Robin’s Oak Trees Live on at the Binns

Former MSP Robin Harper, now on the Board of the National Trust for Scotland, is gifting one of the Trust’s most iconic properties with a batch of oak tree seedlings and saplings.

Robin Harper, Scotland’s first ever Green Party MSP, has a secret hobby of growing oak trees from seed. Since recently joining the Board of the National Trust for Scotland, he was keen to see his seedlings find homes in Trust properties to celebrate the Trust’s eightieth anniversary and offered up to 50 young trees through the Trust’s newsletter. First to respond was Sir Tam Dalyell, on behalf of The House of The Binns.

The gift will ensure the continuation of native species of oak within the ancient landscape surrounding the property. Many of the existing trees are in their prime at 250 years old but others haven’t survived and the young trees can be planted within existing cattle guards.

Sir Tam Dalyell says, “I shalln’t be around to see them mature but, provided they’re not killed off in an early fierce winter, they will make a wonderful contribution to the environment. Oaks are host to many species of insects that provide food for birds. They are really marvellous trees.”

Robin’s garden in the centre of Edinburgh is the size of three school classrooms but he says, “It’s extraordinary what you can do with a small garden. I grow the trees in an area the size of a kitchen.”

Robin sticks to oak trees which he describes as the king of trees. “It’s wonderful when you think of all the things you can do with it from furniture to ships.

“The Edinburgh grey squirrel is my worst problem,” he says, “so I have to germinate them in trays of home made compost under my desk. From there they go into yoghurt pots and then to various plastic bottles. They’re quite happy there until they’re 5 or 6 feet high. I’ve occasionally had a little fungus which I’ve cleaned off painstakingly leaf by leaf with soap spray.”

Robin has been doing this for 16 years and during that time has provided around 700 specimens which have been planted all over Scotland, from Loch Awe to the Water of Leith and recently Scottish Water’s  Glencorse plant.


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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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