Logan Botanic Garden lies in the Rhinns of Galloway close to the far south western tip of Scotland and 14 miles south of Stranraer. It is one of three specialist gardens in different areas of Scotland that form part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The others are Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon and Dawyck Botanic Garden near Peebles.
The southerly location and the warming effect of the Gulf Stream means that Logan Botanic Garden enjoys an exceptionally mild climate with, usually, the reliable absence of air frost between mid April and the end of November. During the summer the climate can seem almost sub-tropical. The exotic plants this allows to thrive can be vulnerable to extreme weather. The winter of 1995/6 saw the temperature drop to -10°C for several nights, resulting in the loss of large numbers of plants at the garden. The exceptional winter of 2009/10 also saw the garden suffer significant losses. Rainfall at Logan is moderate, and in dry years there can be up to 150 rain free days each year.
The one factor in the normal climate of the area that is less than ideal from a gardener's point of view is the wind. Logan is less than a mile from the Irish Sea to the west, and the same distance from Luce Bay to the east, and the location can leave it highly exposed to salt-laden gales from either direction. This has had an impact on the way the garden has developed. The total site comprises some 10 hectares or 24 acres, but the publicly accessible areas amount to 4½ hectares or 11 acres. The remainder is given over to broad woodland shelter-belts, without which the garden could not exist in its current form. More shelter is provided within the garden itself by the resilient structural planting of southern hemisphere shrubs and trees, especially the New Zealand flax, which has proved highly tolerant of both wind and salt.
Logan's location allows it to provide a home to over 1,800 different species of plants from right across the world's temperate regions. 43% of the plants that are grown here were collected in the wild specifically for the garden, and Logan has become particularly renowned for its collections of plants from the southern hemisphere, especially from New Zealand and Tasmania.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a centre of excellence in the conservation of endangered plant species at its gardens, and around 120 of the species grown at Logan are threatened in the wild. Particularly rare plants include the Rhododendron edgeworthii and the blue flowered Chatham Island forget-me-not. Visitors can also see growing in the woodland garden a Wollemi Pine, one of the oldest and rarest trees in the world. This species was only discovered in 1994, growing in a gorge in Australia's Blue Mountains, and only 100 are known to be growing in the wild.
The story of Logan Botanic Garden starts with the McDouall family, granted lands in the area by John Balliol in 1295. They built a stronghold at Castle Balzieland, which apparently burned down in about 1500. Today only the stump of one corner of this ancient castle still stands, as a spectacular ornament in the walled garden. The family moved to another residence close by, before building the current Logan House, to the north of the garden, in 1702.
In about 1800 a walled kitchen garden was built to service Logan House, incorporating the remains of Castle Balzieland. The garden was transformed from vegetables to ornamental plants in the years after 1869 when Agnes Buchan-Hepburn married the laird, James McDouall. Agnes is said to have planted the first Eucalyptus trees at Logan, and passed on her love of gardening to her two sons, Kenneth and Douglas. The McDouall brothers became avid gardeners, acquiring many exotic plants through their own travels and from the plant hunters of the day. They also planted many of the tree ferns and palms which now so define the character of Logan.
The estate passed out of McDouall family hands in 1949 and the gardens were restored. A trust ran the estate during the 1960s and in November 1969 it was gifted to the nation. The house and gardens were subsequently purchased back by a cousin of Kenneth McDouall, Sir Ninian Buchan-Hepburn, and the walled garden and the surrounding areas were passed to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and subsequently became Logan Botanic Garden. It is worth noting that Logan House's own gardens, still under private ownership, are also open to the public from March to October: the entrance to Logan Botanic Garden is a mile and a half further if travelling from the direction of Stranraer.
Logan Botanic Garden should be an essential part of any visit to Scotland's far south west. For anyone interested in plants and gardens it forms an integral component of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's collection of gardens across Scotland, and like each of the other gardens has something very distinct to offer. In this case it is the nearest Scotland comes to the tropics (both literally and figuratively) and the result is a garden that looks and feels like no other anywhere else in the country.
But you don't need to be an expert capable of reeling off the Latin names of the plants you see to enjoy a visit to Logan. The atmosphere and exotic feel of the garden is well worth enjoying for its own sake, and the variety of areas on offer and overall manageable size, means you can simply enjoy an extended stroll through a garden that offers something new and interesting at every turn.
You enter the garden to be confronted by a magnificent display of exotic palms lining the stream. To your right is a line of attractive white buildings. These include the Discovery Centre, in which visitors can explore the world of plants, while next door to it is an attractive gallery displaying photographs of some of the garden's plants in their natural environment. Nearby is the Potting Shed Bistro, an excellent cafe capable of seating up to 48, and a similar number outside on the many warm days enjoyed at Logan.
The buildings effectively line one side of Logan's walled garden, very much at the heart of the garden. This is surrounded by walls up to 15ft high and is described by Logan as "a breathtaking celebration of the world of plants". That is a pretty good description, and even when we visited, in April and on the heels of the worst winter in living memory, the walled garden was spectacular. The humble daffodils had just passed their peak, but were ushering in the first of the more exotic plants which so characterise the garden.
The woodland garden wraps around two sides of the walled garden and offers a range of more subtle wonders, including a spectacular wall of Eucalyptus trees. Elsewhere, the Gunnera Bog was just coming to life with sprouting plants emerging in a way that inescapably brought triffids to mind. It is in the woodland garden that you begin to appreciate that the garden has been built around the sides of a shallow bowl, and the result is a range of interesting vistas that keep opening out as you complete your tour.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
STB 5 Star Garden
Port Logan, Stranraer, DG9 9ND.
Note that when approaching from Stranraer, Logan Botanic Garden is located 1.5 miles beyond the completely separate Logan House Garden.
Tel: 01776 860231.
Grid Ref: NS 139 856