Thursday, 18 August 2011

My trip back home has given me Zone 7 envy....sort of.

I recently spent 3 lovely weeks back in my childhood home of Aberdeenshire, in the North East of Scotland, visiting my Mum and visiting lots and lots of castles, historic houses and gardens.   I have to say, visiting gardens in Scotland is often a revelation, both for their beauty, and history.  Most of the herbaceous plants that fill my garden really suffer in the Toronto climate, with dry summer soil, extreme heat and humid air, which all conspire to weaken plants and make them prone to outbreak of fungus and other infestations, and it really does require some diligent management to keep on top of those challenges.  In Scotland, those same plants are lush and abundant, and have a sort of "softness" about them - perfectly fresh and full of vim and vigour.  And then, of course, in general, although the scottish climate can't be described in any way as easy, it's extremely mild compared to southern Ontario.  The corner of Aberdeenshire that I call home, is somewhere around a zone 7, maybe even zone 8, and as a result, there are some things which are possible there, which just would not work in Toronto.  One of the most impressive that I encountered on this visit, which I don't recall seeing before, and which just about knocked my proverbial socks off, is the cardiocrinum.  Towering at about 8 feet high, the flowers look like the iconic lilies of religious art.  Perfect form, utter purity and perfect simplicity.....but magnified in a most glorious way!  This specimen was photographed at Crathes Castle, about 15 minutes scenic drive from where I grew up.  The gardens at Crathes are justifiably quite famous, and I took lots of photos, which I plan to share over the winter months, when my garden has gone to sleep for the season.
The only drawback to the scottish zone 7 climate, which serves to mitigate my zone envy, is that in 3 weeks, we only really had one day where the sun broke through the all encompassing grey cloud that blanketed us!  Actually, it wasn't typical even for Aberdeen and everyone was complaining about it, and thankfully, there was hardly any rain.  But it was lovely to come back to Toronto to perfect blue skies and abundant sunshine, if not the weeds in my garden!
Cardiocrinums growing in the lovely gardens at Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I must do a little research to find out if there are any options that would allow me to enjoy these in my own garden, perhaps I could keep them in pots and take them indoors during the winter.  In any case, these would join the ranks of gardening projects to test my patience, along with my espalier efforts, as they take upwards of 9 years to flower, and the poor mother bulb expires after the effort!  Makes you appreciate their beauty all the more.


  1. I love Aberdeen. I used to go there often when I was a young lawyer. I had a lot of clients who had off-shore oil rigs in the North Sea. How beautiful. Welcome back! I'm sure your garden missed you.

  2. How interesting to hear that you know Aberdeen well! it's only now that I go back as a tourist that I realize how lucky I was to grow up in such a beautiful and historically & culturally rich place.