Ailies, Garden, The Smith Museum & Art Gallery Stirling

Client: The Smith Museum
Location: Kings Park, Stirling
Designers: Judi Legg, Play Space Designer
Contractor and Project Management CarolineWatt and Judi Legg, also Kevin Blackwell, Rowan Seabrook, Jan Kilpatrick, Molawn.
Date: 2002.
Capital Cost:  £48,000
Funding: Scottish Natural Heritage, Stirling Landfill Tax Trust, Stirling Council
Maintained by: Martin McRae, organic gardener & educator, with Friends of the Smith volunteers

Ailie’s Garden was initiated by The Friends of The Smith whose aims were to turn the half-acre of unmanaged grassland behind the museum into a visitors garden that was a particular attraction to young children who would hopefully also visit the indoor facilities. They were also aware that likely funders would be attracted if the garden could promote wildlife.

This was of particular interest to the designer who also worked as a professional environmental educator and developed the brief as a garden for biodiversity with areas of special focus: the orchard featuring many old and local varieties of apple; the butterfly border; the woodland area with hedgehog dome, owl box, bird boxes; the wetland; the upland garden with feature drystone wall; the willow garden and the compost demonstration area.

With adjacent housing and the desire for a relaxing and peaceful play experience, willow structures, chess board, wooden caterpillar tunnel, mini labyrinth and quiet musical elements also feature. There are also many sculpted pieces and mosaic artworks in the garden and four schools were involved the wildlife mosaics on the path through the biodiversity border.

With the desire to invite visitor groups and outdoor events a story telling performance area was created and many talks, performances and school visits now take place outdoors. Programmes of events have been run by local charity Forth Environment Link including:  Big Garden Birdwatch; Brrfrostytwigsnapwinter; National Science Week; Flying High; Plants for Healing;Tree Dressing Day; Bugs, Bees and Bluebottles; Mammals and man; Art in the Garden; Green Gardening for the Beginner.

The maintenance of the garden is undertaken by Martin McRae with the help of a team of committed volunteers. The maintenance follows organic principles and uses wildlife friendly gardening practices. A detailed maintenance plan

provides continuity for the longer term as volunteers come and go, but crucially Martin adopts a very flexible and responsive approach to what needs to be done, and how best to support the needs of all visitors especially the children and provide materials for related events.

The garden is named after Ailie R Maclaurin (1913-2000) of the nearby Striling Homesteads, where biodiversity and sustainability were practised in the early twentieth century. Ailie was also a friend and supporter of The Smith Art Gallery and Museum.