Tag Archives: Scotland

oban, argyll and benmore

Scotto had a birthday recently and both our mums, knowing how much we both treasure presents that are experiences, rather than things, and remembering what it’s like to be away from family, gave him some money towards something that we’d love and remember in years to come- a fantastic daylong boat trip to Lunga and Staffa to see the thousands of puffins and other seabirds nesting on the tiny islands, as well as seal pups, amazing landscapes and the famous Fingal’s Cave!

We hired a car for a couple of nights and headed up to Oban, pitching our tent in the beautiful Sutherland’s Grove, a small forestry park with a towering stand of Douglas firs, some up to 45m and planted in 1870. We snuck in a quick walk in the twilight, soaking in the damp beauty of the place, before the rain set in. It continued all night and, although snug and dry in our tent, we woke up with a nagging suspicion that things might not be looking so bright for our day on the boat! Alas, the notoriously wet west coast weather had set in for a good few days and the tour was cancelled… SO sad. Still, there is a reason why Scotland is so beautiful and mossy and green and it requires giving up the expectation of reliable good weather and we’re getting used to that! So the puffin plans are on hold until next spring ; )

As we’ve already spent a bit of time in Oban, we decided to head down into Argyll Forest to have a wander through its stunning oak forests and rivers and to see if we could get to Benmore Botanic Gardens, a place I’d heard about and had been keen to visit… Benmore is a part of the RBGEdinburgh, a place envisioned for species of plants better suited to this wet coastline than Edinburgh; it houses many species of conifers and broadleaf trees from western USA, Asia and Europe and extensive collections from Japan, Bhutan, Chile and even Tasmania. A major drawcard to the gardens is the amazing avenue of Giant Redwoods which were planted here in 1863 and stand at over 50m…

Avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Redwood), Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll

Avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Redwood), Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll

Avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Redwood), Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll

Avenue of Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Redwood), Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll

And there are many other younger redwoods planted across the gardens, ensuring an ongoing population here- not that there is any expectation of the older specimens dyeing anytime soon as they can live up to 3000 years!

I always enjoy seeing species that I’m familiar with a very different habit to normal; this English Oak is growing amongst quite tall firs and spruces, which has encouraged the development of a tall, straight trunk with very little branching. And, interestingly, the bark on the lower branches is white and thin, almost like a birch and very unlike the grey, fissured bark usually seen on this species…

Quercus robur (English or White Oak)

Quercus robur (English Oak)

Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum

Benmore is particularly known for its rhododendron collection, not a genus I’ve been particularly interested in in the past… I’ve always found the highly hybridised cultivars that we see in Australian and UK gardens pretty gaudy and also very blobby in the landscape but here there were some beautifully slender silhouettes and really interesting foliage. I think I need to add it to next spring’s calendar as I suspect that the flowers on some of these may be much more subtle and beautiful than the ones I’ve seen before!

Rhododendron pachysanthum (Thick-flowered Rhododendron)

Rhododendron pachysanthum (Thick-flowered Rhododendron)

Layered rhododendron roots

Lovely layered rhododendron roots

It was a real treat for us to discover the Tasmanian collection and to wander through the eucalypts, cedars,  and southern beeches and to smell the lovely heavy fragrance of Eucryphia lucida, which is used to make our distinctive leatherwood honey… I miss the flora of Australia!

Eucryphia lucida (Leatherwood)

Eucryphia lucida (Leatherwood)

Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow Gum)

Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow Gum)

Dianella tasmanica (Tasmanian Flax-lily)

Dianella tasmanica (Tasmanian Flax-lily)

And the fernery… the subject of an 18-month project involving the renovation of the Victorian building that had fallen into terrible condition, the fernery is beautiful in and of itself but also forms a great method of display for its collection- I was really excited to see ferns growing all the way up the stone walls on protruding stones and plinths. The collection is still in its development stage and I think it will be an amazing and innovative display in years to come.

Unfurling

Unfurling

I love these millipede-like fern fronds!

I love these millipede-like fern fronds!

Such complexity in these structures...

Such complexity in these structures…

Soft new growth

Soft new growth

Beautiful mauve, fuzzy new growth

Beautiful mauve, fuzzy new growth

Doodia aspera

Doodia aspera (Prickly Rasp Fern)

The gardens are open from March 1 to October 31 and I’d really recommend including them in a trip to the west coast. If you’re interested in visiting and are also into walking, CowalFest, a local festival of walking and the outdoors in the first two weeks of October, is offering a number of walks combining the gardens with the surrounding landscapes.

shop update- Leona’s pouches

The shop has been quiet over the last couple of weeks while I worked through a number of custom orders and commissions… but I have a few beauties that I’ll be adding at 9am Glasgow time tomorrow (Tuesday November 10)!

These pouches were made from a length of beautiful vintage tweed that had been sitting in my very lovely friend Leona‘s granny’s stash for many years… Her family has recently been sorting through her belongings and, happily for me, Leona thought of me with this one. I think she thought it might be a bit too lairy for me but I actually love bright, clashy combinations, like pink and orange and green and red! And it was a lovely introduction to the traditional practice of buying pre-cut skirt lengths of tweed, complete with zip, from the local haberdashery. I’d never heard of these but, after posting about it on Instagram, a whole bunch of people chimed in with loads of stories about companies like Munrospun that paired the skirt length with a pre-knitted Fair Isle yoke and enough yarn to knit a matching jumper or cardigan (Kate Davies wrote a great post about these) and the abundance of similar pre-cut garment lengths in Australia, Japan and Thailand… I’m definitely going to be keeping my eyes peeled for these from now on!

So here they are in their beautiful, bright glory!

Leona's pouch

Leona’s pouches

Leona's pouch

Leona’s pouches

Working with what I had on hand, I paired the tweed, a tangerine, pink and eggplant check, with pale grey and charcoal zips and my natural Scottish linen and, given that my standard tweeds are much more muted, I think they play surprisingly well together!

Leona's pouch

Leona’s pouches

Leona's pouch

Leona’s pouches

Thank you so much for sharing your granny’s treasures, Leona! You are an astoundingly kind soul xx

saxifraga

I discovered a tiny Holi festival going on in the neighbourhood this morning! From here, these beautiful little Saxifraga x urbium or London Pride (what a great name!) don’t look all that colourful…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

But look a little closer…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And you’ll see!

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Aren’t they beautiful?! I completely fell in love with this sweet little plant but had no idea what it was. At first glance, I thought it might be a crassula of some kind as the flowers kind of resemble each other. But a bit of hunting and it turned out to be a saxifrage, a species that I vaguely remembered from my days as a herbalist but knew absolutely nothing about. So many plants to discover! There’s a lot of it in my neighbourhood, mostly planted amongst the rocky edges of tenement front gardens, and I’ll definitely be seeing it differently now!

There are so many details that you just can’t see unless you get in close.

The chunky, juicy style topped with delicate stigma, patiently awaiting pollen…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Those beautiful, coral-salmon, pollen-bearing anthers…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And that way that, once the anthers have fallen from the top, the filaments retract to form a series of rays between the petals…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And the summer mornings, with their long sunrise and soft, gentle light, make it easy to capture some lovely details, even for novice photographers like me, even though I know nothing about my camera’s manual settings.

How about you? Caught any nice details recently?

edinyarnfest

Ah, what a weekend! Such a lovely whirlwind and I’m still recovering… I don’t have enough words (or photos) to describe it but highlights included:

1.  Setting up for and getting through my first ever show (please excuse the dodgy photos!)…

Stall

Stall with the sign that my lovely friend Ella made for me before we headed overseas

Stall

Naturally-dyed yarns to show people what they can learn in my dyeing workshops

Colourwork cowls

Colourwork cowls

Colourwork cowl

Colourwork cowl

Because of the light and my dodgy camera skills, I didn’t manage to get any good photos of the pouches that I made for knitters tool or small projects. Here are a few that I took beforehand instead!

Tool pouches made from worn-out Harris tweed jackets

Tool pouches made from worn-out Harris tweed jackets

Harris tweed pouches

Pouches made from worn-out Harris tweed jackets

2.  Meeting many, many folk of varying fibre persuasion, from newbie spinner and knitting-trip-to-Nepal-organizer to university lecturer to some of my biggest knit crushes… heavenly! But again, sorry but no photos- no time and social inhibitions! Thanks so much to all who made me feel welcome in this new home of mine- it was lovely to see the same, familiar faces over the weekend as we are getting so used to not knowing anyone in Glasgow ; )

3.  Finding myself in a room of 200+ knitters and feeling like I was part of that scene in Roald Dahl’s The Witches-  you know the one where the protagonist gets trapped with a huge roomful of witches who, once the doors are shut, all sigh with relief and pull off their wigs and give in to their inner witch nature? I’ve been around a lot of knitters in my time but this was something else!

4.  Listening to some wonderful sheep and other knit recordings, care of Felix of Knitsonik– she’s wonderful!

6.  Hearing people talk so lovingly about their products, animals, area of expertise or community. So much love in the building.

5.  Having a couple of very quick wanders around the marketplace to enjoy other stallholders wares. I especially enjoyed visiting Helene Magnusson and Susan Crawford and talking to other newbies doing it for the first time…

Helene Magnusson's beautiful colourwork mitten

Helene Magnusson’s beautiful colourwork mitten

Wonderful colourwork from Susan Crawford

Wonderful colourwork from Susan Crawford

Exquisite Stoffoli dolls

Exquisite Steiner dolls and kits from new Edinburgh maker, Stoffoli

5.  And, finally, picking out a few treasures for me! There were so many yarns that I would have loved to try, from local dyer Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt to Baaramewe’s Titus to the Finnish strong yarn Ohut Pirkkalanka…  but I have my limits! Here’s my haul:

Hebridean/ Shetland from Ripples Craft

Hebridean/ Shetland from Ripples Craft

Acadia, given to me by the very lovely TFC owner Daphne to try running through the machine

Acadia, given to me by the very lovely TFC owner Daphne to try running through the machine

Brooks Blend from my yarn crush John Arbon textiles: Polwarth, Alpaca and Zwartbles!

Brooks Blend DK from my yarn crush John Arbon textiles: Polwarth, Alpaca and Zwartbles!

And some heavenly oatmeal laceweight North Ronaldsay, from those seaweed-eating sheep!

And some heavenly oatmeal laceweight from those seaweed-eating North Ronaldsay sheep!

All in all, a brilliant, exhilarating and exhausting weekend! I can’t wait for next year. (Oh, and I’m going to be launching my little online shop next week with some cowls and pouches to follow so keep an eye out if you’re interested!

moss

I’m obsessed with the mosses growing all over everything in Glasgow! I imagine they are most obvious right now because of the cold and moisture of winter but they can found on practically all fixed objects with a vaguely flat surface where moisture can collect and add a huge amount of cheer to the grey-brown winter landscape…

I’m looking forward to learning about the many different species- there are over 900 species of bryophytes (a group that includes not only mosses, but also liverworts and hornworts which are commonly confused with mosses) here in Scotland and, although I come from a relatively lush part of Australia, I’m a complete novice when it comes to bryophyte ID. So I have my work cut out for me.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying these as-yet-unnamed beauties in all their forms…

Dots

Dots

Mossy dots

Mossy dots

Mossy dots

Mossy dots

Bridge

Bulges

Wall

Wall

Mossy walls

Mossy walls

Steps

Steps

Tree roots

Tree roots

Pompom trees

Pompom trees

Moss pompoms

Moss pompoms

Twig

Twig

Mossy jumper

Mossy balaclava

Branch

Branch

Knot

Knot

Moss on cherry bark

Moss on cherry bark

And, just because it’s so lovely, I’m adding this lichen into the mix. Not sure I’ll be taking on a study in Scottish lichens though- that’s another 1500 species!

Lichen on birch tree

Lichen on birch tree

Happy weekend!