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Gardeners Log 2012
Eucalyptus at Linn Botanic Garden following January gale.
Dunfermline Glen January 29.
 The day got off to a stuttering start as we had to change mini buses at the garage. Thank you Margaret for being an excellent Navigator,PA and getting our transport sorted out
Down in the Glen - Dunfermline.
We once again were the beneficiaries of fair weather for most of the day. We made straight for the Abbott's house adjacent to Dunfermline Abbey which has a lovely wee garden of topiary bordered beds and interesting plants. It also has a atmospheric tea room where we enjoyed our tea, coffee and scones. Some of our party also joined in a guided tour of the Abbot's House and found it quite informative.

Others went on to look in detail at the Abbey itself with striking stained glass windows and a great feeling of majesty and space if rather cold. King Robert the Bruce is buried here. His heart is buried at Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders.



Onwards, through the glen which is amazingly preserved and has a feel of ancient times about it. I'm sure if this place was not so steeped in history the glen would have been filled in long ago.

The grey squirrels were in abundance, healthy and pretty tame. It's a pleasure to see them up close even although they are “public enemy number one”! It is obvious that they are well fed and tame and that those who do feed them would be appalled if they were to be culled. On the other hand I have watched a grey squirrel strip the bark off a maple tree which never fully recovered from the damage. A Robin also appeared to be very tame and came up to us expecting to be fed.

There is a small but very warm Museum in the middle of the park. We were glad to drop in to look at the photographs of the park in times gone bye. How the people of the auld grey toun loved their park. Bands, parades. fun and games. Everyones dream of how a park should be. Dunfermline Glen is also known as Pittencrief park and was gifted to the citizens by Andrew Carnegie.

Suitably warmed we processed to the Glasshouses. Some forty five years ago I visited the glasshouses here and spotted fruit on a Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa, and opened it up to reveal the flesh. I could not resist it.

I ate a good piece of this fruit. If I remember right it had a taste somewhere between a pineapple and a banana. I do not recommend eating fruit from municipal glasshouses. It may have been sprayed or treated with a systemic insecticide. That was a risk I took as I was young and foolish then.


The Bananas looked exceedingly healthy and a fine bunch hung from one tree. Further down the flower stem were small baby bananas just set and the remnants of the flowers. There were Geraniums and Pelergoniums with scented leaves throughout the houses. The scents ranged from gorgeous to almost good enough for smelling salts. Once again we had dodged the bitter bighting cold.

The most striking plant in the glasshouses at the time of our visit was Calliandra haematocephala, commonly known as the Red Powder Puff.



This originated in South America. The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has made it the plant of the month for February. If you would like to receive the monthly Newsletter by email from the RBG you may use this address to make contact.


Eleanor and Margaret with the very striking Calliandra haematocephala. Right.


Upon leaving the warmth of the glasshouses we noted the extensive rose garden and made a mental note to drop in bye the Glen in the summer when travelling would allow. Another good day! 



Time to get out in the bitter cold again and .... keep walking!

Just one more thing. The King sits in Dunfermline toun drinking the blood red wine. "Oh whaur will I get a Captain to sail this guid ship o' mine?"

The ballad of Sir Patrick Spens is a much loved poem which captures the tradgety of Royal life as it was then. I recommend that you Google it and enjoy a good story. Brian. January 2012.





Balbirnie Estate Markinch Fife.

I started my career as garden boy working for the Head Gardener, Jack (John) Chalmers at Balbirnie Gardens. The garden boy is at the bottom of the ladder. Above him comes the Apprentice, the Journeyman Gardener and then the Foreman. The dizzie heights of Head Gardener was away up there somewhere. Certainly not even coveted by a garden boy. In fact I was never to achieve such a position.


Balbirnie was owned by the Balfour family. Lady Ruth Balfour lived in one part of Balbirnie House and Major John and Jean Balfour lived in another. It was my job each morning to collect the vegetable lists and fetch the cans of milk from the Home Farm. I made the journey in good company. I linked up more often than not with the Game Keeper and his pack of dogs to go and return from the dairy. The dogs were always pleased to see me.


Glenrothes Developement Corporation bought Balbirnie by compulsory purchase. The House is now a luxury hotel. The walled garden was used as a holding nursery for trees. The wall remains but the beautiful garden is no more. All that is left are the many memories and many brilliant coloured slides which Jack Chalmers  made. I have been gifted these by Mrs Ina Chalmers and Jack Chalmers Junior. 


Mr Chalmers was a kean photographer and he was popular and well known for the illustrated talks he gave to Womens Guilds and Womens Rural Institutes in Fife, Perthshire and Angus. His slides are a tribute to his dedication as a gardener and as a photographer. They are also a wonderful historic record of the gardens he worked in as Head Gardener.


I plan to make the images available to a wider audience. I will need help with naming the many Rhododendrons. I hope that the Cox family at Glendoick Rhododendron Nursery and Garden Centre hear my call for help!



Irises for cut flowers in the walled garden 1960's. These were sent to Edinburgh and Dundee Flower Markets by train from Markinch Station. Photograph: Jack Chalmers.


Vegetables of excellent quality were grown to supply "the big house".

Photograph Jack Chalmers.

 Onions ripened in the sun and then stored in a dry frost free shed until ordered by the Chef or Cook. Some were sold to the residents of Markinch who would call and buy fruit, vegetables and flowers. All income supported the garden.
Photograph by Jack Chalmers.
Following the milk run I handed over the two fruit and vegetable lists to Mr Chalmers and by then it was nine thirty and breakfast time. We had a thirty minute break which was most welcomed as we started at seven thirty in the morning.
More of this later.
Balbirnie Estate 23 February 2012.

The Glasgow Garden Walks Group, part of the Walking Programme, Glasgow Life, enjoyed a good walk in the grounds of Balbirnie Estate. Millions of snowdrops were at their best and sadly many fine trees had been demolished in recent gales. However the clear up is well underway. This is an opportunity for new tree planting to benefit present and future generations.


Linn Botanic Garden Cove Argyll. 8th March 2006.

If we were in any doubt about the gale damage of December and January the evidence was clear. Substantial trees completely uprooted. Others snapped in half like match sticks.



Despite all the losses and damage our guide Jamie Taggart was optimistic about the future of this gem of a botanic garden. The loss of the trees presents opportunities for new planting. With this positive outlook I have confidence that the garden will be here for generations to come. The gales a devastating blow but a hiccup before new trees and plants for the future.

Even this early in the spring there was much to see. A number of Rhododendrons coming into flower and some of them collected by Jamie in the Yunnan, China. Yes we met a real live Plant Hunter who travels to a number of countries to seek out new species or variations in species to introduce them to horticulture in Britain. The work of Jamie and others like him from other gardens and botanic gardens in Britain is invaluable. Plants facing extinction in their native habitats are grown to conserve the gene pool. Plants are discovered that have value in medicine. Plants that look good in our gardens are almost a spin off from the other values.



Rhododendron X 'Nobleanum'. "There are more numerous forms but all are noted for early flowering and are hardy but of course not the flowers from frosts". Jamie Taggart.


The modest sales area was full of substantial container grown Rhododendrons and many plants growing in the botanic garden. Some of the Rhododendrons were large well grown plants which would make an immediate impact planted in a garden. I plan to return with an empty boot to collect a few special plants for my garden in Linn Park, Glasgow.



Another blue gum tree, Eucalytus, uprooted by the gales.

Jamie did say that Linn Botanic Garden could do with more visitors and we can help by spreading the word. Jamie's dad, James Taggart, is a very distinguished gentleman. I am sure that we won't forget our warm welcome and hospitality.

For me one of our best garden walks.



 Rain did not deter us and mud is just very wet soil. Jamie Taggart says "Look at all these happy faces!" Or was it ... Give me back my cones - I need the seed?
Magnolia ? in Linn Botanic Garden 2009.

Kelly Castle Garden, the Kingdom of Fife.

The garden is well maintained by the Head Gardener and volunteers. It was very encouraging to see that spring has sprung at Kelly Castle in the East Neuk of Fife. As the garden is cultivated along organic lines hens are a great asset. In place of chemicals the hens seek out grubs and beasties for feasts. This in turn keeps garden pests down. Scientists believe that hens are the last of the Dinosaurs!




Several plants were putting up a good show with flowers including the heavily scented Viburnum bodnantense and an unnamed Lonicera which also had a lovely scent. A Peach was coming into full flower against a south facing wall looking out to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. It is protected by a modest glass lean to which was gifted to the garden by the local National Trust for Scotland Members Group (NTS). A welcome addition to a very fine garden.

We chose to visit in spring. Later in the year the garden becomes more and more spectacular with roses, herbaceous plants and very substantial fruit and vegetable crops. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season. There is also a plant sales area. If you need convincing that organic gardening is worthwhile look no further than the garden at Kelly Castle.


A few miles from the Castle we visited Elie and enjoyed our packed lunch overlooking the harbour. The local cricket team play their matches at low tide in the harbour. It is a sight worth seeing! The girls who lunch retired to the Ship Inn for, well, lunch and reported back that the Fifers are very friendly. Good news. I married one ... Annie!


Watch out for quicksand when you access the rocky beach next to the car park by the Harbour Masters Office!

To round off the day we visited the villages of St Monans and Pittenweem. We watched boxes of crabs being unloaded at the Fish Market in Pittenweem. A group went on to walk to the town centre.

It is always a pleasure to walk in gardens in Fife and they never dissapoint. The Kingdom of Fife was described by King James V1 of Scotland as “a beggars mantle fringed wi gowd”. Now I would say that Fife is a mantle of gowd. It is in deed a beautiful place. We never tire of visiting the East Neuk of Fife and St Andrews.

Brian Sutherland 15 March 2012.


PS This evening Annie and I enjoyed the fish I bought in the retail/trade fish merchants in St Monans. Annie had the smoked haddock which was not dyed. I enjoyed a lovely filletted kipper - again gently smoked and not dyed. We had a lovely tasty light meal. Delicious! Friday 16 March 2012.


Kilmory Castle Park Lochgilphead. Thursday 22nd. March 2012

What a day. The sun shone from a beautiful blue sky. It was as warm as some of the countries on the Mediterranean. Was that our summer flitting past in the twinkling of a eye? We hope not.


How often have we said "It's a Jungle out there?"


The walking was great and we stopped and picnicked at what appeared to be the remains of an Iron Age Fort overlooking the wee Kilmory Loch. Very petite as lochs come.

Then we hit a tranche of gale damage where numerous Scots pines lay atop of each other blown completely out of the ground. Roots and all. We climbed and scrambled over the toppled trees and this was a bit of a challenge. “If so and so had been here she would not have made it”. Strangely all fourteen of us made it. Guess what, when we stop and help each other we can all make it!


To round off a good days walking the party walked a short section of the Crinan Canal. Quite a contrast. Flat open with dwellings close bye and a complete contrast to the woodland walk at Kilmory.

We must return to see the Rhododendrons at Kilmory Castle as soon as we can.

Take me to your Leader”.


First Barbecue of 2012 Sunday 25 March.

Yes we were cooking and eating in our garden today. The belly pork was toppen (1960's Keith for "the best!") followed by chicken and well seasoned sausages. Perfect. Just practising of course. Joshua, four and a half, had a sun tan after two days helping papa in the garden. Number two gardener. Big on watering. Top man.

Easter in the North West
Annie and I with two friends enjoyed a relaxing stay at the Rua Reidh lighthouse north of Gairloch.

We visited Inverewe and inspected the Bambuselum. A number of Rhododendrons were showing off their lovely flowers. If anyone offers you Himalayan Rhododendron honey don't eat it. It is reputed to be poisonous.

We visited Auchiltibue and enjoyed a cruise round the Summer Isles with Ian Macleod in the wheel house guiding the Isabella through choppy seas. It was a great experience.



A traffic jam near Melvaig.


The lighthouse is fourteen miles north of Gairloch and is beautifully isolated from everything. It is a smashing place to chill out and meet new friends from all over the world. The huge conservatory is the beating heart of the hostel. If you want to get away from everyone try one of the two lounges in the officers quarters.

There is one retained Lighthouse Keeper otherwise the light is operated remotely from Edinburgh. You can see for yourself how comforting it must be for those at sea.


The Hirsel Country Park Coldstream.


Following the A6112 was an uphill and downhill ... and a roller-coasterr experience ... and a zig zag across the landscape. Forgive the liberties I have taken with the English language. The road illustrated clearly that when it was created it was for cart horses and followed the field boundaries. Perhaps the Romans had the best idea, straight, straight and straight from A to B.

The Hirsel has beautiful woodlands with large trees and masses of Rhododendrons and Azaleas. We were a shade early and caught the earliest flowers. Some of these were damaged by frost and were browned.

The lochan is called a lake which suggests that it was man made. It looks man made.

Quiz question: what is name of the only lake in Scotland? Answer the Lake of Menteith. Now you can count Hirsel Lake as a correct answer.



Along the lake pollarded Salix (willow) had beautiful stem displays – glowing orange. If you know which Salix this is please let me know so that I can label my photograph.


Another encouraging feature of the park was the hedges. Many fairly recently planted hedges looked great. In the main the hedges were of Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna and Field Maple, Acer campestre. Along the main drive Beech, Fagus sylvatica, has been extensively planted to form hedges.

These will be come corridors for wildlife and greatly enhance the charm of the Hirsel.

We enjoyed good walking and an autumn visit would be rewarded as many of the fine trees will be in autumn colour. Once again timing is of the essence. We would like to visit the gardens around the house at some time in the future. April 19 2012.


Bargany Estate and Gardens Ayrshire.

On a warm 'summers day' we enjoyed our exploration of the grounds and gardens of Bargany. The garden is only open in May each year and the spectacular displays of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are worth the time to visit.



Beautiful Rhododendron azaleas make a great splash outside the walled garden.


Many plants were in flower and many more are to come into flower over the next few weeks. The trees are also magnificent. Walnut and Tulip trees are just coming into leaf. The Giant Redwoods too are magnificent. Sadly the top of one specimen has gone brown and it looks like it will loose its leader. It is likely that the tree will grow one or more leaders to take over its continuing growth. There has been storm damage and some magnificent trees have been blown down.




We saw a huge beech blown right out of the ground and showing a substantial raft of roots. The root system was fairly shallow with not much sign of substantial anchoring roots. This confirmed the fact that beech is shallow rooted and prone to gales. However the two hundred plus years this specimen graced the policies of Bargany were worth its weight in gold. As long as you don't plant beech close to your house definitely plant this fine tree.



The great beech has a massive but relatively shallow root system. Wilma gives it scale.


The walled garden is mainly down to grass and you can imagine what it was like one hundred years ago. The moon gate in the south facing wall is big and beautiful. It is the fourth moon gate I have seen in Scotland. The others are in the garden of Jura House, Isle of Jura, Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire (National Trust for Scotland), The Explorers or Plant Hunters Garden in Pitlochry. Round the corner in bargany there is yet another gate but it is oval rather than round.



Janette at the Moon gate.


The moon gate is a Chinese device which provides pedestrian access and egress usually in a garden. It is symbolic of love.

"When I first saw you, through the moon gate, you were my dream”. I wonder who wrote these words. The moon gate has many different meanings in Chinese culture. I like to see it as a symbol of love. There is no beginning, there is no end. It is eternal.

I can recommend visiting Bargany near Girvan in Ayrshire. 10 may 2012.


Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey, May 2012

Annie and I visited Jamie and Lucy recently in London. We spent some time in Kew.



Lucy, Annie and Jamie where May is oot and its still too early to cast a cloot!


We have to return to see the bits we missed. Here are some pictures.





Canada Geese show of the goslings at Kew. Picture Jamie Sutherland.




Pnumatophoprs on Swamp Cypress


No they are not Meercats. They are pneumatophors also known as breathing roots on Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum). This is the best example I have seen of these amazing roots.


Inwood, Carberry, Musselburgh.

Lindsay and Cameron are enthusiastic gardeners. Inwood always pleases my girls. Lindsay is enthusiastic and animated when she is showing a party around the garden. You cannot fail to be impressed with the stories she tells and the way she answers questions.

Asked about how to keep Tulip bulbs for the next season Lindsay surprised us by saying that they treat them as annuals. After flowering bulbs tend to divide and produce two or three lesser bulbs which don't flower the following year. New Tulips are purchased each year to guarantee a good display. I always move my tulips, after flowering, to a side bed in the garden where they can flower or not as the case maybe. Lindsay donates hers to Musselburgh in Bloom and they are pleased to get them.

Tulips floating on Batchelors Buttons.

Rain does not deter us. We are garden lovers!


The Artists Garden Shepherd Cottage Inveresk.

In the afternoon we visited the garden belonging to Sir x and Lady x which is only five minutes a way from Inwood. Heavy cold rain did not stop us from exploring this delightful garden.



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