Scottish Borders Glorious Gardens from Above


Scottish Borders

Horticulturist Christine Walkden explores gardens and countryside from a hot-air balloon. Christine's balloon odyssey takes her to the Borders region of Scotland.


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Transcript


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Britain has some of the finest gardens anywhere in the world.

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For me, it's about getting in amongst the wonderful plants that

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flourish in this country,

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and sharing the passion of the people who tend them.

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However, there's another way to enjoy a garden...

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..and that's to get up above it.

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I love ballooning because you get to see the world below

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in a whole new light.

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From up here, you get a real sense of how the garden sits

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in the landscape, how the terrain and the climate have shaped it.

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And I want you to share that experience with me.

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We are in Scotland, which makes up one third of the British Isles.

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Its scenery is hugely varied, from lowland rippling hills

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to vast rugged mountains.

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From large cities to uninhabited landscapes.

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Today, we are exploring the Border country around the great city

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of Edinburgh and there's also some rather wonderful gardens down there.

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This is the Borders, a land that has been contested for centuries.

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Steeped in history and home to the famous author,

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Sir Walter Scott, The Wizard of the North.

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A country of hills and water.

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Oh, it's just like conducting. It's like music!

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A nation bursting with enthusiasm.

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The first time you got carrots was, like,

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"Oh, my God! We've got carrots! This is the most exciting thing ever."

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And a landscape where the unusual takes pride of place.

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-What is a weed?

-Well, absolutely.

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It's just a wild flower waiting to be named.

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South of Edinburgh and north of Hadrian's Wall

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are the Border counties of Scotland.

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This is Rob Roy country.

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Desolate landscapes, wild hillsides, and heather.

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And that's precisely what I can see down there.

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Little has changed in this remote area of Scotland

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since Sir Walter Scott's day.

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And it's his home and garden that I'm visiting today.

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From up here, you can see how the house, built in the Baronial

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19th century style, sits in the landscape.

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Surrounding the house are some marvellous walled gardens,

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and integral to the estate,

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the River Tweed meanders through the garden landscape,

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a truly magnificent sight, and I just can't wait to get down there.

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For me, Scotland has always been about romantic castles,

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ice-clear rivers and burns.

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A place where people take pride in their national heroes.

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And it's all because of 19th century classic author Sir Walter Scott

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and his idyllic castle and estate.

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Abbotsford, a home, garden, and landscape that reflects

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the integrity, the passion, and wisdom of a man that enjoyed life.

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If he was alive today, he would be proud

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of what has been achieved to keep all of this alive.

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Abbotsford, in the Scottish Borders, is the early 19th century home

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of Scotland's most prolific author, Sir Walter Scott.

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It was once a 1,400 acre estate,

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with a fairy-tale castle, turrets and all, at its heart.

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But today, it's owned by the Abbotsford Trust,

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a charity established to preserve Scott's home for eternity.

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Pippa Coles manages the garden

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and she's bursting with information about its history.

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-Hi, Pippa. How are you?

-Hello, Christine. I'm fine. How are you?

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I'm fine. What are you doing down here?

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I'm just turning up a few things that have flopped over.

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The victims of rain, wind, and old age, I think.

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What challenges do you actually face carrying out all

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the work that is necessary?

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Well, we have many, many challenges.

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One is the historic fabric which has to be our first port of call.

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So, one is the beautiful walls,

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the beautiful buildings that make up the garden, the turrets...

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These things are unique to Scott and unique to Abbotsford.

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Secondly, we have the challenge of running this kitchen/garden here

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as a kitchen/garden which is how Scott would have run it.

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What a magnificent setting.

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It is absolutely stunning, and of course, Scott knew it was stunning.

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It's not just the physical setting that interested Scott, but

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it's the archaeology of the site and the stories attached to the site.

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I mean, Scott was a storyteller through and through.

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That's what he sought to do at Abbotsford

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and across the estate at Abbotsford, is tell stories.

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Is there something particularly Scottish about these gardens?

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Well, Sir Walter Scott, in some ways, invented Scottishness.

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The architecture of the house, which is called Scottish Baronial,

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was later followed in Victorian times.

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Balmoral Castle was designed along the lines of Abbotsford.

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So in some ways,

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it's the beginning of a Victorian notion of Scottishness.

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Sir Walter Scott's fame

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and early fortune were built on his writing career.

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His famous titles delved back into Scottish history,

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romanticising the turbulent past and creating the notion of Scotland

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that Queen Victoria later turned into high fashion.

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Scott was one of the last great contributors to the period now

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known as the Scottish Enlightenment,

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which had seen 18th century Scotland become a hotbed of genius.

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It was a country bursting with political and social thinkers,

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economists, architects, and artists, who still influence the world today.

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Scott's contribution was romantic Scotland, and the sale of his books

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funded his purchase of Abbotsford

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and all his gardening innovations here.

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Do these gardens really reflect what Walter Scott was about?

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I think every inch of Abbotsford is exactly what Scott is about.

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He bought Abbotsford in 1811 and in his library he's got

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a series of books all about gardens and landscapes.

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He was genning up on what he was going to do, very much

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using the best of the day, but then as always for Scott,

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jumping sideways, diving back into the past

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and trying to draw these historical associations.

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He worked incredibly hard to achieve what

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he wanted to achieve, and he saw it as a legacy.

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He saw it as something that was going to be passed on, as he did his books.

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Scott lived at Abbotsford with his family for 15 years,

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before his wife died.

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In the same year, his fortune was wiped out by a financial crash.

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Having borrowed against royalties for books yet to be written,

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he was made bankrupt.

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Scott's life potentially could have crumbled into an absolute

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disaster, but he picked himself up

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-and said that he was going to write himself out of the debt.

-Blimey.

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He had an extraordinary series of daily tasks

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and his day began at 6.00 and finished at 10.00,

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and he allotted time for correspondence,

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time for breakfast, very big breakfast.

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Time for writing,

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and then in the afternoons, he very often came out into the gardens

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or went out into the estate and physically involved himself in both.

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He saw this as part of his own psychological well-being.

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He spoke in a very modern way about how you could temper your own

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fortunes through nature as a kind of benign nurse

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and physical activity, and good living.

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The fruits of Scott's active imagination are the yairds -

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individual walled kitchen

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and flower gardens situated unusually close to the grand house.

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He wanted to create picturesque scenes for the family and guests,

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designing enticing views from one walled garden to the next.

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The South Court immediately in front of the house was laid to lawn

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with shrubbery and flower beds.

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Adjacent to it is the sunken Morris Garden,

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once known as the East Court.

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The statue is a character from Rob Roy - Morris the exciseman.

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And on the outside is the kitchen garden,

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reached by a few steps through a stone archway.

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Since Scott's death in 1832,

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Abbotsford has been home to his descendants.

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In the 1950s, Scott's eldest remaining

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great-great-great granddaughter, Patricia Maxwell-Scott,

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inherited the house.

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She lived at Abbotsford with her sister, Dame Jean, along with

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several loyal family servants to care for them and the estate.

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The last remaining member of their staff is Jeanette McWhinnie,

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who comes from a long line of Abbotsford retainers.

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I came to work at Abbotsford after having been volunteered by my mother.

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They were in desperate need for someone to help out

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in the tea room for two weeks, it was supposed to be.

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Eventually, it ended up I worked at Abbotsford the next 37 years.

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I've always liked flowers and I wouldn't say...

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I'm not an expert flower arranger by any manner of means,

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but I just like...

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..putting flowers in vases, basically.

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I'm sure there's more to it than that!

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Jeanette, you've worked here for a very long time,

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but over that period, what sort of work did you do?

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A little bit of everything. I came to work in the tea room originally.

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That lasted about five years, I think.

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Then, I went to work in the gift shop.

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I did guided tours and went to work in the office, and...

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-37 years later I was still here and retired in June.

-37 years.

-Yes.

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So what made it so special for you?

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Just like a second home. I just love the place. I love the people.

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I loved everything about Abbotsford.

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Because I knew the ladies, prior to coming to work here, as well.

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-So did you speak to the people in the house?

-Oh, yes.

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Mrs Patricia Maxwell-Scott and Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott

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were friends of my mother's anyways, so I had known them all my life.

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Wow, and what sort of a relationship did you have with them?

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-Mother and daughter.

-Really?

-Aunt. Whatever you would like to call it.

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Dame Jean was the gardener. She loved her garden.

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She'd often be found on her hands and knees in the garden, and visitors

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didn't realise that she was one of the ladies of the house, basically.

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Just really natural and I used to come out and chat with them, etc.

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Then, following Dame Jean's death, I sort of took over arranging

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the flowers in the house, just to continue the tradition that she had.

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Dame Jean had a personal flower trug for collecting blooms in the garden.

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It's been lost in recent years,

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but I think I know someone who would love one of her own!

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Beyond the walls of Abbotsford garden are the acres

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of countryside that Scott managed with his team of groundsmen.

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It was here that Scott experimented with the latest

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land management techniques.

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Phil Munro is the current estate ranger.

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Scott trialled various forestry techniques at Abbotsford,

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from planting and pruning to thinning woodlands and he published

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all of these in a journal he kept called Sylva Abbotsfordienses.

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He was very hands on with forestry.

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He was out there helping his estate factotum, Tom Pardy,

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and his labourers.

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He was said to be a very powerful wielder of the axe

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and he would compete with his men to see who could fell a tree

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with the fewest blows, and quite often won.

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Scott encouraged open access to his grounds.

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He was quite a happy for people to come

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and enjoy the land at Abbotsford.

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He also talked about the fact that people respected the grounds

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and the structures that were on it.

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There was never any damage done to anything on the estate

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for the free access that he provided.

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Today, Abbotsford is still open to the public, and Phil's role

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now includes more visitor work than the job did in Scott's time.

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Historically, the work of a forester is much about protecting

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the woodlands from poachers

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and from thieves as much as it was harvesting the timber.

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Today, it's a bit more about encouraging people to come

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and enjoy woodlands,

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and also to enhance and protect the biodiversity that's already here.

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We are looking to harvest some of these oak saplings.

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We have an area in a different woodlands where there are very

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little oak regeneration so we want to take these little saplings out,

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pop them out, and let them mature a bit to get them a bit stronger

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and then we will plant them out in the other woodland.

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The English oak is prized for its strength, durability, and longevity.

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From acorn to sapling can take anywhere between 6 to 18 months,

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with many specimens living for hundreds of years.

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Native to most of Europe and the near East, oaks have supplied

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shipwrights and builders with the stuff of their trade for centuries.

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Nowadays, oaks are not only valuable for their wood.

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They're important harbours for insects, and a diverse

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range of wildlife depends on them for their habitat and food.

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They're a sustainable resource, but when they take so long to grow,

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it's reassuring to see them managed so carefully on Scott's estate.

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I think he'd be pleased to see some of his old friends

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still growing here.

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What Scott created here is really what makes this unique.

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The landscape that Scott built, basically we want to ensure

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that that is here for future generations to enjoy.

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Today, Scott's forest stretch right down to the water,

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where there's something I've always wanted to try my hand at.

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-Look, can I come and have a go, please?

-Yes.

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I'll just go and give you a hand in the water.

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'Fly fishing on the River Tweed!'

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What an amazing setting.

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-Give me your hand, fair maiden.

-Thank you.

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HE LAUGHS

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Well, hey, this is... I've never done this.

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-I've never, ever even had a rod in my hand.

-Have you not?

-No.

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Nigel Fell is the estate's fishing ghillie.

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He's here to help hopeless novices like me, and experienced

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fishermen alike, to have a great day messing about in the river.

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-Do you want to have a go at the casting?

-Oh, yes!

-Right.

-Absolutely.

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-Now, that fly... That's very colourful.

-Yeah.

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Does it make a difference?

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Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.

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-I mean, I've caught salmon on lots of different colour flies.

-Right.

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It's a case of just on keep on fishing away

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and hopefully something happens, yeah?

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You see, I thought it would be about that big.

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No, these are salmon flies. Little tiny flies - that's for trout.

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-These are for salmon and sea trout.

-Right.

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A bit later on in the season, we will even go bigger.

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If you want to have a cast we'll get the line out

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-and I'll show you what you're supposed to be doing.

-Right.

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-So let's just try it.

-Right.

-There... There...

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-And hit it. See?

-Oh, it's just like conducting!

-That's right.

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-It's like music.

-Do you think you can manage yourself with this one?

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I'm going to have a bash if you don't mind.

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Don't be too rushy about it, just everything very easy, yeah?

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Right, round, back round, and hit it. That's it, look at that!

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-You've been doing it for years.

-Eh! No. Come on!

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SHE HUMS The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II

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-Hey... That's magic!

-Yep. That's it, lovely.

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You don't get it better than that.

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-Well, it would be better if you caught a fish.

-I was going to say...

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How does this vary from what Scott did?

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Did Scott come out and do this? I mean, the lines would have...

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Scott would have in the latter years of his life,

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he would have fished with what they call an old greenheart rod,

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but his favourite pastime was what they used to call

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'burning the water.'

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-Hm.

-Some people used to wade down the edge with a big flaming

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torch on a stick.

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Other ones used to have a boat with a big brazier

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in the back of it so it would light up the water

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and they would have a big fork called a listor,

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and when the fish came in toward the light,

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he would just stab at the fish.

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-Sort of like spear fishing.

-That's exactly right, like spear fishing.

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-Goodness.

-But then, he would pull it out.

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And that was one of Scott's favourite pastimes.

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It's nowhere near as elegant as this... Swish!

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No, this is modernisation, isn't it?

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The ghillie's craft goes back over 500 years,

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to when the produce from the estate went straight to the kitchen.

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In those early days when you caught a salmon, they killed it to eat.

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-Right, and what happens these days?

-Well, there's more conservation now.

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Most of the salmon that are caught

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are released back into the water so they can breed

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and hopefully we'll get more salmon coming back

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in a few years' time, yeah?

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Today, the ghillie's job is to manage the river,

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keeping it healthy and profitable.

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-This is how you earn your bread.

-This is my full-time job, yeah.

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SHE LAUGHS

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What I'm supposed to do is go out in the morning in greet

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the fisherman that come in.

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The knowledge I've accumulated over the years I've been on this beat,

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I show them roughly where I think the fish are going to be.

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-But you are surrounded by this all day?

-That's why I do it.

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Cos I could never sit in an office and work.

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I've always been outside all my life.

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Do you know, it's almost as good as gardening.

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No, it's better than gardening.

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In the late 17th century, England had two universities.

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Scotland had five and Edinburgh, with its medical school

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and university, had become the seat of the Scottish Enlightenment.

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It was a capital packed with great thinkers

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and some rather avant-garde gardeners.

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The second oldest physic garden in Britain,

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the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh,

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is also one of the world's most important collection of plants.

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Ian Edwards is the head of exhibitions and events.

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The Royal Botanic Garden is one of the world's great botanic gardens.

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It's up there in the top three or four botanic gardens worldwide.

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Our main role is to study plants, so currently we are looking

0:20:340:20:38

at plants in about 40 different countries around the world.

0:20:380:20:41

The original garden, founded in 1670 in the grounds of Holyrood Abbey,

0:20:430:20:48

was no bigger than a tennis court and was established to educate

0:20:480:20:51

apothecaries against the dangers of quack medicines.

0:20:510:20:55

Two Edinburgh doctors, Dr Sibbald and Dr Andrew Balfour,

0:20:560:21:01

set up the first physic garden,

0:21:010:21:03

and the idea was this plot would enable the apothecaries to come

0:21:030:21:07

along, study the plants that they were using in their medicines,

0:21:070:21:10

and make sure they got the right ones and didn't misidentify them.

0:21:100:21:14

So, that idea of identifying plants for educational purposes

0:21:140:21:18

was there right at the very beginning.

0:21:180:21:20

Of course, the garden has evolved a lot since then.

0:21:210:21:25

During the 19th century, it was very much part of the age

0:21:250:21:29

of discovery when Britain was developing colonies overseas,

0:21:290:21:33

and we supplied plants for many of the first botanic gardens

0:21:330:21:38

and plantations and other growing areas all the way around the world.

0:21:380:21:44

As the British Empire grew,

0:21:440:21:46

unidentified species arrived in the UK from newly explored territories.

0:21:460:21:51

Botanic gardens like Edinburgh were hothouses of activity,

0:21:510:21:55

as scientists described each new specimen, attaching to them

0:21:550:21:58

a unique Latin names honouring the explorers who found them.

0:21:580:22:02

Eventually, the collection outgrew its original site.

0:22:040:22:07

It's the very nature of gardens that they evolve all the time.

0:22:070:22:11

So, one thing is that they grow bigger.

0:22:110:22:13

The collections themselves expand.

0:22:130:22:16

So this garden has moved many times in the last three centuries.

0:22:160:22:21

Six years after setting up in 1670 beside Holyrood Abbey,

0:22:230:22:26

the Royal Botanic Gardens moved to what is now the famous

0:22:260:22:30

train station named after Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels.

0:22:300:22:34

And then it moved again in the 19th century,

0:22:380:22:40

growing to 70 acres of gardens in the centre of the Victorian city.

0:22:400:22:45

And it has continued to grow ever since.

0:22:450:22:48

Now, altogether there are four Royal Botanic Gardens in Scotland.

0:22:480:22:52

They're all working together to produce the plant collection

0:22:520:22:57

that can be studied here by the scientists.

0:22:570:23:00

And the work of the original plant collectors continues, too.

0:23:000:23:04

Principally, we are going out, we are collecting plants,

0:23:040:23:07

we are bringing them back here either as dried specimens

0:23:070:23:10

or for cultivation, and then we study them

0:23:100:23:13

and compare them to plants we've collected in the past

0:23:130:23:15

and, of course, continually looking for new species.

0:23:150:23:18

I think most people are quite surprised how many new

0:23:180:23:21

species there are still to be discovered.

0:23:210:23:24

So, on average, probably every week we are discovering a new

0:23:240:23:28

species of land from somewhere in the world.

0:23:280:23:30

These plants, when we get them here,

0:23:300:23:33

are made up into two main collections -

0:23:330:23:36

the dried plant collection,

0:23:360:23:38

the huge collection of plans which

0:23:380:23:40

now extends over to 3 million specimens,

0:23:400:23:43

and the collection you see around you here which is living plants.

0:23:430:23:46

Here, we've got about 16,000 species.

0:23:460:23:50

To put it in some kind of context, that's about 7% of all

0:23:500:23:54

the plants in the whole world in cultivation here.

0:23:540:23:57

The Royal Botanic Gardens were innovative in their day,

0:24:000:24:02

and the novel idea of putting unused land to good use continues.

0:24:020:24:06

Across the city, in the Fountainbridge area, a new type of

0:24:100:24:13

gardening has taken root - one that can up sticks at a moment's notice.

0:24:130:24:18

The patch of land known as the Grove used to be a brewery,

0:24:200:24:23

but the land was sold for redevelopment

0:24:230:24:25

and the brewery demolished.

0:24:250:24:27

Planning permission can take an age and the land stood empty

0:24:280:24:32

while everyone waited.

0:24:320:24:34

A group of gardening locals approached the developer with

0:24:340:24:37

the idea that they use the land as a community garden in the meantime.

0:24:370:24:41

The idea worked for both parties.

0:24:420:24:45

This idea has now expanded to two gardens.

0:24:460:24:49

One of the pioneering gardeners who's been in it from the start

0:24:490:24:53

is Stan Reeves.

0:24:530:24:55

The criteria for this garden is that it must be instantly mobile.

0:24:550:24:58

So, we've got mobile fences, mobile planters, and mobile sheds.

0:24:580:25:04

The mobile gardens are built from pallets that can be picked up

0:25:040:25:07

by forklift and moved at any time.

0:25:070:25:10

We started off with 26 people,

0:25:110:25:14

but now we've got, I think, 80 gardeners in this garden

0:25:140:25:19

and at least that number in the other garden,

0:25:190:25:22

so we probably got in the region of about 170 gardeners.

0:25:220:25:26

Myself, I come here with my grandchildren.

0:25:290:25:32

It's a great place for kids.

0:25:320:25:34

Kids come, even if you've only got a small plot.

0:25:340:25:37

In fact, even better if you've got a small plot because the children,

0:25:370:25:40

because it's at waist height, the children can get involved in it.

0:25:400:25:44

The children can see everything that's going on

0:25:440:25:46

so it's particularly good for families.

0:25:460:25:49

We have a lot of families using this.

0:25:490:25:50

I help by picking out the weeds.

0:25:520:25:55

One of the founder members, who's keen to promote the Grove's

0:25:570:26:00

organic principles to regenerate the soil, is Ruby.

0:26:000:26:04

What we are trying to do is bring greenery into the heart

0:26:040:26:08

of the city centre, and the very first up is growing your own soil.

0:26:080:26:13

So we do that through wormeries and through composting.

0:26:130:26:17

To do this as a community, it takes a while,

0:26:170:26:19

but we are building up the awareness and the skills,

0:26:190:26:23

and the love of soil which is central to any garden.

0:26:230:26:28

In a part of Edinburgh where gardens are rare,

0:26:280:26:31

the Grove welcomes everyone.

0:26:310:26:33

And these small box gardens are perfect for beginners, like Annie.

0:26:330:26:37

I wanted to learn more about gardening within a community,

0:26:370:26:40

so I wasn't just doing it on my own.

0:26:400:26:43

It's also just a beautiful place to come after work

0:26:430:26:46

just for ten minutes. It just brings you back down to earth.

0:26:460:26:50

I spend a lot of time here meeting other people as well,

0:26:500:26:53

people that maybe I would not have met without the garden being here.

0:26:530:26:57

Places like the Grove bring together people who would otherwise

0:26:570:27:00

just nod a 'good morning' to their neighbours on the stairs

0:27:000:27:03

before going off to work or, like Umair, heading to school.

0:27:030:27:07

Well, I'm picking away all the salad leaves

0:27:070:27:09

so we can use it later on for, like, lunch time, possibly for sandwiches.

0:27:090:27:14

So hopefully they taste nice.

0:27:150:27:17

I've planted, like, coriander and lettuce and everything,

0:27:170:27:21

so I think it's quite a good thing.

0:27:210:27:23

-We've got some radish, mustard here...

-Indian radishes, mustard.

0:27:230:27:27

And jute.

0:27:270:27:29

We've got some lettuce leaves over there

0:27:290:27:31

and some spinach leaves over there.

0:27:310:27:33

It gives you pleasure using the soil and the sand.

0:27:330:27:36

It's, like, a nice feeling as well.

0:27:360:27:38

When you're cooking it in your food, it looks lovely.

0:27:380:27:42

You're proud that you grew it.

0:27:420:27:45

It's really exciting cos we're not gardeners or growers of things

0:27:540:27:58

normally, so this is, like, our first experience doing it.

0:27:580:28:01

The first time we got carrots was like, "Oh, my God! We've got carrots!

0:28:010:28:06

"This is the most exciting thing ever."

0:28:060:28:08

You go home and you make soup from it.

0:28:080:28:10

It's, like, the process of doing it, seeing it from a tiny seed.

0:28:100:28:13

We started growing the tiny seeds in our house and then brought them

0:28:130:28:16

through to the garden itself and put them in.

0:28:160:28:19

The experience of watching something grow is really exciting.

0:28:190:28:22

I didn't think I would be that excited about it

0:28:220:28:24

but I was like, "No, this is really exciting."

0:28:240:28:27

With shipping containers as a tool shed

0:28:270:28:29

and somewhere to make a brew, this has to be a brilliant solution.

0:28:290:28:33

The locals have gained a garden, the developers have engaged with

0:28:330:28:36

the community, and a relationship has been built

0:28:360:28:39

based on mutual trust.

0:28:390:28:41

It's, like, very organic in itself. The actual space is really organic.

0:28:410:28:45

It's really nice to see how things move around

0:28:450:28:48

and different boxes move.

0:28:480:28:49

The thing about it is that you don't know what's going to happen

0:28:490:28:52

cos you don't know when they're going to develop it,

0:28:520:28:55

so you're just doing what you can. It's kind of living in the moment.

0:28:550:28:58

It's a cracking idea which I hope catches on.

0:29:010:29:05

Sir Walter Scott is honoured by the Scott Memorial

0:29:130:29:15

in the centre of Edinburgh.

0:29:150:29:17

The architecture of Scottish Enlightenment litters the capital.

0:29:170:29:21

It's a movement of great thinkers, artists, and writers

0:29:210:29:24

that have never really run out of steam.

0:29:240:29:27

40 miles west of Abbotsford is a very beautiful garden,

0:29:340:29:37

Little Sparta.

0:29:370:29:39

Created by another Scottish writer, Ian Hamilton Finlay.

0:29:390:29:42

It's seven acres divided up into ten tiny areas of romance.

0:29:420:29:48

It was created not as a garden, but a piece of art.

0:29:480:29:52

The poet integral to a very beautiful little space.

0:29:520:29:56

Little Sparta, in the Pentland Hills, was home to 20th century

0:30:050:30:09

Scottish poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue.

0:30:090:30:14

They spent 25 years here together,

0:30:140:30:16

building a garden that is a work of art.

0:30:160:30:18

Today, the seven acre site is owned

0:30:200:30:21

and managed by the Little Sparta Trust, established on Ian's

0:30:210:30:25

death in 2006 to preserve his vision of art and the landscape.

0:30:250:30:30

The Trust's head gardener and curator is George Gilliland,

0:30:320:30:35

and he's got quite a job on his hands,

0:30:350:30:38

managing what many of us might consider to be a weed.

0:30:380:30:41

-Hi, George.

-Hello, Christine. How are you doing?

0:30:420:30:45

-What are you doing here?

-This is a rosebay willowherb.

0:30:450:30:48

It's every other gardeners' enemy, but we quite happily let grow here

0:30:480:30:53

because it becomes part of the context of what this garden is.

0:30:530:30:58

It's an artist's garden rather than strictly speaking

0:30:580:31:01

-a horticulturalist's garden.

-Right.

0:31:010:31:04

So while we may control weeds in certain areas,

0:31:040:31:08

we also use them to our advantage because they are part

0:31:080:31:12

of the wildness that surrounds it, so we just let it in and embrace it.

0:31:120:31:18

Ian Hamilton Finlay, he was the artist here,

0:31:180:31:20

called this his 'obstreperous companion.'

0:31:200:31:23

-But you see, what is a weed?

-Well, absolutely.

0:31:230:31:26

It's just a wild flower waiting to be named, you know?

0:31:260:31:28

And also, a plant where it's not wanted.

0:31:280:31:31

This is a wild flower that is very elegant,

0:31:310:31:34

exquisitely architectural, and people say it's a weed.

0:31:340:31:38

But here, uniting the landscape with a garden,

0:31:380:31:43

with such beauty and colour.

0:31:430:31:46

Having said that, rosebay willowherb will take over

0:31:460:31:50

if you allow it to seed.

0:31:500:31:52

So what was Finlay's vision for the garden?

0:31:530:31:56

Really, it was to create an Arcadian idyll within his lifetime.

0:31:560:32:02

He started off as a poet.

0:32:020:32:06

His use of language you can see everywhere in the garden.

0:32:060:32:10

It's a garden that you have to read,

0:32:100:32:12

and I think that's one of the key ways to understanding it.

0:32:120:32:15

Throughout the gardens, you will see references to the classical world,

0:32:150:32:20

to Greece and Rome, to temples, columns, and things like this.

0:32:200:32:25

Also, references to the classical poets.

0:32:250:32:27

There are many, many layers of influence.

0:32:270:32:30

The garden developed over a period of 40 years,

0:32:300:32:34

so it gradually grew out and out and out.

0:32:340:32:38

His ideas and expressions of how he wanted our works

0:32:380:32:42

to sit in the landscape, for instance,

0:32:420:32:44

became influenced by the shape of the

0:32:440:32:46

landscape as well as what he wanted to express within the artwork itself.

0:32:460:32:50

From a young age,

0:32:560:32:58

Ian Hamilton Finlay leaned towards poetry and art.

0:32:580:33:00

His early written works were broadcast on the BBC,

0:33:000:33:03

and he published several anthologies of poetry

0:33:030:33:06

before he hit on the concept of concrete poetry

0:33:060:33:09

where the layout of the words was part of the poem.

0:33:090:33:12

The next step was carving actual words into stone,

0:33:120:33:15

so as making them concrete forever.

0:33:150:33:17

Poems as objects,

0:33:200:33:22

and objects as poems are strewn through this garden making

0:33:220:33:25

the entire seven acres an enormous work of art.

0:33:250:33:28

The influences in Little Sparta are classical Greece, love, and the sea.

0:33:300:33:35

This is a garden to be interpreted and enjoyed for its artwork,

0:33:350:33:39

rather than the horticultural design.

0:33:390:33:41

How do you see your role here?

0:33:480:33:51

It's very much conservation -

0:33:510:33:53

to keep the garden as Finlay intended it to be seen.

0:33:530:33:57

He completed the vision of how he wanted to be,

0:33:570:34:00

so it's my job now to maintain that, where other gardeners would baulk

0:34:000:34:05

at certain of my practices, they are very purposeful.

0:34:050:34:09

-I allow weeds to grow.

-Wild flowers.

-Ah, wild flowers.

0:34:090:34:15

And to understand what those do in a particular space,

0:34:150:34:19

how they relate to the artworks that sit behind them.

0:34:190:34:24

-And indeed, a lot of the planting is to do with camouflage.

-Right.

0:34:240:34:28

The plants are used as camouflage behind artworks, hiding artworks,

0:34:280:34:33

or referencing them.

0:34:330:34:35

You'll see a group of silhouettes of battleships from

0:34:350:34:38

the Second World war which were given flower names.

0:34:380:34:41

Finlay re-camouflages those by making the names into anagrams.

0:34:410:34:45

SHE LAUGHS

0:34:450:34:47

-So, it's quite a subtle idea.

-Yeah.

0:34:470:34:49

But I think the garden is very rewarding intellectually,

0:34:490:34:52

but it's also quite charming.

0:34:520:34:54

I find that the more time I spend in it, the more rewarding it becomes.

0:34:540:34:59

In 2004, two years before Ian Hamilton Finlay's death,

0:35:030:35:07

Little Sparta was voted Scotland's most important work of art.

0:35:070:35:11

This confirmed Finlay an artist, not a plantsman.

0:35:130:35:16

And this is not a garden for visitors

0:35:160:35:18

wanting to pinch a few seed heads for their own patch.

0:35:180:35:22

If they do, they'll be inundated with weeds.

0:35:220:35:25

Nick-named fireweed and bombweed

0:35:280:35:30

for its tendency to germinate in scorched earth,

0:35:300:35:33

rosebay willowherb was sometimes eaten as a vegetable in the past.

0:35:330:35:36

But today, most people see it as an invasive weed.

0:35:360:35:40

It's a tall plant with willow-like leaves,

0:35:410:35:44

which bursts into pink flowers in mid-summer and autumn.

0:35:440:35:47

If you plant it intentionally, regular dead-heading is a must,

0:35:490:35:53

otherwise the seeds will

0:35:530:35:54

float all over your garden, choking everything else.

0:35:540:35:57

But here at Little Sparta, rosebay willowherb is a valued flower.

0:36:000:36:04

Ian Hamilton Finlay was a man after my own heart.

0:36:040:36:08

Wherever you be, let the weeds go free.

0:36:080:36:12

I suppose whether you appreciate it depends on your perspective.

0:36:120:36:16

Do you think gardeners that visit understand this garden?

0:36:160:36:20

I hope so.

0:36:200:36:22

This is a place that embraces the history of landscape

0:36:220:36:25

and garden design, and uses that to express a particular ideal or

0:36:250:36:31

a particular vision of the world.

0:36:310:36:33

I think Finlay stood and stared an awful lot.

0:36:330:36:37

He probably did, but I'm afraid I can't do that.

0:36:370:36:40

-Shall we get on with it?

-Absolutely.

0:36:400:36:43

From up here, you really appreciate the solitude of Little Sparta,

0:36:490:36:52

a garden as work of art,

0:36:520:36:55

which marks the modern culmination of the Scottish Enlightenment.

0:36:550:36:59

Garden owners each have a unique relationship with their patch.

0:37:020:37:05

But they all have one thing in common -

0:37:050:37:08

a deep-seated love for their plot.

0:37:080:37:10

I've asked basket-maker Anna Liebemann Coldham to make

0:37:110:37:14

a flower basket for someone I think is very special.

0:37:140:37:17

A flower lady who loves the garden at Abbotsford

0:37:170:37:20

as if it were her own.

0:37:200:37:22

Anna's willow copse follows the principles of organic planting

0:37:240:37:27

and zero-carbon craftsmanship.

0:37:270:37:30

The ecological side for me was really, really important.

0:37:300:37:33

The thing that inspired me about it was that

0:37:330:37:35

I could go to the willow patch just with my secateurs to cut

0:37:350:37:39

some willow, come back, make a basket,

0:37:390:37:41

and that was like the entire product from start to finish with,

0:37:410:37:45

like, no fossil fuels except for the secateurs.

0:37:450:37:49

You know, the manufacture of them, and possibly some chocolate

0:37:490:37:52

that I might get eaten whilst I was harvesting.

0:37:520:37:55

Anna has been a basket weaver for the past six years

0:37:560:37:59

and grows her own willow nearby.

0:37:590:38:01

To work with something that you've grown, you tended, you've harvested

0:38:030:38:07

it, and you've been involved in the whole process from plant to product.

0:38:070:38:13

You kind of feel really proud of it.

0:38:130:38:15

Willow comes in several colours - white when it has been stripped,

0:38:180:38:21

golden if boiled before use.

0:38:210:38:24

But Anna mostly works with willow with the bark still attached.

0:38:240:38:27

Once she gets going, the process is quite quick.

0:38:320:38:36

There's no pattern, just hand and eye forming a centuries-old design

0:38:360:38:40

for a classic flower basket.

0:38:400:38:42

It's a kind of blocking weave.

0:38:430:38:45

Each stroke sort of locks down the previous stroke.

0:38:450:38:48

There's apparently about 2,000 different varieties

0:38:520:38:55

of basketry willow,

0:38:550:38:56

and that's just basketry willows, not all willows.

0:38:560:39:00

So that's quite a lot.

0:39:020:39:03

When you start curving and the whole thing sets curving in,

0:39:090:39:13

so I'm going to stand here

0:39:130:39:16

and here to keep it flat as a weave,

0:39:160:39:21

and pull this really in.

0:39:210:39:24

Because the willow is wet now, you know, it's bendy.

0:39:240:39:30

Once it dries, it'll stay in the shape you put it in.

0:39:300:39:35

This is very, very hard work.

0:39:350:39:37

It looks pretty scraggly at the moment.

0:39:450:39:47

I've just got all these bits flying off everywhere.

0:39:470:39:50

Ta-da!

0:39:590:40:01

That's it finished.

0:40:030:40:04

I think it's really beautiful.

0:40:090:40:10

I reckon the folks at Abbotsford will too.

0:40:120:40:15

Today, Scott's legacy at Abbotsford is a cornucopia of colour,

0:40:220:40:26

probably something he'd recognise.

0:40:260:40:28

Once companion to Scott's great-great-great granddaughters,

0:40:320:40:35

Jeannette McWhinnie is devoted to Abbotsford.

0:40:350:40:38

Her love for this garden oozes from every pore.

0:40:380:40:41

So, I think it's time that Jeannette's dedication

0:40:410:40:44

and floral artistry are recognised.

0:40:440:40:47

I've gathered together the team to unveil

0:40:470:40:49

a fitting tribute to Jeannette.

0:40:490:40:52

You see, this is what I think of the Scots - eating, drinking,

0:40:520:40:56

making merry. It's great. So, would you like a wee dram?

0:40:560:41:00

-Yes, please.

-And would you like some stovies?

-Of course.

0:41:000:41:02

Right, cos everybody... Look at them all! All empty glasses.

0:41:020:41:06

Off empty dishes. We've got some catching up to do.

0:41:060:41:10

-So you have some of that.

-Thank you. Cheers.

0:41:100:41:13

Mm! Oh, you see, look at that.

0:41:140:41:18

Isn't this nice? It beats a barbie.

0:41:180:41:21

Definitely beats a barbie.

0:41:210:41:24

Well, I've had a lovely day and what's really impressive

0:41:240:41:28

about this estate is that it actually speaks of Scott.

0:41:280:41:33

You know, you walk through the gardens, you walk through

0:41:330:41:36

the individual courtyards and there's a peace and serenity.

0:41:360:41:40

But also, you feel the determination and the integrity of the man

0:41:400:41:45

and the fact that he wanted to keep this estate alive, and he did.

0:41:450:41:48

And it's now your responsibility to do that,

0:41:480:41:52

and you're doing it so flipping well.

0:41:520:41:55

Jeanette, earlier you were talking

0:41:550:41:57

about your earlier years on the estate

0:41:570:42:00

and how you enjoyed coming out into the walled garden.

0:42:000:42:04

I thought it would be nice for future years that you could

0:42:040:42:08

continue the tradition of walking rather elegantly

0:42:080:42:12

through a walled garden collecting the bounty of the garden

0:42:120:42:18

and the fragrance, and the colour,

0:42:180:42:20

-but this time and for every day in a new...

-Oh, wow!

0:42:200:42:26

-Lovely.

-Oh, thank you very much. So, cheers.

-Thank you!

0:42:260:42:30

I'm sure it'll be put to good use over the coming years

0:42:300:42:34

and continue the tradition of fresh flowers from the garden.

0:42:340:42:38

-All thanks to the marvellous gardeners.

-Absolutely.

0:42:380:42:41

-So, cheers to you all.

-Thank you.

0:42:410:42:43

And let's have more whisky, more stovies, and enjoy ourselves.

0:42:430:42:47

-Thank you.

-So, a toast, a toast... Walter Scott.

-ALL: Walter Scott.

0:42:470:42:53

Born of the incandescent imagination of one man, Abbotsford could

0:43:000:43:04

so easily have been doomed to the mists of time.

0:43:040:43:07

But it's people like Jeannette and Pippa who safeguard Scott's legacy.

0:43:070:43:12

A gardening heritage that's continued

0:43:130:43:15

in the modern and the multi-faceted.

0:43:150:43:18

Gardens and gardeners like these make my world go round.

0:43:200:43:24

Christine Walkden's balloon odyssey takes her to the Borders region of Scotland, where she discovers the role art and literature play in creating memorable gardens.

At Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford she tries her hand at fly-fishing and meets Jeannette, whose family history there spans a century. At Little Sparta she explores a garden poem. And we hear how the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh came into being.