One-off spectacular anniversary for Benmore Botanic Gardens

Glowing Giants Benmore

In what for many will  be a once in a lifetime event, you will see at Benmore Botanical Gardens, in after dark events on 1st and 2nd November, ‘the Glowing Giants of Benmore’.

The Glowing Giants are the individual members of the fabulous Avenue of Giant Redwood trees [Wellingtonia or Sequoiadendron Giganteum] – in magical form for these hugely imaginative events.

2013 is the 150th anniversary of the planting of these quite glorious trees, with their softly ‘corky’ thick-bottomed tendoned trunks that can grow to 130 ft in diameter at ground level; and their elegantly optimistic upward turning frondy branches.

The Benmore avenue was built with special water drainage channels for each side of the avenue.

On the nights of 1st and 2nd November, these magnificent 150 year old ‘babies’, as Peter Baxter, Benmore’s Curator is wont to call them [they can live to 3,000 years, so don't argue] – will transform after dark into the spectacular centrepiece of the two evening extravaganza.

Giant puppets, an aerialist and live music will bring the Garden alive as never before. [This is where a confession is necessary. We bought our tickets online as soon as we read the press release and before we published this.  Details below for everyone we've just leapfrogged. Sorry - but this was irresistible.]

In the Courtyard and Gallery, there will be short interactive presentations and a specially created display – and a barbecue to sustain the energy of visitors.

All this is set off with illuminations and fire in the Avenue.

Ensuring the celebration is as much for the community as for visitors from further afield, local school children have been enrolled to create their own artistic contribution to this special event.

Regarded by many as the most magnificent entrance to any of the world’s botanic gardens, the iconic Redwood Avenue at Benmore Botanic Garden, just  north of the head of the Holy Loch in the Cowal Penninsula, is also arguably the finest of any avenues in Britain.

Now, it is set to be seen, literally,  in a new light, in celebration its planting 150 year ago.

Explaining why he believes it is vital that this anniversary is celebrated in serious style, Peter Baxter says: ‘The giant redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum, is not the tallest but it is the largest tree in the world.

‘Giant by name and giant by nature, this huge Californian conifer can grow to a trunk circumference of 31m (103ft) at ground level. Sporting a distinctive spongy red bark, it can live up to more than 3,000 years and is a protected species.

‘The story behind how Sequoiadendron giganteum first reached British shores is entwined in the telling of a particular period of our history.

‘It involves a competitive race to cultivate this remarkable tree and it is tied up with the California Gold Rush.

‘The man credited with introducing it to Britain is the Scot, Patrick Matthew (1790-1874). With three of his sons involved in the Gold Rush, Matthew took advantage of the situation and requested seeds be sent home by steam packet, so narrowly stealing the glory from the famous Exeter nursery, Veitch.

‘Although we don’t actually know for certain, it seems likely that our Avenue grew from the seeds of one of these two collections. If anyone can shed light, we would be very happy to hear from them’.

To engage audiences of all ages, Simon Duffy, Manager of Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh’s [RBGE] Scottish Government funded Talking Science project has enlisted the input of aerialist Lucy Deacon and the creator of giant puppets – and giant puppet are unbelievably mysterious -  Shane Connolly.

The full effects will be experienced amidst illuminations created by David Mackinnon.

The work of these artists will galvanise the already splendid avenue.

Simon and Shane are also working with pupils from Dunoon Primary School who will add the finishing touches by way of decorative lanterns.

Minister for Science Alasdair Allan says: ‘The Redwood Avenue at Benmore is an incredible sight to behold and will create a wonderfully unique venue for puppetry, aerial performance and celebration for the community and visitors able to attend.

‘The aim of our Talking Science funding is to support new ways to get people interested in all aspects of science and demonstrate science’s impact all around us. The story of the plants and trees in Benmore, and the other Botanic Gardens, not only represent the current staff’s horticultural expertise, but in cases like the Redwoods, reflect the ingenuity of our predecessors and the extraordinary lengths they had to go to in order to create such an attraction.’

The event is further supported by a specially created interpretive display by RBGE Head of Interpretation Alan Bennell. Featuring avenues long and short and tall, the display puts Benmore’s Avenue in context with significant others around Britain and further afield.

And there is more – there will be short presentations in the Courtyard Gallery by RBGE Science Communicator Max Coleman, with Martin Gardner and Tom Christian, both of the RBGE-based International Conifer Conservation Project.

Tickets and Booking

There are four events, two on each of 1st and 2nd November; one at 5.30 – which will suit families; and one at 8.30 for adults.

Tickets cost £7 for adults and £5 for children (three to 15 years old).

The tickets for each event are now on sale online at the RBGE website here; and at Reception in Benmore’s Visitor Centre.


The Glowing Giants celebration is being achieved with sponsorship from the Younger (Benmore) Trust and from Dunoon’s Western Ferries (Clyde) Limited.

We cannot see anything capable of topping this event in the Year of Natural Scotland’s programme.

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