I’d intended to visit a couple of gardens while I was away in Shetland, but what with one thing and another – and the weather being more, ahem, interesting than was strictly necessary when we were in the area – I didn’t get to the amazing Lea Gardens. I did have a fascinating time, anyway; we were there on a knitting and spinning pilgrimage, after all, but there were plenty of gardening-like things to keep me really happy.
First, the wildflowers. We arrived just as they started to come into full force, though they’ll be even more prolific shortly, when all the yellow flags come out. The flowers growing on the rocks and cliffs were the first to blow me away.
I had to keep reminding myself we were at 60 degrees north.
And there were marsh marigolds in the sort of profusion that I remember from my childhood:
Not to forget the huge drifts of campions. They are sturdier – not surprising, really, it’s much, much windier than here – and a lot furrier than the ones I have in my meadow:
I became really interested in (necessary) improvisation. The top of this wall around the garden of the Crofthouse Museum in Boddam attracted my attention immediately.
Beach pebbles, writ rather large. I love stones and natural cobbles like these – I have a fine collection, which will really confuse any geologist in the future – and this has given me ideas. One outbuilding also particularly appealed, but the raw materials will be less easy to come by…
It’s a Shetland tradition, and a very effective one – a good profile in the wind, as well as an efficient use of resources.
The Crofthouse Museum is wonderful, and if anyone is heading for Shetland, don’t miss it. There’s a pretty garden, protected by the curving wall, and it contains a few tatties (just planted when we were there; they’d been desperate to go out, but the weather had been too bad) and some other bits and bobs at present – lupins, bluebells, a few shrubs. The dark blob on the right is the peat hag for the fire, not a low tree.
Kale used to be the main vegetable that was grown; after all, it’s resistant to almost any form of weather, it’s nutritious, and it tastes good. Well, sometimes it tastes good. In the past it was used to feed both the people and their livestock, and life on crofts like this one would have been impossible without kale. Ian Smith, the custodian, said in a recent interview in the Shetland Times that his family’s kale yard contained between 2000 and 3000 plants when he was growing up. I think I’ve just planted about 20. You can’t really be sentimental about the past, peat fires or no peat fires, when you realise quite how hard it must have been – we’re very lucky.
One more shot of stones and walls, at a rather less ordinary dwelling this time:
Shot into the evening sun, unfortunately (good for atmosphere, not so good for detail). Check out the top of those gateposts – I wonder how long it took to get two stones almost exactly the same? And I love the paint color too. OK, one more shot, same place, same paint colour:
And the daisies. Blankets of daisies. And spring squill. And heath spotted orchids. And bird’s foot trefoil. And roseroot, bog bean, bog cotton… something tells me I’ll be going back, and not just for the wool.