There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio….

The spring equinox, a solar eclipse, aurora borealis and the highest tides for a century all within a few days – enough to give any Druid, Celt or pagan an anxiety attack. Fortunately I did not have to hide under the bed again, on Tuesday night I was comatose under the duvet, not in fear but from an excessive amount of shovelling, so I missed the auroral display. The solar eclipse was shrouded in cloud so was less than spectacular, but we had a lovely sunny afternoon. Finally we had high pressure and no wind, so fortunately the high tide was no bigger than a normal big tide but the extreme low tide was interesting. So did the heavens conspire to create awe and wonder, yes but more science than magic!
Perhaps I am being a little too complacent over nature’s wonders or maybe I am now so attune to living as part of my environment that they are just an integral part of my everyday life. I don’t think I will ever be complacent about the natural world, it is immensely powerful and it’s forces shape my emotional response to world whether in fear at the strength of the wind and the sea, in awe at the ever changing patterns of light and shade or the sheer beauty of larks ascending. I cannot escape the fact that my life is still governed and controlled by human forces and that I still have ethical responsibilities to try to shape how our society works.  However, when I look out of the window I know that man’s influence is no more than a gnats sneeze in celestial infinity.
So I am sorry if you were expecting awe inspiring photographs of celestial phenomena, instead I am offering a glimpse of an earthly world that is seldom revealed. So put on your virtual wellies and we’ll take a walk to the edge of the kelp forest.Kelp forestOur beaches are strewn and buried under giant mounds of kelp fronds throughout the winter and after the big storms. At low tide, when it is very calm, we sometimes get a glimpse of the fronds of the offshore kelp forests appearing below the surface of the waves. Occasionally the water will retreat far enough for us to scramble out over the rocks and down to the edge of the forest. As biologically diverse as any tropical forest, the hues are red, amber, and ochre with flashes of pink and orange rather than verdant green. The fronds move silently and sinuously through the water creating patterns of light and shade, revealing strange creatures sheltering in their root-like holdfasts. A twilight world, displaying its treasures only to those who have the curiosity to seek what is hidden and transient. There are indeed more things in heaven and earth to inspire wonder than the work of man.

White purse sponges among the holdfasts of  forest kelp with encrusted red algae

White purse sponges among the holdfasts of forest kelp with encrusted red algae

Beadlet anemones with green breadcrumb spomge and encrusted red algae

Beadlet anemones with green breadcrumb spomge and encrusted red algae


International Womens Day

International Womens Day

On International Women’s Day we are being asked to

“reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

This year’s theme, “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her right to equality in politics, education, work and live in a society where she is not abused or discriminated because of her gender.
Twenty years ago 189 governments signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap that set the agenda for realizing women’s rights. An impressive and progressive blueprint and although progress has been made in some parts of the world there is still a long way to go. In a recent interview Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, stated that:

 “there is not a single country in the world that has achieved gender equality. A girl born today will have to wait 50 years before she’s projected to have an equal chance at running a government. She’ll have to wait 70 years before the pay gap evens out,  and she’ll have to wait 81 years before she might have the same chance as a man of being the CEO of a company.
The gender gap and violence against women are “global phenomena” caused by male domination in the world. Women’s bodies are viewed not as something to respect, but as something that men have the right to control and to abuse.”

If you supported the recent demands to protect our rights for freedom of speech you can now affirm your support for campaign for international civil rights and social justice for the women of the world, je suis feministe. Basic human rights for women is not a feminist issue, it is gender neutral and an integral part of any campaign for equality and freedom for everyone irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, religion or physical or mental health.
“Deeds not Words” was the call to “wake up the nation” in the 1903 the ‘votes for women’ campaign spearheaded by Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U). It is a timely reminder to those of us who enjoy the advantages of living in a western democracy, with all its limitations, that we must not forget that most women around the world don’t even have basic human rights, and that we have a responsibility to continue what the women of the WSPU began.
The modern interpretation of “deeds not words” is not necessarily a call for militancy, direct action or civil disobedience, it is about exercising our democratic right to vote and lobby. I am sure if I chained myself to the croft gate as a protest no one would take any notice but some kind soul would probably call for the man in white coats. However, we can make a difference by leading by example, nurturing others and pushing for education and equity for women and girls in the workplace and society. I have always passionately believed that one of the most important tenets of feminism is a girl’s right to education. Education liberated me and throughout my life I have been fortunate to have had both role models and mentors to inspire me and give me the confidence to achieve my aspirations. If I thought it would do any good, then I would chain myself to the railings, but in the meantime I’ll try to set a good example by writing and exercising my democratic rights, although I’m not sure about my suitability as a role model.

My 200th post is dedicated to my mentors and role models, everyone who has and continues to fight for basic human rights and International Women’s Day.



To be or not to be a Galanthophile?

Galanthus nivalis flore pleno

Galanthus nivalis Flore Pleno

I am not wavering nor is my immunity to this particular obsession wearing thin and I’m certainly not sitting on the fence. There are 20 or more species of Galanthus and I’m happy to grow a few more in addition to nivalis. Some of the cultivars are quite distinctive and attractive, but why are there so many which are virtually indistinguishable one from the other? Do we need over 1000 cultivars? I am so cynical that all I can smell is filthy lucre? With single bulbs being sold for £100s (or even a reported $2,500) we’ve not yet quite reached the lunacy of the Semper Augustus of the 17th century tulipomania. Obsession becomes dangerous when common sense leaves the room and greed move in.
There is nothing wrong in having a passion for a plant family or genus and growing a large number of species or varieties, the problem begins when they become commodities. As the desire to have more and to possess the rarities grows, there is always a danger that original motivation for growing a certain type of plant becomes diminished. I am not claiming the moral high ground, I am just saddened that something as delicate and simple as a snowdrop has become commercialised.
I have enjoyed reading all the recent posts about snowdrops and had great pleasure in looking at the photographs. There are some who admit to a weakness for snowdrops and who are building small collections, but this appears to be an enthusiastic susceptibility rather than full blown galanthomania.  What has left me feeling uneasy are the accounts of high security and crowd management at some of the gardens known for their displays of snowdrops.
I adore snowdrops and it is the one flower I always look for in the garden in February. I definitely do not have the right conditions in my garden for growing snowdrops, although I persist in my attempts to try to establish something a little more extensive than a very small clump of G. nivalis. I am thinking about replacing some of the species which I grew in my last garden, although they will have to spend a little time undercover each year so that I can appreciate the flowers. The Head Gardener recently issued a challenge on the forum of the Scottish Rock Garden Club for the members to put together a list of 12 species/distinctive cultivars which we could grow here – albeit with some help from the greenhouse.  So although I’ll never be a true galanthophile, I’d appreciate your suggestions for species/cultivars which we might grow.