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Logan Botanic Gardens cacti

A tropical paradise in the southwest of Scotland, eco-friendly Logan Botanic Garden is home to an astonishing diversity of plants

Photos by Izzy Bunting

Logan Botanic Garden

Scotland might not be the first location that springs to mind as a good place to grow tropical plants. But Logan Botanic Garden, in Dumfries and Galloway, enjoys an almost subtropical climate, allowing a paradise of plants from all over the world to thrive.

Even though it's at about the same latitude as Moscow and Alaska, this part of Scotland – the extreme southwestern tip – enjoys mild weather throughout the year. This is thanks to the Gulf Stream – warm currents of water that flow northeast from the Gulf of Mexico, past the eastern United States and across the Atlantic to the west coast of Scotland.

There have been gardens at Logan since the 13th century, belonging to the McDouall family. But in 1869, the gardens began a remarkable transformation, from traditional woodland and walled kitchen garden to the vast collection of exotic species that visitors enjoy today.

Logan Botanic Gardens white flowers

The change came when James McDouall married Agnes Buchan-Hepburn – an enthusiastic gardener who began to introduce more exotic species, starting with lilies, roses and eucalyptus trees. Agnes' passion for gardening was passed onto her sons, Kenneth and Douglas, who continued to collect plants and develop the gardens during the 20th century.

Logan Botanic Gardens water lily

50 years ago, in 1969, the walled garden and part of the surrounding woodland were gifted to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. With 12 acres accessible to the public, an astonishing range of plants – around 2500 different species across 170 different plant families – is packed into a relatively small space. This wide variety of unusual specimens provides a fascinating day out for garden enthusiasts – or indeed anyone who enjoys spending time in beautiful and peaceful natural surroundings.

The gardens at Logan offer a wonderful sensory experience, with colourful and aromatic blooms, spectacular structural plants, and textured bark and leaves.

Logan Botanic Gardens two yellow flowers

There are antipodean palm trees and tree ferns, eucalyptus, giant gunnera, and a beautiful walled garden. The latter is a tranquil space featuring ornamental fish ponds, water lilies, and colourful flower borders buzzing with bees and butterflies.

Logan Botanic Gardens eucalyptus
Logan Botanic Gardens bumblebee

Many of the species on display at Logan are categorized as endangered, threatened, rare or vulnerable. These include 24 coniferous trees, six species of rhododendron, and a range of ferns, eucalypts and magnolias. One species – the Mexican daisy – is sadly now believed to be extinct in the wild. Like other botanic gardens, the role that Logan plays in the conservation of at-risk plants is key.

A highlight at Logan is the Victorian-style conservatory. Built in 2014, it's the first all-green glasshouse in the UK. The conservatory is carbon-neutral, generating its own heat using PV solar panels and air source heat pumps.

Logan Botanic Gardens
Logan Botanic Gardens glasshouse

These sustainable technologies produce enough energy to sustain year-round temperatures of 8°C. This provides the ideal environment for tender plant species to flourish – and the conservatory is home to a rare collection of South African plants.

Logan Botanic Gardens glasshouse interior
Logan Botanic Gardens cactus
Logan Botanic Gardens conservatory detail

The conservatory isn't the only green initiative at the gardens. Logan holds a Green Tourism Gold award, and aims to work in a sustainable and ecologically friendly way wherever possible.

There is an electric vehicle charging point in the car park, which is free to use, and a free water bottle refill station.

All waste – such as glass, plastic, cans and paper – is recycled, and organic matter and green waste is composted and used to improve the soil, with  woody waste chipped and used to dress paths and flower beds.

Wildlife is encouraged to the garden – there have been sightings of a wide range of birds, butterflies and moths, including the hummingbird hawk moth, which is rarely spotted so far north. Bug hotels, bird feeders and nest boxes throughout the gardens help to increase biodiversity.

Logan Botanic Gardens walled garden

The on-site shop stocks a wide range of fair-trade and local goods, and The Potting Shed Bistro sources as many ingredients as possible from local suppliers in Dumfries and Galloway, including seafood and cheeses.

Logan Botanic Gardens bistro meal

Vegetables for soups and salads, and soft fruits, are sourced at the Old School Garden in Port Logan, and ice creams are from Cream O'Galloway. Traditional Scottish favourites on the menu include Ecclefechan tart and Mull of Galloway crab salad – and there are plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Logan Botanic Gardens pond

Green Adventures July 2019