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The evolution of Scottish public gardens is about to take an enormous leap forward with the creation of two more which, by pure coincidence will both be found in Perthshire. With an existing abundance of gardens of immense historical and horticultural importance, Perthshire is soon to become a Mecca for garden lovers with the addition of Scotlands National Garden, to be built at Perth, and The Scottish Plant Collectors Garden in Pitlochry, which will be opened to the public in the April of 2003.
Submitted by Nick Dawson,
The many different habitats within the garden reflect varied topography, moisture and exposure. Plant collections from different continental regions will be matched with these habitats and arranged to provide all year round interest. The greatest advantage of creating a garden on a hillside is that the same plant or group of plants can be viewed from different angles and locations thus enhancing the visual impact and perception.
The plant collectors are only part of the story and a decision
was made to include the many important Scottish botanists who, if not
collectors in their own right, classified and collated millions of new
introductions. Collectors who travelled specifically to tropical regions
and notable non-hardy plants will be represented as part of a visual
arts strategy. It is hoped that collectors, countries and plants not
represented can be interpreted by the use of sculpture.
While celebrating the past the garden is very much looking to the future. A combination of contemporary and traditional design ideas have been adopted to create interest and appeal for the widest possible audience.
Underground service ducts will provide power, sound and lighting to all areas, to increase the potential for dramatic productions within the garden, without the need to disturb new plantings.
First year visitor numbers for the garden have been estimated from existing visitor statistics, based on the Theatre, Dam and Fish Ladder (Loch Faskally), Blair Castle and notable local gardens and visitor centres - 60,000 visitors are expected. It is perceived that during the development stage this number will increase in years 1-5, with regular repeat visitors during years 5-10, peaking to an average annual attendance of 80,000.
The Garden project is essential in maintaining and increasing visitors to both the theatre (which itself generates an estimated 2.5 million pounds directly to the local economy) and to the surrounding community.
Pitlochry is an important visitor centre, located adjacent to the A9 and thus within a 1.5hr drive from the central belt of Scotland and 20-minute drive from Perth, which is also served by bus and train. Pitlochry train station is on the main London to Inverness line. Rural & Highland Perthshire is a popular holiday and short-stay destination to both home and oversee visitors. Visit Scotland have predicted that short stay visitor numbers will increase and that an attraction such as the garden will cater for the demands of such an audience. As a major tourist centre, Pitlochry serves both long and short stay visitors, with established attractions such as the Theatre, the Dam & Fish Ladder (Loch Faskally), River Tummel, woodland, forest and moorland walks: Pitlochry has an estimated throughput of 250-300k visitors per annum.
This unique concept has already been approved and endorsed by HRH The Prince of Wales. Indeed a recent visit (5th July 2001) by the Prince of Wales has dramatically raised public awareness and increased the profile of this important environmental visitor attraction. The garden will open in June/July 2002 with an 'official' opening date yet to be confirmed.
To ensure the gardens success the Garden committee have been working
closely with Perthshire Tourist Board, Scottish Enterprise Tayside in
a joint marketing initiative to promote all public gardens in Tayside.
As part of Perthshire's Green Tourism Initiative, the garden will become
a nominated site (one of 30) promoting Perthshire as Scotland's 'Big
Tree Country'. This is one of many ways in which the garden can be used
to encourage and guide visitors to other important botanical sites within
Perthshire. Links have been made with Forest Enterprise, Atholl Estates,
Tayside Biodiversity and The Woodland Trust etc.
Maintaining the core concept of the Scottish Plant Collectors, the garden will use its association with the theatre to combine visual arts, including music & sculpture, in providing a unique interpretative programme, which will be enjoyable, and at the same time educational. Periodic displays and events will inform visitors of the ethno-botanical relationships between man and plants, the importance of plant hunting today (e.g. medical research) and the geographic origins of plants collected and introduced by the Scottish collectors.
With ever increasing difficulties in obtaining funds, it is vital that sound commercial management principals are applied to ensure that high quality maintenance standards are achieved. The garden committee are well aware that if an entry fee is charged, the aspirations and expectations of visitors must be provided for. Repeat visits are also to be encouraged and it is hoped that visitors will return to see, not only the plant development but also an array of events promoting the arts within the garden. Clear objectives have been drawn up with a view to meet all the objectives as and when future funding allows. Management such as this will ensure the long-term viability of Scotland's newest garden.