Friday, 29 April 2011

Head scratching......

While taking lots of snaps of Primroses and Sea Ivory in the grounds of St Nicholas' kirk in Holm, I bumped into a clump of Roseroot next to a headstone. So what's so special about that? Roseroot is often met with in gardens and somebody connected with the Mair family no doubt will have planted it in memory. Well that sounds like the logical answer but, it is just about the only 'planted' flower in the kirkyard.and the setting, just to one side of the stone and in a scoured hollow, appears odd.

Clapham, Tutin and Warburg describe its habitat as such - Crevices of mountain rocks, ascending to 3850 feet and on sea cliffs in W.Scotland and Ireland.

The Atlas says much the same - perennial herb which grows on seacliffs and in mountains in rock crevices and on moist ledges. Although descending to sea level in N.W. Britain and Ireland, it is usually found above 300m (my italics). This plant is just a few metres above sea level.

Here are some unambiguous plants in their accepted habitat - the sea cliffs of Hoy - these particular plants are at Ha Wick down towards Wastlee Moor and Melsetter

So is the plant in St Nicholas' kirkyard wild or tame???

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The hanging gardens and St Nicholas' kirk

The bridge has seen a lot of water pass beneath it in the last week, nuff said.

Castle of Claisdie - east St Andrews cliffs with Deerness in the background

Anyway, for the last week the sun has been shining and the day time temperatures have risen. Bobble hats and muffler have been consigned to the bottom drawer and more and more wildflowers are opening their petals. I've taken groups out to the east Holm / east St Andrews cliffs on three out of the last seven days.  The cliffs are spectacular as they curve sinuously towards the Roseness headland. Some of them are like hanging gardens with carpets of Primroses, Lesser Celandines and Common Dog Violets running down the cliff slopes. The rocks are festooned with Scurvy Grass and we've seen our first Red Campions. Within another seven days the first Thrift will be greeting the morning sun.

We started our walk at St Nicholas' kirk in Holm. Scurvy-grass is in profusion on either side of the road and even in the kirkyard where it gets mown by the grass contractor. The kirkyard is a mass of yellow - Primroses and Dandelions. It's no exaggeration to say that you could take photographs ad infinitum - why stop? - there is an endless supply of perfect flowers, the next one more perfect than the last. And the church makes for some entertaining compositions.

The kirkyard walls are clothed with Sea Ivory - it's so dense its impossible to push your fingers through to
feel the stonework.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


I certainly wouldn't class it as squabbling. That's what turkeys do isn't it? Squabbling sounds undignified and we wouldn't want to come across as that now, would we Anne? It was a discussion about the Orkney Book of Wildflowers and what we want to see in the Orkney Book of Wildflowers; and it was a very positive discussion too. Just watch!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Links two complete - but all ties nearly severed!

Two down, one to go.  I have finally finished the second links plate.  It has been a bit traumatic - with Tim and myself squabbling about whether to include bits of rubbish in the picture or not!  You will note that he got his way.  It is Orkney's 'Bag the Bruck' weekend, where around 500 volunteers help clear rubbish from the beaches, so I guess it's fitting that I should finish such a pristine scene at this time!

Anyway, with time of the essence, I've started on the last links plate.  This one will have Grass of Parnassus, Cowslip, Autumn Gentian, Field Gentian and Mouse-ear Hawkweed.  I'm giving myself two weeks - we'll see.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Carpets and hummocks of Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage

Looking back over this blog I notice that on Valentine's Day we wrote about the tame wood and illustrated the piece with a couple of photos of Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage. It has quite a limited distribution in Orkney - in Elaine Bullard's 'Wildflowers in Orkney' (1995) she considers it to be 'rare' and occurring in just five of Elaine's 'islandised squares': 20 (north Hoy and Graemsay), 29 (south Hoy), 30 (Orphir), 31 (Stenness, Firth and Harray) and 40 (St Ola and Holm). On my travels today I found a quite substantial carpet of it adjacent to the Wideford Burn (that'll be 'islandised square' 40). The carpet undulated over rounded hummocks and on a grey afternoon was a vivid and luminous green yellow. It was some sight.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Links two

In the last week or so, it really seems as though spring is arriving fast.  This is great for seeing some of the flowers for our book but not so good in terms of painting productivity.  When the sun's out it seems a terrible waste to be indoors and I find myself gravitating towards rockpooling, beachcombing, tree planting or some other outdoor pursuit.  However this will not do.  I've also decided I'd like to add a little more detail into some of the plates because you rarely see a plant in isolation - there's always other vegetation around and I also like to include stones, shells, rubbish or other things you'd naturally find in the habitat.  This of course means it takes more time to complete each picture and I'm finding myself spending much more than the allotted 'month per plate' time slot I had hoped.

Anyway, plate 2 of the Links section is nearly complete and there's one more to go before we start on sea cliffs - just in time for all the seabirds to be arriving at their breeding colonies; it's a real wildlife highlight for me and I'm hoping to include some of the birds in the backgrounds to the pictures.

So here's the Links 2 plate so far, I'm hoping to finish it in a day or so.