Thursday, 13 March 2008

Last visits to Bell's Cherrybank Gardens, Perth

This time of year is full of such promise in the garden. We are seeing bulbs pushing their way through the soil and buds coming into flower with the warm winter sunshine. Unfortunately, not all gardens will enjoy this promise into Spring.

Funding is a huge factor for gardens that open their gates to the public. Unfortunately one way or another this can run out and the garden has no choice but to close its gates. Yesterday I visited one such garden - Bell’s Cherrybank Gardens in Perth, Scotland. This garden holds the National Heather Collection and sadly its gates will close on March 31st. The days are running out fast for any last or first visits to this garden.

I feel quite reminiscent when I heard about its closure and felt the need to visit one last time. It has been a number of years since my last visit when my daughters were young. You know what it’s like when something is on your own doorstep - you take it for granted.


My visit was with a friend. The coffee shop had a buzz of visitors and I’m sure many a business lunch has been had here over the years. There was a mix of people just as I expect there has been a mix of people across the world that have enjoyed these gardens. We drank our coffee at a window table overlooking the gardens then took one last walk around them. I was surprised to hear that the admission charge had been dropped as the garden is closing. That made me sad.

Update Sunday 23rd March. I would like to add that an email from a member of staff at the garden has since explained that the lack of admission charge was only for a few days due to a mix-up in communication. My visit was in that time and I had no idea that this was the case until now. I sincerely apologise to any visitors that went to the garden under the understanding that they would not be charged admission due to reading this post or the piece that I supplied to the ‘Craigie’ column of the Courier. There is an admission charge to visit the garden except during the last week of opening.


Despite its imminent closure this garden was as well kept as I remembered it. We walked down the paths from the coffee shop towards a narrow stream. We reminisced as we walked. From memory, I do believe I’ve seen ducks down here and in the ponds during the spring and summer months - but there were none today. I expect lots of wildlife have made their homes and nests in this garden – especially the birds as there are many trees and shrub areas as well as the heather beds.


During winter months all the beautiful colours of the cornus stems have been seen in great drifts of block planting - something I will always associate with this garden. I loved the garden being on a slope as it suited the displays of heathers well. I also enjoyed the sweeping paths and the other elements like sculptures and garden seats of varying styles placed in optimum positions to enjoy a particular view of the garden.


You don’t have to be a heather fan to appreciate the impact of the colourful tapestries displayed in this garden. Like conifers perhaps the heather is seen as dated and dull but that has no bearing on why this garden is closing – this is a national collection after all. I love ornamental grasses but many may see them as dull.

I am certain the many visitors to this garden have been wowed by the varieties of heather growing here. There is a wide range of trees, shrubs and seasonal plants in this garden too. As we made our way back up the path to the coffee shop and exit the sunshine was replaced by a shower of rain. Quite poignant I thought as the sky became dark with the rain clouds. One last look back...


All the labels of the varieties of heather in this National Collection caught my eye as my eyes scanned the garden one final time. I wonder what will happen to all these plants. I wonder if there is a chance that on the eleventh hour someone or some company will step in and save these gardens. I wonder how many gardens and wildlife areas like this across the world are lost each year.

Finally, I am not going into all the details behind this closure as I am not certain of them. However it is connected to plans for the Calyx – a National Garden for Scotland. My thoughts are also with all the people that have worked with and within this garden both past and present. I do hope that there is some way that it can be saved.

All photos above were taken by me at Bell's Cherrybank Gardens in Perth on March 12th 2008.

18 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Oh how sad. It looks like a beautiful place. What will become of it? Please keep us posted.

Jane said...

That is very sad. My only hope is that it can either be saved or they make it into another "type" of garden. Unfortunately, as you say, heather is not very popular. It is beautiful, but... how can I say it... sometimes a bit .... dull. I hate saying that as every plant has a right to be enjoyed, and a national collection is "very" important. I expect, if the truth be known, it comes down to money... Thanks for showing it to us. Jane

Vanillalotus said...

What a beautiful garden. I love all the different flowing colors. It's sad it is closing. Too bad there is not some way to keep it open. At least you got to see it again before it's gone.

shirl said...

Hi again Lisa, Jane and Vanillalotus :-)

Lisa – It is, especially when it has been part of the town of Perth for a long time now. It is a landmark as you drive out of the town. This is a recent decision and a huge knock-back to a National Garden for Scotland but I expect there will be many people behind the scenes trying to do something about. I will post what happens to it :-)

Jane –Thank-you, being someone who is concerned about the disappearing countryside in your area of Dorset you will know only to well what a loss for the birds and wildlife this garden will be. It is a large garden. Funding is the problem here. I am definitely not saying this garden is closing because heather isn’t popular. Neither am I suggesting it is dull – one look at the varieties in this garden will show that. This is a national collection and whether it be heather, hosta or even fuchsia it is still a great loss for the plants and the local area. I will edit my post now to make this clearer :-)

Vanillalotus - It is colourful garden throughout the year. It is sad as it could have been part of Scotland’s National Garden which was to be built beside it. Yes, I am glad I revisited the garden :-)

Border Reiver said...

Thanks for posting this. What a real shame that a garden which cried out for winter visitors is closing. The mix of heathers, sculpture in the trees and other colour looks stunning. there are precious few gardens open in the winder to give colour and uplift the spirits. As you say, lets hope something of the collection can be saved, if not the garden itself.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Do you have any idea what will happen to the garden after it closes? Will it be turned into a subdivision, as it would be in this country?

Cheryl said...

Oh how sad I felt reading your post. I love heather, my grandfather was a scot and I have always had a love of Scotland and all she holds. I do so hope that someone will step in and save those beautiful gardens. We need to keep these treasure for future generations. Please let us know of any future news.

shirl said...

Hi again Border, Mr McGregor’s Daughter and Cheryl :-)

Border – I agree completely. I worked near by when this garden was planted and I looked forward to the winter months to see the beautiful colours of the dogwood stems and the other fantastic structural planting and shapes this garden had. Fingers crossed something will be saved :-)

Mr McGregor’s Daughter – I really don’t know full details but I believe there is an issue with the lease of the land as well as funding. I expect there will be many meetings taking place at the moment as this is a recent decision. Again, I really don’t know what will happen to the collection but I expect they will try to keep it together. As I have posted about this closure I will follow this up. Thank-you for your interest :-)

Cheryl – Thank-you, it is always sad when something closes or comes to the end but when it is a green space it is quite different. I too hope someone will step in and save it – it is worth saving. I have already contacted the garden prior to this post but I expect they are tied up with meetings at the moment. Yes, I will follow this story up :-)

Jane said...

Oops. I guess it was me that gave the wrong impression in my comment. What I meant was that I expect it isn't showy enough to pull the people in through the gates and keep it viable. Now, don't get me wrong I don't think "showy" is important, but I know from my own garden that the area people are least interested in is the "heather and conifer" flower bed. It's seen as old fashioned and dull. I'm not going to get rid of it (I love all the bees and butterflies that visit it)... but that is what people say and think.

Other national collections I've seen are owned by people who can afford for them to stay open (on their own land) not caring if they are popular or not. I'm guessing this one is different.

Looking at the news articles it looks like Scotland's Garden Trust think it is "not viable as a standalone project". I'm sure that the fact that a developer has just bought the neighbouring land for a new housing development didn't sway them at all (yeh right!). It smacks of money-grabbing to me.

I really hope they can secure another site elsewhere. National collections are "nationally important".

shirl said...

Hi again, Jane:-)

Thanks for getting back to me. I do hear all that you are saying – honestly I do. I did contact them before I wrote this but they didn’t get back to me – I wanted to give accurate info as it stands now too.

Often we are unaware what is happening on our doorsteps unless it affects us directly. This news is very recent and I really felt many would not know how soon this garden will close. I was trying to get this message across to them as much as anything.

I also contacted a column in a local newspaper with a large readership for this area. It usually prints what I send them so I was trying to use a different approach by writing of my visit rather than ranting – if you get my drift. As my garden has been mentioned a number of times I tied this garden with mine through birds nesting.

I suppose you could say I was planting seeds in people’s heads with this rather than trying to turn them. I would hate to write anything that could have a detrimental affect on the garden and the people working there.

I wrote this post hoping that it some way it may possibly help but at the very least it acknowledges a garden holding the National Heather Collection in Scotland is closing. I don’t want to think of how this landscape could change – too many green spaces are lost as you know :-(

shirl said...

Hi again, Jane :-)

Just picked up the Newspaper I mentioned. The column used my mail as the lead story with a link too. Excellent! I know feel I have achieved what I set out to do. I really hope this helps :-D

Jayne said...

A feast for the eyes....

Robin's Nesting Place said...

How sad for this beautiful garden to be closing. I hope there will be a last hour reprieve for the garden as well. I commend you for your efforts to let people know.

Frances, said...

Shirl, your description of the garden and how you feel about it was so poignant. We dearly love the heaths and heathers, did a post about it one time, and would love to be able to see such a garden full of mature specimens used in a lovely design. The entire garden looked so well cared for, maybe something will be done to save such an important collection. We will be watching for further updates.
Frances at Faire Garden

Melanie said...

Shirl, such a bittersweet post. The photos were so lovely, as was your reminiscing. But it is oh so sad to think of this lovely place closing. I do hope that there is a surprise in place to save it.

Cabs said...

OH!!!! Yes...so beautiful, And I am one of those who does like heather. i like its subtly. Thx for sharing these pictures.
Carol

Marie said...

Beautiful photos :)

shirl said...

Hi again Jayne, Robin, Frances, Melanie, Carol and Marie :-)

Jayne – Yes, for the moment anyway :-)

Robin – It is sad and it there is always hope of a last minute reprieve. Thank-you, I wanted to do something :-)

Frances – Thank-you. Yes, the garden was very well cared for. Fingers crossed! I will do an update :-)

Melanie – Yes, this post could go no other way. I too hope there will be a surprise last minute solution :-)

Carol – Thank-you - for saying so!

Marie – Thank-you too – let’s hope they help in some way :-D