These two areas were originally created as two separate gardens. The alkaline grassland part was created five years after the Cryptogamic Garden, both replacing an earlier rose garden and shrub bed. Over time, the two gardens have blended into one as a result of their close proximity and because of their similar type and design.
Work began on the Cryptogamic Garden in early 1991 and it was officially opened in September 1992 by the late Magnus Magnusson OBE. It is a woodland area mainly of Betula pendula, Alnus glutinosa, Corylus avellana and other woodland plants that were collected from Saltoun Forest in East Lothian.
In this area, broken branches and leaf litter are left to encourage the colonisation of cryptogams - a convenient collective name for several groups of unrelated non-flowering organisms, such as mosses, liverworts and algae, as well as fungi and lichens.
The other part of the Ecological Garden has an area representing calcareous grassland, created in 1997 with a small rocky limestone outcrop for more lime loving species such as Gymnocarpium robertianum. Natural lime-rich habitats such as this one are present in Scotland in the north west. The turf in the grassland was originally taken from an area near Ullapool where a limestone quarry was being extended. Inevitably, the turf has lost some of its original character as it does not have the limestone underneath and more vigorous acid loving grasses have begun to thrive. To combat this, Rhinanthus minor has been introduced it is a hemi-parasitic plant depending partly on the roots of other plants for their nutrients and its introduction will hopefully reduce the vigour of the grass.
Additional species are also being added to the grassland to improve its biodiversity such as Solidago virgaurea, Cirsium heterophyllum and Anthyllis vulneriana. There are two other areas of interest, one beside the grassland on the east side where there is a collection of hybrid willows as well as some other plants which include Lychnis viscaria, Alchemilla glaucescens, Trollius europaeus and Paris quadrifolia. The other is to the north of the grassland in a semi-wooded area where there is a pond with aquatic and marginal plants such as Nuphar pumila, Lythrum salicaria, Eriophorum vaginatum and Lysimachia thyrsiflora.
Other garden features include....
- Chinese Hillside
- Glasshouse Borders
- Herbaceous Border
- Peat Walls
- Queen Mother's Memorial Garden
- Rock Garden
- Scottish Heath Garden
- Woodland Garden