Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- March-April 2014

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 March and April 2014, with a commentary on each one. It thus forms a pictorial diary of my travels during those months which can be shared by everyone!

Geilston House and Garden, Argyll

Geilston is one of the many small country houses and estates found along the banks of the River Clyde and is close to the village of Cardross, heading towards Helensburgh. Throughout the 19th century the banks of the Clyde became increasingly popular with the Glasgow merchant class, with Helensburgh becoming fashionable. This estate was purchased in the mid 18th century by a Glasgow merchant and in recent years was a bequest to the National Trust for Scotland. For more on Geilston see Places to Visit in Scotland - Geilston Gardens.

The walled gardens are a feature of the estate but outside there is a woodland with trees and rhododendrons. This view of the woods and the Geilston Burn can be glimpsed from a window in a potting shed in the garden. At this time of year the trees are just beginning to sprout their spring leaves.

In the shelter of the walled garden a number of shrubs are in flower at this time of year including this large flowered azalea with its stamens straining towards the sunlight.

Mahonia is a native of eastern Asia, the Himalaya, North America and Central America. Its name comes from the Philadelphia horticulturist Bernard McMahon who introduced the plant from material collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 19th century. The plant is popular not just for its bright yellow flowers which appear in autumn and winter as well as early spring, but also because of its glossy evergreen foliage. Mahonia aquifolium, (Oregon grape) from the Pacific coast of North America also has purple berries.

Pieris, also known commonly as andromedas or fetterbushes, are broad-leaved evergreen shrubs growing to 1–6 metres (3 ft 3 in–19 ft 8 in) tall and 3–10 ft (0.9–3.0 m) wide. It is grown for its spectacular fiery red young leaves in spring. The flowers are bell-shaped, either white or pink, and arranged in racemes several inches long. It is a native of mountain regions of eastern and southern Asia, eastern North America and Cuba.

Aeonium (tree houseleek) is a type of succulent, subtropical plants. The name comes from the ancient Greek "aionos" (meaning "ageless"). Most of them are native to the Canary Islands but some are found in Madeira, Morocco, and in East Africa. Aeonium are not frost-resistant and the examples at Geilston are kept in a small glass house. The plant is related to the genera Sempervivum.

Pollok House and Country Park

Pollok House is set within Pollok Country Park, also home of The Burrell Collection, three miles south of Glasgow's city centre. The land here has been in the possession of the Maxwell family since the middle of the 13th century. There was a succession of three castles over the centuries until the present house was built around 1740. William Adam, one of the three architect brothers who made such an impact on Scottish architecture in the 18th century, was consulted on the design of the house. The house was remodelled and extended in 1890. There are attractive gardens attached to the house and woodland walks. The Edwardian Kitchen Restaurant is renowned for its home baking.

The White Cart Water flows past the rear of the house and there is an attractive bridge across the river and a weir further up the river used to provide water power.

Over the years, large swathes of crocus bulbs have been planed among the trees and they create a colourful carpet in spring time

The purple, yellow and striped crocus flowers as well as these white ones provide are attractive not only as a carpet of colour but also when viewed close up.

I have to admit that this illustration is a bit of a cheat as it is of a picture on display in the stables at Pollok House where the Glasgow City Council Heavy Horse Team are based. They have won many prizes with their Clydesdale horses at shows and competitions over many years.

Culzean Castle Country Park

My wife and I are frequent visitors to Culzean Country Park (though it's many, many years since we've been on the tour inside the castle - they don't let you take pictures inside National Trust for Scotland buildings!) The castle is located above a cliff on the Ayrshire coast overlooking the estuary of the river Clyde. The Kennedy family established a tower there from the 12th century and an L-shaped tower house was built in the 1590s. But it was not until the 18th century that the wealthy family, now known as the Earls of Cassillis, engaged Robert Adam to design a splendid castle, both inside and out. And to add to the wonders, a 565 acre parkland surrounding the castle was designed by Alexander Nasmyth and two pupils of Capability Brown. For more on Culzean see Scottie's Diary - Culzean Castle and Country Park.

Culzean has a lot to offer all year round but at this time of year the magnolias and camellias are usually at their best. Last year, after a particularly hard winter, the magnolias were struggling to produce any blooms but the recent mild winter has encouraged them to put on a particularly spectacular show.

Culzean has a large number of pink and white magnolias, many rising to a great height. It's just a well I had brought a tele-photo lens!

The red and pink camellias were covered in lovely blossom with very little frost damage showing up on them.

This berberis near the castle was covered in orange coloured blossom - that mild winter seems to have given a boost to all the flowering shrubs and trees this year.

As you can see, the Forsythia branches were also covered in their yellow flowers. The flowers are produced in the early spring before the leaves, with a deeply four-lobed flower, the petals joined only at the base. These become pendant in rainy weather thus shielding the reproductive parts. Forsythia is named after William Forsyth (1737–1804) a Scottish botanist who was royal head gardener and a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.

The wooded areas of Culzean Country Park are full of rhododendron flowers at this time of year. This white variety shines out like a beacon in the shaded areas of the woodland area.

Of course, there are also rhododendrons with subtle hints of pink..

And others with an even stronger shade of pink as well!

It's a shame that the Skunk Cabbage has such an unattractive name for such a nice looking flower, especially when reflected in the water. It does have a formal name of Lysichiton americanus or even swamp lantern. It is found in swamps and wet woods, along streams and in other wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it is one of the few native species in the arum family. The plant is called skunk cabbage because of the distinctive "skunky" odour that it emits when it blooms. This odour permeates a wide area where the plant grows, and this attracts its pollinators, scavenging flies and beetles. The plant was introduced into cultivation in the United Kingdom in 1901 and has escaped to become naturalized in marshy areas in Britain. Once established, it is hard to eradicate.

Greenbank Garden

Greenbank House and Gardens in Clarkston, about six miles from the centre of Glasgow, were established in 1763 by Robert Allason, one of the many Glasgow merchants. He was no stranger to the area - his forebears had farmed in the area for centuries. After making his fortune, particularly in trading with the American colonies, he bought a large part of Flenders Farm, the home of his ancestors. From the outset there was a walled garden, mainly to grow fruit and vegetables for consumption by those who lived and worked there. 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 in 1962. With his wife, he began the ornamental planting which is such a joy today - until then it had been used largely to grow fruit and vegetables for the owners. 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 so that everyone could enjoy the peace and quiet and the ever-changing flowers throughout the year. See also Places to Visit - Greenbank Gardens.

The picture above is of another type of magnolia - Magnolia Stellata - sometimes called the star magnolia, which is a native of Japan

I always think that Leucojum is like snowdrops on steroids - in addition to the larger bell shape, leucojum also has green spots on the white petals. It also tends to flower slightly later than snowdrops - it takes time for the long stems to grow high above the ground before bursting into bloom.

Kerria japonica is a deciduous shrub in the rose family Rosaceae, native to China, Japan and Korea. It is named after William Kerr, who introduced the cultivar 'Pleniflora'. Like a number of other flowers at this time of year the blooms appear on the bare branches before the leaves, thus making the plant stand out in the garden.

Helleborus comprise approximately 20 species of herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae. Despite names such as "Christmas rose" and "Lenten rose", hellebores are not closely related to the rose family. They are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period; the plants are surprisingly frost-resistant

Helleborus comes in a range of colours but one of the more unusual shades is green. There are not many plants producing green flowers but the Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius is one of them.

Cherry and apple blossom have taken advantage of the recent mild winter and have produced an above average crop of spring flowers. It is always hard to know at this time of year whether flowers are on a cherry tree or an apple but I think this one is a flowering cherry.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the Greek for "daughter of the wind", from ánemos "wind" plus a feminine patronymic suffix. There are about 120 species of flowering perennial plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native to the temperate zones.

Bergenia (also known as elephant-eared saxifrage or just elephant's ears or pigsqueak due to the sound produced when two leaves are rubbed together) is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the Saxifragaceae family. It is a native of central Asia, from Afghanistan to China and the Himalayan region. Greenbank has over 100 Bergenia plants growing in the garden creating a riot of colour in the spring and ground cover from the different varieties.

After snowdrops, crocus and daffodils (narcissus) tulips coming into flower lets us know that spring really has arrived - especially when they have such bright, vibrant colours as this one!

Yes, it is actually a tulip! Amazing what the nurseries can create these days!

The National Trust for Scotland guide book for Greenbank claims that there are 560 varieties of daffodil (these days often referred to as "narcissus") growing there. Even such a large number barely scratches the surface as growers register new daffodil cultivars by name and colour with the Royal Horticultural Society, which is the international registration authority for the genus. More than 27,000 names were registered as of 2008.

The photo above and those below show only a small sample of the daffodils to be seen there. I particularly chose to illustrate those that were not the standard daffodils and those that had their names on labels beside them! Some of the daffodil varieties cultivated by Robert Allason, the first owner of Greenbank House have never yet been properly identified and classified. The one above has various "extra" petals and the trumpet is a bright orange. The name of this variety is "Jersey Roundabout".

Here's another unusual shape and colour for the "trumpet" - this one is named "Sunny Girlfriend"

This variety of daffodil is named "Trena".

Looking more like the conventional daffodils we know and love, this one is named "Cassata". Wikipedia says that Cassata or Cassata siciliana is a traditional sweet from the area of Palermo, Sicily, Italy and that Cassata may also refer to a Neapolitan ice cream containing candied or dried fruit and nuts.

Named "Saint Peter" this collection of blooms does look a bit like a collection of angels!

I couldn't find a name label for this one but my suggestions would have been "Sunny Side Up" or "Fried Egg"!

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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