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.