A proud history
Scotland has led the way in tree cultivation for hundreds of years - from the early pioneers of the 16th and 17th centuries, to the great planters of the 18th and 19th century - who scoured the globe for new species. There is a long and proud history and culture of tree collecting, which places Scotland today at the forefront of international forest conservation.
The drive for agricultural ‘improvement’ in 18th century Scotland, the time of the Enlightenment, led to the first great wave of tree planting here, designed to put large areas of ‘unimproved’ land to productive use.
Specimen trees, arboreta and pineta (collections of conifers) were planted around the great country houses - like those at Taymouth Castle, Blair Adam and Inveraray Castle - to enhance the landscape. If they thrived, specimen trees like the larch were then planted out on an unprecedented scale: the first ever attempts to create large-scale plantations of conifers ‘from scratch’ in the world.
The first pinetum was at Taymouth Castle, at the east end of Loch Tay in Highland Perthshire, started with a white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) planted in 1786. The oldest surviving tree at Taymouth Castle is an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) planted in 1794, making it now 217 years old. At Dawyck Botanic Garden near Peebles, a silver fir (Abies alba) planted in 1680 still stands, an incredible 331 years later.