Wildflower Wednesday

Pink Perfection
Thrift, Sea Pink,  Rock Rose, Moss Pink, Our Lady’s Cushion, tonna chladaich, Armeria maritima

Thrift (Armeria maritima)

Thrift growing on Ardivachar headland

As May approaches our wildflowers are still deep in slumber – sleepy heads waiting for the temperature to rise. However this tough little cushion plant has been in flower for the last two weeks or more – a nectar treat for the early spring bees.
It is a flower of the coast and will grow in rocky crevices and in almost pure sand. As its spiky, needle leaves suggest it is drought resistant and salt tolerant, perfect for the seaside garden. The buds are like miniature artichokes, pale green globes with a promise of future delights,  then slowly the tiny pink petals emerge each floret like a twist of tissue.

Thrift in the croft garden

Thrift in the croft garden

It has a favourite of gardeners since sixteenth century and some of the of the garden strains have white or deep pink flowers. In the Croft Garden Cottage ornamental garden it grows on the edges of the paths and in awkward crevices between the rocks and almost anywhere where nothing else will survive.  It also makes an appearance in the herb garden more for decorative than useful purposes. However, according to Flora Celtica in Orkney the roots boiled in milk were used as a treatment for tuberculosis and in South Uist it was once used as the traditional sailors cure for the morning after:

“take a bunch of sea pinks pulled with roots. Boil for an hour or more. Leave to cool. Drink slowly and you are ready for the next night ashore”.

I must ask my neighbours about this one!

For more Wildflower Wednesday posts please visit Gail’s blog


Earth Day – late celebrations

Ardivachar reefWe were sitting enjoying the late evening sunshine and a glass of wine, watching the skydancers and musing as to whether we’d have a spectacular sunset when the Ardivachar gods gave me a nudge in the ribs. A beautiful male Hen Harrier, resplendent in pearl grey and black livery, had the temerity to fly through the skydancer’s no fly zone. Both Lapwings were immediately airborne, twisting and turning, tumbling and spinning around the intruder. Harriers also have a reputation for skyrobatics and we were treated to a spectacular display of cirque du ciel. Then it was over, the intruder retreated with dignity and a look of disdain.
Apparently I’d still not got the hint, this time it was a divine kick up the derrière. As I was doing the washing-up I caught a glimpse of a splash just off-shore. Intrigued I had another look and lo and behold a curved fin and then another and even more! A line of shiny black backs with undulating fins moving down the headland. Then a breach and finally leaps and somersaults. Bottle-nosed Dolphins!
This was only the second time in four years that we’d seen dolphins at Ardivachar – mainly because we are protected by an offshore reef and the inshore waters are very shallow. So this school was obviously taking advantage of the high tide to go exploring.
So I’d finally got the hint that I should celebrate Earth Day with a post about the wildlife of Ardivachar. This was a timely reminder that even this very special place has the ability to amaze and surprise me. So for everyone who is not fortunate enough to live in paradise, I’d like to share my joy and delight at living on a beautiful planet.

Give me sunshine


English Primroses thriving in a Hebidean sea-side garden

After two weeks of long sunny days I’m as brown and wrinkled as a December Egremont Russet, my hands rasp like sandpaper, the finger nails are all broken and very grubby, and my joints crack and creak. All but the most urgent domestic chores are neglected and my e-mail auto-responder reads “gardening I’ll get back to you when it rains”.
After Easter the weather changed, we have had hours and hours of sunshine and just a few April showers to keep the ground moist. True the northerly winds have a cool edge, but I’ll settle for April weather any day. If we get a northerly air flow at this time of year the days are dry and sunny. Sorry to gloat, but when the sun shines the islands are magical and the days are to be treasured.
I have not been frittering my time away sitting on the garden bench admiring the view or walking on the beach, this weather is too good to waste. Although I have to admit I was distracted from weeding on the day of the Barnacle Goose fly past – skein after skein of geese flying low over the sea and over the croft – over 2,500 in a morning!

  • So are we weed free? Yes but it is a temporary illusion.
  • Have I sown the first rows of carrots and parsnips? Yes, in slightly wiggly rows.
  • Have I done something about the bare patches left by the builders? Yes, I’ve sown a coastal wildflower/grass mix which is currently feeding a flock of Twite.
  • Have I planted the hardy perennials which over-wintered in the polytunnel? Well yes, I was a tad impatient and I really should know better.
  • Have I split the primroses and collected the seedling? Yes – what a joy, my gardening is finally producing its own plants!
  • So is my garden green, verdant and burgeoning with blooms? No, but it looks promising.

London PrideThe herbaceous plants are shooting and showing signs of life and those which are a little chlorotic are being encouraged with a liquid seaweed tonic. We’re now reaching the end of the daffodils with just Pheasants Eye (Narcissus poeticus) remaining to gladden the eye and perfume the air. The alliums are waiting in the wings and although their leaves are a little ragged, the flower stems wave in the wind and are only broken by a serious gale. There is also the ever faithful London Pride (Saxifraga umbrosa), a little yellow and burnt to a crisp on the northern face, nevertheless it produces masses of starry sprays of the most delicate pink flowers. I’m not given to whimsy, but these are fairy flowers!

Trillium chloropetalum

Trillium chloropetalum

Of course there is always the surprise lurking in the back of the border. Trillium cuneatum is looking a little tired now, but still in bloom and just a little way along the border is Trillium chloropetalum (no label. so I’m relying on my memory which is not always trustworthy). This is definitely grownfor its dark mottled foliage, the flowers are dark green tinged with maroon and sessile.

Spring Fever

As the days lengthen and the sun makes an appearance, the sap rises in the Croft Garden team. Spring fever? More like running a slight temperature. Like everything else in these islands, Spring happens slowly and cannot be rushed. So last week the gardening tools were locked in the shed and out came the concrete mixer and the paint brushes. Just time to put up one more fence and give the holiday cottage a little more care and attention before Easter. What colour is the new paint work? No need to ask – I’ve really no idea how the paint got into my hair, but then it always does! A combination of terracotta and forest green is far more interesting than a blue rinse.


Nice view shame about the lawn!

Apart from the multi-hued Under-gardener everything is now ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Well, apart from the lawn which we’re not talking about and which I refuse to discuss, and the new border in the ornamental garden which is full of buttercups again.

So it was back to weeding duties while the Head Gardener applied himself to the serious business of planting tatties and onions. Not a job for apprentices as the lines have to be equidistant, parallel and the same length whilst the sets or tubers have to be equally spaced and vertical.
It would be foolish, rash, intemperate and dare I say impatient to even think of planting anything yet – I confess to planting some rhubarb crowns  last week and spent all Tuesday night worrying about them as we were hit by a very cold north-easterly gale (the one that dumped 8 inches of snow on Aviemore). So it’s more weeding and ground preparation, and enjoying the garden as it slowly wakes up from its winter hibernation. All the more time to enjoy a few early delights!

Trillium cuneatum

Trillium cuneatum. It surprises me every year as it continues to flourish in a totally alien environment.