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Scottish Gardens
South Bantaskine, Stirlingshire


HOUGH the plain hums with dirt-producing industry and the west wind darkens the sky with the smoke of a thousand furnaces, yet on clear days the main features of the prospect from the drawing-room windows of South Bantaskine are as grand as they were on that far-off summer day when Wallace's brief, but immortal, career was wrecked by Edward of England (22nd July, 1298), or on that nearer winter day when the star of the Stuarts blazed in dying splendour, and General Hawley's red-coated columns were scattered before the impetuous onset of Lord George Murray's Highlanders (17th January, 1746). For it is here, on the very battle-ground of Falkirk, that the ladies of Bantaskine have furnished their borders with the choicest and brightest blossoms, whereof one of them, Miss Mary Wilson, has prepared the pretty glimpse in Plate XII.

"For life is kind, and sweet things grow unbidden,
Turning the field of strife to bloomy bowers;
Who may declare what secrets may lie hidden
Beneath that veil of flowers?"

Yes, the foreground is greatly altered ; and the great central plain of Scotland, which lies around, is tunnelled with mines, punctuated with tall black chimneys and scored with rattling railroads; but beyond all this to the north stand, as of yore, the domes and crests, the cones and cusps, of the Grampians and nearer Ochils.

The spring flush of colour was on the wane and the summer splendour not fully aglow, when I saw this garden; nevertheless, the scene was very fair; for these ladies aim at the fulfilment of Bacon's ideal when he wrote—"I do hold it, in the royal ordering of gardens, there ought to be gardens for all the months of the year; in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season."

To attain this end the guardians of this place of flowers rely on the commonest material—tulips, hyacinth, narcissus, arabis, myosotis and wallflower in spring—lupins, roses, poppies, pansies and such like in summer. The botanist's borders are apt to appeal only to the elect; where decorative effect is the aim there is nothing to equal the old favourites.

More ambitious, and more laborious to be carried out, is the design which these ladies have undertaken in converting a disused quarry into an alpine garden. It will be a rockwork on a Cyclopean scale. A vast vertical cliff of carboniferous sandstone bounds it on one side, at the foot of which is a fine jumble of fallen boulders and shattered shale. No material could be finer for the purpose, but it makes one's back ache to think of the amount of weeding that will be required; for none but those who have put it to the test may realise, not only the incessant diligence which must be exercised to extirpate such vulgar things as pearl-weed, Marcantia, sow-thistles, etc., but also the vigilance to prevent Aubrietia and Aren aria smothering such delicate growths as Androsace and Dianthv.

I have said that there are not many rare or out-of-the-common plants cultivated at South Bantaskine; one shrub, however, deserves notice as evidence of the climatic capabilities even of this district, which is about the coldest of any at similar elevation in the Scottish Lowlands. Rhododendron Thomson, one of the most brilliant of a class usually reputed too tender to endure northern winters, has attained a height of eight feet, with a goodly circumference, and looks as if it only required a liberal application of stimulating diet to flower profusely.


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