Branklyn Garden is a two acre garden in Perth, not far from the eastern bank of the River Tay and on the lower slopes of Kinnoull Hill. The garden is an intimate place, heavily planted with some 3,500 different kinds of plants. It is owned and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.
Branklyn Garden started life in 1922 when Dorothy and John Renton purchased two acres of sloping orchard on which to build a house and develop a garden. The house was built in the late Arts and Crafts style and is not open to the public. The couple worked together to develop the garden, with Dorothy specialising in the botany and the plants, and John taking a lead on the design and layout.
Landscaping the garden involved considerable effort and expense. The rock that forms the base for the alpine scree rock garden was quarried from nearby Kinnoull Hill, moved to the site by traction engine, and manhandled into place by workmen using crowbars. The garden itself is about as informal as you can imagine. There are few if any straight lines, and a latticework of winding paths allow you to explore at will. The intention throughout was for the garden to develop to suit the needs of the plants which were planted here.
What really sets Branklyn Garden apart, however, is the extent of the plant collections on view. The Rentons knew many of the great plant collectors of the pre-war years, an age in which men like as George Forrest and Frank Kingdom-Ward visited places such as Tibet, Bhutan and China in search of seeds and plants. As a result the Rentons became favoured recipients of many plants which they then trialled under controlled conditions in Perth. After one expedition in 1936 the Rentons received 112 packets of seeds.
Over the years the Rentons' work in recreating plants' natural growing conditions drew widespread praise, and won them many awards. The Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh wrote that Branklyn Garden was "the finest two acres of private garden in the country." Dorothy Reid died in 1966 and John died the following year. Branklyn Garden passed into the care of the National Trust for Scotland, which continues to look after it today.
Visitors to the garden are asked to park in a signposted car park a short distance uphill of the garden itself. On entering the garden you find the reception and shop in a shed on your right. The house that the Renton's built occupies the upper corner of the garden nearest the gate. The garden itself is long and relatively narrow, with the far end a little wider than the near end. The style of the planting and short sight lines make the garden appear much larger than it actually is, and only in a few parts of the uphill, left hand side of the garden are you able to see beyond the area immediately surrounding you at the time.
This is very much a garden for enthusiasts, where the plants take centre stage. Amongst its many other attractions, the garden is home to the national collections of Cassiope, Mylnefield lilies, Rhododendron taliensia and large blue Himalayan poppies.