Friday, 29 January 2010

2010 Garden wanders, Jan 29th

Blogs with a plant, bird and wildlife mix can have their seasons where postings will favour one over the other. Redressing the balance away from the birds and towards the garden and plants again I thought I’d join Helen with an end of the month garden update.

Coral branches of Acer palmatum Sango Kaku which look brilliant around 9am.

The photo above looks like January is ending with a lovely Spring morning. The truth is hidden though… below these wonderful sunlit branches there’s an overnight dusting of snow. That was a surprise this morning! I headed out with my camera to see what caught my eye…

Euphorbia stems fallen to the ground… will they pick up again?

Magnolia buds looking healthy enough. Plan to move this plant to my new pond area.

Gunnera spikes fallen to ground… will this plant have survived this year’s colder temps of January?

First Hellebore flower buds… perhaps I shouldn’t have cut down the foliage.

Wisteria flower buds looking good… need to prune back odd whippy stems missed last year. Second prune to come yet.

Young meconopsis plants…. either red or yellow flowers but not expected this year. Didn’t expect them to keep their foliage throughout winter… have a blue variety close by that doesn’t. Fav plant of the day :-D

It’s probably a good reflection of January to end it with cold and snow seeing as most of the month has seen very cold temps and heavy snowfall.

This morning at just after 9am I went out for a little while to capture the garden with my video camera. The film below shows how the panning movement doesn’t process as well on upload giving boxed pixels with green and grey especially. It also shows how the wind can make processing difficult too both with picture and sound.

Music has been added to this film as the wind noise was spoiling it but cutting the sound out completely would lose the bird song in the background. I tried to make a compromise. However, despite this I do feel it captures the garden well enough and will be great to look back on at the end of February.

Look out for the new pond area where work came to a standstill before Christmas. You’ll also spot a sledge behind my garden gate that I past as I went from my back garden into the front… the strong wind blew it over. You’ll also notice the snow came on during filming!!

Okay, it’s late and I’ve chatted on way too much for you this week. So I'll not keep you any longer. I’ll just end with a brief reminder again of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in the UK this weekend… see here for details. Have fun if you join in!

Wishing you all a great weekend :-D

All photos and video shown above were taken in my garden by me on January 29th 2010.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Video editing… the soundtrack

December 2006 saw the start of video uploads to my blog. Tonight’s discovery that I’ve uploaded 261 videos over 464 posts has been a shocker! That’s an average of just over half of my posts have had a video. Wow! I’ve used three video hosts moving around as I searched for better quality of images. I’ll come back to comparisons in a future posting.

As plants, birds and wildlife are relatively quiet for the next month I thought I’d take this opportunity to post on some of the tech stuff behind my blog and postings.

I’d like to share with bloggers both new and established some of the creative stuff that has kept my blog ticking over. Although much has been (and continues to be) a learning curve I have had great fun with it all.

As regular visitors will know my blog began as a way to share images of the Robin to my homesick friend in Australia. My blog videos also began with the Robin and very short clips they were too…

From memory, at that time they took absolutely ages to upload too. Gosh… I really can’t believe I began with videos of 5 seconds and postings of one paragraph! Yep… things have certainly moved on… you can’t stop me chatting now :-D

Video editing didn’t begin with my blog. I had been playing around with it for a number of years before. Holiday stuff, garden visits and garden fun with my daughters were the first. I also filmed and edited wanders around my garden at different times of year where (don’t laugh) I talked to myself about what I wanted to change… much more fun than a notebook :-D

Okay... the title of this posting is about the soundtrack. Now, where garden visits completely suit a piece of bright airy music with a bouncy beat or a more sophisticated classical air, the music soundtrack on a piece of wildlife film is quite different.

In the early days of publishing bird videos on my blog I received an email from a gentleman questioning why I added music saying it was a pity and that he would rather have a natural sound track. I completely appreciated his point and that others have made on occasions since. So why do I do I add it?

In short, filming indoors through a window (as I do probably in more than half my bird/wildlife videos) gives a recorded audio of bangs, clatters, chat, TV and my daughters. Yep… many background noises can be recorded… including the kitchen sink at times ;-)

Okay… so I could drop the background sounds completely and have a silent piece of film. Perhaps that would be preferred…

I would be interested to know. However, I myself would lose interest in watching a piece of film like the one above without sound. For me it just feels too long and I am fully aware that many blog visitors are blog hopping and my chatting on probably keeps them long enough.

The soundtracks I add to my videos are purely to entertain and capture the imagination of the video capture itself. Hedgehogs just call out to me for Country music for example ;-) If they make me smile than I really hope they do the same for anyone watching them.

I do put quite a bit of thought into a limited music choice on my video editing software. Sometimes I alter clip lengths to make it fit better too. I’ll chat about that another time. I do have great fun testing out tracks to my video. They really can change the mood of the finished film too.

Take the test video of Red Squirrels below which was taken in a Reserve Visitor Centre with chairs moving, people walking, phones ringing etc. With sound cut, I’ve edited it with three clips and on this occasion a separate music track for each. I really do have fun with video editing... have I mentioned that :-D

The first piece of the film is the close-up of the squirrel shown above but this time with music. The focus goes in and out a little as I have it set to auto as in recordings like this when there is movement a preset focus doesn’t work too well.

Adding music has the advantage of taking the viewers attention away from the 'out of focus' bits too. I pitched the first busy, bouncy music to the character of the squirrel and the way it was eating.

The next two clips are purely for comparison and to show how you can change the perception of the squirrel by the track chosen. The middle music track shows the knawing mischievous squirrel as relaxed and in no hurry whatsoever… which was not the case. It had run at this feeder at speed chasing off a woodpecker!

The last clip, with a more fun and a carnival flavour, instantly made the film look sunnier and made the squirrel look fun and in a party mood using the slight swing of the feeder as part of this. Enough chat... roll the film...

Yep, as I write this I realise I have changed the description of the video to a film. I guess when I add a selection of clips I do see it more as a very short film.

Okay… so you’re perhaps sitting reading this and thinking you might like to play around with a soundtrack or two but don’t have that option with your video software.

Yes, you can consider music CD’s but there’s always the copyright issue there so this is something I personally just avoid. However, recently I have discovered another interesting option for a video music soundtrack and have tried it out as you will see with the video below of the Osprey chick last summer at the SWT Nature Reserve Loch of the Lowes.

Okay… I perhaps should warn you that the video below taken from a live feed TV screen in the visitor centre is perhaps a bit raw for some as it shows the Osprey chick feeding on a fish. However, on the side of this bird it is just eating the meal its Dad brought it. With this in mind I added a gentle piece of background restaurant music…

This video, like many of my videos now was uploaded to YouTube. Just before Christmas I discovered an interesting feature available after a video is uploaded. Once uploaded and live, you can do an audio swap on your video using a collection of soundtracks provided that don’t break any copyright laws.

I should point out that you lose completely any original sound on your video so if you did have bird calls as well as a lawnmower running in the background of your film both will be lost completely. I have a series of images to explain how you do this but as this posting is way longer than I intended I’ll add them in a future posting.

Okay… nearing the end now! In and ideal world, weather permitting, capturing bird and wildlife film has the best results when taken outdoors. Hearing the birds chatter, call and sing are the best soundtrack of all for a video. However, I often find I have to increase the volume of these soundtracks and even in doing so as the final video below shows it still needs the speakers to be turned up!

LOL… and there lies a problem if a piece of music is added too as you’ll see in this final video of blue tits at a peanut feeder. Yep, like Jan, you’ll get a huge fright! I did consider a warning message in this film but opted for pre warning you first. Okay... consider yourself warned... to hear the blue tits call turn your speakers up but after the film fades to black... turn your speakers down a bit :-D

The final track has both background sound (max volume) and music (low volume) as the background became quite noisy and itself would have spoiled the clip. This was a particularly good capture and not one I’ve seen before otherwise I wouldn’t have included it. I’ll not say what it is but only that the music soundtrack is titled ‘Limbo’...

Wasn't that a lucky capture? Okay, I'll give you a lucky break now too and bring this posting to a quick end! Future tech based postings will not necessarily be so long… don’t worry :-D They will vary based on the content. Now, I’d love to know… have I managed to tempt anyone to play around with sound on video now? Oops... sorry Jan ;-)

The videos at SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes were taken in 2009 at a guess around the end of July.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Bird News

Garden plant news will follow soon but let’s start the week with the nestcam latest and reminders of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and the BTO National Nestbox Week.

January is scarily drawing to a close already and as any garden watcher will know, the action in the garden is about to step up a gear! It is starting slowly with Spring bulbs pushing through the cold ground.

One advantage of the very cold spells we have had recently has been the increasing numbers of birds to our garden tables and feeders. Many of us here in the UK have seen species we have never seen before too. We were lucky to see Tree Sparrows for the first time.

The RSPB are probably hoping they will be lucky this weekend (JAN 30-31) with their annual BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH too. If you haven’t heard of this event, it is a study of populations of birds in the UK intended to help with conservation.

Everyone is invited to spend just one hour during the weekend counting the birds that visit the garden. I always find this a fun/interesting bird count as many of the usual suspects seem to know I’m counting and don’t appear!

A counting sheet with helpful images for ID is available on their website that can be printed off ready for the weekend. They have tips and a video blogs and a forum where people are already chatting. There’s also a list of events around the country with a drop down menu where you can select the part of the country you are interested in.

Collecting links for this posting I did notice that if you join the RSPB at the moment they are offering a free gift of a nestbox. If you don’t already have a nestbox in your garden this is a good time to put one up as pairs of birds are very likely to be out early house hunting at the moment. You can get an application to join the RSPB online there too.

Moving forward to the 14th February and the BTO has its annual National Nestbox Week. On their website, Simon King says:

"National Nest Box Week is great for birds. Starting on St Valentine's Day, it's the time we remind ourselves to provide homes for dozens of species, from Blue Tits to Barn Owls.

If you've never built a nest box before, why not give it a go this year? Or if you haven't got the time, it's easy to buy a good one. Go on, take part for Britain's birds!"

It is great fun to take part in national events like this. However, you don’t need to wait until then to put up your nestbox if you have one now. The trigger for birds to start pairing up and house hunting is not the warmer days as you might expect. The trigger for birds to start thinking about nest building is the increase in daylight hours. Their body clock is set for light levels not temperature.

As Simon says, you can build your own nest box. The BTO website has a page to show you how to make a nest box. They also had an interesting page on which birds use boxes, the types and the location you might find them too. Browsed the RSPB website they had tips on a couple caught my eye:

"Unless there are trees or buildings which shade the box during the day, face the box between north and east, thus avoiding strong sunlight and the wettest winds.

Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear."

Programmes like BBC Springwatch have definitely raised people’s interest in seeing what goes in the nestbox too. Nest camera searches will be pretty active at the moment I am very sure. As regular visitors here will know I have had a camera nestbox for a few years and last year installed a camera in a hedgehog house too. You can see details and images in this posting.

So what’s the latest on the nestcams? Well, we still have the same rooster in my CamNest box which has been great to see during the night with the help of an extra IR camera we added. I’m not sure about the quality of this camera image yet and we may take the box down again to look at the focus range or remove it completely and replace it with another. It certainly won’t be used for any colour images as the blue/green range was poor in our tests.

Testing out another camera nestbox is the latest news from my garden. Colour images are great when the colour is true and there is enough light levels to ensure the camera can give them. However, I would be tempted to say that if I had a choice of untrue colour images and reasonable black and white ones I’d probably opt for the black and white. Not relying on good light levels could open up new locations too. Fingers crossed we will be lucky enough to see action in both boxes to compare it.

The Gardman camera nest box is the one I decided might worth a try for this. I’m delighted to say that courtesy of Ian at the Dobbies Blog there has been one sited inside my ivy covered Pergola for a week now. Thanks Ian!

The image above shows the location of the camera in the nestbox and where the connectors are housed. I have to say I didn’t find the white conduit on the outside of the box the prettiest feature but it is a good practical solution. With ivy around my box this wasn’t to be a problem anyway.

One thing I did notice was the floor area was more rectangular and slightly smaller than in my colour nestbox. It will be interesting to see how a bird will use this space. My colour nestbox has a false roof and the cameras look through holes. It will also be interesting to see if the birds have any objection to the fully visible black and white camera in this nestbox.

I should perhaps point out that the camera in my Gardman nest box did need tilted as the image was showing more wall than floor (top left pic). We did consider different angles in the nestbox but finally opted for a straight on view. We also found that the camera came a little lose on its hinge with us moving it and it needed tightening. Now, it’s a waiting game again.

This Gardman camera nest box has a simple and basic design and as the diagram on their info sheet shows should you want to watch images on your television it is pretty simple to do too. If you click on the image it will enlarge.

The instructions were clear enough for installing this box but even after putting a few cameras up already we omitted to follow one very important one… to remove the small lens cover on the camera before we put it up! Oops.

I’ll be completely honest and say one thing that does concern me about this nestbox. It’s a completely practical point but very important one all the same. The packaging states that the ‘Hinged roof gives easy access for cleaning’. I’m not sure that this will be an easy task. However, I’ll be delighted to get the opportunity to try :-D

Finally, as regular readers will know I watch the action from my cameras on my PC monitor. I’m often asked how I do that and what I use to record my footage. This is perhaps enough bird chat for now. I’ll come back to the more technical side of my set up next week.

All nestbox photos were taken in my garden on January 17th 2010.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Introducing… Dave Culley

Blogging is a great way to e-meet so many interesting, like-minded and passionate people. Sometimes these first meetings are through browsing or comments on postings and other times via email. VP’s actual meeting and interview posting with a local garden designer (great read by the way) jolted a memory yesterday.

Back in August last year I had been briefly chatting via email with Dave Culley about doing of an interview style posting on him. The timing wasn’t quite right (for either of us) and although this was my idea to be honest I wasn’t really sure how I would tackle this. His wildlife filming (in my opinion) is outstanding and I wanted to do a good job in raising his relatively unknown profile. His passion? The one bird that most people in the UK dread visiting their gardens… the Sparrowhawk!

First contact with Dave was back in December 2008 when he emailed me:

“Hi great site shirl

I spend all my time watching and filming wildlife in my garden just like your self, but I have the elusive Sparrowhawk nesting in my garden, and if they are about its a good thing as it means the garden bird population is high.

You would be amazed how many birds nest around the hawk nest for protection against other predators, they are fantastic birds and very caring parents.

I have spent the last 5 years studying these birds every day and have learnt more than people who have studied them for over 30 years as I more or less live with them. Bit of footage on
my site you may enjoy.

Dave. Cheshire”

Click on Dave's photo to enlarge.

Dave attached the photo above which he has allowed me to share. Okay… I know this bird will snatch birds from our gardens but looking at the photo above it is just the same scene that you’ll get from any camera nestbox with cute blue tit parents and chicks in it isn’t it? This bird will be a parent in the Spring too.

Following the link to Sparrowhawk Island given in his email I found to my delight that Dave has nestcams and not just in nestboxes too. He had some wonderful footage with outstanding clarity.

His website describes:

“Sparrowhawk Island is a web site dedicated to capturing live footage of many species of british birds, but mainly the sparrowhawk as it lives in the wild.

This isn't your average online web cam site, our cams allow us to follow every aspect of the sparrowhawks life, whether its in the nest or the male bringing kills in. You will see the female leave the nest and take the kill away from the male to feed herself and her chicks.

We also have cams on our mating and courtship branch and of course a secondary cam trained on our watering hole.

The rest of the cams are situated throughout the wood in all of their favourite hotspots, this means you're guaranteed a good show. “

In one of our email exchanges Dave attached a clip of birds bathing that I am certain my readers will enjoy seeing us much as I did. The bathers list includes a Robin, Song Thrush, Jays (being chased by a Magpie too) Blackbirds and the Sparrowhawk itself! All in woodland setting… just metres away from a Sparrowhawk’s nest! Amazing… very entertaining too… Dave added some music for this one. Most of his videos have no extra sound.

Having many live streaming cams does come at a cost to Dave. I know live streamming is something I would'nt be able to consider myself. He has a monthly subscription system operating so you can view any camera live. At the time of this posting the website lists this at a cost of £10/month. Alternatively donations are also appreciated. I should also mention that the live cams usually start up in March. I’ll email him to check dates for this year. Update June 2010, since this was posted Dave has secured a sponsor to live stream his cams. Excellent Dave :-D

My first thoughts at the time were, why I would anyone consider signing up for something where only a limited pieces of footage were available to judge the quality. I mentioned this to Dave at the time and there were legal reasons why only a limited number of clips could be shown at that time as (finally) David Attenborough and others were very interested in the very rare footage he had. However, he did pass me on a few links to YouTube clips still available.

The first is of a female Sparrowhawk settling down on her nest to incubate her eggs. I was absolutely transfixed by the beauty of the Sparrowhawk eye…

Close-ups of the Osprey feeding fish to her young at SNH Reserve Loch of the Lowes is what the next clip reminds me of. Yes, this is probably a bird on the menu but the main focus is on the group of white fluffy chicks and the same caring and careful way that she feeds her young… exactly like the Osprey.

There are a variety of cameras in this wood in Cheshire, England and here are a few clips that Dave has taken of birds feeding their young that I doubt I will ever see in my garden here in Scotland. First we have two clips of Blackcaps feeding their young…

I also enjoyed seeing his footage of a male Bullfinch feeding young too…

Not so sure I enjoyed seeing Dave’s clip of a Sparrowhawk feeding (too real for me) but I did find it amusing when it was being annoyed by Magpies and Jays. This clip shows good views of this woodland life and once again shows images that many of us may never see. Okay… some of us might not want too, but nature is wild and this is what goes on.

What’s Dave up to now? Well, I’m not certain, as of this moment, but will mail him after I have posted this. I hope he is well and continuing to work in this field. Perhaps he has some good news of his future in wildlife filming as I believe he certainly has one. His passion for the Sparrowhawk is without question.

Back during BBC Autumnwatch Unsprung last year one, of Dave’s stunning Sparrowhawk photos (mating shot) was shown. Chris did mention at the time how much Dave knew about Sparrowhawks and being a big fan of Sparrowhawks himself they had already met.

Chris Packham, left, with a startled Dave on the right ;-)

Finally, fingers crossed that this ‘wildlife film team of one’ will get noticed. It would be such a shame for all the knowledge and experience he has gained of this ‘Most Wanted’ visitor to our gardens was never seen on our television screens. The Sparrowhawk could probably do with its profile being raised too.

Evening Update: just heard from Dave tonight and he tells me that unfortunately the swing bridge crossing over to Sparrowhawk Island has collapsed. On the positive side he has managed to get Lottery funding to replace it and works starts tomorrow. The Sparrowhawks will likely move away from the work site so understandably he will be anxious until they settle down a start nest building in a different area. Yep… fingers crossed there Dave!

Dave would love to make watching his nestcams free for everyone and has just applied for Lottery funding. He believes it would be great for schools to watch too. I would tend to agree.

At the moment, he is looking for a Sponsor and if this is something anyone reading this would consider you can contact him through his website. Alternatively you can email me and I’ll forward your mail directly to him.

Chris Packham has been giving Dave his support and I suspect not just because the Sparrowhawk is his favourite British bird! I’m guessing that Chris recognises the great work Dave is doing by studying this bird… let’s hope that others will do too and he gets financial support to continue his work. Yep… fingers crossed there too :-D

I’d like to thank David Culley for his permission to use his photos and include his videos in my posting.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Getting the camera out

Warm light, warm colours too after the cold white garden of the last 4 weeks… what a treat! Early light on the coral branches of Acer palmatum Sango Kaku just shout ‘photograph me’ and this morning I did just that. Although, it was the Blue tits that visit feeders hanging from it that I really wanted to catch.

It seems like forever since I’ve last stood outside with my camera trying to capture birds visiting my garden. Peanuts were the draw for the Blue tits today. Although, as you can see in the photo below this Blue tit with a peanut in its beak wasn’t making photographing it very easy!

I waited, and waited and I wasn’t to be disappointed. I was thrilled to capture a few shots I liked. Ah… but I had a special reason for photographing this very cheeky and charismatic little bird today.

As you might expect, I haven’t been the only one out with my camera trying to capture bird shots today. Blog browsing, I spotted Mike was out with his camera too. What fantastic lighting he captured as you can see here.

Pockets and piles of snow are still scattered around my garden. Would you believe it… as this snow clears away… the weather forecasters are predicting it will clear only to return again? I'm not sure if it's coming this way. We’ll not dwell on that though… I’m loving seeing my damp winter lawn reappear for the moment :-)

So what’s this in the photo opposite? Well, my husband very kindly gave me a new camera for my camera nestbox so I we could see inside it when it’s dark. This was a Christmas present and this weekend is the first of us having a clear area of ground below the box to take it down to swap over the cameras.

The exchange didn’t quite happen as we planned though. However, we now have a very interesting outcome. Looking at the photo you can see a camera with a hole to its left.

The hole seen above is for our original camera which was attached to the roof of the nestbox.

After removing the original camera and testing out the new one in the nestbox we discovered the colours (testing with blue and green samples inside) weren’t true and therefore the expected occupants (the blue tits) wouldn’t look as they should.

With a bit of manoeuvring of wires, a new hole and the hardest part of getting the original camera roughly back where it was as it was, we now have two cameras in this nestbox. I’m hoping I’ll be able to share some interesting footage in the future. It is fascinating to be able to see the blue tit as I type this just before midnight!

Our resident rooster must have had quite a shock last night to fly to the hole on the wall to find… no hole and no nestbox. I was a bit concerned that we may have lost it but as you can see below via the new night cam it’s back in residence looking quite comfortable although not sleeping completely sound. Now, I’m guessing they don’t. I'll let you see for yourself...

I’ve heard many a question posted on forums asking if the infra red light disturbs the birds but by all accounts it appears not to. Just after I uploaded my edited video clips above I spotted our rooster moving about and doing a bit of preening.

I just had to share this too! Well, it is the first night watching :-) Note how it cleans tail feathers one at a time. I don’t believe I have seen or captured this before.

For those who can’t view videos here’s a snapshot below of our blue tit rooster in residence tonight.

Okay, it’s getting late here now and about time I tucked in for the night too. Now… I wonder what new nestbox stories I’ll be able to share by the end of the week ahead ;-)

All photos and video footage were taken garden on January 17th 2010. Clicking on photos will enlarge them.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Spirit of...

Erysimum Bowles’ Mauve!! Still blooming as it appears again from under the carpet of snow that has lasted 4 weeks. Having faced temperatures of at least -12C, I’d say this perennial wallflower is worthy of an RHS medal for its spirit! It doesn't have one :-(

I'd like to wish a Happy Bloom Day to all celebrating flowering plants (especially those of spirit) with Carol on the 15th of this month :-D

The Spirit of 1940 is worth celebrating too and that’s exactly what the Television Channel Yesterday is doing. Being screened tonight on Sky 537, Virgin 203, Freeview 12 at 5pm. They also have a blog and some threads on a forum too.

The first programme covers Ration Book Britain and will have TV chef Valentine Warner cooking up some meals too. I know I’m a bit tight for time posting this but it is also repeated later on Sky 538 at 6pm, Sky 537 at 9pm and Sky 538 at 10pm.

Growing fruit and veg to supply food for your family is becoming increasingly popular in today’s world but back in 1940 it was absolutely necessary. I wonder if your relatives have shared any stories with you? Perhaps you’ve seen photos?

If you’d like to share any stories and photos the programme would love to hear from you as they are trying to collate as many memories as possible of life during the Second World War - not just gardening ones.

I’ve been having some interesting chat with the toddler in the photo opposite – my Mum. I intend coming back to this with a posting.

Meantime, let’s celebrate the past and present together through the power of the internet, YouTube and some original footage from the Ministry of Information. Gosh… would they ever have believed it would be shown 70 years later like this? Enjoy…

It’s almost the weekend, rain is expected here. Whoopee!! Wishing you the weather you would like for this weekend :-D

The wallflower photo was taken on January 15th 2010. Please do not copy the Black and White scanned photo taken around 1935.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Fancy a day out?

Let’s leave all that frozen white stuff behind for a while. I've a feeling quite a few could do with a break from it. Fancy joining me on a summer garden visit in Scotland? No need for a warm coat, hat, scarf, gloves, extra pairs of socks or boots. LOL… yes it does get warm here during the summer months ;-)

Perhaps you might like to pour a cuppa for this virtual tour that even non gardeners might enjoy… lots of pics and hopefully some ideas for you too. Remember, as always, if you click on a photo it will enlarge.

Back at the end of July we made a return visit to Culross on the Firth of Forth. A couple of weeks before, we had visited this village to see a wonderful private Open Garden.

For Scottish Garden Visits (3) we were heading to the 17th Century terraced garden behind Culross Palace. Let’s pop next door to the Bessie Bar Tearoom first. This was originally a malthouse thought to be named after a niece of Sir George Bruce, a wealthy 17th Century merchant and industrialist. The door’s on the left. After you…

Lovely… now we are all refreshed for the tour! Let’s head to the Palace shop to pay for our visit. We’re not going through the Palace this time. I had only negotiated a run in the car, a coffee stop and one garden visit with my daughter!

However, I should perhaps point out if you are not a member of the National Trust it is quite an expensive visit. To go through the Palace (the ceilings are fascinating BTW) and the garden it was £8.50 (approx $14) per adult.

That’s us, we’ve got our tickets. Let’s step out into the courtyard in front of the Palace. Oh perhaps not… a bit too refreshing out there with that very heavy summer shower. We’ll wait a moment.

Temporary tour guide hat on... Culross Palace isn’t in fact a Palace, built between 1597 and 1611 for Sir George Bruce, it was a merchant's town house. King James VI visited in 1615 but it was never a Royal residence.

Looking out through the doorway with the steps lined with basketwave planters you can get an idea that this may just be a special garden. Wonderful… the rain has stopped. Watch your feet now, there are cobbles underfoot. Let’s head outside...

Oh my… the rain has temporarily and magically changed the landscape. What fantastic reflections in the puddled paving. Don’t you think it has made Culross Palace look just breathtaking? I’m delighted I could get a photo of this moment.

Okay, are you ready to finally start our garden visit? Don’t worry, I won’t chat all the way through. We’re heading through the door behind the white sign. I wonder if you can guess what planting style you are about to see. After you, we're going up some stairs…

The restored 17th Century garden we are about to wander through has many of the plants and features which would have been in the garden at that time. It includes a small orchard with apple, mulberry, quince and fig trees. The main garden is full of vegetables, herbs, aromatic plants, flowers and fruit.

Now, not being a veggie grower I have to say I do admire a well stocked and laid out garden like this especially in the geometric Potager style. I’ll let you look around this area for yourself… look out for the pears growing on the wall to the right of the arched seat. They caught my eye.

Inspiring isn’t it? Not a sign of that frozen white stuff either… bliss! Let's head up the terraces where you can look back down to the garden to get an idea of scale…

Whoppee!! Some summer flowers and colour with bees busy feeding on pollen instead of frantic birds fighting at the frozen feeders! Okay, I’m guessing… you're guessing… that I’m getting more than a little stir crazy with our new white garden! You’d be right there :-D

There could be no fairer flower in this garden than the one I brought with me… my daughter! She was very patient while I took photos… honestly, she wasn’t a bored teenager! She enjoyed taking in the view and people watching… she loves the later :-D

Now, this is a great view of the main garden layout and part of the village of Culross with its houses full of character and history all the way down to the Forth and beyond.

Take a boat or train (line along water edge) to the left and you will head to the Forth Bridges and Edinburgh. Take a boat or train to the right and you will head towards Stirling.

Now, what’s this? I don’t remember the garden extending along here on my last visit when my daughters were younger and we had a National Trust membership. Oh… before we got through this door I want to mention the raspberries growing with red hollyhocks along the wall. I loved this planting combo.

Wow… another terrace… more plants, architectural features, nooks, crannies and seating areas. I love this too. We may be walking in a restored 17th Century Garden but it is being over-looked by regular houses of today. Quite surreal in many ways. Watch your feet now… we are walking on crushed seashells.

Another surreal feature of the view from this garden is the petrochemical works on the other side of the Forth. We are looking across to Grangemouth now. It is scary, don’t you think, that when this Palace and garden were built its people could never in their wildest dreams imagine such a place.

Re garden design I do love all the open period fencing/trellis in this part of the garden. But what’s this looking down to my left? Now, this has really caught my eye…

Regular visitors will perhaps remember my postings on Arbours and Pergolas Part 1 and Part 2. Now, this corner feature would definitely have made it into these postings.

Don’t you think this is a fantastic design. A pergola with built in seat, a cushion of herbs at shoulder height and what looks like grapes planted to grow overhead. Ah… I’m getting lost in that summer feeling now... aren't you?

Ooops… the teenager in the distance is getting a tad restless now. Perhaps you are too… sorry this has been one of my longer postings. I hope you have enjoyed this great escape for a little while.

I didn’t have time to post this garden tour at the time but wasn’t too dissapointed as I thought I could keep this for a rainy day anyway. Little did I know I would be sorting out these photos and writing about this visit when I had a carpet of frozen white stuff covering my garden!

One last terrace view over the garden… I’m coming dear daughter… although what’s that small wooden building on the left? Did you see it? Nope?

Brilliant…they are selling some fresh produce from the garden! What a great idea. I have another one for you too before I take a last look back at the garden.

On researching links for this garden I discovered something about this garden that I had completely forgotten about.

I wonder if you can guess what’s missing from this 17th Century garden scene. Actually, change of plan… I’m going to leave you guessing and tell you about it next time. Mm… I’ve a feeling there may be some who will guess though… but do you know what kind ?

Wishing you a safe, warm weekend enjoying gardenwatching if you can :-D

P.S. If you're in the mood now for more garden visits please do join me for a wander.

All photos above were taken by me on July 28th 2009. Click on them and they will enlarge. Please do not copy these images for commercial use.