The sun shone brightly throughout an informal visit by HRH, The Princess Royal, to Dawyck Botanic Garden, near Peebles, on Wednesday, July 23. Welcomed to the Garden by Sir Muir Russell, Chairman, and Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper, of Dawyck’s parent organisation, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), the VIP guest was introduced to the Garden by Curator Graham Stewart, who provided insight into the history, present day activity and future ambitions of the 65-acre site.
Key points of interest during a relaxed 50-minute walkabout included the recently-commissioned hydro scheme, which is already showing electricity savings for the Garden, and the iconic Dutch Bridge. Along the route the Regius Keeper and Curator briefed their royal visitor on Dawyck’s role as a visitor attraction, employer and centre of excellence in horticulture and conservation research.
Being introduced to staff, supporters and volunteers, the Princess demonstrated her own awareness of challenges facing the environment when she spoke of the impact of non-native invasive species, such as Rhododendron ponticum, and the growing threat of pathogens including sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) and ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea).
To mark the event for posterity RBGE Director of Horticulture and Learning, Dr David Rae, invited Her Royal Highness to plant a young Sequoia sempervirens, or coast redwood, collected in the wild by staff member Robert Unwin during fieldwork in California. Farewells were conducted in Dawyck’s award-winning visitor centre before the Princess Royal left to undertake other visits in the area.
Simon Milne later commented on the importance of such an occasion: “Dawyck Garden is such a wonderful place to visit, thanks to the dedication and hard work of its team of staff and volunteers and support from its network of Friends. The royal visit provided well-deserved recognition to the team and we were all delighted to have had the opportunity to welcome The Princess Royal to Dawyck and to share with her this magical Garden in the Tweed Valley.
“The Princess Royal was extremely complimentary about the work at Dawyck and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and praised staff for their skill and efforts. In this context, topics discussed ranged from dealing with invasive non-native species and plant health issues to the propagation of trees and the global role of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in plant conservation”.
His remarks were echoed by those of Graham Stewart, who added: “To have the Garden recognised by Her Royal Highness means a great deal to everyone at Dawyck. As a team, we strive to present the best in horticultural and environmental practices and to extend a warm welcome to everyone with an interest in visiting”.