Experts at the Royal Botanic Garden fear the destruction caused by 100mph winds last winter has left the popular attraction more vulnerable to future bouts of severe weather.
The natural defences provided by many solid, well-established trees has resulted in the loss of crucial shelter, making them more exposed to the elements and vulnerable to future storms.
The Botanics suffered extensive damage when a storm swept across the country on January 3.
Around 600 glasshouse panes were lost, 34 trees were blown over and hundreds more shrubs and trees were damaged. A restoration appeal raised more than £15,000 from members of the public and around 95 per cent of the repair work has now been completed.
But David Knott, curator of living collections, said much of the site was now far more exposed to the elements.
He said: “It’s the collective gaps in the canopy that concern me, looking to the future.
“In the garden, vistas that were not evident last December quickly appeared in January. The concern is that if you can see these new views, the wind will find its way through there.
“I’m quite pessimistic in thinking that perhaps with every wind or gale or storm force wind that we get now, that damage and the gaps will be further widened and then we’ll continue to sustain damage for a good long time in the future, perhaps tens of decades.”
Mr Knott described the storm as the worst in 30 to 40 years and said the attraction had been left at the “mercy of the elements”.
The gardens lost a number of significant trees during the storm, including an iconic pine, a Chinese Tree of Heaven collected more than 100 years ago and a 45ft tall native oak.
Over the last 12 months, painstaking work has seen around 175 new trees and more than 400 shrubs planted outside. Another priority was to reglaze the heated glasshouses which had been left exposed to the cold.
“The intensity of the wind increased from early morning to mid morning, so we were actually able to witness the damage unfold,” said Mr Knott.
“The glasshouses were particularly badly affected. We lost somewhere in the region of 600 panes. There was a number of key things we wanted to get done quite quickly. We reglazed the glasshouses in a record period, somewhere in the region of seven to eight days.
“A lot of the trees in the living collection outdoors were very special to us. They come with what we call wild origin information so that we know exactly where the plants would collect in the wild. We’ve looked very carefully at what we’ve lost and tried to replant.
“I would say we’re maybe 95 per cent there with all the work, but it’s been a long process and it’s a testimony to the hard work of the staff.”
The restoration appeal remains open and the Botanics continue to welcome donations to help with the work.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the appeal should call 0131-552 7171 or go to www.rbge.org.uk/home