Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- May/June 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 May and early June 2014 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.

Heavenly Blue at Branklyn

Meconopsis grandis is one of the poppy family of plants and the plant was originally found in the Himalayas. It was brought back to the UK by the mountaineer George Leigh Mallory on the failed attempt to climb Mount Everest. They can be difficult to grow from seed but The National Trust garden at Branklyn in the City of Perth always has a great show of these in May.

I often find it hard to get photographs of Meconopsis as they often have their heads pointing to the ground but many of the examples at Branklyn had grown with their heads at just the right angle to catch the entire face. The striking blue poppy is the national flower of Bhutan.

Meconopsis also comes in colours other than blue - in addition to yellow, seen here, there are red, orange, purple, white varieties.

This is the purple variety and I've seen the red and white species at nearby Glendoick Gardens in Angus.

Branklyn garden was started in 1922 on the site of a former orchard and was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland in 1967. It has a marvellous collection of plants and is particularly colourful in the spring time when the rhododendrons and many alpine plants are in bloom. Botanists come from all over the world to see it. It is relatively small with only around 2 acres of space on a hillside just off the road into Perth, but manages to pack in a lot of plants, shrubs and trees.

There are many large, mature rhododendrons growing in Branklyn Garden - the hillside location is a reminder of the mountainous regions where many of these plants originated before they had been brought back to Europe by plant hunters, many of them from Scotland.

Azaleas also enjoy the acid soil and steep slopes of Branklyn.

Paeony is a flowering shrub which is native to Asia but is also found in Southern Europe and Western North America. It is named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.

Scone Palace

Scone, near Perth, was once where the kings of Scotland were crowned after the Stone of Destiny was taken from the east of Scotland as the Vikings began encroaching on that area. In 838AD, Kenneth MacAlpin placed the Stone of Scone on Moot Hill at Scone. This became the crowning place for 42 Scottish Kings, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce. The stone was stolen by King Edward I of England and nowadays there is only a replica at Scone. The building beside the azaleas in this picture is a mausoleum.

Having been to Branklyn Garden before getting to Scone it was late in the afternoon before we reached the grounds of the palace. But despite the shadows cast by the sinking sun, these rhododendrons shone out like a beacon.

Davidia involucrata (also known as dove tree, handkerchief tree, pocket handkerchief tree, ghost tree) is a medium-sized deciduous tree which is native to South Central and Southwest China. This moderately fast-growing tree, soon rises to 20–25 m (66–82 ft) in height. Instead of petals, there are white bracts around the small flower head. On a breezy day, the bracts flutter in the wind like white doves or handkerchiefs, hence the English names for this tree.

Scone is well known for its collection of white peacocks. Any feathers that drop out are much in demand by florists and design artists. White peacocks are not albinos but have a genetic mutation that is known as leucism, which causes the lack of pigments in the plumage.

Greenbank Garden, East Renfrewshire

Although Lilacs are associated with the pale purple colour of common lilac flowers, there are many other varieties with different colours including white, pale yellow and pink, and even a dark burgundy colour as well as mixtures such as this brilliant variety at Greenbank. The Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts, celebrates "Lilac Sunday" every May when it shows off its collection of over 422 lilac plants, of 194 different varieties.

If this flower in the small greenhouse at Greenbank had not had a name attached I would have just called it a "lily". But its label described it as "Hippeastrum Red" and Wikipedia elaborated on this by saying "The name Hippeastrum, given to it by William Herbert, means "Knight's-star-lily", although precisely what Herbert meant by the name is not certain. For many years there was confusion among botanists over the generic names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum, one result of which is that the common name "amaryllis" is mainly used for cultivars of this genus, often sold as indoor flowering bulbs particularly at Christmas in the northern hemisphere. The genus is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina north to Mexico and the Caribbean."

Allium flowers come from a bulb related to the onion. Most authorities accept that there are about 750 different species.

Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colours found among the many species.

Branklyn Garden certainly doesn't have a monopoly of Meconopsis and Greenbank Garden (which, like Branklyn, also belongs to the National Trust for Scotland) has a number of these tall, graceful flowers in various locations within its walled garden.

Drumpellier Country Park, North Lanarkshire

Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire is described in its marketing literature as "North Lanarkshire's best kept secret". While the park and its loch can look tranquil at times, it has to be said that the folk in North Lanarkshire can't be trusted to "keep a secret" and it is often extremely busy!

It is always a delight to come across a newly hatched family of Mallard ducklings with their mother fussing around them - and chasing away any other birds that come near. Unlike many birds, however, Mallards don't actually feed their youngsters - just show them by example what to eat and where to find it. The ducklings thus learn early on at Drumpellier that bread thrown by humans are a source of nourishment (we always provide wholemeal bread but they are not averse to plain white as well!). In these family parties "Dad" is always conspicuous by his absence and indeed is likely to be chased away by the protective "single mum".

Cygnets likewise feed themselves while both parents stand by providing an escort. Unlike the Mallards, the male swan helps with the nest construction and protectively stays nearby while the eggs are being incubated by the female and for a while afterwards too.

It is unusual for Coots to rear as many as five youngsters. Both parents are very attentive and bring food to their youngsters and two is a more normal number for them to cope with. These young coots are big enough now to look after themselves and yet the parents will still frantically bring food to them unless they eventually swim away.

With so many predators around, it is always good to count the number of ducklings as the weeks go by to make sure that all have survived!

Some of the staff who work in the park have houses overlooking a delightful garden in a central location in the park. It must be odd to have members of the public wandering in to what they must regard as "their garden" but perhaps that's a small inconvenience compared with having such a delightful outlook!

This Cornus Controversa tree (also known as the wedding cake tree for obvious reasons) has multiple tiered branches with flat arrangements of white flowers appearing in summer.

I had gone to photograph the colourful lupin and than noticed a large snail with a colourful shell on its back (with other snails on some of the other lupins too). The bee buzzing in seemed unconcerned by this strange sight and just added a little extra to the picture!

It was only when I got close to this yellow tulip that I noticed the attractive narrow red edging on its petals.

Having walked round the park and taken lots of pictures and fed various birds (many of whom like the crows fly down in the reasonable expectation that I will provide their afternoon snack) I thought that I deserved a large soft ice cream cone with strawberry sauce!

Hogganfield Loch

Hogganfield Loch is within the Glasgow boundary and, like the lochs at Drumpellier, was formed by the glaciers that covered Scotland up to around 9,000 years ago. It is the source of the Molendinar Burn, a key influence in the siting of the city of Glasgow by St Kentigern. Hogganfield is 4–5 miles from Glasgow city centre. Despite having a children's swing park and being a popular area of recreation for those living in the surrounding area, Hogganfield Loch is also an important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is Glasgow’s most important site for migrant and wintering waterbirds. It is also recognised as a key regional site for wildfowl with a diverse range of birds being attracted to the loch - over 100 different species being have been recorded at the site. Many of the birds congregate near the car park where lots of visitors arrive with supplies of bread to feed the hungry birds. But those birds that want to raise a family tend to go to the other end of the loch or to an island in the centre where they are less disturbed. This group were happily working their way along the embankment.

With the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow at the end of July the City Council has been working hard to make the city look attractive. In the last few years a lot of work has been done at Hogganfield Park including planting a large number of irises along the edge of the loch and these are now flourishing.

Many years ago a large number of ornamental trees were planted in Hogganfield Park including many that produce flowers - such as this attractive Whitebeam tree with its white flowers (and red berries later in the summer).

Finlaystone Country Estate

Finlaystone Country Estate is large and so there is usually some new flowers in bloom at just about any time of year, but the late spring show of mature rhododendrons and azaleas is truly spectacular. I particularly like this yellow rhododendron and (further down this page) the banks of showy azaleas.

Halesia (also known as silverbell or snowdrop tree), is a deciduous large shrubs or small tree which is native to eastern Asia (southeast China) and eastern North America (southern Ontario, Canada south to Florida and eastern Texas). They grow to 5–20 m (16–66 ft) tall and the flowers are pendulous, white or pale pink, produced in open clusters of 2-6 together, each flower 1–3 cm long.

Embothrium is native to southern South America, in Chile and adjacent western Argentina and southern Peru and occurs as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Common names include Chilean Firebush in English, and Notro, Ciruelillo and Fosforito in Chilean Spanish. They are large shrubs or trees growing to 10–20 m (32-65 feet) tall.

This sprawling clematis plant has been cut back on a number of occasions but still manages to force visitors to duck down to get through to the garden area beyond!

This island bed is a mass of azaleas of various colours with a cap of a contrasting copper beech.

This mass of bluebells is perhaps not as spectacularly colourful as the rhododendrons and azaleas but in its own quiet way is equally impressive, bringing colour to a shaded area.

Common broom (Cytisus scoparius), is a native of northwestern Europe, where it is found in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils. Like most brooms, it has apparently leafless stems that in spring and summer are covered in profuse golden-yellow flowers. In late summer, its peapod-like seed capsules burst open, often with an audible pop, spreading seed from the parent plant. It makes a shrub about 1–3 metres (3 ft 3 in to 9 ft 10 in) tall, occasionally to 4 m (13 ft).

Another mass of colourful azaleas of various colours. Plant enthusiasts have selectively bred azaleas for hundreds of years producing over 10,000 different cultivars which are propagated by cuttings. Azaleas are generally slow-growing and do best in well-drained acidic soil which is often the case in Scotland. Azaleas are native to several continents including Asia, Europe and North America.

Magnolia sieboldii, Siebold's Magnolia, also known as Oyama Magnolia, is a species of Magnolia native to eastern Asia in China, Japan, and Korea. It is named after the German doctor Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796–1866). The flowers, unlike the better-known spring flowering Magnolias, open primarily in the early summer, but can continue intermittently until late summer.

Miscellaneous Locations

Many years later than originally planned and costing hundreds of millions of pounds above budget and causing major traffic disruption during construction over many years, the trams are now back in operation in Edinburgh's streets on one route from York Place in the centre of the capital out to Edinburgh airport. One could almost sense the bus driver deliberately stopping ahead of the tram at the traffic lights when this photo was taken!

Braehead shopping centre opened in late 1999 in Renfrew on the south bank of the River Clyde in Renfrewshire. There is an arena for skating and other events and leisure facilities. The shopping centre was rebranded as Intu Braehead in 2013 as part of a corporate rebranding exercise by Capital Shopping Centres, which renamed itself Intu Properties. There is a walkway along the banks of the river from the shopping centre to the Renfrew Ferry, with the BAE shipyard across the river.

During construction of the walkway and shopping centre noted above a number of metal bollards used for tying up ships moored in the river were moved to the Clyde View Park which was constructed nearby. They were no longer needed for their original purpose although cargo ships still sail further up the river to Govan.

This rhododendron "Pink Pearl" grows in my own garden and two of them were planted soon after we arrived in the house - over 25 years ago. Despite having to fight for space with a large hawthorn tree, it flowers well each May.

This close up of the flowers of the hawthorn tree referred to above does not do justice its large size and cascading branches of flowers at this time of year. The local birds enjoy the cover of the hawthorn - as well as the berries - and the bird feeders hanging from its branches!

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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