June 2015

June 2015

This is the large area in the middle of the walled garden, and contains several different vegetation pattern models.

Vegetation pattern models?

Yes… you’ll find a general explanation of what those are all about on the Australia page. Basically, a vegetation pattern is an association of plants that have evolved to grow together, and form a landscape with a very specific appearance. Such as, for instance, an English oak forest. Or a northern German heathland. Or the Mindo cloud forest in Ecuador. There are huge numbers of these around the world, and they’re all very distinctive… unfortunately, humans keep interfering, and then eventually, the vegetation pattern is diluted  by invasive introduced plants, and roads, and housing, and various other destructive human practices, until it is no longer recognizable. It may still be beautiful, but it will no longer exist as itself.

As a species, we’re really a bit of a menace.

Ok… so which patterns are these?

Well, New Zealand plant associations tend to have grass in them. So you have grass, grass and scrub, grass and shrub, grass and tree… you get the idea.

In this garden, New Zealand contains one area of grass and shrub, such as you might find in Mount Cook National Park; an area of grass and scrub which my mother modelled on the vegetation of Otago and Westland; and two areas that are collections rather than models.

Those are the pool surrounds, which are planted with a collection of New Zealand plants that like stone in their growing environment; and another collection of New Zealand plants that replaced a Chatham Islands model which didn’t work. The Chatham Islands don’t like the Scottish winters, and died in 2009. You can’t win them all!

You mean… all your Chatham Island plants died?

Not every one of them, no… and those that didn’t are still in that collection. But when you’re trying to model a vegetation pattern, one of the essentials is that you can grow the key species. The ones that define the pattern. You cannot, for instance, have a eucalyptus forest model without eucalyptus. And unfortunately, when those key species do not survive, you need to scrap that particular model and think of something else!

How come you can grow Southern Hemisphere models in Scotland at all?

Well, I’m not the expert, my mother was… I think it’s a matter of choosing the right ones! She particularly loved alpine and subalpine plants, and as I understand it, those vegetation patterns grow in conditions very similar to Scotland, so it works.

Of course, some work better than others. My mother was happy to test things. If the books told her “this plant will not grow anywhere north of Watford Gap”, she would look at the conditions it grows in naturally, and try it anyway. She didn’t believe in impossible; I’m not sure she even knew what the concept means.

That’s how this garden happened.