garden photography: the Birnam Oak

During November I want to see trees or leaves or anything found in a woodland environment

(this can include individual trees or leaves or woodland/forest views, fungi, wildlife or wildflowers – it can be of an autumnal flavour or anytime in the year, up to you)

Recently we visited Perthshire – country of the BIG trees. More of those to come. We stayed near Dunkeld and Birnam, small communities north of Perth and where the nearest amenities to our holiday let were. On our final day, not wanting to drive very far owing to a 7 hour drive the following day, we went for a walk around Birnam which has a Beatrix Potter garden and exhibition and a walk in Birnam woods to the Birnam Oak. Now, you may ask yourself, what is so interesting about this oak tree that it has its own walk?

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No, not this one. This is a sycamore. Sycamores are non-native trees and this one is a mere youngster being only 300 years old. Home to 15 species of insects, sycamore produces a very white hardwood which doesn’t taint food so is excellent for chopping boards and rolling pins.

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In Scotland it is often known as the Bumming tree on account of the bees who love the nectar produced in spring and the noise of their buzzing and humming.  A more gruesome note is that it was also used as a hanging tree, the Laird leaving the corpse to swing in the wind as a warning to others.

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The Birnam Oak is old. A living relic of Birnam Wood a medieval forest that once grew alongside the banks of the River Tay. The wood was immortalised by Shakespeare in his play about Macbeth, King of Scotland. This oak has a massive girth of 7 metres (24 feet) and the first 3 metres (10 feet) are hollow. It is a rich habitat for insects and wildlife.  Although this tree is old it is not from the 11th century – the period Macbeth was set in – but it is one of the last trees of the famous wood which played a part in Shakespeare’s play.

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Macbeth, a general in the Scottish army, murders his way to the throne believing he is safe from defeat because of a prophecy made by three witches:

Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are.
Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.

The witches prophecy, Act IV, Scene I, Macbeth

Because it is highly unlikely that a forest (Birnam Wood) will walk up the hill to his castle (Dunsinane Hill), Macbeth expresses great relief.

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Tradition has it that Shakespeare was inspired to write the tragedy after he visited the area as an actor. Records show that a company of strolling actors were permitted to put on a play in Perth in 1589, but none of their names were listed.

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For those of you who are wondering how on earth a wood moves up hill (and who have neither read or seen Macbeth)

Scene IV: In the country near Birnam Wood:

Malcolm, Macduff and their army are ready to invade Macbeth´s castle. Malcolm tells his men to camouflage themselves with branches from the trees in the forest.

“Let every soldier hew him down a bough
And bear’t before him; thereby shall we shadow
The numbers of our host and make discovery
Err in report of us.”

Scene V: A messenger arrives telling Macbeth that Birnam Woods is marching on Dunsinane.

So there you have it. A post combining trees and Shakespeare!

If you would like to join in with Garden Photography then please take a look at my Garden Photography Page. No complicated rules🙂

  • Create your own post and title it NovemberWoodland
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Add the tag “GardenChallenge” so everyone can find the posts easily in the WP Reader
  • Get your post in by the end of the month, as the new theme comes out on the first Sunday in December.
  • Please visit the sites in the comments to see what others are posting.

Garden Portrait: Drummond Gardens

OCTOBER is the month to share your favourite gardens.

(This month share with us what is special about your favourite garden. Why do you like it? When is it at its best? And how do we get there. Of course you may wish to share your own garden in which case unless you open it to the public, keep the actual location private. )

Drummond Gardens are Scotland’s most important formal gardens and amongst the finest in Europe. Set below the castle walls and surrounded by woodland, rolling countryside and the Ochil Hills to the east they were laid out in 1630 by John Drummond, 2nd Earl of Perth, but took their present format almost two hundred years later. As you enter the courtyard there is no indication of the grandeur to come.

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A tiny room on the right of the arched entrance is the ticket office – no fancy gift shop or tea-room here. And then you move to the garden entrance at the top of the terraces.

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The design is the Saltaire, the Saint Andrew’s Cross of Scotland, incorporating within the axis the multi-faceted obelisk sundial, built by John Mylne in 1630. The box hedges within the cross contain the Coats of Arms of the Drummond and Willoughby families.

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The sundial shows the time in different countries

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A view of the castle from the garden

The garden is designed to be viewed from the terraces as once you are on the ground the layout is difficult to see.  The red and yellow roses represent the Drummond colours.

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Of course a formal garden like this must include much statutory. Cute cupids, Greek gods and goddesses, animals…

The garden includes fourteen species of Maples so colour in spring and autumn is guaranteed as well as a beautiful copper beech planted by Queen Victoria in 1842 and dozens of deciduous trees and shrubs.

At the rear of the garden behind a wall is the kitchen garden with 21 varieties of apples trained to grow up the walls, fruit beds, vegetable beds, roses, dahlias and a glass house filled with pelargoniums, Achimenes, plumbago and a grape-vine.

And once again I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of colour in a garden this far north and in mid-September.

Drummond Gardens are located at Muthill, nr Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland PH7 4HZ and even if you are not a fan of the formal garden it really is worth a visit to view something so unique in the UK. And if you go to the web site there is a lovely video on the Picture Gallery page which uses a drone to take you soaring above the gardens so you can see it all.

If you would like to join in with Garden Photography then please take a look at my Garden Photography Page. No complicated rules 🙂

  • Create your own post and title it October: A Garden Portrait
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Add the tag “GardenChallenge” so everyone can find the posts easily in the WP Reader
  • Get your post in by the end of the month, as the new theme comes out on the first Sunday in November.
  • Please visit the sites in the comments to see what others are posting.

This is the last week for showing me your favourite gardens, next Sunday we begin the penultimate month of the challenge (how quickly the year passes) with Trees, leaves, woods, forests, and fungi – autumnal if you like though any time of year is quite alright by me.

As usual I appreciate everyone who has visited me this month to like and/or comment on my posts and a special thank you to those who linked their favourite gardens to mine so that we could all visit them too. I really enjoy my virtual garden walks.

Festival of Leaves: a formal view

It’s time for another year of Festival of Leaves. This is the place to share your love for autumn and rain, for dark evenings and cups of tea, of books and all that you love during this time of the year.

~ Verena Cave

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I’m not usually struck by formal gardens, but one look at this view from the raised terraces was enough to make me reconsider them. Planted with dozens of Japanese Maples and other deciduous trees it is ablaze with colour in the autumn. We were probably a week or two early for the best display, but it was still impressive.

There will be more about the Drummond Castle Garden – Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland next Sunday as it will feature as my final October Garden.

If you have some autumn leaves to share, then please visit Verena’s site and join in. She’ll be very happy to see you.

(Macro Monday will be taking a break for a couple of months )

Garden Portrait: Bolfracks Garden

OCTOBER is the month to share your favourite gardens.

(This month share with us what is special about your favourite garden. Why do you like it? When is it at its best? And how do we get there. Of course you may wish to share your own garden in which case unless you open it to the public, keep the actual location private. )

Continuing northwards we reached Scotland. A few days later with the weather returned to clear and sunny we discovered Bolfracks Garden on the A827 between Loch Tay and Aberfeldy in Perthshire. A short sharp turn uphill brings you to a gravel courtyard in front of a castellated Gothic-styled white house which is private. The gardens are open every day from 1st April until 31st October between 10 – 6 pm admission is £4.50 for adults.

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The garden faces north and has a fabulous view over the Tay valley and is built on quite a steep slope. Originally a Stuart property it was later bought by a branch of the Menzies family ( in fact you can see the Menzies castle from the grounds) who owned it through the 18th century and built the farmhouse. The Gothic front was added about 1830 by the Taymouth Castle Estate.

Views over the Tay Valley

Views over the Tay Valley

The soil is acid with good rainfall so suits rhododendrons and azaleas and camellias and other acid loving plants. There is a collection of old roses, viola, old daffodil varieties, hardy geraniums, sorbus, hydrangea, viburnums and a wide range of herbaceous perennials. And specimen trees.

Rugosa Rosa

Rugosa Rosa

It is probably at its best in spring with all the bulbs, bluebells and woodland planting, the mainly grass pathways were a little slippery from the recent showers, but with care we happily made our way around the garden.

One of the rose rooms

One of the rose rooms

The dark burgundy flower at the top of the rose rooms caught my eye, thinking it to be a climbing rose I was surprised to discover that it is in fact a beautiful double clematis, such a rich colour. And it complements perfectly the soft pink roses and the ruby-red penstemons.

The herbaceous borders contained many pretty flowers including hemerocallis, and even though many were going over their trumpet-shaped blooms added height and colour. Butterflies and bees were attracted to the attractive sedum edging the border. And there are one or two beauties that I didn’t recognise.

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Herbaceous border

Japanese Anemones

Japanese Anemones

The gardeners have their work cut out on this site, mowing the sloping lawns takes a lot of stamina and you wouldn’t want to leave any tool at the bottom of the garden when working on the upper slopes.

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The woodland garden is entered via  log-edged steps and guarded by a pair of lounging lions. From there you can wander through the Burn garden and in to the Spring garden, not too much to see at this time of year, but the running water of the burn, the little bridges and the turning leaves of the specimen trees and shrubs all create interest.

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A delightful garden. It was practically empty on this day except for a single American lady who was enjoying the planting and two gardeners who were hard at work, one of whom I enjoyed a lovely chat with. Hopefully he will see this post.

Bolfracks is a garden I would return to in the spring if it were not so far away. But if you have the opportunity, then I certainly recommend that you do so. You will not regret it.

Source of information: Bolfracks leaflet.

If you would like to join in with Garden Photography then please take a look at my Garden Photography Page. No complicated rules 🙂

  • Create your own post and title it October: A Garden Portrait
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Add the tag “GardenChallenge” so everyone can find the posts easily in the WP Reader
  • Get your post in by the end of the month, as the new theme comes out on the first Sunday in November.
  • Please visit the sites in the comments to see what others are posting.

Garden Portrait: Threave Gardens

Threave Garden is part of the Threave Estate and lies off the A75 Dumfries to Stranraer road, 1 mile from Castle Douglas. There is a lot to explore and it has a particularly large collection of northern hemisphere species, planted in the rock gardens, island beds, ornamental borders and woodland. It is also home to the School of Heritage Gardening where students learn practical skills from the head gardener and help to transform the 65 acre site.

(click to enlarge and scroll through the gallery)

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