been one of my favourite trees for the small garden. It has the cleanest bright white bark than any other birch, and retains its pristine appearance as the bark matures and peels off, revealing a warm orange white surface which slowly turns to a dazzling white. It makes a perfect lawn specimen and adds height and colour to a heather garden or the coloured stem border. It can be grown as a single specimen or as two or three trees in a clump. If you wish to be really extravagant and you have space, a drift of twenty to thirty trees is a very impressive site. All birch trees grow very easily in Scotland.

Painting of the month.

Templeton Woods is one of my larger oil paintings of a good local winter landscape. A few years ago our winters were quite mild and a decent covering of snow was becoming a rare event which is disastrous for someone who loves painting snow scenes. This snow arrived overnight and realising it could all be melted by lunchtime I was out early with the camera all over Templeton woods and Camperdown Park. I caught the early morning sunrise casting its warm glow over the frozen woodlands. As a horticulturalist I just loved this spot as it shows the full cycle of freshly planted beech trees, younger birch copse, mature spruce trees and the old mature stand of Douglas fir trees.
This painting will be on show at my winter art exhibition in my studio at 17a Menzieshill Road in Dundee on Friday, Saturday and Sunday 2nd to 4th March 2012, open from 11am to 5pm each day.

END

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