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Welcome To The Samye Ling Garden

The Samye Ling Tibetan Centre is set among the rolling hills of the Scottish borders. It was established in 1967 and is administered by the Rokpa Trust.  The Garden comprises some two acres of land within the extensive grounds of the Monastery nestling in between the log cabins along the riverbank and the guesthouse. It is comparable to an old fashioned Victorian kitchen garden typically found at a country house or even the stately home of Lord and Lady Esk? Throughout this time it has continued to provide mountains of fresh organic produce for the kitchens, the local community and visitors.

The garden is really still in its infancy, yet solid foundations have been laid for the future. There has been the gradual transition from an open agricultural plot to a block of allotments and now finally to a traditional kitchen garden. It is completely enclosed by thick hedgerows and stout walls, whilst footpaths wind their way through a number of smaller gardens comprising vegetable plots, herbs, and mixed borders of fruits and flowers. There are workshops and potting sheds, greenhouses and cold frames, a shop, a library and an information centre. The garden has an undeniable rough and ready feel to it; the hedgerows can be rather unruly and the weeds seem to take hold very quickly, but visitors comment it does have an austere charm with a degree of magnificence perhaps in harmony with the bleak surroundings.

This has been accomplished by a small team of dedicated volunteers and hundreds of willing helpers who have all joined in and contributed to the experience. The project funds itself with the sales of fresh produce and potted plants, delivering horticultural training courses, applying for grants and the grateful receipt of donations. At 700 feet above sea level and under generally grey skies this remote area is more suited to woodland gardening but with some local knowledge and a bit of luck it’s surprising what is possible. 


Regular visitors often say the Kitchen Garden is getting bigger, but really all we are doing is filling in the gaps. The accepted way to make a garden seem larger is to create a number of smaller ‘rooms’ each with their own character, and this is what we’ve tried to achieve. There’s something different around every corner and it draws people along the path. Over the years the Garden has slowly become more established and we’re beginning to reap the benefits. As for the weather we don’t seem to have had a truly cold spell for a couple of years. Last winter simply didn’t really happen, it was mild, grey and foggy. There was a brief hot spell in the spring but for much of the year the weather was distinctly non-descript, and the crops were moderate. 
These are changing times in the Garden. In the old days visitors often used to stay for a week or so and help out, but with the occasional exception, this seems to be a thing of the past. Most visitors to Samye Ling now have busy lives and come for weekend workshops with tight schedules and have little time to join in with the general activities. Perhaps it is the economic climate, in this age of austerity government funding for training courses has completely dried up. Travelling is also expensive and being so remote volunteers are consequently thin on the ground. The Garden has had to adapt accordingly and many of the grander plans have quietly slipped into the background. These things tend to come in cycles so maybe the situation will change again and some of the ideas
will reappear for a future generation, but in the meantime we have to be realistic. So the Garden is becoming much simpler. It has been necessary to reduce the maintenance liability and as such more areas are being turned over to grass and landscaping. These days fewer crops are grown compared to the heady days of the past and we keep to a few reliable staple crops, e.g. potatoes, beans, leeks, cabbages and salads. In addition the demise of the Old Greenhouse has had a huge impact and despite the New Peach House taking up some of the strain, it has severely limited the capacity of the whole garden. 

The Old Greenhouse chair was a favourite resting place for Uncle Sherab on his afternoon stroll, and building more greenhouses remains the long term aim. With such challenging weather conditions a greenhouse can provide a secluded corner of peace and tranquility sheltered from the rain. It is now planned to rebuild the old structure as two smaller greenhouses. There will be a grass quadrangle in the middle and the Back Shed in the distance. The work isn’t complicated but with a small ageing team, progress will inevitably be slow. 

In the meantime we aim to tidy up a number of other projects before embarking on this major construction. The Alpine House masonry work could be completed next year with the glazing to follow. The Oakhouse Conservatory foundations have commenced and this will now be a straightforward lean-to structure. In addition the Cacti House is nearly finished. The Walled Gardens are taking shape and are providing shelter for both crops and visitors alike. The new picnic area in the Old Herb Garden has become very popular and it is planned to build more seating areas where visitors can sit and munch their sandwiches. The Oakhouse Library is attracting folk seeking a quiet study area and many people comment on the peaceful atmosphere in the Garden. 
Last year after 45 years loyal service the Old Greenhouse was finally dismantled. We always knew this day would come but it still feels strange to walk down the path and find a huge expanse of open ground where the old place used to stand. In the distance the black Back Shed has now appeared in its splendour, perfectly framed by a row of lofty conifers behind. The sheer width of the plot was curiously unexpected stretching from the flower garden bench to the Old Shed. The plan now is to build a pair of smaller greenhouses (10 x 4 yards) with a grass quadrangle in the middle. 

Weather wise it wasn’t a great year. The mild winter was followed by a chilly spring with the first week of June seeing such a cold easterly breeze, that it knocked the midges clean off their stroke and they never really recovered, which was an unexpected bonus. The summer was fairly nondescript but the autumn was the finest in living memory. If global warming means trading a poor summer for a glorious autumn and mild winter then maybe we’d settle for that?