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Autumn under the Douglas firs

October 8, 2013

In the grounds of our Scottish castle we have a little piece of the American West. An earlier laird spent several happy years travelling as a fur trader in Wyoming and Oregon in the 1830s. On his return to Scotland to take up the reins of the estate, he planted the policies around the castle with species that had impressed him in America: Douglas firs and giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Laid out in straight avenues and winding rides, these trees have now grown to form tall columns of soaring, fragrant greenery.

On balance, I will always prefer our native broadleaf trees. This is for many reasons, not least for their seasonal variety. Evergreens make great windbreaks but can get a little monotonous: sometimes I feel that the castle is buried away like Sleeping Beauty’s castle behind high walls of conifers. And yet our avenues of Douglas firs are unique, awe-inspiring, and are one of my favourite places to walk. And even here, of course, under the dark firs, there are seasonal changes to enjoy.,7.10.13-1


The photo above was taken two years ago to the day. You can see my late beloved spaniel in the clearing.

The photos below were taken in the past day or two while our teenage puppy bounced through the bracken, some of which is taller than my seven-year old son. (If you are looking for the puppy in this picture, though, she’s not here; or if she was, she was hidden in the undergrowth!) The bracken is turning from green to russet and fawn, often all on the same frond.,7.10.13-2


At this time of year there is often a little morning mist rising from the ground, which can make the woods look quite ethereal when the sun breaks through.,7.10.13-3


The pretty spring flowers of wood sorrel have been replaced by toadstools of every size and colour,,7.10.13-4


while above, like the columns of a living cathedral, soar the trunks of the Douglas firs, draped with sweet-smelling fronds of evergreen.,7.10.13-5


You might enjoy In praise of the Douglas fir.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. hmunro permalink
    October 8, 2013 12:19 am

    How wonderful that one of the former lairds of Dancing Beastie wandered Wyoming and Oregon as a fur trader — and brought back such majestic souvenirs! And how equally wonderful that you know this bit of history, so you can pass it on to your sons … and they, someday, to theirs. Here’s to many, many, many seasons among the columns of your living cathedral.

    • October 8, 2013 5:25 pm

      Thank you for the good wishes, Heather. That laird certainly makes a good story: he’s made it into print on many occasions, in fact, though he’s not well known about on this side of the pond. Most of what I know about him, I have learned from visitors from the States! 🙂

  2. boyd hussey, (Douglas Ontario Canada) permalink
    October 8, 2013 12:23 am

    enjoyed both this posting and the “In Praise…” link. what has me really curious is the word “policies” i can guess what it means but what does it mean in Scotland?

    • October 8, 2013 5:27 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked these posts. ‘Policies’ is a word peculiar to Scotland, I believe, in this use. It means the landscaped grounds and gardens immediately surrounding a castle or big house.

  3. Katherine Fischer permalink
    October 8, 2013 4:17 am

    A splendid post again. You are wonderfully tuned to nature. So good to visit a few weeks ago with my husband and the others from the States. As promised and in thanks, I would like to send you my book which address both nature and raising kids while yet honoring their privacy. Cheers, Kate Fischer

    Sent from my iPad

    • October 8, 2013 5:30 pm

      Welcome again, Kate! It was a great pleasure to meet all of you last month; a really lovely day. Thank you so much for your kind words and also for your most generous offer. I would be thrilled to read your book, from which I am sure I could learn a great deal!

  4. October 8, 2013 7:36 am

    When I first moved to Scotland I thought Douglas firs were native to the country, because of the name. It came as a surprise to discover they were not.

    I am sure you have Ents in there somewhere 🙂


  5. October 8, 2013 1:09 pm

    What stunning trees! They do indeed resemble the columns of a cathedral. It looks a fairy-tale kind of place – you even have the toadstools to prove it! 🙂 I’m sure it’s so peaceful and cool under those trees. Beautiful photos!

    • October 8, 2013 5:42 pm

      These trees are very special, aren’t they. Just occasionally we get a mountain biker roaring through here: it feels like a violation and a sacrilege. Grrr. But yes, most of the time it is lovely here, just the noise of birdsong, and of the wind in the needles like breakers on a distant shore.

  6. October 8, 2013 4:13 pm

    Having a Scottish heritage (and dreamed of Scottish castles since I was a boy) and living in Oregon amongst the Douglas firs all of my life, I am so happy to have found your blog.

    • October 8, 2013 5:48 pm

      Well, I am happy that you have found this blog too, Ed! Welcome: it sounds like this might just be your home away from home. Although I should warn you, I am a real greenhorn when it comes to conifers. Always learning and always forgetting. 🙂

      • October 8, 2013 8:22 pm

        Hopefully you’ll visit my world from time to time – maybe some conifer resin will stick to you! :^)

  7. October 9, 2013 12:07 pm

    I was going to ask you about the sound of the trees. They must smell beautiful, and I imagine they have their different sound-moods as well.

    • October 9, 2013 2:54 pm

      Yes indeed: their smell is one of my favourite scents, a blissfully reviving mixture of resin and warm jam. And they are never silent. With the wind gusting from the north today, you can hardly hear yourself think over the roar of the trees!

  8. October 9, 2013 4:52 pm

    Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous! My dad brought a few fir trees from Oregon to Kansas and planted them in the yard. That was an awfully long time ago, and they aren’t looking happy now. But yours are gorgeous. I love the northwest because of the Douglas Firs.

    • October 12, 2013 7:44 pm

      Someday we do hope to visit the American northwest, and see these trees in their native habitat.

  9. October 16, 2013 9:43 pm

    A lovely post, DB, and those firs are magnificent. I’m another who ignorantly thought that Douglas firs were native to Scotland. Thanks for putting me right. 🙂 We had a trio of Douglas firs in our big vicarage garden in Wales, but sadly they finally had to be felled as being too large and out of proportion in our village centre location.


  1. A ‘guest post’ from the evergreen Miss Austen | Dancing Beastie

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