Home – at last!

Magellan

For the last fortnight we’ve been cruising around the Baltic on Magellan and I have to say it was about a week too long for me. I was really desperate to get home after we had visited St Petersburg, but we had three more stops after that. Mind you, one of those stops was to Stockholm, a place I hadn’t been before and I was very pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it is.

I found the actual cruise to be rather boring, but I did manage to read six books, some of them chunky classics too. Unfortunately just about everyone on the ship ended up with a cold which developed into a hacking cough – including me and Jack, I’m still not feeling great. The air conditioning just about guarantees that any lurgy is liberally shared around everyone. On the plus side – despite having five course dinners – we both managed to lose weight! The food is another aspect of cruising that I didn’t enjoy. Most people seem to feel that as they’ve already paid for the food they’re determined to eat as much as they possibly can. It’s really off-putting.

Otherwise the highlight of the cruise was St Petersburg – as expected. We took loads of photos, well, Jack took most of them but at some point I’ll be using them in blogposts soonish. Meanwhile, I was so glad to get home and so impressed with the lush green growth since I had last seen my garden, I had to take a photo of it.

my garden

People have often commented on how green it is and I must admit that I’ve always taken it completely for granted but after having been surrounded by a grey Baltic and even greyer North Sea for two weeks – and what was worse – absolute flat calm all the time, I now appreciate my garden even more than I did before.

my garden

I love a good rough sea but Neptune seems to go to sleep as soon as I get on board a ship!

Blog hiatus

My Garden in Fife

We’ll be leaving soon for our Baltic cities cruise, and wifi on those ships is dismal so I’ll be offline for a fortnight. I was just having a look around the garden today and noting how many plants are just about to come into flower, including several clematis and roses. Remind me never to go on holiday at this time of the year again! The clematis alpina above has been flowering for a few weeks already, this is the best it has ever been.

The acers/Japanese maples are all at different stages of growth.
My Garden  in Fife

Golden elder, euphorbia Fireglow and amelanchier are good and colourful in the photo below.
My Garden in Fife

Yet more Fireglow is beside the dwarf apple tree, that apple tree was the only plant that was in this garden when we moved here – unless you count loads of grass as a plant.
Garden in Fife

The Rosemary below is in bloom and a spirea has become entwined with it, but the spirea will flower much later.
Garden in Fife

Garden in Fife

Garden in Fife

The heathers will have finished flowering by the time I get back so one of my first gardening tasks will be to cut it back.
My Garden in Fife

I’m going to miss pottering about here, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy visiting – Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Taillin, Warnemunde, St Petersburg and Aalborg. I think I’ll need another holiday to get over this one coming!

Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

Last week we took advantage of a gorgeous blue sky day to visit Branklyn Garden in the ‘fair city’ of Perth – the original one of course, not the one in Australia which is what usually pops up if you google ‘Perth’.

Branklyn Gardens
I’m sure that this tree is a type of cherry but there was no sign of any blossom on it – it has fantastic glossy red bark though.
Branklyn Gardens
The gardens aren’t huge but they’re just perfect for having a relaxing stroll around and you can have a sit down or even visit the very pleasant tearoom.
Branklyn Gardens
This is a hillside garden which is owned by the National Trust. It’s just two acres and it was created in the 1920s using seed collected by plant hunters.
Branklyn Gardens
There’s a pond which is fed by a wee waterfall.
Branklyn Garden

The azaleas and rhododendrons were looking perfect.
Branklyn Garden

Branklyn Garden

Branklyn Garden
And you get a good view of Perth from the garden. It’s just a short drive from the city centre.
Branklyn Garden

Lastly, you can just catch a glimpse of the house which was built by the original owners, but it isn’t open to the public. This is a lovely place to visit if you’re near Perth, and you can always buy plants there which have been propagated from plants in the garden.
Branklyn Garden

The Japanese Garden at Cowden, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Last Monday was a bright and beautiful day so we decided to drive along The Japanese Garden at Cowden near Yetts o’ Muckhart which is in Scotland’s smallest county of Clackmannanshire.

There’s a small area given over to a gravel garden, and we watched a couple of the gardeners carefully raking the gravel and then making circular patterns in it. Luckily I managed to take this photo just before some garndparents took their grandchildren for a scuffle through it, ignoring the ‘keep out’ sign. Reading is wasted on some people!

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland

As most of the cheery trees in streets, parks and gardens were already in bloom I thought it would be a good time to re-visit the Japanese gardens that we visited for the first time in the autumn. But it’ll be quite a while before anyone can sit under this tree below’s cherry blossom.

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland, cherry tree

It turned out that as the original cherry trees which were planted in the garden back in the 1920s seem not to have survived, the trees that are there now are really small, having been planted recently.

But heigh-ho, we still had a lovely afternoon there. There’s still a lot of work ongoing, such as building new paths and expanding the woodland walk.

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland
You can walk across the zig-zag bridge, if you aren’t worried about your balance, but you aren’t allowed onto the arched bridge – Health and Safety probably.
Japanese Garden , lake, Cowden, Scotland

The large pond (or is it a lake?) has a healthy amount of frog spawn in it, or maybe it’s toad spawn as when we were in the woodland walk I almost stood on this fine fellow who was sitting on the path, as I approached him I thought he was a clump of autumn leaves – or something even worse that I definitely didn’t want to put my foot in!

Toad

The Japanese Garden at Cowden is certainly worth a visit, although I must admit that we went a bit too early – well I had a ‘two for one ticket’ which was expiring the next day! In another week or so from now the maples will be looking great.
Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Spring flowers in my garden

As the weather has been unseasonally mild I’ve been able to potter around in the garden a bit earlier than usual. I have no illusions that this is the end of winter for us though as we’re more likely to get snow at Easter than at Christmas, but the spring flowers are loving the weather and the snowdrops have been blooming for ages now. The ones that I transplanted for the wedding decorations are over and done now, they didn’t like being taken indoors.

snowdrops

These crocuses adored the sunshine. I’d never seen them open so far before.
Crocuses

Crocuses
Some of the wedding decoration snowdrops – below.
snowdrops
The miniature daffodils have survived the rough winds we’ve been having over the past few days.
miniature daffodils

miniature daffodil

miniature daffodils

The purple haze behind the daffodils below is a spring flowering heather, so the garden is beginning to look quite cheerful again, but I’m not going to clear all of the winter detritus away until I’m sure that the cold weather has gone. All those dead bits of last year’s plants help to protect them from frosts which I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of.
miniature daffodils

Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart

 Gardener's Nightcap cover

Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart is a Persephone book which was originally published back in 1938.

Muriel Stuart was better known as a poet apparently and Thomas Hardy described her work as being superlatively good. She was the daughter of a Scottish barrister and was known as a Scottish poet although for most of her life she lived in England.

This is one of those books that you can dip in and out of, opening the book at random you can find an interesting half page on the subject of yellow roses or fragrant shrubs for the garden, leaf moulds or the autumn paeony. I found it slightly frustrating though as I’m sure that most of the plants that are mentioned have been superseded by ‘improved’ cultivars, so they’ll be unobtainable.

There’s even a recipe for making your own rose oil, somewhat different from my efforts to make rose perfume as a wee girl, so the outcome might be better. Quite an interesting read but I think her earlier book called Fool’s Garden which was published in 1936 and was a bestselling book about creating a garden might be even more interesting for serious gardeners although I suppose again many of the plants mentioned would be unobtainable.

Dundee Botanic Garden

I did a blogpost about the glasshouses at Dundee Botanic Garden a few weeks ago and I was absolutely sure that I had previously posted ones about the actual gardens, so I was amazed when I couldn’t find that post on ‘Pining’. Has it somehow disappeared or did I only write it in my mind while I was doing the ironing or something? Anyway – here goes again – or maybe not!
It was a gorgeous Indian summer day but it was midweek and we almost had the whole of the botanic gardens to ourselves.

Dundee Botanic Gardens conifer

Dundee University uses parts of the gardens for research. This area is the genetics garden. The three trees below are Ginkgo bilobas, sometimes known as the Maidenhair tree. I’m sure that I recently read that the most northerly Ginkgos are growing in the north of England – obviously that was wrong as these ones are thriving. I love these trees, they look so delicate, but there are fossils of ginkgos which are 270 million years old. They originate from China.

genetics garden , Dundee

The stylish stone walls are a fairly recent addition I believe.
genetics garden, Dundee Botanics, Scotland

Dundee University and nearby Ninewells Hospital do a lot of very good medical research.

genetics garden, Dundee Botanics, Scotland

There’s a large old house within the gardens, in the photo you can just see the steps which lead up to it. It looks to me like it has been split up into flats, but presumably the Botanic Gardens were originally the gardens of the grand house.

flowers and house, Dundee Botanic Garden, Scotland

And below is the house.

house Dundee Botanic Gardens

Walk through the arched yew hedge and you enter a darkened yew room, lovely shade on a very bright day.
yew hedge arch

The botanic garden is built quite high up from the main road and from the edge of them you can look down on Dundee airport which is very small but fairly busy. I suspect that the biggest planes it can cope with seat about 50 people. The river is of course the Tay and the bridge that you can see is the one which replaced the old bridge which collapsed in a wild storm in 1879. You can read about it here. You can still see the stumps of the original bridge.

airport  + Tay Bridge

Dundee airport
We visited the Dundee Botanic Gardens on the third of September and below is a photo of an acer which was already changing into its autumn clothing, but it certainly didn’t feel like autumn was on the way. I took some more photos but I’ll keep them for another day. Hope you enjoyed the walk!

Dundee Botanic Garden path

Dundee Botanic Gardens – the greenhouses

I can hardly believe that it was way back in September when we visited the Dundee Botanic Gardens. I blogged about the ouside of the gardens earlier, but we also went into the greenhouses which are packed with exotics.

Dundee Botanics greenhouse
It was a hot day outside so it was super hot in the greenhouses.
Dundee Botanics greenhouse
I’ve always been keen on cacti, ever since I bought myself a wee cactus plant from good old Woolworth’s when I was 11 years old. Woolies used to be great for plants, seeds and gardening things in general, it’s sadly missed.

Dundee Botanics greenhouse

As I was admiring the lovely healthy Abutilon in this photo below I realised that it had been a big mistake to plant the one I had bought recently out in the garden. I dug it up when I got home and moved it into the sun room where it promptly lost just about all of its leaves. It did give me one flower though and the leaves are growing back, so I live in hope of a good display this summer.

Dundee Botanics greenhouse

The bright cerise Bougainvillea brought back memories of Portugal where it grows ‘like Topsy’.

Dundee Botanics greenhouse

I should know what this plant below is, but it has escaped me at the moment.
Dundee Botanics, greenhouse

The problem with not getting around to blogging about places until long after the visit is – I can’t remember what this tree is called, but it’s certainly unusual.
Dundee Botanics greenhouse

Dundee Botanics greenhouse

I’m sure that some of you will have plants like the ones in these photos growing wild in your gardens, but here in Scotland they need to be cossetted in hothouses. I’m not sure that I would like too many of them in my garden – if they could survive, I’m more of a daisy/primrose sort of woman, but it is lovely to see them thriving here where they’e obviously well looked after. Dundee Botanic Gardens are well worth a visit.

Dundee Botanics greenhouse , Scotland

Drum Castle Gardens, Aberdeenshire

From the photo below it looks to me like the box hedges and topiary in the rose garden had very recently been trimmed when we visited Drum Castle in late October.
Drum Castle, historic rose garden 1
I just love a garden that’s well protected by high stone walls, the perfect setting for the vibrant red Virginia Creeper, just the thing to cheer up the darker days of autumn.
Drum Castle historic rose garden
As you can see there were still a few wee roses blooming, but this place must look stunning in high summer.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 4
As you can see from the photo below – the sun got in the way a bit, but I thought you might like to see the wooden pyramid-like frames that have been constucted.

Drum Castle historic rose garden 3
I like the wicker edging that stops the plants from flopping over. In the foreground is Sedum spectabile, just about the best autumn/late summer colour we can get in gardens here I think, and beloved by bees and butterflies.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 8

Drum Castle historic rose garden 7

Drum Castle historic rose garden 9
Below is a photo of a bothy (shelter) which had a table in it with bags of apples in it – and an honesty box. No doubt at other times of the year you can purchase veggies too. This ‘bothy’ looks to me like it must have been a place for storing small carts and garden implements in its day.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 12 bothy

Although this garden is historic, it isn’t preserved in aspic and new things have been added to it over the years. as should happen with a garden. Gardens are never finished, they’re constantly evolving.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 12

One of the newer additions is the human sundial below, if you stand on a particular spot you should be able to tell the time from your own shadow.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 13 human sundial 1

I think the ‘spooks’ at the top of the design below are more than a wee bit influenced by Margaret MacDonald’s designs. C.R. Mackintosh’s wife.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 14 human sundial 2

While we were there the pond area was having work done on it so we weren’t able to walk all around it, but that didn’t worry me as the colour of the maples/acers were brilliant and more than made up for it.
Drum Castle pond garden

Obviously we didn’t see the gardens at their best as it was late October when we visited but if you’re interested you can see more images of them here.

David Douglas Memorial, Scone, Perthshire

David Douglas Memorial

I was reading a book called Plant Hunters by Charles Lyte ( I haven’t finished it yet) and I realised that David Douglas – one of the plant hunters featured in it was born in Scone in Perthshire, a place that we often drive through. There’s actually a memorial to him in Scone churchyard so the next time we went past there we took time to go and visit it. It’s quite big! His body is actually buried in Honolulu where he was when he died – under mysterious circumstances apparently. His body was found in an animal trap pit and he had been gored to death by a bullock that had also fallen into the trap.
The photo below is of the back of his memorial.
David Douglas Memorial
As he had been visiting an Englishman who lived in a nearby hut (it was his animal trap) and the Englishman was an escaped Botany Bay convict there has always been a suspicion that David Douglas was murdered by him. He was only 35 when he died but he had discovered so many plants and brought them back to the UK. His most famous plant introduction is probably the Douglas fir but he introduced about 240 other plants to the UK and our gardens would be much poorer without his contribution to botany.

David Douglas Memorial

David Douglas began his botanical life as an apprentice at Scone Palace then moved on to an estate in Fife and from there to the botanical gardens at Glasgow University before embarking on his plant hunting adventures.
David Douglas Memorial

For some reason Scotland produced more professional gardeners and botanists than anywhere else in the past, it’s something that authors have often acknowledged as so many writers of fiction have written their head gardeners as being Scotsmen, including Angela Thirkell. Plant hunters still exist today and sadly in 2013 a young Scottish plant hunter who came from a family with a long botanical history disappeared while on a plant hunting mission in Vietnam and his body wasn’t found until two years later. It’s thought that he died from natural causes after a fall.