Author: Brenda Jennings

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Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 at 2:20 am
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Gardens

Suntrap Garden

Tucked away peacefully, up the back road from Ratho to Gogarbank, the Suntrap Garden lies, in predatory wait, ready to stun the next unsuspecting visitor. Full of interesting nooks and crannies, walkways and features, doocots and follies, colour and harmony, the garden subtly invites you into its bosom.

Suntrap Open DayAs you progress through its glorious array of timeless shrubs and flowers, you become more and more entranced. That the sun was a welcome guest throughout their last open day in May, was the icing on the cake for the myriad of visitors who pleasurably swarmed over the garden as it totally lived up to its name. Live music, plant sales at remarkably reasonable prices and aesthetic delights at every turn, made the day a success for all.

Suntrap was created in1957 by George Boyd Anderson, who lived in Suntrap House. This innovative and philanthropic character was a very keen amateur gardener who was interested in the use of solar energy and insulation. These he incorporated in the garden buildings, hence the name ‘Suntrap’. After Anderson’s death in 1972, the garden was bequeathed to the ‘National Trust for Scotland’ and ‘Lothian Regional Council’, to provide an advice centre for amateur gardeners and a facility for horticultural education.

Suntrap Plant SalesIn 1984, the upkeep of Suntrap Garden became the responsibility of the horticultural staff at Oatridge College in Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, with the help of the ‘Friends of Suntrap’. ‘Friends of Suntrap’ are a bunch of enthusiastic gardeners who support the work of the college and the garden, and regularly meet at Suntrap organising events and helping with open days. During the months of May to September, the ‘Friends’ man the garden on Sunday afternoons where they are happy to chat to the public and answer their questions.

Suntrap covers three acres, and, as the name suggests, is south facing, encouraging and entrapping the heat of the sun throughout the day. Designed and laid out in distinct areas, the garden is easy to negotiate through the network of connecting paths. The many smaller gardens, which comprise the large garden, are linked by the pathways which constantly reveal one more breath-gasping sight round each bend. The variety of situations and aspects produce plants suited to shady, damp, sunny, wooded or exposed areas, giving ideas for, or solving problems often encountered in, domestic gardens.

Suntrap PondExcellent teaching and demonstration facilities can be found within Suntrap Garden, including classrooms, a potting shed, glasshouses, polythene tunnels, propagation facilities, a small reference library and practical outdoor areas. Talks, practical classes and lectures were held throughout the year. In 2001 the garden became a ‘Centre for Life Long Learning’. However, in 2010, Oatridge relinquished ownership which reverted back to the Trust and it is now due to be sold.

The Friends of Suntrap and the members of the Save Our Suntrap (SOS) Group have been managing the garden for the last 2 years, maintaining it, manning and keeping it open to the public, offering advice and plant sales.  Although regular classes have not been available, there has been a programme of events and visits. Some practical classes have been offered at events.  Currently, there is a class for disabled youngsters with learning difficulties, financed by money raised by Friends of Suntrap from a charitable fund, and meetings of a botanical art group.

You can join the ‘Friends of Suntrap’ for an annual subscription of £10. Website: www.suntrap-garden.org.uk

The Garden is open to the public on Tuesdays, Fridays (10.30 to 16.00) and weekends (12.30 to 16.00)

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