Sunday, 22 April 2012



Rock gardens were always an essential part of the training of an apprentice gardener in the sixties. Training took in every aspect of gardening from vegetables, fruit, flowers, trees, lawns, outdoor sports facilities, shrubs, roses, herbaceous and rock garden plants. Not many parks in Dundee had rock gardens, but one had been created at Barnhill in the perfect spot of a south facing rocky terrain amongst sand dunes so drainage could not be better. The area is also open to view alongside the Broughty Ferry Esplanade, so Dundee folk can see and enjoy the mature rock gardens seldom troubled by theft or vandalism.
The gardens were started in 1955 when an area of volcanic rock was cleared to form the first part of the rock garden. This was further extended eastwards through an area of sand dunes using rock imported from Carmylie Quarry.
The gardens are run and maintained by Dundee City Council Environment Dept through resident gardener Michael Laird in collaboration with the charity Friends of Barnhill Rock Garden. The Friends play an enormous role involving the local community in arranging events at the gardens, growing and planting plants, and fund raising to help improve and maintain the garden. There are nearly 500 friends in the charity but with ambitious plans to maintain and develop the gardens more friends are always very welcome. The Friends also arrange several trips to other Gardens open to the public throughout the year for their members.
Recently, a new scree area has been created and planted. At the rear of the gardens new birch trees have been added for interest and shelter and local children have volunteered to plant up additional areas of snowdrops helping to create a snowdrop woodland as a visitor attraction.
Volunteers from local schools, cubs, scouts and the community play a large part in planting, weeding and keeping litter under control.
A brand new glasshouse was gifted to the Friends by Dundee Contemporary Arts and is now used for community meetings and events as well as an interpretation centre for the gardens history and current projects.
A new pergola and patio area was established and now hosts live music and events at garden functions.
A nursery and poly tunnel are used for propagation of plants for the garden. Another area is used for recycling all garden waste to create compost for mulching and soil improvement.

The gardens show a wonderful range of alpines suited to very dry scree terrain as well as waterside planting with pools running through the gardens. There are also many fine examples of maritime plants though I am told salt spray from the sea has never really been a big problem. Close proximity to sea has also helped to keep the gardens relatively frost free.
The gardens have been very successful in winning many awards for community involvement and as a visitor attraction for both locals as well as tourists.
I saw some absolute gems of plants both in the rock garden beds and scree as well as the woodlands including Trilliums and Arisaema.
However it was sad to see so many eucalyptus trees devastated by our hard winters of previous years. Mike was hopeful that funds could be found to have them cut back to stumps to let them regenerate with fresh new growth.

Plant of the week

Berberis darwinii is one of the most popular Barberry on account of its versatility. It was always a favourite for urban landscaping in Parks Departments as it is very spiky, vigorous, will grow on any soil and evergreen so it is the perfect plant for any area prone to vandalism. It can grow to ten feet tall or more unless it gets some pruning so can make a great hedge. In April it gets covered in bright orange flowers which bees just love. Then a huge crop of black berries is produced in autumn which feed the birds for weeks. I use it as my companion plant for my plum tree to attract bees for pollination as they both flower at the same time.
Painting of the month

Monday Evening Art class is an acrylic painting completed by one of my students using the Monday evening art class as his models taken from a photograph as they were all busy painting unaware that they were about to be captured on canvas. The likeness to the other students is remarkable as they are all identifiable as are all their paintings. This painting plus many others completed recently by the students will be on show at our Spring Art Exhibition at Dundee Botanical Gardens from Saturday 21st April to Wednesday 2nd May 2012.
Open every day from 11am to 4.30pm.
Although I have about thirty students of all ages and abilities and all amateurs and beginners their creativity has produced some fantastic paintings.


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