Saturday, 30 June 2012

Scotland's Gardens - Kellie Castle

The Scottish National Trust property Kellie Castle (in conjunction with Balcaskie) was open today under Scotland's Gardens Scheme. The castle dates from the 14th century and had fallen into disrepair until it was sympathetically restored by Professor James Lorimer in the late 19th Century. It contains magnificent plaster ceilings, painted panelling, and fine furniture designed by Sir Robert Lorimer.
The later Victorian garden has been restored by the Trust and features a fine collection of old-fashioned roses and herbaceous plants.It has been managed organically for over 20 years.

The central path with the armillary sphere sundial in the middle.
Two white doves on the Coat of Arms high up on the wall. The inscription reads 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' ('Evil to him who evil thinks') the motto of the Knights of the Garter. Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie, became a Knight of the Garter in 1615.
The door to the secret garden.
Chooks enjoying a feed of home-grown lettuce.
A border of sweet rocket - heavenly scent.
A red admiral butterfly on the sweet rocket.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Bladder Campion

Just by the Eastern entrance to the Serpentine Walk from Lower Largo there is a stand of bladder campion (Silene vulgaris). In most British campions the sepals are joined to form a straight or slightly bulging tube, but in the bladder campion this tube is inflated like a balloon. and it is this feature which gives the plant its common name.

Above photo showing the inflated net-veined calyx tube, which the red campion below does not have.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A Colourful Bank

A colourful bank of flowers and grasses growing at the top of the beach in Lower Largo. In the foreground there is red valerian and rosa regusa. Further back there is a small stand of white valerian. Growing in the wall behind there are the pink daisy-like flowers of erigeron and the yellow of biting stonecrop and amongst the flowers goose grass and marram grass.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Inside the Foxglove Flower

One of my foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) stems had blown down and broken off in the wind which prompted me to separate the top and bottom of the flower and look at it in detail, particularly the beautiful circular markings on the purple petals which attract insects to the flower. Can also see the stamens with the yellow anthers at the end and in the centre the green ovary and the style.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Largo Burn in Spate and Flooded Fields

After heavy rain yesterday the Largo Burn was in spate and produced this small waterfall in the Serpentine Walk at the junction of the two paths coming from Lower Largo.
Flooding at the bottom of the field which borders the road between Lundin Links and Upper Largo, although having seen pictures of flooding in the North West of England we got off very lightly.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Orchids, Darwin and a Pencil

Some years ago I bought a pot of orchids at a plant sale. There was no label so I am not sure of the identification but it is possibly Dactylorhiza foliosa which is native to Madeira. They are similar to our native early purple orchid but much bigger and look spectacular. They have flowered reliably ever since even surviving the very cold winter of 2010 to 2011.
The pollination of these orchids is quite unusual in that the pollen grains are contained in a pollinium. (This is a single stem like structure containing a mass of pollen, the male part of the flower, at its tip. It is usually glued to an insects head or proboscis as it visits the flower. Once the insect leaves the flower the pollinium actively bends so when the insect visits the next flower the pollen is transferred onto the stigma, the female part of the flower.)

Darwin studied orchids in detail and in 1862, published  a book on the 'Ferilisation of Orchids'.  He carried out one experiment using a pencil to extract the pollinium. I wasn't sure whether I could repeat it on my pot of orchids but much to my surprise when I pushed the tip of a pencil into one of the flowers there was the pollinium.
Pollinium attached to the pencil tip.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Looking East can hardly make out Leven at the end of Largo Bay. There has been continuous mist and drizzle for the last couple of days.
To the west, Ruddon's Point appears through the gloom. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Digitalis Purpurea and a Shropshire Hedgerow

I have always loved foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea). I love to watch the bees going in and out of the flowers collecting the pollen and as a child, I liked to make finger puppets with the flowers. 

All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous and ingestion can be fatal, but important cardiac glycosides (digitoxin, digitalin, digitonin, digitalosmin, gitoxin and gitalonin) can be obtained from the leaves and the plant has a remarkable history.
In 1785 William Withering, a Shropshire doctor and botanist investigated the plants properties after learning that a local folk herbalist, said to have been a Mrs Hutton had successfully used it to treat dropsy (oedema), a condition associated with heart failure and characterized by the accumulation of fluid in soft tissues. He considered the plant to contain a diuretic but we now know that it is the action of the glycosides on the heart that alleviate the oedoema, by improving the efficiency of the heart and slowing down the heart rate. Since that time countless patients have been successfully treated with minute doses of digitalis or its active constituents. I came across a short poem from 1818 which I liked, thought to have been written by a Miss Sarah Hoare whose father had been treated with digitalis.

The Foxglove's leaves, with caution given,
Another proof of favouring Heav'n,
Will happily display;
The rapid pulse it can abate;
The hectic pulse can moderate;
And blest by Him whose will is fate,
May give a lengthened day.

By 1869, a French pharmacist, Claude Adolphe Nativelle, had isolated a much-purified material he called “digitalin” from foxglove. Six years later, German chemist Oswald Schmiedeberg, whom many consider the father of pharmacology isolated the first pure glycoside in crystal form from foxgloves, which he called “digitoxin”. A brand of digitoxin called 'Nativelle Digitaline' was marketed in the UK at least as late as the mid 1980s.
Nowadays, digoxin is the cardiac glycoside of choice medically. It is obtained from a related plant Digitalis lanata which grows in Eastern Europe (although during the Second World War D. purpurea seeds were collected from the wild and grown to produce large quantities of leaves for medicinal use and at least as late as 1968 digitalis tablets prepared from the leaf were still in the British National Formulary).
With the possible exception of the opium poppy, digitalis species are probably the most important medicinal herbs known.
Nice marking on the inside of the foxglove flower.

A biennial and a popular cottage garden plant there are also pale and white varieties.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Oriental Poppy Flower Opening

The large flower bud of an oriental poppy.
Most flowers open too slowly to catch on film without a time-lapse camera, however, early in the morning can almost watch and see the flower bud of an oriental poppy open in real time.
The flower begins to open pushing  off the covering.
Nearly gone!
The fully open flower.
The flowers don't last long and within a day or two, the petals drop leaving the seed capsule.
A colourful stand of oriental poppies on the banking at the east side of the harbour in Lower Largo.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Skeleton Holly Leaf

Sweeping the front garden path, came across this skeletal leaf that had blown in. It's rather battered but can see the structure and the venation very well and can also see that it has the distinctive shape of a holly leaf.
Section showing venation.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Splashes of Yellow

A bright patch of buttercups on the Massney Braes in Lundin Links.

Although the predominant flower colours at present are the white of Queen Anne's Lace and the bright pink of red campion, there are also bright splashes of yellow.
More buttercups at the junction of the paths in the Serpentine Walk.
A patch of bird's foot trefoil.
Bird's foot trefoil is sometimes called bacon and egg plant because of the red streaks on some of the flowers.
A patch of corydalis and Welsh poppies in Lundin Links.
The yellow pendulous flowers of laburnum. A lovely flowering tree but all parts of the tree are poisonous.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Song Thrush on Wheelie Bin

Don't get many thrushes in the garden but this one was posing for a photo standing on one leg. Hope that it's going to eat up some of the myriad of snails that have come out to enjoy the rain.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Eider Duck Creche

Female eider ducks with their ducklings swimming in the harbour at Lower Largo. They operate a kind of creche system, and team up to share the work of rearing the ducklings. There were no adult males in the group.
Two female eider ducks with three ducklings
Eider ducklings

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Noisy Young Starlings

At present the garden, normally peaceful, resounds to the noise of young starlings demanding to be fed. I looked up the collective name for starlings (there were several) and one was a murmuration and another a chatter. The noise in the garden is a great deal more than that! A cacophany of starlings would seem more appropriate.
Four young starlings following an adult.
The noise gets even louder when food is put out. This filled coconut shell caused particular excitement, and it didn't last very long.
A young starling perches on the feeder.