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"Big Tree Country" - Part 6


By david


Aberfeldy and Kenmore : Part B.

As I strolled around Kenmore village, cold drink and chocolate long since consumed, I learned from an information plaque that the hills immediately north of the village were among the first in Scotland to have been planted up with trees, with a view to making a profit from timber. One of those hills, Drummond Hill, has a nice forest trail leading to a spectacular viewing ledge known as the “Black Rock”. So, it was time to get those walking boots on again and climb, climb, climb. I did get soaked in a torrential downpour on the way, but soon the sun shone again, and I had dried out by the time I got back down to the carpark. The view, even in the rain, was well worth the hike, and the soaking.

Kenmore, viewed from Drummond Hill

I even had a bit of excitement, – a young red deer almost collided with me, when it suddenly burst out from the forest and ran across the track, into the trees on the other side. :-)

The deer startled me at first, because my thoughts were still on the name Menzies,from my visit earlier in the day to Castle Menzies (previous blog).
When I got back to the car, I rummaged through my very dishevelled ring-binder old notes from a few years ago, and found what I was looking for:-

Archibald Menzies (1754 – 1842), born in the parish of Weem, close to Aberfeldy, Perthshire.. Whilst working in botany at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, was encouraged to study medicine, and qualified as a surgeon. He became a ship’s doctor in the Royal Navy, and made several voyages round Cape Horn, to Hawaii, and to the Pacific Northwest. Among the captains he sailed under, was Captain George Vancouver. He introduced many plant specimens to Europe, his most well-known possibly being the “Monkey Puzzle” tree (Araucaria araucana): and the Chilean (sometimes Scottish) Flame Flower/ Flame flower/Flame Nasturtium (Tropaeolum speciosum) – both originally natives of Chile.

Young Monkey Puzzle Tree in a Municipal Park near our Home

Although I knew that there would be nothing much remaining on the ground here, to associate with Archibald Menzies, I wondered if there might be something in a special garden 4 miles east of Weem, which I knew of, but had never visited – and so my daytrip, plant-themed, mystery tour, continued.

Cluny House

Cluny House Gardens (only the gardens are open, the house is privately-owned), as I discovered for myself, is an amazing place!

In the 1950s, Bobby and Betty Masterton bought the house and garden (2.4 hectares). Their main passion was Himalayan plants and trees, and they found that many of these grew well in the local climate. Later on, they added plant species from western North and South America. In 1987, the house and grounds were inherited by their daughter and her husband, who have since maintained and grown the gardens, following organic principles.

Tropaeolum speciosum in Cluny House Gardens

I knew that this rampant vine would be in flower right now, but never appreciated just how tall and wide it can grow. In this garden, it was easily over 15 ft wide, and clambering into the lowest branches of conifer trees, I guess, over 25t above me.

It is interesting to note that Archibald Menzies and David Douglas were contemporaries, both from Perthshire, and both of whom collected plants in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. The Douglas Fir, accredited to Douglas, is actually named after Archibald Menzies – Psuedotsuga menziesii.

I saw many once “exotic” plants, but two, in particular, had the “wow” factor, for me.

The stunning Nepalese Lily (Lilium nepalense)……..

Also, the 10ft tall Giant Himalayan Lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum)……………

What brought me here, however, was another “record-breaking” tree, said to be the one with the widest trunk circumference in the UK.

The big trunk belongs to a Sequoiadendron giganteum/Wellingtonia/Sierra Redwood/“Big Tree”. It has the largest circumference of a conifer in the UK is over 150 years old, and is 132ft tall. But, with images in my mind from Primary School in the ’60s, of slides of cars on roads running through underpasses carved out through the trunks of these great trees, I was not undr any illusion. This tree is still a teenager, and can grow to over 200ft tall, and live for 1000 years.

Gazing upwards

I was in awe of this garden! There is an admission charge for adults in summer, and also plant sales – but, there is noone to take your money. Everything is based on trust, and you just put your money into “honesty” boxes as you go.
I saw 2 people deaheading and weeding, but that was it! In the winter months, admission is free, and all that is asked is a donation to feed the red Squirrels, who visit here. When I read that sightings of these lovely animals was almost guaranteed here, it helped me make my mind up to visit. They are very, very timid, compared to their North American grey cousins, and my dream is to get a good pic of one. I watched, in awe, as as a couple raced each other down the Sequoia to a hanging birdfeeder, and admired how their natural colouring blended in well with the tree bark (have also noted how this is so with the native Scots Pine) – alas, no pics again today, they moved too quickly.

I was thrilled to see, together, the beautiful cones of the Korean Fir (Abies koreana) and the (originally from Chile) Tropaeolum speciosum. I felt that I had just done a gardening world tour!

I feel that I have blogged enough, for now, so (unfortunately?) my account of my day out will have to extend to yet another blog – sorry! It is just my way of combining my old paper notes with pics, now that I can get the occasional chance to see the places I once noted down.

Coming up…….the oldest living thing in the world (a Yew), a mystical mountain, a famous viewpoint, and a garden dedicated to the planthunters of the past.

More blog posts by david

Previous post: "Big Tree Country" - Part 5

Next post: "Big Tree Country" - Part 7



Beautiful and informative blog :))

23 Jul, 2009


Another lovely, interesting blog, David. I do hope you gave that lovely tree a big hug :)

23 Jul, 2009


Fascinating blog, David, and stunning view in that top photo :o)

23 Jul, 2009


Thankyou for another fascinating blog David,and the plants you photogaphed are amazing.Love the Korean Fir..what beautiful blue cones.That tree is really awesome and the Himalayan Lily out of this world ! Brilliant !

23 Jul, 2009


a great blog and excellent photos.

23 Jul, 2009


Interesting blog David and lovely photo's.

23 Jul, 2009


I really loved your blog, David! It's so informative & the photos are first class!

The Redwood tree must have been impressive - the Lilies certainly were!!! I didn't know they could get so big! The Korean Fir & the Tropaeolum speciosum look fantastic! Shame you couldn't get a snap of the squirrels! I've seen Red Squirrels where I used to live in Spain. Here in the UK I've only ever seen the grey ones. There are quite a few here where I live. I've seen them no end of times & have been within a few feet of them. I've seen how fat they can cross the ground & there velocity up a trunk is astonishing!

23 Jul, 2009


~fantastic David~would love to see red squirrel!

23 Jul, 2009


Many Thanks, folks!

Gee - I'd need to be "Inspector Gadget" to have long enough arms to hug this one. I love trees, but don't go as far as hugging them, lol!

Tt - This view is the classic one seen in postcards for sale in the area. Always wondered where it was taken from. Just a shame that, having got up the hill, it was raining :-(

Bb - Many Thanks. You made me notice that I wrote that I was in awe quite a few times, lol! Will go back soon and, perhaps, use some different words here and there. Have also noticed a couple of typing errors, lol! Not tonight though.

Bb,Balcony and Arlene - I'll keep trying to get a pic of a red squiirel (Cyril's cousin?). Missed the perfect opportunity when we were at Aviemore, because my son had taken my camera to do his own thing :-(. You know that you're in red squirrel country here because there are triangular road warning signs saying "red squirrels crossing" - they don't always leap from tree to tree.

23 Jul, 2009


Love to see the reds squirrels David.Always the way,when we need our cameras they are not to hand ! Lol

26 Jul, 2009


You seem to manage VERY WELL, Bb, lol! :-)

26 Jul, 2009


Oh no would be surprised the times wished had camera !Lol At work recently were a pair of "little owls" sitting on the fence ! Jane had the camera at home ! Lol

26 Jul, 2009


NO, NO, NO! I'd rather lose my winning lottery ticket! (Well, maybe not?) :-)

26 Jul, 2009


Win the lottery could afford TWO good cameras ! Lol

27 Jul, 2009


You always have a solution, Bb! :-)

28 Jul, 2009


Do you know what would do if you won lottery David? I would probably retire from work and take up full time photography ! Dream on....Lol

28 Jul, 2009


Hola,Bb! I'd develop Scotland's first chilli and sweet pepper farm, but with other "exotics" such as aubergines, okra," etc., thrown in. but you can't grow many on windowsills, lol! It would be near the shore on one of our wonderful surfing areas, and would have a restaurant/cafe/nightclub with suitable names, e.g the "Hot Spot" (but used so many times b4). Even the hot cocoa/chocolate drinks would offer various chilli flavours, if required. By day I'd be in my element in the polytunnels, by night I'd be "networking" in the club, lol!

"Where there's brass, there's muck". Mine would have to be along the Tijuana lines, though, lol!

- Well, YOU DID ASK! :-)

28 Jul, 2009


Well done David.I for one would visit your chilli and pepper farm...and frequent your restaurant to try out the flavours !Lol..Roll on Saturday ! Ignore Wed...not enough on offer ! Lol

28 Jul, 2009


I don't even play, lol! Hoping to get to the annual "Chilli Fest "at Leven's Hall in Cumbria's Lake District next month. It should be "hot"! :-)

29 Jul, 2009


Neither do we but may give it a shot ! Looking forward to your "hot" pics !!

30 Jul, 2009


I'm enthralled....will definitely read on... what a gorgeous picture of Kenmore. Do you remember the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" ? the captain had a Monkey Puzzle tree growing outside his window!

16 Oct, 2009


There are a few Monkey Puzzles growing here in the town where I live. I even have a couple of photos of one that I used to pass quite often going to work.

16 Oct, 2009


Well, Lori, have not heard of that movie, more investigation for me - Thank You. :-)

They are becoming "fashionable" again, Balcony, so more readily available. I just hope that buyers realise the eventual heights which they can grow to.

18 Oct, 2009

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