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October 9, 2013

Claims to fame

There’s real value in small towns being renowned for something. Anything, so long as it makes people want to visit – just ask Wigtown or West Kilbride. Forfar has been associated with its famous bridie for as long as anyone can remember although whether anyone travels to the Angus town specifically for a piece of pastry is hard to say. But Forfar has another claim to fame which locals believe is just as worthy if not more so.   An exotic community garden has been planted to honour the town’s five famous sons.


Claim to fame 

For over a year, the Friends of Forfar Botanists have worked tirelessly to revive the town’s old Myre car park, transforming it into a vibrant community garden that celebrates the work of five of the world’s most renowned botanists — all of whom hail from the Angus town.

According to Eleanor Gledhill, the chairwoman of the community venture, the great legacy of Forfar’s famous botanists has for too long remained largely and disconcertingly unknown. She’s hopeful the town’s exotic botanical garden will start to change that.

“The whole idea is to bring attention to the five famous botanists who came from Forfar,” she said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of plants named after these five guys, all of which came from very humble beginnings in Forfar, and many of the locals here don’t know anything about them.”

Forfar’s botanists have certainly celebrated plenty of success amongst them.

Throughout the 1800s, Forfar brothers Thomas and James Drummond trekked across North America and Australia, discovering thousands of new plant species.

Meanwhile, Forfar natives George Don Sr and son Jr travelled across Africa and South America cataloguing exotic new species, while David Don was the first person to catalogue all the known plants of the Himalayas

After expressing a desire to transform one of Forfar’s most unkempt areas into an exotic living monument to the town’s botanists, the Angus Environmental Trust agreed to help sponsor the ambitious project.

The land for the garden was leased by owners the Forfar Common Good Fund, and work was able to commence at the end of last year.

Ian Christie, an expert on alpine plants, has been in charge of the planting.

“This project has really been going since last autumn, with several members of the community coming out to help with building structures and planting the hundreds of species we’re including that are all named after these guys,” he said.

Although many of the garden’s exotic plants are not yet in bloom, the Friends chose to give the public a sneak preview today by hosting garden tours and recounting stories of the botanists.

The Drummond brothers were even represented, as descendent James Drummond conducted a symbolic planting in the garden with his two daughters. The public can expect the Myre Garden to celebrate its official opening next spring.