Botanical gardens and markets, places filled with living things, are the best places to visit, and I’ve been in three botanical gardens in three months.
All had pleasures, but the least appealing was in Atlanta. It cost something like $45 to get in, and the plants were almost crowded out by the constructions. Nature cannot take second place in a garden. The best thing was the walkway through the trees.
The garden outside Puerto Vallarta was the opposite, nature was dominant. The garden didn’t feel constructed, it had grown out of the surrounding jungle. We (James, Perla, Alexander, Lin, and me) walked up and down twisty paths, across swing bridges, and felt the heat and love of the plants. Typically for Mexico, a country unencumbered by petty rules, I could swim in the river that runs through the garden.
Much of the joy of that trip was being with the others, whereas the joy of visiting the Logan Garden near the bottom of the Mull of Galloway was being alone. I’d been talking to dozens of people in the NHS across Dumfries and Galloway, and it was the greatest of pleasures to be alone in such an exquisite garden.
At least some of the appeal of the garden is that it’s a long way from any city, but the feature that everybody tells you about is how it is filled with tropical plants—because the warm waters of the Gulf Stream warm both sides of the thin peninsula.
The garden was built in the grounds of Logan House, which belonged to the McDouall family, an ancient Pictish family who have been resident in Galloway since “time immemorial.” There has been a garden there since the 13th century, but it became something special when James McDouall married Agnes Buchan-Hepburn of Smeaton, an enthusiastic gardener, in 1869. Agnes filled the large walled garden with exotic plants and inspired a love of gardening in her sons so that they developed it further, gathering plants from around the world.
Paradise, I remember, originally meant “walled garden.” Now I’ve looked it up, and its Greek origin is translated as “enclosed park.”
The walled garden is the heart of the garden, but there is also forest you can wander through and a conservatory. It was a hot day when I was there, perhaps the hottest of the year and unusual for Galloway, where wild storms are common. I roamed into the garden and was all alone. I smelt California and the sharp medicinal smell of Eucalyptus. A garden, I thought, is a place of healing, whereas the hospitals I’ve been visiting do not feel like that. Many of the plants were in bloom, revelling in the sun, and their perfumes were intoxicating. Bees were everywhere, busy making Galloway honey.
What a joy to be alone in such a place, I wandered from the walled garden up into the forest. “If you want to be happy for a night get drunk, for a year get married, but for a life time build a garden.” High above me I could see the trail of planes flying from London to all parts of America. I was so grateful that I was here alone in the garden not on one of those planes, strapped into my seat, eating ghastly food.
The garden includes a small exhibition centre that tells the story of the garden, and I found this quote from Thomas Jefferson on the wall: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
I’m compiling a list of places I must return to before I die, and I’m working hard to keep it short. But I must return to Logan Garden, perhaps on a stormy day to catch it in a different mood. If I were stand up from my desk, walk to my car, and start driving I might be there in 10 hours.
Until the mid-19th century Logan was an unremarkable Scottish country house garden with flowers and vegetables in a sheltered setting. But following the marriage of Agnes Buchan-Hepburn of Smeaton, an enthusiastic gardener, to James McDouall in 1869, the walled garden and surrounding policies began to be transformed into a haven for exotic species. Agnes McDouall inspired a passion for gardening in her sons Kenneth and Douglas. They amassed a wealth of new species from warm temperate regions of the world, both as a result of their own extensive travels, and also by obtaining seed from the great plant hunters of their day, such as George Forrest and Reginald Farrer.
Sharp medicinal smell of eucalyptus
Drunk happy for a day
Place if healing
Planes overhead to New York
Smell of California