Scotland's Gardens Scheme Legacy Awards 2020
“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.” - Author unknown
I think this quote perfectly encapsulates the work we do at Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. We hold the past, present and future in each of our gardens and by opening them to the public to raise money for charity, we have touched countless lives over the nearly 90 years we have been in existence. Not just through the money raised, but by offering people an opportunity to experience the healing power of nature, the beauty that is freely available to us every day and the opportunity to spend time in community, with people from all walks of life, chatting over a cup of tea.
The core of our work, the wheel that keeps us turning year after year, are our volunteers and garden openers. Without you, we would cease to exist and the immense beauty, creativity and knowledge that you hold would be hidden from view. This year, although we have not been able to open many of our gardens; we have seen our community come together to support one another and in a small way, the nation, in Lockdown, through photographs and virtual video tours of your gardens, and we have sought to support children and families through our children’s activity sheets and ‘How To’ videos. The work of all of our volunteers in District Teams, Social Media, PR and Photographers has enabled us to get through this challenging time and look ahead to the future.
Each year our Legacy Awards celebrate all our gardens and volunteers by highlighting the work and commitment of some of our longest serving members. Here are the Awards for this year, followed by some thoughts and memories from the recipients:
Castle Kennedy – Wigtownshire – 75 years
Leith Hall, Aberdeenshire – 75 years
Glendoick, Perth and Kinross – 50 years
Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll and Lochaber – 25 years
Crinan Hotel, Argyll and Lochaber – 25 years
Inveresk Lodge Garden, East Lothian – 25 years
Kirklands, Fife – 25 years
Long-Serving SGS Volunteers – 15 years
Sarah Landale, District Organiser, Dumfriesshire and Trustee
Judy Norwell, Area Organiser, Perth and Kinross
Sarah Shaw, District Organiser, Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland
Fiona Bell-Irving, Area Organiser, Dumfriesshire
Long-Serving Volunteers – 10 Years
Lorraine Dingwall, Area Organiser, Moray and Nairn
Lizzie Adam, District Treasurer, Ayrshire and Arran
Jeannie Gibson, Area Organiser, Aberdeenshire
Iain Morrison, Area Organiser, Stirlingshire
Sally Yonge, District Organiser, Roxburghshire
‘50 years… amazing...’
My mother Tricia Cox, who died at the beginning of May was the driver for SGS garden openings and she really got this going I guess in 1970. Initially Sunday open days in May but it always rained…. so then we opened every Sunday in May and that wore her out… So eventually we decided to open for the whole of April and May. The gardens at Glendoick are filled with the creations and the collections of 3 generations of Coxes, and hopefully a 4th generation might take it on in due course. So, 50 years is really a tribute to Tricia Cox.” Ken Cox
I have been a Volunteer with Scotland's Gardens Scheme for 16 years. I started off by just opening my Garden and then became a District Organiser down here in Dumfriesshire and I am now also a Trustee. At all levels I have enjoyed myself hugely and have learnt so many things; I have visited and found gardens which I would never have seen or found; I have met lots of different and interesting people; I have learnt lots about plants and gardening ; I have learnt that you need one port-a-loo at an event per hundred people (Portrack open day!) I have learnt a lot about Charity legislation and Charities and I have learnt to make a mean cup of tea in bulk - so much so that a visitor at a garden opening once asked if I was a tea lady, as she saw me at so many garden openings pouring cups of tea! I have fully enjoyed everything; especially sitting in lovely places with people, sharing the beauty of gardens and the peace that they can bring, in a life which is often far too busy. SGS is just a lovely charity to be involved with in all its ways. I very much like the fact that proceeds go to such a variety and number of Scottish Charities and that our efforts may be felt by all sorts of different people. In all, the last 16 years has brought me a great sense of personal satisfaction and happiness.
Many years ago, a very dear friend, Jean Gore, was retiring from the Stirlingshire Committee; Jean very kindly asked me if I would take her place, especially when she had been such an asset to Argyllshire and Stirlingshire, I could not refuse. I went to my first meeting at Kilbryde when Carola Campbell and Lesley Stein were joint Chairs, there was so much enthusiasm which resulted in many great things. The Gardens of Kings Park gelled from a Kitchen Supper at the Stein House into the Major event of the area for the year. For me, being a committee member means making ideas happen and finding gardens with a difference. I hope I can continue for many years to come.
A friend, the local Scotland’s Garden Scheme organiser, suggested we might like to open our garden for a charity fund raising day. It seemed like a good idea! To be invited to be alongside so many of the famous gardens we had visited was such an accolade but how on earth would we come up to standard.
Over the years the terror and mad panic has subsided into a more organised approach to the day. The garden has improved vastly so we no longer question if the garden is worthy. Now we are more concerned about volunteers, parking, baking, getting enough of the right plants for sale and the weather. Oh, the weather.
On a sunny day after the Beechgrove feature, we notched up a record 300 plus visitors. On a cold, wet, May day another year saw just 40. The volunteers had lots of scones to take home.
The spring garden lifts our spirits each morning as we walk around to see what is new today. It no longer worries us that the bluebells may have finished, the meconopsis may not have started or half the rhododendrons were damaged by the late frost. It is all perfect and the visitors are all so kind and complementary. Only Gill notices the solitary weed behind the viburnum and I’m the only one that is bothered by the leaf that spoils the line of the lawn stripes.
Opening as part of the SGS family has been a pleasure and a privilege (tinged with occasional panic). The next generation of Kirklands gardeners are contributing enthusiastically. Here is hoping we last long enough to collect a 50 year award.
When I joined Scotland's Garden Scheme there were about eight gardens open in Dumfriesshire each year, but largely thanks to Sarah Landale, the District Organiser, we have nearly doubled that. Sarah and I make sure that one of us goes to every garden opening, either to help throughout the afternoon or just as a spectator - we feel this is a polite way to thank the hosts for opening their beautiful gardens and of course raising money for the various charities that we support. I enjoy talking to the visitors, asking why they chose to look round the garden and how far they have travelled. Portrack garden, near Dumfries, owned by the late Charles Jencks, is magnificent and attracts visitors globally - I have met people there from Australia, South Africa and Germany, who had travelled to Scotland purely to look round Portrack!
Garden openings are great for both young and old as well as those who are less agile and do not have access to a garden themselves, they allow all walks of life to indulge in the natural beauty offered as well as allowing people to seek gardening advice from their expert hosts.
There are now a few snowdrop/spring gardens that open, which is proving a success despite Sarah and my initial concerns - what with Dumfriesshire being such a wet county and wondering if they would attract many visitors, luckily, we were proved wrong.
In August 2019 I was fortunate to go on a small, guided tour of Birkhall Gardens, HRH The Duke of Rothesay's home on Deeside - that was an exceptionally wonderful occasion, with a wide variety of flowers, trees, constant planting and vistas. The Scheme is rewarding, no two years are the same and I feel incredibly fortunate to work with the small team that we have.
I am told I have been an SGS volunteer for 15 years and I must take their word for it; I have lost track of the earliest years. Having had garden-loving parents, I was fortunate always to have a garden of sorts, and to have had access to gardens, big and small, grand and cottage, formal and woodland, highland and more urban, in all their wonderful variety for so long has been pure pleasure. As secretary throughout that time I’ve written a fair few minutes, produced various lists and charts and correspondence, and made some Press contacts. But being Perth City based, I confess I have only ever been ‘responsible’ for very few gardens each year and cannot claim to have really discovered new ones, which is far more important. However, the Yellow Book (and I still like the Book!) has always been a treasure trove of riches beckoning from other parts of the country, and I’ve had plenty of time to explore them. In retrospect a dazzling kaleidoscope of memories, with the highlights, I suppose, those occasions where the right garden timing, a beautiful day, a good home-made tea and a chance conversation with a stranger over a plant, or a feature, or a view, have merged into one delightful experience. I recommend it.