Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- August 2011

White Peacock

I never go anywhere in Scotland without my camera and I take photographs wherever I go. Sometimes I go somewhere specifically to take photographs with a view to adding another page to the Rampant Scotland site. On other occasions I just see something that makes an attractive picture or else it's another graphic to add to the library to perhaps use on a future occasion. This is a selection of the best photographs I took in August 2011 with a commentary on each one. It thus forms a pictorial diary of my travels during the month which can be shared by everyone! There's also a link to a slide show of the pictures on YouTube.

Falkland Palace

King James II adopted Falkland in Fife as a royal home (it had earlier been a castle of the MacDuff family) and it was used as a hunting lodge in the 12th century. In those days the Forest of Falkland had stags and wild boar and falconry was a popular sport. Today, Falkland and its surrounding village are popular instead as tourist attractions and the palace grounds are attractive gardens full of trees and flowers. There is an indoor tennis court too, which dates from 1539 and it is the only one of its kind left in Britain. For more on Falkland Palace, see Places to Visit - Falkland Palace

The massive gatehouse, through which visitors access the Palace today, was completed by James V although most of the adjoining facade of the building was completed by James IV. This is the part of the Palace which was restored in the 19th century by the Hereditary Keeper of the Palace, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. He refurbished the interior of the South Range, creating a comfortable home for himself. His son continued the good work by recreating a beautiful chapel which had originally been built by James V

Falkland is a frequent winner of the annual "Scotland in Bloom" competition in the small village category. The businesses and residents work hard to create window boxes and hanging baskets and pack their gardens with flowering plants to impress the judges. This horse-drawn cart is an impressive feature in an open area of the village.

Post Boxes in the UK bear the initials of the monarch as the postal service, the Royal Mail, used to operate as a monopoly of the government. When a monarch dies, however, the boxes are not replaced unless they become damaged. Due to the length of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, most of our boxes carry the monogram "ER" for Elizabeth Regina. But this mail box in Falkland dates back to the days of Queen Victoria (who reigned from 1837 to 1901) and so has the initials "VR" on it.

These golden yellow roses are from the well tended Falkland Palace gardens. Like the palace, the gardens are now looked after by the National Trust for Scotland heritage organisation.

Geilston House Garden

Geilston House garden is another National Trust property, this time near Cardross in Argyll, just over the border from West Dunbartonshire. The main section of the substantial stone house is thought to date from 1766, but there may have been a building on the site as early as the 14th century, possibly used by monks from Glasgow. The estate was purchased in the mid 18th century by a Glasgow merchant who made his fortune importing tobacco from Virginia and exporting manufactured goods in return. There is an article with more illustrations from Geilston at Places to Visit - Geilston.

Gaillardia, also known as the Blanket flowers, are part of the sunflower family and a native to North and South America. It was named after M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate who was a patron of botany. The common name of Blanket Flower refers to the resemblance to brightly patterned blankets made by native Americans.

The National Trust took over Geilston House and its gardens in 2004 and the heritage organisation has been working hard to improve the property and not only maintain the flowers and shrubs but add to them too. These dahlias are in one of a number of new borders that have been created in recent years

I first came across Gaillardia in my grandfather's garden in Perth and the bright daisy-like bi-colour blooms in shades from buff to red to brown have always been one of my favourite garden flowers. There are more than two dozen known species of Gaillardia.

My grandfather grew prize winning Chrysanthemums in his greenhouse and won so many prizes in the annual Perth flower show that he was asked to stop showing there for a few years to let others get a chance of winning! So he used to take his blooms by train to flower shows in other parts of the country - since he was a train driver, he got free travel anywhere in the country.

Greenbank Garden, East Renfrewshire

Greenbank Gardens in Clarkston, about six miles from the centre of Glasgow, was established in 1763 by Robert Allason, one of the many Glasgow merchants. After making his fortune, particularly in trading with the American colonies, he bought a large part of a farm south of the city. His house had sixteen rooms plus separate barns and stables and from the outset there was also a walled garden. But Allason got into financial difficulties at the time of the American War of Independence (though many of his fellow-merchants coped very well with the conflict, running contraband tobacco into Glasgow for sale in the UK and Europe). The house passed through a number owners until it was bought by W P Blyth and his wife in 1962. In 1976, the Blyths gave Greenbank House, the 2.5 acres of walled garden and the 16 acres of the estate to the National Trust for Scotland. The lily pictured above is named "Regale" For more on Greenbank Garden see Places to Visit - Greenbank Garden.

The name Acanthus (the flower is also known as Bear's breeches) is derived from a Greek word meaning "thorny." These perennial plants have spiny leaves and impressive flower spikes bearing white and purplish flowers. They can grow to over six feet in height and so are not often seen in suburban gardens. They originated in the Mediterranean Basin and Asia.

The Walled Garden at Greenbank is divided into more than 30 domestic sized themed gardens and contains a large collection of Bergenia and Hemerocallis (seen here) in a variety of colours. As a result, even when the garden is busy, the individual areas are quite secluded. But the garden is permeated by the sound of water splashing into a fountain - though you have to search a bit to find the source of the sound.

The statue which forms the fountain is named "Foam" and is a green, female water nymph. The fountain was created by Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson (1887-1973) for the Empire Exhibition in 1938 and was later brought to Greenbank.

Butterflies have been even harder than usual to find this summer so it was a delight to find this Small Tortoiseshell on top of the flowers of a marjoram flower at Greenbank.

Teasels (also known as Teazle or Teazel) are easily identified with their prickly stem and leaves, and the inflorescence of purple, dark pink or lavender flowers that form a head on the end of the stems. The first flowers begin opening in a belt around the middle of the spherical or oval flowerhead, and then open sequentially toward the top and bottom. The dried head persists afterwards, with the small (46 mm) seeds maturing in mid autumn. The seeds are an important winter food resource for some birds.

Hemerocallis is also known as the "Day Lily" because its flowers last for little more than 24 hours - but the withered flowers are rapidly followed by yet more fresh flower heads. There are thousands of different varieties of hemerocallis that have been bred by enthusiasts around the world.

Scone Palace

This year, Butterfly Conservation Scotland is encouraging members of the public to report their sightings of Comma butterflies. This variety of butterfly became extinct in the UK but in the 1930s it returned to southern England and has been expanding northwards ever since and by 2003/2004 had been spotted in Fife. I saw and photographed my first Comma in 2004 and after a gap, have seen one - and sometimes more - every year from 2007 to 2010, so I was hoping that I would be successful again this year so that I could report the sighting to Butterfly Conservation Scotland. Having seen them in some numbers last year at Scone Palace, we set of hopefully one day towards the end of August and managed to see four of these lovely insects in different parts of the grounds.

We are all familiar with the peacock's iridescent hues that change and shimmer with viewing angle. Totally white peacocks are not seen nearly so often but they have been created through selective breeding. Scone Palace has a number of them and I understand that the white feathers are much in demand by hat and wedding bouquet designers. The peacock "eye" which is so apparent in normal peacocks is only faintly visible on the white mutation.

The white peacock is not an albino. Its unusual lack of colour is due to a missing pigment which is dark and absorbs incident light, making diffracted and interference light visible (as in the common peacocks).

YouTube Slide Show
The photos in this page are also available as a Windows Media slide show on YouTube, with a musical accompaniment. See YouTube - Scotland Photo Diary - August 2011.

If you want to read the other Diary entries going back to 2009, there is an Index page.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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