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on the Oregon Trail in Scotland

June 15, 2010

As midsummer approaches the northern hemisphere and the deciduous trees are at their most intensely lush and green, it might seem a little perverse to continue with conifers for the Tuesday Tree theme. Last week I spoke in praise of the Douglas Fir. Well, I’m going to look at Douglases again this week, as I think they deserve to be seen in context, rather than as just one tree trunk. It was very interesting to read Jean and Agneta’s comments on last week’s post, saying that Douglas Firs typify the landscape of Oregon. The laird who planted them here had travelled as far as the Pacific shore of North America in the 1830s, and must have been trying to reproduce, upon his reluctant return to Scotland, a landscape which he had grown to love in the Oregon Country. Personally, I confess that I have not (yet!) been further west than the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides – oh, and Ontario! – so I leave it to others to judge how well he succeeded.

This is the view into the Douglas terraces at Castle Beastie. My younger son and I set off into them to walk the dogs on Saturday morning. In the distance, you can see the Rhododendron ponticums in bloom: their mauve flowers are one of the most common sites on Scottish landed estates at this time of year. The Victorians planted them as an ‘exotic’ (from the Himalayas and Southern Europe) and they have spread like weeds in the congenially acidic soil of Scotland.

A soft rain was falling while we walked: the woods were full of pattering raindrops and birdsong. The last of the bluebells are still flowering under the trees but the ferns are rapidly overtaking them.

Standing in this landscape, with the vegetation banking up into the distance, I realised that I was in a tiny patch of temperate rainforest. You would never guess that there is a medieval castle only a couple of hundred yards away over the brow of the hill. It’s a long way from Oregon – in some ways, at least.

See also: In praise of the Douglas firTrees, deconstructed

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 8:54 pm

    You have captured the green of the Pacific Northwest Rainforest. I live in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, just north of Washington State and your pictures could be of our wood (especially since I planted the mauve rhododendrons after a trip to Scotland).

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 15, 2010 9:10 pm

      Isn’t that fascinating? An ocean and a continent away, yet we share a landscape. I have wanted to visit BC for years: a local friend is about to move (back) to Victoria, so maybe I’ll make it out one day. I’ve heard you have plenty of rain, possibly (!) even more than Scotland – but it’s a blessing, as we wouldn’t have this green without it!

  2. June 16, 2010 12:05 pm

    I loved your post. I’m due to be coming home in less than two months for the first time in over a year and your post made me all the more excited ;0)

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 16, 2010 4:25 pm

      For a moment there I thought you meant Oregon but, on further investigation, I deduce that you are a Scot in exile. Don’t worry, we’ll save some rain for you. 😉 Thanks for visiting – your blog is a hoot!

  3. Jean S permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:08 pm

    let’s see…lots of Doug firs; check. Mauve rhodies; check. Big fluffy ferns; check.

    You have just described my back yard, minus the bluebells (and plus peonies….lost among the gigantic weeds!).

    Come to Portland; I’ll show you around!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 16, 2010 6:51 pm

      All this and peonies too…sigh…how perfect! I’d love to fulfill my ambition to visit the Pacific north-west one of these days.

  4. June 16, 2010 10:42 pm

    Your description is so vivid I can feel the raindrops on my face and the fresh smell of the earth, trees and rhodedenrens. It’s Weds so I’m late for my weekly tree fix!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 16, 2010 11:15 pm

      Glad you made it in the end!

  5. October 29, 2014 1:04 pm

    Having grown up in Oregon, and with ancestors who really did come on the Oregon trail, I found this fascinating. As the comments have already said, your forest could easily be in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know why, but the purple rhododendron are also a feature of Northwestern forests. Here in Scotland, we visited the Plant Hunters’ Garden in Pitlochry years ago, not long after it was opened. Until then I had never known anything about Scottish planthunters, or indeed the Douglas of Douglas firs. Such remarkable stories of passion for plants.


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