As it is midsummer we have been hosting our annual archaeology dig at Bannockburn House.
The dig began last Saturday with a group of local children excavating a mysterious hollow in the front lawn. We thought that there might have been a well there in days gone by but I hope the group was not disappointed to discover that it was just an old tree stump. Except it was not just any old tree stump!
What had been uncovered was the last remnants of one of a pair of Silver Fir trees (Abies alba) https://treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abies/abies-alba/ that were most likely planted when the House was originally built in the late 1600’s. Sadly, our trees fell in the Great Storm of 1968 (we think) and they disappeared without trace – until last week.
Remains of a giant
The Silver Fir was introduced into Scotland in 1603 but normally grows in Southern Europe where it is known as, possibly, the largest conifer in Europe. The largest Silver fir in Scotland is growing at Ardkinglas Gardens near Inveraray with a girth of nearly ten metres. Our tree stump was certainly an impressive tree before it fell as the excavated stump had a circumference of at least 3.45 metres and the living tree would have been bigger again, perhaps even 4 metres or more – you can gauge its size from the photograph below, taken in 1900.
The wild orchids are blooming on the grassy slope near the entrance to the estate and every year I am astonished to see the complicated patterns that develop within the petals of the flowers. We have four or five different varieties and they vary in colour from whitish-pink to darkest purple and pale green with spots, squiggles and freckles in abundance.
Last year we had 96 orchids flowering so I will be keeping a keen eye out for the numbers that show up this year. Fingers crossed they are continuing to increase.
The new garden at the side of the house is proceeding at pace and nearly all the beds are planted. Our potatoes are flowering, the beans are swelling and it is great to see plants and flowers beginning to clothe the previously bare beds. We still have a few deer and rabbits causing mayhem by eating flower-buds, leaves and young shoots from the plants but we hope to outwit them soon with string, tinfoil and a whole host of other scary devices – possibly even a scarecrow! Failing that we shall have to raise the height of the fence.
Today we were putting the finishing touches to our new compost bays.