Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

BRANKLYNGDL00069

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
01/07/1987
Last Date Amended
17/01/2018
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Parish
Kinnoull
NGR
NO 12493 22603
Coordinates
312493, 722603

Branklyn is maintained and enhanced by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to preserve the ideals and legacy of its creators, Dorothy and John Renton. It has an outstanding horticultural collection that has been highly valued as a work of art since its creation.

Type of Site

A horticulturalist's garden established in the 1920s around a family home.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1922-66; 1968 - present.

Importance of Site

A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.

Work of Art

Value
Outstanding

During the 1950s, a key phase in the evolution of Branklyn, Harold Fletcher, the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, described the Rentons' garden as 'the finest two acres of private garden in the country'.  Dorothy Renton's horticultural work at Branklyn achieved renown through the award of the Veitch medal by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1954. The appreciation has endured after ownership passed to the National Trust for Scotland. In 1980, Branklyn was described as a 'Mecca for plant enthusiasts the world over' (National Primula and Auricula Society October 1980). At the time of this assessment (2017), Branklyn continues to be valued by visitors from around the world, who regularly praise the collection of rare and unusual plants.

Historical

Value
High

As a relatively recent creation, Branklyn does not preserve evidence for a particularly early form of designed landscape, neither is it associated with an important historic personality. However, it merits a high score under this category as an important example of a 20th-century horticulturalist's garden in Scotland on account of its creation by Dorothy and John Renton, and subsequent curation by the National Trust for Scotland. The garden's evolution can be clearly understood through the surviving planting scheme and structural form of the garden, and also through a detailed documentary archive. This consists of plant lists and a photographic archive left by the Rentons as a record of the garden's evolution during their ownership.

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural

Value
Outstanding

Branklyn has an outstanding collection of plants, shrubs and trees. At the time of this assessment (2017)] it holds three National Collections of Plant Heritage: the Rhododendron subsect. Taliense group; Cassiopes – e.g Cassiope wardii; and Meconopsis (large flowered blue species and cultivars of Himalayan poppy), with over 50 different types including particularly notable examples such as Mecanopsis 'Dorothy Renton'. Branklyn is also an important garden for primulas, and for 'North' Lilies'.  In addition, Branklyn has many important trees recorded in the database of the Tree Register of the British Isles, including two Britain and Ireland champions (Pinus Sylvestris 'Globosa'; Cryptomeria Japonica 'Compacta'); six Scottish and seven county champions.

 

Staff from the NTS maintain these collections to ensure that they are in good condition. There is regular contact with horticultural experts from across the UK and further afield, for example members of the 'Meconopsis Group'. A key priority (2017) is to conserve the Cassiopes but further research and restoration work is planned to recreate part of the scree garden of moraine, and the specialised planting which existed previously. Plant labelling within the garden is kept up-to-date and staff maintain an accurate record of the planting scheme on a dedicated database. Active propagation of the collection is ongoing, for example, involving students in taking cuttings of Cassiope, and in gathering seed.  Plant specimens and seed from the garden are sold from the shop on site.

 

Branklyn has an important place in the history of horticulture in Scotland, for example in Dorothy Renton's pioneering use of peat, and in the cultivation of rare plants. At the time of writing (2017), Branklyn is one of the only gardens in Scotland (one of three NTS gardens) still allowed to use peat blocks, in order to conserve this historic feature of the garden.

Architectural

Value
Little

The garden at Branklyn provides the setting for Branklyn house, an unlisted building in the Arts and Crafts style. A sundial adds architectural interest to the garden.

Scenic

Value
None

Branklyn does not make a significant contribution to the scenic quality of the surrounding landscape. It is a relatively small and secluded garden. It complements rather than contrasts with the wider setting of villas and garden grounds. There are limited inward views into the garden.

Nature Conservation

Value
Some

Although there are no nature conservation designations in place, Branklyn is managed in a way to encourage biodiversity. There are red squirrels in the garden, and bug hotels have been installed as a habitat for insects, and as an educational tool.

Archaeological

Value
Little

Ordnance Survey 3rd Edition maps (published 1931-33) show that the north west corner of the garden at Branklyn was the site of a prehistoric 'Earth House' - known as Barnhill souterrain (Canmore ID 28436). The site was partially excavated in 1904 and is understood to have been largely destroyed by the widening of Dundee Road. Archaeological potential is also indicated by the discovery in 1936 of a Roman-period bronze figurine in a garden at Orchardbank (Canmore ID 28434).

Location and Setting

Branklyn occupies a secluded location amidst 19th-century villas and their garden grounds. It is set back above the eastern bank of the River Tay around 2.1km east of Perth city centre. The garden site extends to around 2 acres (0.8 hectares) and is bounded to the west by the A85 Perth to Dundee road, and by Kinnoull Hill rising 222m to the east. Dorothy Renton (1956) described fine views of the River Tay and the distant hills beyond. At the time of writing (2017), growth of the tree canopy has significantly obscured outward views except towards the Ochil hills from the high ground at the south of the garden.

 

Branklyn house and the National Trust shop and small plant nursery are situated amidst trees, close to the entrance to the property. The main gardens extend to the south and southwest of the house, across a sloping, rectangular-shaped plot of former orchard land. The site's naturally acidic soil and substrate provide the necessary growing conditions for the diverse range of rare and unusual plants and flowers that flourish at Branklyn.

Site History

In 1922, Dorothy and John Renton acquired overgrown orchard land from the nearby former nursery at Orchardbank. They built Branklyn house as their home and set about clearing weed growth to create their garden.

 

Interested in botany though inexperienced in garden design, the Rentons received assistance from Jim Aitken, a son of the owner of Orchardbank. Aitken later went on to become a well-known Scottish naturalist and landscape gardener.

 

The garden at Branklyn was originally set out as a retaining wall and terrace around the house, with beds of roses and tulips for colour, and plants in stone troughs. A rock garden was established on the steep slopes next to the house and running water from a spring was incorporated into a small stream with pools for water lilies and bog plants. In 1925, the Rentons demolished a tennis court to allow for the enlargement of the rock garden. Boulders quarried from Kinnoull Hill were transported to Branklyn. They introduced a scree bed, made of five parts Tay River gravel and one part loam as recommended by the renowned rock gardener Reginald Farrer, author of the English Rock Garden (1914).

 

The garden expanded southwards over the next thirty years as the Rentons' vision and skills evolved and they acquired new areas of orchard. John Renton constructed and designed the garden with some well-shaped fruit trees retained to provide structure. Dorothy Renton became renowned for cultivating new plants. Some of these were derived from seed collected from the Himalayas, (mainly Tibet, Bhutan and China), by renowned plant hunters such as George Forrest, Frank Ludlow and George Sherriff, with whom the Rentons were in contact. Dorothy Renton herself gathered seed during holidays to the Alps. In 1954, her prowess with the introduction of new plants was recognised by award of the Royal Horticultural Society Veitch memorial medal.

 

Dorothy and John Renton died in the 1960s and Branklyn was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1968. During the 1980s-1990s the horticultural collection continued to evolve. For example, Branklyn took on the complete collection of Mylnefield hybrid lilies ('North' lilies) by the late Dr Christopher North, of the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute. Branklyn house remains (2017) in private use but the garden is maintained and enhanced to preserve the ideals and legacy of the Rentons, to curate their plant collections and archive, and to make this accessible to the public.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Rentons built Branklyn house in 1922. It is a 2 storey house in the Arts and Crafts style. Immediately to the north of the house are a brick-built 'Alpine House' and greenhouse for plant propagation, and a cold frame. The National Trust reception and shop stands at the entrance to the garden. It is a small modern building of timber construction.

 

On the south side of the house, a tea-room opens onto a stone-paved terrace with plant-filled, original stone troughs. This terrace overlooks the garden, with views down to the pond and rock garden; along a straight, stone-walled shrubbery bed and path towards an ornamental sundial; and outward, to winding paths that lead the eye towards the garden beyond.

The Gardens

Branklyn house is surrounded by large, mature trees planted shortly after the Rentons' arrival. These include Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' (Hornbeam), Pinus sylvestris 'Globosa' (Scots Pine), Betula pendula 'Laciniata' (Swedish birch), and a Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis (northern Chinese red birch).  The planting scheme along the west wall of the house retains many specimens described by Dorothy Renton (1956) including Cydonias, Ceanothus Veitchianus, Viburnum plicatum, and Leptospermum. There are Lewisias in the walls next to the terrace, where original troughs have been refurbished to improve their drainage. These contain re-planted specimens of the original Paraquilegia anemonoides grown from seed collected by Ludlow and Sherriff.  

 

The main garden lies to the south of the house, with a beech hedge along the eastern boundary providing shelter. Occupying sloping ground close to the house, an extensive rock garden is planted with a wide variety of Alpine, American and Himalayan species that grow in peat, between large boulders and gravel. Specimens include the collection of cassiopes, alongside primulas, daphnes, gentians and saxifrages; also other plants of Paraquilegia anemonoides and rare specimens (e.g Shortia). Dwarf conifers of pine, Cryptomeria and spruce add variety and contrast. At the time of writing (2017), there are plans to restore the former scree garden and its planting.

 

Close to the rock garden and the lower lying western boundary of the garden, a small pond is fringed by water plants and trees including Gingko biloba and Wollemia (Wollemi pine). The water supply to the pond can be turned on and off and is fed from above by a small, artificial waterfall.

 

The remainder of the garden consists of mixed shrub and plant borders with winding paths that meander at different levels throughout the garden, including one grass path between a pair of Japanese maples. The beds are filled with complementary mixed planting: candelabra primulas combine with lilies, mecanopsis, hostas, adjacent to rhododendron, azaleas and early flowering vibernum. Trees provide structure including a Pyrus (pear) and a wild cherry or gean tree, retained from the orchards which existed on the land prior to the Rentons' ownership. Other notable tree specimens introduced by the Rentons include Syringa (lilac), Acer davidii (maple), a Prunus serrula (tibetan cherry), a substantial Magnolia wilsonii (Wilson's magnolia), and Pinus wallichiana (Bhutan pine).

 

The walls and banks in some of the garden terraces are made of peat blocks.  Peat was a material that was widely available in Scotland during the Second World War (1939-45) and Dorothy Renton played a significant role in pioneering use peat for horticulture.  She found that well-dried peat blocks held up the terraces, retained moisture, provided a well-drained acid environment, and allowed further space for a variety of plants to grow in shadier and cooler parts of the garden. In one of the peat beds, larger rhododendron species (e.g Rhododendron loderi hybrids) protect smaller plants such as Arisaema (an Asiatic species) and lady's slipper orchid.

References

Bibliography

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 157924.

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 28434; 28436.

Maps, plans and archives

Ordnance Survey 3rd edition published 1931-33.

Printed sources

Hellyer, A.G.L (1976) A living tapestry created. Branklyn, Perth, Tayside. Country Life August 12 1976. p.406

Renton, D. G. (1959) Dwarf Rhododendrons at Branklyn Perth. Rhododendron & Camellia Yearbook.

Renton, D. G. (1952) The Smaller Garden, Branklyn Garden, Perth. Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, LXXVIISept 1952.

Duncan, A. (1980) National Primula & Auricula Society (Southern Section) Oct 1980

Greenoak, F. (2005) The gardens of the National Trust for Scotland. London.

Online sources

Donald, D. (1995) Gardens of the National Trust for Scotland. Journal of the American Rhododendron Society, 49.3. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JARS/v49n3/v49n3-donald.htm

Dorothy Graham Renton, bibliography. http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/person/2352

National Trust for Scotland – Branklyn Garden https://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Branklyn-Garden/ (accessed 06/12/2017).

The Tree Register of the British Isles - database of notable and ancient trees in Britain and Ireland: http://www.treeregister.org/champion-trees.shtml [Accessed 07/10/2017]

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s). The format of records has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries about development proposals, such as those requiring planning permission, on or around inventory sites should be made to the planning authority. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications of this type.

Find out more about the inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

Images

Branklyn sundial.  Looking south from the terrace garden. Colourful flower beds and a grass path. Cloudy day.
Branklyn rock garden. Boulders, gravel, and colourful rock garden plants.
 Branklyn, peat blocks to edge shrub beds. Lilies and dwarf rhododendrons.
Branklyn, close up of lilies. Orange/purple flowers. Green foliage behind.
Branklyn. Meconopsis in flower. Blue flower. Surrounding green foliage.
Branklyn house and terrace garden, looking north, during daytime, on a cloudy day.
 Branklyn House. Terrace. Stone troughs with plants. Flower beds.
Candelabra primula. Branklyn. Orange flowers and surrounding green foliage.
Map

Printed: 17/10/2018 06:39