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National Bonsai Collection of Scotland

Directions to Binny Plants the home of the National Bonsai Collection - Map 

The National Collection of Bonsai in Scotland is based around the "Graham trees" as they are known. Bill Graham, of Maybole in Ayrshire was a master butcher, and when he retired he concentrated on creating and collecting bonsai. Over nearly thirty years, he developed his knowledge and his collection of 300 trees, When Bill died in 1983, his widow donated the trees to the Local Authority Parks Department of Kyle and Carrick so that some them at least, could continue to be displayed at their Annual Ayr Flower Show.

Eventually, Patrick Gibb, then principal organiser of the Show, passed the "Graham Trees" to the Scottish Bonsai Association in November 1984. A group of members set up the first ever National Collection of Bonsai in Britain. Mrs Graham then legally gifted the trees to the Scottish Bonsai Association. Those trees that could be saved, as some were in a poor state, were viewed by Peter Adams, a well-known Bonsai artist, to decide their development.

The Collection's first home was at Malleny Gardens in Balerno near Edinburgh,: this arrangement was engineered by collaboration between the National Trust for Scotland and the SBA. A display cage was built and the Collection was then displayed there form 1986 until 2000, when it was moved to Suntrap Gardens. It is now at Binnie Plants in West Lothian, housed in a new display cage, and still available for viewing by any visitors.

The purpose of the Collection is to promote interest and involvement in the Art & Craft of Bonsai through well-presented displays of trees. The the Collection features pines, beeches, larches, oaks and other species indigenous to Scotland. These are complimented some more more exotic varieties including a Persimmon gifted from Xi'an, Edinburgh's twin city in the People's Republic of China.

In order to achieve these objectives fully, a lot of work has to be done, all of it by dedicated volunteers. In March 2001 the Collection was the subject of a BBC2 TV programme in the Curious Gardeners' Series.

National Collection trees form the nucleus of the display at the SBA's National Exhibition and at Gardening Scotland.

On August 14th 2011 the collection was officially re-opened by the Japanese Consul General


Just over a year ago, The National Bonsai Collection of Scotlands new Pavilion and Garden opened at Suntrap Gardens to the tune of pipes and with the formalities being carried out by Consul General Tarahara of Japan, the Japanese Consul to Scotland. Little were we to know then that owners, Oatridge College and the National Trust for Scotland were, within a month, to wipe the smiles off our faces by threatening closure of the Gardens with no suggestion of compensation. The Trustees of the Collection however, were unanimous in their acceptance of a generous offer by Binny Plants in Ecclesmachan, to become the Collections new home on a prime site in their nursery which, unlike Suntrap (the National Collections previous home), is open 9-5 every day of the week and is continuously manned. (They had spectacular gold success in showing peonies at Gardening Scotland)
The complicated move began in early spring of this year and was completed just in time for our Opening Day scheduled for 15th August with all the considerable costs being borne by the Collections funds. Work like painting, transferring trees, arranging them, laying slabs (with the help of Lee and Eleanors ingenious levers) was carried out by the Trustees and voluntary carers. Again SBA member, Ian Downie was in charge and what a sterling job he did.

For the second time the pipes of Trust Secretary, Roy Smith, again the ceremonial cutting of the tartan ribbon, and once more, the bonsai of the National Collection were on view to the public.  Sincere thanks to all who made their contributions, however small to this successful new venture. We now move forward into a period of development at Binny Plants with the Trustees suggestions as to the possibilities of small scale sales of trees and pots, workshops and demonstrations being offered to raise funds and popularise both our and Binny Plants activities.

The move obviously involved a diminution of the funds the National Collection has and we would welcome additional fund-raising ideas to the Collection to helps us remain, apart from our Annual Grant and the generosity of a couple of Scottish Bonsai Association (SBA) Area Groups, independent of SBA Funds. Although the Opening Day was well supported by some Area Groups others have not yet seized the opportunity to visit. You can be assured of a worthwhile experience especially now that autumn is setting in, to see the new Pavilion and garden with your own eyes and to seek potensai from the hundreds of varieties to be found in Binny Plants stock.

National Collection President, August 2012

Make a donation to the National Bonsai Collection

The National Bonsai Collection is kept in the public domain through the generosity of the general public and the Scottish Bonsai Association. You can help to improve facilities at our new home by donating a small amount of money towards the upkeep of the bonsai trees. Simply click the Donate button below.




Opening speech

Cutting the tape

Inside the collection

The New Pavilion

The new pavillion

Some of the collection

New Pavilion

New Pavillion

What the papers say.

Read the National Bonsai Collection News

See more pictures of the National Bonsai Collection

Read what some Non bonsai folk are saying about the National Collection




Japanese term for accent plantings.

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Gardening Scotland

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