From the early glories of the huge banks of crocuses and daffodils which herald the arrival of spring along the River Dee to the formal rose gardens in Hazlehead Park and the wildlife havens in its nature reserves, Aberdeen is a City in Bloom. Its reputation as floral capital of Scotland has spread throughout the world – through word of mouth by our visitors and from the city’s involvement in national and international competitions.
Hazlehead Park is popular with residents and visitors alike
Aberdeen’s record in Scotland is unbeaten – winner of the Large City category in Beautiful Scotland in Bloom every year since 1968, 20 times overall Scottish winner and 10-time winner of the overall Britain in Bloom title.
More recently it has been involved in the international Community and Nation in Bloom events, competitions which have singled out the city’s parks as being worthy of particular praise.
There are 45 parks in Aberdeen, many of these award winners in their own right, and 30 countryside sites including four local nature reserves which have also been recognised at competition level for the role they play in enhancing the quality of life in Aberdeen. Another significant area is the coastal footpath from Nigg Bay to Cove, an important setting for both sea birds and maritime plant species.
In 2002 one of the city’s smallest parks, Johnston Gardens in Seafield, gained the distinction of being named the best public park in Britain. A real hidden treasure, the one hectare park features waterfalls, ponds, rockeries, rustic bridges, towering trees and a glorious variety of plantings which combine to provide a sanctuary for wildlife including several species of duck.
A walk in the Duthie Park Winter Gardens
Seaton Park near St Machar Cathedral has also caught the eye of Bloom judges over the years. Among its outstanding features is the superb Cathedral Walk which is at its finest in midsummer. A couple of miles away is the city’s newest park, the Persley Walled Garden which opened in 1996 and has already won national acclaim in Beautiful Scotland in Bloom for permanent landscape.
The largest of the city’s parks is the 180 hectare Hazlehead Park, a favoured spot with everyone from sports enthusiasts to picnickers. It is a park which has something for everyone: three golf courses, sports pitches, an award-winning play park, a Pet’s Corner, magnificent bedding displays, a thought provoking sculpture collection and magnificent rose gardens including the North Sea Memorial Garden with its Piper Alpha Memorial and the Queen Mother Rose Garden. It is home too, to the much loved Hazlehead Maze, created in 1935 and now considered to be one of the most significant mazes in Britain.
Duthie Park with its world-renowned Winter Gardens is one of the most famous parks in Aberdeen. The scene of the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations in the city, it is undergoing a programme of rejuvenation which has included the restoration of the Victorian bandstand and the installation of a parterre garden adjacent to the obelisk.
The most significant work currently taking place is the three-phase refurbishment of the Winter Gardens. Renamed The David Welch Winter Gardens, in memory of the outstanding contribution which the late Mr Welch made to horticultural development in Aberdeen during his time as Parks Director, the Gardens are the third most visited gardens in Scotland.
Aberdeen has won the Britain in Bloom title 10 times
Phase 1, which has now been completed, has seen the construction of a modern and stylistic new entrance building constructed of glass and Elgin sandstone, the creation of a David Welch memorial courtyard which provides a tranquil area for quiet contemplation, the restoration of the Japanese Garden and improved signage.
Phase 2 and 3 will continue the work which has begun and will include external landscaping and improvements, new accesses, improved parking, new interpretative panels throughout the Gardens and the development of an educational centre.
As well as improving facilities for visitors, developments at the David Welch Winter Gardens have also seen its botanical status increase at national and international levels with improved curatorship of the plant collections leading the Gardens to seek recognition as holders of the national plant collections for bromeliads and cacti.
In the heart of the city is Union Terrace Garden, a peaceful, much photographed Victorian sunken garden nestled below the imposing backdrop of ‘Salvation, Education and Damnation’ – the historical nickname for the trio of buildings – St Mark’s Church, the Central Library and His Majesty’s Theatre.
The David Welch Winter Gardens currently undergoing a three-phase refurbishment
A natural amphitheatre, it has been used for concerts, open-air dances and as the location for the city’s open-air ice rink.
Aberdeen’s commitment to environmental awareness and action is demonstrated through the conservation of its countryside sites which are managed by the City Council’s Ranger Service.
The Service is based at Lochinch Countryside Interpretation Centre
near Loirston Loch. The Centre offers a range of environmental education opportunities and the Ranger Service also runs many ranger-led activities throughout the year at the various sites.
The city’s local nature reserves at Scotstown Moor, Kincorth Hill, Den of Maidencraig and Donmouth also come under the care of the Ranger Service.
This focus on the environment is echoed by the city’s ongoing planting programmes and priorities. While the floral displays are still a key part of Aberdeen’s appeal, environmental concerns are uppermost and there is an emphasis on programmes which look at longer term projects such as landscaping and tree and shrub planting.
There is more emphasis too on less formal, more natural areas which make greater use of native species to encourage bio-diversity. The Council also supports recycling programmes which provide chipped wood, mulch and composting for the city’s parks and gardens, favouring more natural methods of control over use of chemicals. The Council’s commitment to green recycling has also seen it introduce a number of pilot programmes which encourage city householders to recycle domestic and garden waste.
Important work is done also by groups such as Aberdeen Countryside Project which was set up in 1998 to improve the quality of the environment in and around Aberdeen and which works with the city to maintain and improve access to privately owned countryside sites.
The beauty of the parks and gardens, reserves and green spaces of Aberdeen is testimony to the legion of people who work to maintain and develop our horticultural and landscape heritage but they provide evidence too of the enduring partnership between Aberdeen and its people.
Every year, hundreds of Aberdonians spend thousands of hours in their gardens with some of the finest being recognised each year in the city’s own Aberdeen in Bloom competition. But that partnership extends beyond that as people do their bit towards encouraging and developing Civic Pride through the creation of community and school gardens, through voluntary work with the Ranger Service and as part of community and citywide conservation groups.