Scotland’s hidden wonders: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Universe Cascade represents billions of years of the universe's development
Universe Cascade represents billions of years of the universe's development
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THE Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfries is where science and beauty come together, finds Alison Campsie


The Garden Of Cosmic Speculation. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Garden Of Cosmic Speculation. Picture: Jane Barlow

A 30-acre exploration of science, creativity, cosmology, chaos and the universe at Portrack House, Dumfries.

With its twisted landforms and curious enclaves, the garden began to develop amid its creator’s growing belief that science was a force for creativity which offered truth to both the big questions of the universe and the beauty of pattern.

While the garden preserves traditional notions of pleasure through sight and smell, new tools and artificial materials help to create a landscape that is challenging, mind expanding and simply impressive in its ambition to become a little evolving universe all of its own.

Portrack House, by result, is a very modern paradise.


The project started in 1988 and continues to evolve every year


Charles Jencks, an American theorist, landscape architect and critic, first developed the garden with his wife Maggie Keswick Jencks in the grounds of their 18th century manor house when they dug out a pond for their children to swim in.

With a group of scientist friends they started to fully commit to a celebration of nature and discovery.

The garden has been dedicated to Maggie with Jencks going on to lead work on the Maggie’s Centres for cancer care in her memory.

Of his work, Jencks said: “Gardens are like whispering games in which the key is to pass on meaning even as it changes.

“They may reach momentary equilibrium, but they should never be pickled or remain static.

“True respect to our project would be shown by continuing and transforming the plots because a garden is never finished.

“Here in the garden we can celebrate the beauty and organization of the universe, and what better task can a person engage in.”


The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is only open for one day a year, for around five hours, with queues traditionally forming for a glance at Jenck’s creation.

Features include the Geometric Kitchen Garden of the Six Senses, Glengower Hill plantation and view and the Universe Cascade of gleaming white steps that each represent a jump in the development of the universe over 15 billion years.

Sculptures of DNA sequencing and the newly completed Comet Bridge add further delight to this garden, where you will discover perhaps far more than you ever bargained for.

It is open as part of Scotland Open Garden scheme, with 40 per cent of funds raised going to Maggie’s Centres. It will next be open on May 1 2016.