History of Logan captured in exhibition of old photographs

A look back in time at Logan
A look back in time at Logan

The history of Logan Botanic Garden, near Stranraer, when it was part of a private estate, is captured in an exhibition of old photographs which record how the Garden was developed and the emergence of new features, some of which can still be seen today.

It will be the first time the public have had the chance to see the photographs which were taken by the McDouall family during the time they lived at Logan House. More than 30 photographs will be exhibited in the Studio at Logan Botanic Garden from 1 August to 26 September.

The entire McDouall collection comprises several hundred unmounted photographic prints, transparencies and negatives, mainly taken by Douglas McDouall. It was his sister, Helen, a dedicated gardener and amateur photographer, who rescued the material from Logan House when the estate left family ownership after 1945. The collection was inherited by Martin Henderson who kindly donated it to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Archive. Mr Henderson also gave permission for RBGE to copy four photograph albums compiled by Helen McDouall between the 1890’s and 1945, which include annotated prints illustrating the progress of her brother’s garden.

Logan’s Curator Richard Baines commented: “The photographs illustrate how the garden at Logan was developed and it is interesting to see how many of the original plantings and features still exist today. The McDouall family took advantage of the mild climate here at Logan and experimented with plants that would not have been grown in this area before. The landscape at Logan is still very much their living legacy.’’

Logan Botanic Garden owes much of its lush, semi-tropical character to Kenneth McDouall (1870-1945), in partnership with his brother Douglas (1872-1942), who inherited the Logan estate from their father in 1896. The McDoualls were gifted and knowledgeable plantsmen. They travelled widely in the warm temperate regions of the world to obtain seeds of new introductions and also supported the expeditions of contemporary plant hunters including Reginald Farrer, George Forrest and Harold Comber. From around 1900 the old Walled Garden was remodelled to provide customised habitats for the brothers’ acquisitions. It was transformed from an old-fashioned country house garden with a mixture of vegetables, fruit and flowers into a special place where, famously, tender exotics and more familiar garden species were all grown in the open to an exceptional standard.

One of the photographs in the exhibition shows part of a row of cabbage palms, Cordyline australis, with Kenneth McDouall standing below and a tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica, just visible behind, c1916. Both natives of New Zealand, Cordylines, first planted at Logan in 1905, and Dicksonia, in 1907, remain signature features of the Garden.

The present garden dates from 1869 when James McDouall married Agnes Buchan-Hepburn, from Smeaton in East Lothian. She had a great passion for gardening and began to experiment with exotic plantings. Her love of gardening passed to her sons, Kenneth and Douglas. When Kenneth McDouall died in 1945 he left the Logan estate to his cousin, Sir Ninian Buchan-Hepburn. In 1949 the estate passed to Mr F Olaf Hambro; following his death in 1961, the estate was looked after by a charitable trust until funds became exhausted and the house and gardens were gifted to the nation. In 1969, Sir Ninian reacquired the house and most of its land. The Walled Garden and surrounding woodland became Logan Botanic Garden, a Regional Garden of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.