Scottish Apples

I just got off the phone with my friend Carolyn, who still lives at the big old house in Scotland where I was groundskeeper for a year. The building was originally built at the end of the 1800's as the Seamill Cooperative Home, a convalescent home built on a hill beside the Firth of Clyde, from the days when the sea air was the main medicine used against the horrors of Glasgow's sooty, industrial, black lung-producing factories. Some of the original garden plantings remain, very staid and Victorian, but they match the building's imposing architecture, so I tried to keep them much the same. The lower half of the grounds is taken up with woodland. In the days of the convalescent home, (from the turn of the century through the first World War), it was cleared and used as a half acre veg garden & greenhouses. Nothing remains of this now besides the Greenhouse Meadow, as we named it, some brick paths that I excavated and a few random shrubs that don't look like they belong in a British woodland. A line of privets, escallonia, some old roses-now wild-and a few dogwoods (cornus alba mainly, the shrub dogwoods, not cornus florida, our North American dogwood tree). The West Kilbride burn (creek) winds its way beside this woodland, with chestnut trees, wild fuchsias, rhododendrons and thickets of snowberry lining its sides. Once I put on waders and climbed in, pulling out whatever detritus I could find. Plenty of broken pottery and an old shoe. I planted the old shoe with spring flowers and entered it in the local Spring Show. I got second place, first went to an arrangement done in a ram's horn. Rather garish to my tastes, but it was Scotland. ( A people not known for their subtlety in home decor. Wallpaper on the ceiling, anyone?)

Carolyn and I were talking about a little slip of land that is on the other side of the burn from the woodland bit; you have to ford its icy waters and slip between some trees to see what's on the other side. I did this towards the end of our stay there, with Greg and Thomas from the garden crew. I think we all got wet, laughing and slipping as we scrabbled up the far bank. The trees were thick and close. As we pushed through the underbrush the feeling that anything could be on the other side stole over me. It felt very ruinous Cair Paravel over there. It was early spring, and the weak Scottish sun did nothing to warm us, although the meadow that greeted us was steaming. Cobwebs hung in the tall grasses like banners. In the midst of this meadow, we found 5 or 6 venerable apple trees, covered with moss and lichen, boughs hanging low. The meadow grass & bracken grew up through the branches in most places, creating dewy, brown-green pheasant coverts and rabbit warrens around each tree's perimeter. It was beautiful. Nearby sat a massive millstone, being slowly eaten by lichen, no doubt part of the mill that gave Seamill its name.We threaded our way to the other side of the meadow and found....a trash dump. Lovely. Also very Scottish, unfortunately.
Bring Back The Apples!
I didn't know what type of trees they were then, it just looked like a long-forgotten orchard. I'm not sure how long these trees have been abandoned. At least 50 years? I assumed the trees had entirely ceased to bear fruit. And then Carolyn told me today that she and her husband Lee climb these trees each autumn in search of apples, usually ending up with enough for a pie. I am itching to do some rejuvenative pruning. Rejuvenating old fruit trees must be done over a series of several seasons. That sounds a little expensive, so instead I'm going to try to hold some cyber trans-Atlantic pruning workshops for Carolyn, so she can bring the trees back into a productive state. Teaching a man to fish and all that. It sounds like a fun prospect, and I'm planning on using B as tech support. Any words of wisdom-either with pruning or cyberspace?
Oh, and here's a YouTube clip I found: a dizzy ride down the Glenbryde Road to the ocean across the street (the A78). That's the edge of the building and grounds on the left. If it looks bitter, wintery and cold, that's because it usually is!

thanks to Eleanor McSeveney for these postcard pics!


smalls said...

OMG. OMG. OMG... When are we going?!?!?!? ;o)

PS - want to do a lilac pruning workshop once they are spent this spring?


rosa said...

2010, my friend! You will LOVE it!
And what I know about lilacs could fit on a very small piece of paper. Let's do it together!

alerts said...
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Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.