The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

14 April 2010

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Open to the public only one day a year, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation takes science and maths as its inspiration. Quite simply, there isn’t another garden like it in the world.

The shapes of science and nature come together in this wondrous place.  The steel curves of science stand in front of those provided so generously by nature.  Yet in a small time you can find yourself face to face with the wonders of a black hole.

The garden was set up by Charles Jencks, together with his late wife Maggie Keswick and is located at Portrack House near Dumfries. That’s in Scotland, by the way! It was set up in 1989 without the usual ideas people have when they create a garden. Horticultural displays very much take second place in this garden. Instead, it is designed with ideas in mind – and to provoke thought (or at least speculation) about the very nature of things.

The garden can be found at the base of these marvellous steps leading down from the original eighteenth century manor house with a Victorian addition, an octagonal folly-library. 

Around the garden one can find amazing sculptures on themes such as this - the DNA helix in giganitic metallic glory.

The snail mound allows visitors to explore for themselves the Fibonacci sequence of numbers that make up a shell or at least feel it beneath their feet.

However, are you interacting with it or is that the other way around?

Fractals and black holes abound, so be careful where you tread! Even thelandscaping explores the mysteries of science.

The garden comes replete with elegant manmade lakes which were designed by Maggie Keswick. The natural features of the garden blend and bond beautifully with the arches, contours, curls and bends of the science represented here. Symmetry, chaos and the tumult of nature and science combined.


Many people wish the garden was open for more than one twenty four hour period each year – but at the end of the day it is a private garden created by private individuals. All is not lost, however. It seems that recently, Mr Jencks met with Professors Peter Higgs and Rolf-Dieter Heuer. The latter is the Director General of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. We know it as CERN, the place with that big collider thingamajig.

The two scientists hope that they may be able to replicate the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at CERN, or at least something very much like it. You can hardly blame them for wanting to reproduce something so stunning for more public viewing.

You will find all sorts of thought provoking objects to arouse your sense of wonder in this thirty acre microcosm of the universe. Many ideas come together to form a whole, complex and mystifying, cryptic but thrilling. If you find it all too much you can always spend a while in the Nonsense Pavilion (above).

Such is the way that people are enthralled by the garden it has even been immortalised in an orchestral composition by US composer Michael Gandolfi and recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

The garden is open this year on May 2. Get there at the crack of dawn, however if you are thinking of paying a visit. Each year the local roads come to a virtual standstill by midmorning, such is the interest generated by this wonderful place.


Kuriositas would like to that Flickr User Paulus Maximus! for his very generous permission to allow us to use his pictures here. Please take a look at his photo sets.



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