Meet the Professionals

An interview with… Catherine Erskine, Discover Scottish Gardens

Kailzie Gardens Snwodrops

A new resource for visitors to Scotland, with an interest in gardening, has recently been launched. We caught up with the Discover Scottish Garden‘s Chair, Catherine Erskine, to find out more about the project and the popular Scottish Snowdrop Festival.

Discover Scottish Gardens is a new project, opening gardens across the country to the general public. Tell us a little about how the idea came about.
The idea came from the success of the Scottish Snowdrop Festival which I started in 2007 and which allows gardens and woodlands from all over Scotland to participate. It was clear that marketing in a bigger group, supported by Visit Scotland, was the way forward. Area marketing groups have succeeded in some areas of Scotland where there have been sufficient gardens to fund these schemes, but have always struggled to keep going and have depended a lot on volunteers to manage them.

The scheme is operated through your DSG website. How does this site work?
It allows visitors to plan their trips to gardens and nurseries geographically. It also allows groups, planning well in advance, to find gardens not often open to the public, but who are prepared to open for group bookings.

Over 300 gardens open to the public feature on the website. What kind of range of gardens can people expect to see?
Scotland is unique in that in the same country, just a few hours apart, visitors can see West Coast gardens with their mild climate and wonderful range of Himalayan plants and Rhododendrons, and by the drier East Coast gardens where roses flourish.

Do you have any favourite gardens among them?
So difficult to choose. Carolside for old fashioned roses, Shepherd House in Inveresk for its beautiful design and planting, Glenwhan for the views and unusual trees and shrubs, Attadale for Rhodendrons which I can’t grow, Cluny gardens for the Himalayan Poppies and of course Cambo!

What are the main styles of garden design in Scotland, and how do they vary across the country?
This is impossible to answer! Scotland’s gardens are so diverse. Formal gardens with topiary, woodland gardens, prairie gardens, and cottage gardens are all represented.

You also promote events, including the current Scottish Snowdrop Festival. What are some of the highlights of this event?
A variety of unique experiences will be on offer. Cambo is holding creative activities for all the family – snowdrop origami, nature crowns, clay sculpting, and plant pressing. Craigengillan Estate offers a night sky observatory experience with an atmospheric night-time display of snowdrops. At Cringletie House, you will be served snowdrop scones with afternoon tea throughout the festival, and Abriachan Garden Nursery boasts over four acres of exciting plantings with winding paths through native woodlands and views over Loch Ness. Check out the Discover Scottish Gardens website for more details.

Snowdrops are one of the UK’s favourite plants. What do you think is the main reason for their appeal?
Snowdrops are a symbol of hope, a sign that spring is on the way. After a winter like this one, we need it!

Some snowdrop bulbs fetch huge amounts of money. Are there any carefully guarded, rare specimens to be found in any of the gardens taking part?
There are several gardens that have a collection of specialist bulbs, but the value of bulbs is best not promoted as it encourages theft – so far, not a problem in Scotland, but it is in England.

Scotland is known for its spectacular natural landscapes, as well as immaculate garden designs. What would be the perfect setting for your ideal garden, and how would you best enjoy it.
Having lived for 40 years at Cambo where the land is almost entirely flat, I would love a garden with a slope and wonderful views over hills.

For more information visit

Discover Scottish Gardens Chair

Above: Catherine Erskine.
Main image: Kailzie Gardens

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