on the Oregon Trail in Scotland
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.