• Brilliant ground agama

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    There is a certain hazard to trimming the hedges at the oil terminal in Barmer, Rajasthan, where i work. Fort unately they don't do it first thing in the morning when these beauties are out sunning themselves. Certainly something different to find on your local privet hedge.
    These are brilliant ground Agama lizards warming up after the relatively cold night. It gets down to to 27C over night here - brrr... not too bad you might think except that it gets to 43C in the day this month. It is hot, hot, hot. So when you are used to scorchio for most of the day then 27C is cool. Also these don't look so brilliant at the moment because they are just coming out of the breeding season - last week they still had traces of the brilliant blues and orange in their full colouration. Still - nice to see a privet hedge - a little touch of home out in the Great Thar desert. I'm pretty certain that it the same privet used all over the UK as hedges and which I grew up with in Grimsby where it still forms the hedges in my Ma's front garden. - "Ligustrum ovalifolium, also known as California privet, garden privet,[1] and oval-leaved privet, is a shrub in the privet genus Ligustrum" ](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligustrum_ovalifolium)___##2##___ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brilliant_ground_agama

    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Trapelus&species=agilis
    Photo0004"

  • Peach trees

    20 th March 2015 garden 033 red20 th March 2015 garden 035 red

    We are trying some more "exotic" fruit this year. I say exotic - they are exotic for North East Scotland rather than exotic per se. In addition to the grape vine (still no sign of life after the winter) we have a few trees on the go in the green house - namely an apricot and a peach.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peach
    The peach had a great show of flowers in March but I don't think we will see any peaches because the flowerrs are bee pollinated and I'm fauirly certain that there weren't anybees in the greenhouse. That's a shame because it was a really good display of blossom. The apples are now coming into blossom so let's see how they do this year - better than last I hopa as they are all a little bit larger and a little bit stronger. 
    Teh pear tree still hasn't given any fruit after five years but it is at least a decent sized tree now (even if it is bound up with chicken wire to a good few feet in height.
    I'm not sure how tender the peach and Apricot are - in theory they should survive if not throive in Aberdeenshire but it would only require one hard winter (which we have't had for the last three years) for them, and many other garden plants, to go to the great compost heap in the sky.

    20 th March 2015 garden 037 red

  • Hmmm subscriber numbers have jumped up - or have they?

    I try not to blog about blogging but something suspicious has just happened. In the last month there have been 14 new subscribers to the blog - more than in the previous 6 years combined.
    And only 2 of the original subscribers show up as "subscribers to this blog". That makes me think either that there are suddenly a lot of spammers about (the subscribers names are things like noreply@nothing.xyz and advertising@xyz.)
    Hmm suspicious.
    And then when I look athe help pages basically there is little or no questions or interaction over any subject with question and comments maybe once every 50 to 100 days (and the ideas forum is even worse).
    And then I'm getting frequent blank screens - address cannot be found - type thing.
    I think that perhaps this is all telling me that it is time to move on and leave the blog behind. When a shop gives you lemons and you wanted mangos then maybe either you make lemonade or try out a different shop.
    to this end I have deleted my Pro account (again) but that runs to Nov 2015 so I have around 6 months to decide if this company is value for money - obviously I don't think it is at the moment. It is onoly the 7 years of accumulated posts that stopped me from leaving last time.
    That is something known as the Concorde fallacy aka the sunk-cost fallacy: you continue to sink resources and money in a project because you have put so much work and money in already - it is a form of loss aversion in the same sort of area as having a project you can't afford to fail. You keep ploughing in resources based on previous costs no on future ccosts and rewards.
    Anyway I'm sure you can look it up if you are interested.
    SO that's a waste of a post - a bit of navel gazing rambling that no-one needed to know.

  • Caledonian Forest pt 2

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    While looking for information on "Why are some Scots Pines so twisted" I came across a great article which was the Inaugural Annual Lecture for the Royal Scottish Forestry Society.

    This lecture by Professor T C Smout is seen as a prestigious event to mark the naming of Scotland’s national tree, which is expected to be Scots pine.  Professor Smout is acknowledged as the leading history authority on people and forestry in Scotland so the lecture should be entertaining and educational. The lecture was held in the Budungo Lecture theatre, Edinburgh Zoo on Wednesday 19th March 2014 

    The lecture article is available for free download and I highly recommend reading it to anyone who is interested in the native nature of the UK and the Caledonian Forest in particular. 

    http://www.scottishforestrytrust.org.uk/userfiles/file/projects/p13-243%20inaugural%20rsfs%20annual%20lecture/scots%20pine.pdf
    DSCF2420red
    First Paragraph:

    We celebrate the decision to make the Scots pine the national tree. No tree is more redolent of the Highlands or more lovely in its manner of growing in the glens. Yet there is an irony in the choice, as Pinus sylvestris (despite our name for it) is one of the most widely distributed trees on the globe, with a natural range that stretches across the northern hemisphere from China to Spain, and as far south as Turkey. Scotland is at the north-western extremity of its range, where it is more sensitive to climate change than most of our other native trees, and its range in our countryside has ebbed and flowed over millennia. If the choice is intended to illustrate gnarled and tough Scottish distinctiveness it is a poor one. If it was intended to show how to adapt and cling on in the face of adversity, it is quite a good one."

    I tried to add the pdf on the site here but couldn't get it work. The summary of the summary of the lecture (as I read it) is that the Scots Pine dominated Caledonian Forest never really was that extensive and ebbs and flows with the climate. The blanket bog is the main climax vegetation for most of Scotland outside the fertile lowlands. The good agricultural land in the lowlands was pretty much fully cleared by the time the Romans arrived at the highlands in 84 AD. 

    Here is the final paragraph.
    "I will conclude with an exhortation fitting for a national symbol. Let us value and preserve the natural character of the largest ancient forests that we have. Let us protect and pro-actively extend those which have become mere remnants. Let us also plant new pine woods where we would like to have them, for wildlife, for ornament or pleasure, even for profit. But let us not try to plant pine in wet and windy bogs and straths, on land that has been open for millennia and bears no trace of pine within the last few thousand years. And let’s not pretend that we are restoring a lost Great Wood of Caledon or the Caledonian Forest as it existed 6000 years ago in a completely different context of history, soil and climate. We should be planting new pine woods or extending existing ones not out of nostalgia for some dubious myth, or because we fancy that we owe the past reparation for earlier destruction, but because we are lovers of Scotland and of Scots pine, modern improvers, who choose to treasure the pinewood ecosystem and relish the sight and smell of the woods today. That should be enough."

    The scenes above are the climax vegetation (the "natural" state) of most of Highland Scotland - humps of moss and heather - bilberries, willow with Scots pines, alders and Birch off in the background scattered mini forests on some of the drier more sheltered areas. Most of the place should be covered with hummocks that look like those below - soft, strong and very very wet.
    That is a bit of a revealtion to me and definitely one to be kept in mind when writing this next book.

    DSCF2421 red

  • The Caledonian Forest pt 1

    DSCF2417 red Three weeks ago we were in the Great Caledonian Forest - well the remaining remnants of it anyhow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caledonian_Forest I am setting major parts of my current book there so I had selfish reasons for dragging Jiurie there for a week - regardless she says she loved it - lots and lots and lots of long walks, days out with the dog,lakes, snow and fresh air. We certainly slept well. I am so glad we went so that I could actually see what the forest looked like. It was not what I expected. When I hear about great forests - particularly pine forests, I imagine darkness, tightly packed trees, impossible access and danger - a bear or a wolf behind every other tree. This image is taken from Hollywood/TV anddid not relate to the Great Caledonian Forest at all. The trees were much sparser than I expected - lots of light (though it is spring - on the other hand it is also a coniferous evergreen forest so the cover won't be so much more in summer/autumn - obviously I need to go back and check). Also - I found out later - some of it is managed - like that above - with thinning of trees to benefit the wildlife. Even in the unmanaged self seeded parts it was pretty open - you could see for a hundred meters or so before the trees obscured all the views. The trees, scots pines, are remarkably straight on the whole but their root system is very shallow. You can see an upended one below on the banks of Loch Ness. It was a t least a hundred foot tall but the root system was barely three feet at its very thickest onto the solid rock. The roots spread out a couple of metres and took off the top layer of rock when it collapsed - not a lot of suppost for such a tall plant. it is no wonder that so many collapsed in the recent storms. DSCF2472 red As stated the trees are much straighter than expected - though not as straight as those in the many plantations in Scotland - straight, tall, but a good percentage - maybe 5% are split somewhere up their trunk. This is why they aren't so suitable as a plantations tree. And then everr 500m/1/2 mile or so there will be one or two or a few that is totally wild - like a witch tree or fairy tree in the middle of a thousand upright citizens. These are still scots pines, suprisingly, but something in their genetics has caused them to go crazy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_pine Very strange. I'll post a few more of my piccies and observations over the next few days. DSCF2462 red

  • Easter Sunday

    3-4-15 009
    As it is Easter Sunday i ought to post a couple of easterly pics just to show that the winter is finally receding and Spring has definitely Sprung in Tipperty.

    Easter so it has to be Bunny Rabbits (as aboive - wild black rabbit and not very happy brown rabbit) and Daffodils as below.

    I'm back to India today so it will be a bit quieter - even more quiet than usual as I miss all the plants coming back in to Tipperty. C'est la Vie - can't get the time off if I don't do the work - well I could but then I'd have no money to pay the mortgage so I wouldn't see the plants anyway.

    3rd APRIL )!% 0183rd APRIL )!% 011

  • Blue is the colour

    3rd APRIL )!% 002

    In the midst of the rush of yellow flowers in Tipperty (Daffodil season) there are a couple of blue flowers of interst.
    Above is the blue orchid from Mothersday wghich is gradually bleaching out. The flowers furthest from the roots are going white first leaving behind some beautiful fading.

    In the greenhouse we have the flowers below - the first year that these "weeds" have produced flowers - or at least the first time I have seen them. The one centimetre tall flowers are clearly Violas. They arrived as weeds - just popping up on some plants bought in. I didn't weed them away as they often survived when the bought plant didn't and the chocolate brown round leaves of these violas were a nicer sight than bare soil, liverworts or moss that usually takes over a failed plant (when it fails due to over watering). So this is the first year I have seen the exquite wee flowers.
    3rd APRIL )!% 023
    When I looked up the brown leaves in a book or online I read that these were probably Viola labradorica from the US/Canada/Greenland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_labradorica  
    I blissfully went along believing that  - it seemed to fit. Now I reread in the Wikipedia article "Viola labradorica, commonly known as Alpine dog violetAlpine violetAmerican dog violetdog violet, and Labrador violet,[3] is a perennial native to eastern Canada,Greenland, and the United States. The plant sold as Viola labradorica by nurseries is Viola riviniana.[citation needed]"
    It looks much more likely to me that this is a purple leaved wood violet, Viola riviniana.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_riviniana . I have bought many more plants from England than I have from Greenland, the US and Canada so which one is more likely to have come in as a weed?
    Exactly - much more likely to be "Viola riviniana, the common dog-violet, is a species of the genus Viola native to Eurasia and Africa.[1] It is also called wood violet[1] and dog violet.[1] It is a perennial herb of woodland ridges, grassland and shady hedge banks. It is found in all soils except acid or very wet.

    It is a perennial, flowering from April to June."
    Now I am originally from Grimsby - NE Lincs (though briefly it was moved to S .Humbs) so I may be biased towards the common Dog Violet.

    "Viola riviniana was voted the county flower of Lincolnshire in 2002, following a poll by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife.[2]"
    It is my home plant (though I admit I never ever saw it in Grimsby - but then I wasn't an amateur botanist / fleurophile at that time). In tipperty this "weed" has already escaped the green house and managed to survive our mild winter and the rabbits so I have some hopes for the plant in our garden. We shall see, we shall see.

    3rd APRIL )!% 025

  • Moving the Aroids.

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    While I was moving the snowdrops on Sunday II took the chance to have a go at the arums as well. Dig, split and replant.
    Actually I dug them up by mistake as they were entwined with the snowdrops in the gunnera corner. Seeing as how I'd dug them up I thought that I ought to give it a go - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    These are cuckoo pints - Arum maculatum. They are supposed to be Italian Arums (I bought them as Italian Arums from J Parkers but they have grown up as British style Cuckoo pints) but don't show the marbled effect of the Italian - only the reddish brown spots. "Arum maculatum is a common woodland plant species of the Araceae family. It is widespread across most of Europe as well as Turkey and Caucasus.[1][2][3][4] It is known by an abundance of common names including snakeshead, adder's root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, lords-and-ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, Adam and Eve, bobbins, naked boys, starch-root, wake robin, friar's cowl and jack in the pulpit. The name "lords-and-ladies" and other gender related names refer to the plant's likeness to male and female genitalia symbolising copulation."

    The underground root stock looks like a tiny dalo/taro - and is said to grow much bigger. I don't see us using it as a food stuff (unlike Dalo/Taro - Colocasia esculanta). Should we give it a go...
    "Culinary[edit]
    The root of the cuckoo-pint, when roasted well, is edible and when ground was once traded under the name of Portland sago. It was used like salep (orchid flour) to make saloop — a working class drink popular before the introduction of tea or coffee. It was also used as a substitute for arrowroot. If prepared incorrectly, it can be highly toxic so should be prepared with due diligence and caution."
    I think the final sentence is a definite no chance - highly toxic... no chance.

    22-03-2015 02622-03-2015 028

  • Snowdrops in the green.

    22-03-2015 014a

    Well I moved more snowdrops yesterday - Sunday evening - it was overcast, damp and late in the afternoon so ideal time to move living plants.
    All you need to do is find a tight colony and slam a spade in close then lever up. The mass of living snowdrops come out as one big tight lump.

    22-03-2015 015a22-03-2015 016a
    22-03-2015 017a

    The snowdrop clumps can be pulled apart really easily - they almost fall apart into neat bulbs and leaves. On an old clump (such as the one above) there were at least forty bulbs many of which were tiny like chives. I planted the lot - big and small - if they thrive then all well and good. Dig in a spade - 6 to 9 inches deep - lever the spade open, take out, drop in two bulbs - one either ends two to three inches deep and then close up, light stamp to push the edges around the bulb.

    22-03-2015 01922-03-2015 020
    22-03-2015 02122-03-2015 022

    In a matter of an hour I must have moved almost 100 snowdrops in the green - if they all thrive then we will be looking at two great swathes of white either side of the path every spring. It'll take three or four years but it will be impressive - and then I'll start moving them and we'll have snow every spring regardless of the weather.

    The ones I planted last weekend are already looking spry and standing up thanks to the combination of light rain and warming weather. Their response has made me more confident of my easy system. In the short term it looks good for my minimal bend planting scheme.
    22-03-2015 024

  • New Alyth garden

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Dunkeld,+Perth+and+Kinross+PH8/@56.61095,-3.236133,3a,75y,4.12h,89.87t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s7kMR8dON8eeJwyE4mMRm5Q!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x488610ea1f91af3d:0x64887974cb67d708

    We were driving back from Glasgow on Tuesday 17th March and passed this garden in New Alyth - I had to take a photo - it is great when someone doesn't care and makes a personal garden... as long as it isn't close to me. I couldn't look at this every day.

    22-03-2015 00522-03-2015 006

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