Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary – Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Botanic Blue Bridge

In the lockdown during the Covid-19 virus, we have been lucky to have a spell of prolonged dry, sunny weather. Very unusual for Scotland and even facing a drought. My friend, who lives in rural Perthshire was concerned that her private water supply was running low. Anyway, I am writing about my visits to the parks in the Glasgow’s West End – this month Glasgow Botanic Gardens. I visited the Botanics regularly when I was young and have a feeling of nostalgia when I go there now. They are located in the heart of the West End by the River Kelvin and have a variety of plant collections, woodland copses and riverside walks as well as palm houses and the Kibble Palace.

Kibble Palace

John Kibble was a Victorian entrepreneur and eccentric. He was the only man ever to have bicycled across Loch Long on floats! Kibble erected the glass palace at his home on the shores of Loch Long. The architects of what originally was known as ‘The Kibble Crystal Art Palace,’ were John Boucher and James Cousland. In 1871 Kibble entered into negotiations to have the structure dismantled and moved by barge to Glasgow where it was to be reconstructed in the Botanic Gardens. It was much enlarged at the time of the move with the addition of the large circular dome 150 feet in diameter and the extension of the transepts to form an impressive front elevation. The new palace opened in 1873. Then its interior was lit by 600 gas lamps which could be coloured for effect. When it is lit up from the outside at night, it reminds me of a UFO!

Moody and Sankey

Moody and Sankey were North American evangelists who toured Scotland on a number of occasions. In May 1874 a meeting in the Kibble Palace was arranged. By the time Moody arrived there were so many people both inside and outside the Palace he had to preach from the back of a horse-drawn cab. Estimates of the time say 6,000 people were inside the Palace while a vast throng of between 15,000 and 30,000 were outside. The two greatest British politicians of the Victorian era were installed as rectors of Glasgow University in the Kibble Palace. Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield in 19th November 1873 and William Ewart Gladstone in December 1879.The purchase of the Kibble Palace for the Botanic Gardens led the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow into serious financial difficulties. The tree fern collection was planted in the 1880’s and today forms a National Collection. You can read more on the Botanic Gardens website
Unfortunately, all of the Glass Houses are closed during the lockdown.


The arboretum is within the park on the other side of the River Kelvin. My favourite tree there is a Chinese Acer with a red bark and red branches. It is a beautiful symmetrical shape and stands on its own looking very fine and handsome. It is part of the maple family of trees and is common in Japan and China. The redness is triggered by cold spells so the colour is vibrant in spring. The Gardens’ arboretum has seen around a hundred new trees being planted into it over the last year. The most recent trees have been a varied selection of Pines, Sorbus (Rowans) and Acers. It is hoped that these trees will be in the Gardens for many years to come to be enjoyed by future generations.


Running around the trees were grey squirrels. Although they look cute they are considered as vermin in Scotland as they pose a threat of a virus to their much lighter red cousins which are a native of Scotland. The grey squirrel was introduced to Great Britain from North America in the mid-19th century and increased dramatically in numbers. Today, the population is estimated at two million. The red squirrel population is estimated at only one hundred and sixty one thousand. I have never seen a red squirrel in the city.

River Kelvin

On the way to the Botanic Gardens, I crossed over Kirklee Bridge and looked down onto the river where people were paddling in the water as it was a nice sunny day. The bridge is very grand and is one of the city’s finest bridges. It is made of red sandstone and polished pink granite. Charles Forres built the bridge in 1899 and one of the spandrels has the City of Glasgow Coat of Arms.
There is an elegant B listed pedestrian bridge now painted blue to cross back over the river from the walkway to the Gardens and was built in 1908. It is featured In Kelvin Bridges from the Institution of Civil Engineers

Flint Mill

Along the river, there are the ruins of a flint mill. The North Woodside Mill was built on the north bank of the River Kelvin opposite the area now occupied by the Botanic Gardens. It was described as a barley mill when it was offered for sale in 1758. The man-made channel (called a lade) on the left of the ruined walls carried water to the mill wheel. In 1846 Kidston, Cochran & Co of the Verreville Glassworks built a flint mill on the site of the derelict buildings. It stood until the mid-1960s and the ruins of the kiln, lade and other surviving features have been preserved as features on the Kelvin Walkway.
The Kelvin Walkway leads to Kelvingrove Park which will be my next blog.

I hope you are enjoying my journey down memory lane in these West End park blogs.

Update on Binghams Pond

The swans now have six cygnets on the pond. Down from the ten last year but still a good number. The flag irises have flowered with a beautiful yellow swathe of colour around the pond.
Thanks to John Crotty for the photo of the cygnets.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

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