The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the world’s leading botanic gardens. Visitors can discover a history dating back nearly 350 years, learn about its plantings and walk around 70 acres of beautiful landscape. A pleasure for all the family, the Garden also offers a fantastic view of the capital’s skyline.
RBGE’s tree collection stands as testament to the good husbandry and infinite wisdom of generations of horticulturists who have tended the Garden over the centuries.
The oldest trees in the collection have stood witness to the development of the Garden and predate its arrival at the site in Inverleith. Look out for the venerable sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in the Rock Garden. Other highlights include the cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), near the Glasshouses which dates from 1826 and is one of the earliest trees to be planted by RBGE staff, and the extremely rare Catacol whitebeam (Sorbus pseudomeinichii) by the East Gate.
There are just over 3,500 trees in the Garden, comprising more than 730 species from 56 families. Around two-thirds of the trees are of known wild origin.
RBGE has been the major centre for rhododendron research since the late 19th century. Together, the collections in our four Gardens – Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan – comprise one of the world’s richest assemblage of species rhododendrons. Around half of all the 1,000 known species are cultivated in the Gardens and include most of the temperate species and over one-third of those known in the tropics.
Around one-third of all rhododendrons, over 300 species, belong to the subgenus Vireya. RBGE has the largest cultivated collection of Vireya rhododendrons in the world. As natives of the mountains of South East Asia, most like a cool, moist, frost-free evironment. These plants thrive indoors in the Montane Tropics Glasshouse.
Climb to the viewpoint at the highest point of the Garden and you will be rewarded with views over the Rock Garden and of Edinburgh’s spectacular skyline, a stunning backdrop to the collection of over 5,000 plants from the world’s mountains, as well as Arctic and dry rocky Mediterranean habitats. There are concentrations of plants from Chile, China, Europe, Japan, North America and South Africa.
Among the highlights are colourful spring flowering bulbs including dwarf daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses. Late spring and early summer sees the peak flowering of the dwarf rhododendrons and alpines throughout the area. At this time the true high alpines are at their best, from the European Pulsatilla to the North American Penstemon. Autumn highlights include the flowering of the numerous Colchicum species and the needles of Pinus sylvestris ‘Aurea’ turning from green to golden-yellow.
The Woodland Garden was extensively developed in the 1930s and 1940s, with large conifers planted to create a suitable microclimate for the rhododendrons and other woody plants that were being introduced from the Himalayas and China. The area is divided into the Upper and Lower Woodland Garden.
The Upper Woodland Garden is home to some magnificent trees, including the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) – among the world’s tallest tree species. A circle of giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) creates a cathedral-like atmosphere, making this a popular location for outdoor weddings and other ceremonies. These redwoods, planted in the 1920s, have now reached over 24 m in height. In 1990, the grove was renamed the John Muir Grove, honouring the Scots-born writer, explorer and conservationist who founded the US National Park system.