The Forfar Botanists


Imagine my surprise, while perusing the September 2013 edition of “The Garden” magazine, that I happened upon a mention of my old home town. Now it’s not a big place – sleepy almost! Nor was I aware of anything of horticultural significance, having happened there. Admittedly, this may have been due to my childhood lack of interest in that field. But now it was of great interest to me!

A new garden was being created on an old patch of land by the Myre – an area of common ground used as football pitches – to commemorate five famous botanists from the town. Between them, they collected plant samples, many new to science, from around the world. They described and catalogued many plants from their own or from other collections, with many plants being named in their honour.

George Don Snr. explored mainly the local areas of Angus and its hills and glens. A moss, Grimmia donniana, was named in his honour, as was the forget-me-not, Myosotis alpina Don. Although he created his own nursery, it appears he wasn’t much of a business man and he died in poverty.
Two of his sons, George Jnr. and David, carried on after his death, although, not literally, following in his footsteps. George travelled through West Africa and South America, while David’s expertise lay in the Himalayas. George returned with orchids and other exotics – Oncidium donianum is named after him – but also introduced types of alliums, witch hazel and Kalmia latifolium. David, however, was not so much a collector, but more of a cataloguer. He had many works published and was librarian of the Linnean Society. And Euphorbia donii bears his name.

James Drummond spent much of his life living and working in Western Australia. Not only has he more than 60 plant species named after him, including Banksia drummondii, he also has a mountain, Mount Drummond, named in his honour. His brother, Thomas, had many travels in North America, his first as a naturalist on the expedition to find the North West passage, and later in the southern states. He had over 80 species named after him, including, probably, most famously, Phlox drummondii, bearing his name, along with an Acer rubrum and an Anemone.

The memorial garden was to convey the local landscapes of the Angus countryside that inspired them, along with plants that they introduced or had named in their honour, as well as plants local to the glens. As trees featured in many of their introductions, but were unable to be located in the garden, a second area, by Forfar loch, was also to be planted in their memory, just a stone’s throw from the garden.

Naturally, this I had to see on my next trip home!

So, earlier this month, when we went back, I went armed with camera, as well as I-pad, intent on a blog post!


As you can see, it’s not a large garden. It’s beautifully laid out, with raised beds incorporating seating benches. The wall you can see on the left, is a relic from old Forfar, while the other undulating, dry stone wall, has been newly built to recreate the surrounding, undulating Angus hills.


It is obviously a brand new garden, still in need of filling out (it was only completed Sept 2013) and this is its first year. And at this time of year it was only starting to come to life. There were still plenty of little gems to see, though!

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And interesting layouts!

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At the end of the garden, in the south wall, two spheres have been carved out to represent each family – a spore to signify the Don family, and a seed head for the Drummonds. A nice, unusual touch!


It was a lovely little garden, and a lovely spot to sit and ponder, though the weather would have to improve dramatically before that would be possible! That day was windy, and bitterly cold. A “wrap up warm” day! However, despite the distances involved, I will be lucky enough to be able to revisit it and see how it matures. There is so much more to come – I’ve seen the plant list! I’ll make it summer next time!

If you’re interested and would like more info, there is a website
Do take a look!

5 thoughts on “The Forfar Botanists

  1. Chloris

    What an interesting post. I am always fascinated to hear stories of these early botanists who were so often intrepid travellers too. I do love to know how plants came by their names. What a lovely idea to make a garden to commemorate these 5 who came from your part of the world. I shall be interested to hear how it develops.

  2. thelonggardenpath Post author

    Thank you! I know what you mean about plant names – it’s often so easy to speculate on the origins. Now, every time I come across a “Drummondii” or “Donii”, I will assume they’re connected with my home town. Nice thought!

  3. Annette

    Well, it’s nice to have such a connection – I have to get the September issue out again as I obviously just flew over it. It will be nice for you to follow the progress of the garden.

  4. Pingback: The Forfar Botanists – A Year Later. | The Long Garden Path

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