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Gardens

The National Trust for Scotland tends and manages 38 important gardens and designed landscapes. We cultivate over 100,000 different kinds of plant, both native and exotic.

We’re the largest garden owner in Scotland, caring for a wealth of horticultural landmarks. When you visit a Trust garden, you’ll enjoy all manner of incredible sights and smells, as well as discover the stories of some of our country’s green-fingered trailblazers.

With properties spread from Inverewe in the north to Broughton House & Garden in the south, and from Crarae in the west to House of Dun in the east, the Trust’s gardens make a fine case study in horticultural diversity.

Big facts

  • We care for and manage 38 gardens and designed landscapes, covering 1,586 hectares of land. 
  • Trust gardens represent almost every style of Scottish garden throughout history, from the late medieval kitchen garden re-created at Culross Palace, to the Georgian expanses and layers of extravagance at Culzean Castle, and even a modern plantsman’s garden at Greenbank in Glasgow.
  • We care for 30 gardens that are walled or contained in some way. Each has something unique about it, whether it’s the produce that grows in it or its period theme.
  • We employ over 70 full-time professional gardeners. The Trust’s gardening staff are respected and renowned around the world – they spend a lot of time tending to landscapes and plants, but they also pass on their skills and experience to future generations of gardeners (and others) through our training and education schemes.
  • Every year we are helped by hundreds of volunteer gardeners, who give up their time to weed beds, paint benches, raise funds and handle plant collection records. We can’t thank them enough! Find out how to help us in our conservation of Scotland’s stunning gardens.

Why our gardens matter

Vision and artistry

Many of the Trust’s gardens and landscapes are important for their artistry and design, both old and new. We care for great examples of pioneering vision and ambition, such as Osgood Mackenzie’s Inverewe. All our gardens – and many of yours – benefit from Scotland’s heritage of intrepid plant hunters, and we still grow some of their original introductions.

The walled garden at Inverewe
The walled garden at Inverewe

Heritage and conservation

We acquired a number of our gardens and designed landscapes by stepping in to rescue those that were at risk, like in the cases of Crarae Garden and Newhailes. Our aim is to safeguard the future of important gardens, in a way that protects their stories. We try to maintain and develop them based on their creator’s vision (where it’s known). We love to tell the stories of Scotland’s contribution to gardening at home and abroad, including ground-breaking horticulturalists like Osgood Mackenzie and the famous plant collectors.

Variety of dark green plants in Crarae Garden
Rhododendron woodland at Crarae Garden

Plant collections and conservation

We look after a collection of over 100,000 plant species across our gardens. We’ve always had an important role to play in plant conservation, particularly in heritage varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers. We work with other organisations, such as Plant Heritage and their National Collections, to ensure we all conserve key species and cultivars for future generations.

Our gardeners are always happy to point you in the direction of interesting plants. Some of the plants in our care are notable for their rarity, others for their beauty, and then there are the special collections. 

Rhododendrons

There are 1,024 different species of this famous flowering plant. Many have interesting leaves and bark, but it’s in spring, when rhododendrons tend to bloom, that you can see these trees and shrubs burst into life. Some of the best Trust places to admire rhododendrons include Arduaine Garden, Brodick Castle Garden and Inverewe.

A close-up of purple Bergenia in Greenbank Garden

Plant Heritage Collections

Plant Heritage Collections worked with Plant Heritage (formerly part of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens) to identify 15 specific National Plant Collections®. These include collections of Cassiope at Branklyn Garden, Olearia at Inverewe and Bergenia at Greenbank Garden.
We conserve these varieties, traits and genetic material – and the skills required to cultivate them – for future generations to enjoy.

Malleny National Rose Collection

One of our protected National Plant Collections® is the 19th-century Shrub Rose Collection at Malleny Garden – a mixture of hybrids and naturally occurring species. This impressive rose collection was developed in the 1960s by Mr and Mrs Gore-Browne Henderson (who then owned the garden), and it continues to thrive.

A close-up of fresh raspberries from the Kellie Castle garden

Scottish fruit

There are fruit collections and orchards at plenty of Trust places, including Kellie Castle, Falkland Palace and Pitmedden Garden. There’s even a whole garden dedicated to Scottish fruit (and vegetables) at Fyvie Castle. We’ve cultivated 52 types of Scottish apple as well as every known variety of Scottish blackcurrant and raspberry. At Threave Garden, you can find a collection of rarely cultivated pears that definitely do not feature in your local supermarket!

Champion trees

The Old Holly Tree at Castle Fraser has a girth of over 3 metres and is one of the oldest holly trees in Scotland. We’re not sure of its exact age but it features in a painting that helps us to date it as a mature tree before 1842. This is just one of the many TROBI (Tree Register of the British Isles) champion trees we have in our care across Scotland – we’ve got dozens at Brodick Castle Garden alone!

Environmentally friendly gardening

Thanks to specialist surveys and wildlife audits, we know how important our gardens are to Scotland’s wildlife. It’s estimated that over 2,000 species of plants, insects, birds and mammals may live in any one Trust garden. A single mature oak tree can support over 400 different species of insects and arachnids living on it.

Our staff take great care with regard to environmental issues such as biodiversity, climate change, energy conservation, water management and the way we handle invasive non-native species. Our gardeners limit the use of pesticides in our gardens, and have almost entirely banned the use of peat-based composts.

A red admiral butterfly perches on a pink flower in Kellie Castle Garden, with a blue sky in the background.
Red admiral butterfly

Education and training

Trust gardens provide a great opportunity for us to help people of all ages become better gardeners. Training days for schools and young children, as well as guided walks led by our garden specialists, help us to share our knowledge and passion for horticulture. Our Garden Apprenticeship programme provides a work-based route into a career as a professional gardener. The Trust’s School of Heritage Gardening, founded in 1961 and based at Threave Garden, provides education and training for future generations of gardeners.

School of Heritage Gardening

The National Trust for Scotland supports GROW – an online resource that offers advice for anyone considering a career in horticulture, whether you’re interested in garden design, plant science, tree surgery or groundskeeping. 

Heritage gardeners working in the vegetable garden.
Heritage gardeners in training, working in the walled garden at Threave

Volunteering and vacancies

We’re always looking for people to help us in our gardens on a voluntary basis and we have roles for all ages and abilities. You might be looking to gain practical experience of gardening, learn some new skills, meet people or just get some exercise in a beautiful environment. From helping us research or map our gardens and record our plant collections, right through to hands–on weeding and digging, there’s something for everyone to do. Why not get in touch with your local property to see what opportunities are available locally? We also have volunteering groups and working holidays, both of which offer garden projects too.

Trust gardeners have the privilege of working in some truly inspiring gardens and designed landscapes, filled with plants and history, as well as sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors. If you’ve got the right qualifications and experience for a role, we’d love to hear from you – have a look to see if we have any vacancies.

Something for everyone

All our hard work would go to waste if we didn’t show our gardens to the world. We do everything we can to get people excited and interested in Scottish gardens and designed landscapes. For visitors with disabilities, we’ve made adjustments to our gardens (where we can) to make them as accessible and enjoyable as possible.

  • We run walks, talks, workshops and plant days.
  • We organise Teddy Bears’ Picnics for children.
  • We host cultural events such as art exhibitions and musical concerts.

Every year we welcome hundreds of thousands of people to our gardens, and we want this number to keep growing.

Two women walking in a garden.
Enjoy a walk in the garden.

100 ways

in which we’re loving and protecting Scotland, for you.

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