Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- August/September 2013

I never go anywhere in Scotland without my camera and I take photographs wherever I go. Sometimes it's 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/September 2013 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 Garden, Argyll and Bute

Geilston House was purchased in the mid 18th century by a Glasgow merchant named James Donald who owned property in and around Glasgow. The Donalds made their money importing tobacco from Virginia and exporting manufactured goods in return. But it is thought that the main section of the substantial stone house dates from 1766, although there may have been a building on the site as early as the 14th century, possibly used by monks from Glasgow. The property was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland nearly ten years ago and they have put in a lot of work improving the property and the gardens. The house is not open to the public but there are extensive gardens.

This impressive variety of chrysanthemum is "Allouise" (according to the plant label helpfully placed beside it).

Colchicum is sometimes called "autumn crocus" or "meadow saffron" and also "naked lady" which refers to the "naked" crocus-like flowers which appear in late summer or autumn, long before the strap-like foliage which appears many months later in spring. Colchicum flowers have a tendency to fall over but these ones in a shaded spot in the herbaceous border were managing to keep upright.

Echinacea is a herbaceous flowering plant in the daisy family. The nine species it contains are commonly called coneflowers. They are often found in eastern and central North America in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy flowers, blooming from early to late summer. The generic name Echinacea is rooted in the Greek word for sea urchin due to the spiky appearance of the flower heads.

An entire border of chrysanthemums making a real splash of colour at Geilston.

Gaillardia, known also as the blanket flower is one of the sunflower family, Asteraceae It is a native of North and South America and was named after an M. Gaillard, an 18th-century French magistrate who was a patron of botany. This particular variety is named "Fanfare" - for obvious reasons.

Helenium is a family of about 40 species of annuals and deciduous herbaceous perennials in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to the Americas. They bear yellow or orange daisy-like composite flowers. A number of these species have the common name sneezeweed, based on the former use of their dried leaves in making snuff. This was inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits!

Greenbank Garden, East Renfrewshire

The National Trust for Scotland gardens at Greenbank in East Renfrewshire, south of Glasgow are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the building of Greenbank House itself. It was built in 1763 by a Glasgow merchant by the name of Robert Allason. He was a local man who had begun life as a baker, before setting up with his brothers in Port Glasgow as a trader. He made his fortune trading with Britain's American colonies, eventually becoming a land-holder in the Caribbean. The profits from trade in both tobacco and slaves allowed him to purchase Flenders Farm (on land his family had worked for centuries as tenants) and establish the house. However, Allason's trading interests later suffered during the American War of Independence.

A lot of renovation work on the garden has been carried out recently in anticipation of this 250th anniversary and part of this has been the addition of the striking sculpture (above) representing a "Green Man" - a decoration referred to in works on architecture as "foliate heads or foliate masks". It is thought that the motif goes back to Pagan times and carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative. The simplest depict a man's face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. There is a Green Man carved high on the front wall of Greenbank House and a local metal worker took this as the starting point for a Green Man metal sculpture to mark the 250th anniversary.

Alstroemeria is commonly called the Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas and is a family of flowering plants that are all native to South America. Even so, they seem to thrive in the Scottish climate! The variety pictured here is called "Inca Ice". Alstroemeria was named after the Swedish baron Clas Alströmer (1736 – 1794) by his close friend Carolus Linnaeus. Alstroemeria come in many shades of red, orange, purple, green, and white, and they often have spots. Many hybrids and cultivars have been developed, featuring many different markings and colours, including white, yellow, orange, apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. The most popular and showy hybrids commonly grown today result from crosses between species from Chile with species from Brazil.

This was the first time we had seen a Comma butterfly at Greenbank and on checking with the staff it seems that they were unaware that such a rarity was a visitor to the garden. Hopefully there is more than one in the area and it can become established so that its progeny can brighten the garden again in future years!

Canna Lilies have large, attractive foliage and horticulturists have turned it into a large-flowered and bright garden plant. In addition, it is one of the world's richest starch sources, and so is also an agricultural plant. Canna Lily is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the New World, from the southern United States (southern South Carolina west to southern Texas) and south to northern Argentina but some species are cultivated and naturalized in most tropical and sub-tropical regions. and can be grown in most countries, even those with territory above the Arctic Circle, which have short summers but long days, as long as they receive 6–8 hours of sunlight each day during the growing season and are protected from the cold of winter. This particular plant was growing in a green-house at Greenbank.

Many flowers on trees and shrubs flower in the spring or early summer but Eucryphia is one of the exceptions and its white blooms cover the tree in late summer or autumn. Eucryphia is native to the south temperate regions of South America and coastal eastern Australia. They are mostly evergreen and the flowers are showy and sweetly scented, 3-6 cm diameter, with four creamy-white petals. Its name is derived from the Greek for "well hidden" - though the flowers shine out when they are in bloom.

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. His family gave the fountain to the National Trust for Scotland in the 1980s and the pond was made for it at Greenbank. It has only left the garden once since then, to appear in the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. Pilkington Jackson also sculpted the impressive statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn (which was recently renovated in anticipation of the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the battle next year.

Honeysuckles are valued as garden plants for their profuse tubular flowers in summer, and the intense fragrance of many varieties. The hardy climbing types need their roots in shade, and their flowering tops in sunlight or very light shade. There are about 180 species of honeysuckle and it is native to many areas of the Northern Hemisphere.

Hydrangea aspera sargenentiana is one of the many varieties of Hydrangea native to the region between the Himalayas, across southern China, to Taiwan. It is a large, erect deciduous shrub growing up to 3 m (10 ft)] tall and wide. The flowers are typically borne in large flat heads in late summer, and are in variable shades of pale blue and pink, fringed by white or pale pink sterile florets. It favours a sunny, sheltered position in acid or neutral soil.

Drumpellier Country Park

The Comma butterfly declined dramatically in Britain in the 19th century and by 1920 there were only two sightings in the UK and it had been extinct in Scotland since the 19th century. It has since staged a dramatic come-back, mainly in the south of England where it is frequently seen. Only a few have been seen in Scotland, and numbers reported to Butterfly Conservation Scotland in recent years have been small and mainly in the east of the country. But they have started to be seen in various locations further west including Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire, south-east of Glasgow. I've seen one there in four of the last six years and I've managed to take a picture on each occasion. The Comma gets its name from a white marking on the underside of its wing that looks like the punctuation mark. The dark underside provides camouflage for hibernating as the wings look like dried leaves when folded.

Quite different from its dark underside, this is the brightly coloured scalloped upper wings of the beautiful Comma butterfly at Drumpellier.

The weather this summer was much better than the three previous years and this has helped the butterfly population to bounce back. The UK-wide Butterfly Conservation Society's "Big Butterfly Count" was the most successful so far with 46,000 people taking part in the UK. While most of these were from England, the number participating in Scotland increased by 51% compared to last year. The Small Tortoiseshell topped the butterfly chart in Scotland (where numbers increased by 300% compared with 2012, when it came 4th). Red Admiral came 9th in the table of butterflies counted in Scotland with a double digit increase compared to last year.

We have watched with interest the progress of the Great Crested Grebe chicks which were late in hatching but the parents did well keeping the family of three demanding chicks well supplied with fish. The Great Crested Grebe chicks must be amongst the loudest of young birds with a piercing call that can be heard all over the loch when they are out feeding. A pair of Great Crested Grebes in Hogganfield Loch which is a couple of miles from Drumpellier also raised a family of youngsters. Juvenile grebes are capable of swimming and diving shortly after hatching. The adults teach these skills to their young by carrying them on their back and diving, leaving the chicks to float on the surface; the parents then re-emerge a few feet away so that the chicks can swim back onto them. The Great Crested Grebe was hunted almost to extinction in the United Kingdom in the 19th century for its head plumes, which were used to decorate hats and ladies' clothing. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) was initially set up to help protect this species, which is again a common sight.

My Own Garden

I was surprised to see that in the "Big Butterfly Count" the Peacock was 7th in the table of the species of butterflies seen in Scotland. Small Tortoiseshell topped the table followed by Small White, Green-veined White, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Large White. On the basis of my own observations I would have put the Peacock further up the frequency table but I am perhaps influenced by having six of them at one time drinking nectar on a buddleja bush in my own garden - four of them in the picture above!

The Peacock's spectacular pattern of eyespots, evolved to startle or confuse predators, make it one of the most easily recognized and best known species. It is from these wing markings that the butterfly gained its common name. The underside of the wings are very dark which helps to provide camouflage in dark corners when hibernating. The butterfly hibernates over winter in buildings, walls or trees before laying its eggs in early spring on the tips of vigorous nettle growth in full sun, in batches of up to 500 at a time. Note that the European Peacock is quite different from the butterfly known as Peacock in the Americas.

As suburban gardens have spread into the countryside foxes have learned to adapt to living beside humans. It is estimated that the total number of adult foxes in urban and rural Britain is about 258,000 of which 33,000 live in urban areas. Some people regard them as a "pest" while other encourage them by putting out food for them (not something I have done). It is certainly not recommended to try to feed them by hand, however, as this might reduce their natural fear of humans. We often hear foxes howling to one another at night and they can often be seen trotting through gardens or down the middle of roads at night. This one may have had a busy night hunting for food and decided to have a snooze in the morning sunshine.

Another predator which is thankfully not seen very often is this sparrowhawk. This one managed to snatch a small bird feeding in the garden and then flew to the top of a small conifer outside the kitchen window to have its snack. It seemed quite unperturbed when I turned up with my camera!

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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