Category Archives: Gardening

Tea Growers Anonymous

An interesting article in our local Oban Times last week listed many of the tea plantations currently operating in Scotland – everything from The Wee Tea Company with 14,000 plants growing on high ground – formerly a sheep farm near Dunkeld – to a new plantation with 500 bushes planted at sea level recently on our fellow Lorn Island of Lismore.

There are also small operations in Invernesshire – Peebles – Orkney – the Isle of Arran and our nearby Isle of Mull. If their reporter – Sandy Neil -had looked over the wall above Fladda Cottages here on the Isle of Luing he might have seen OUR mini-plantation where Helen and I have six healthy plants of the green tea producing Camelia Sinensis variety growing happily in our south sloping garden despite their recent exposure to several degrees of frost —

The Lismore growers find their biggest challenge is to fend off the legions of voles which burrow through the roots of the plants. Voles shouldn’t be a problem here as our Seamus does a great job of keeping them and their sort in order – no —

Our public enemy No.1 is the roe deer – they just love to munch on tasty fresh green tea leaves —

Yup – here she is – early in the morning outside our bathroom window casing the joint – hence the security detail of Daleks which did a great job of protecting our young fruit trees in 2017 – this year they are on Camelia Sinensis patrol —

Oh yes – what of the Nepalese Prayer Flags – just a personal touch to make our Himalayan tea plants feel more at home 🙂

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Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Gardening, Isle of Luing


Postman Pat rides a V-Strom

With a little help from his friend —

That’s snow on them thar Morvern hills on the far side of Loch Linnhe and it’s nippy out here too – brrr —

Although the sun-trap by the old Creagan Railway Station made a welcome photo setting —

Next stop was in Glencoe village on the southern shores of Loch Leven where Postman Pat stuck a newly purchased package up his jumper for the first leg of it’s journey to Japan —

If his beard get’s any whiter they will be calling him Santa Claus —

No worries – after a bit of lunch and a natter with a man who owns one arm and three Vincent motorcycles we were on the return leg and made it back to the Island in time to wash the salt and travel stains off the V-strom.

Helen snatched a quick pic of the snowdrops in our garden just before they closed their petals for the night —

and then watched as the sun went down over Garvellachs (a chain of uninhabited Hebridean islands with longstanding holy connections just a mile or three off our own island shores)  —

What better way to end a perfect day out —

than enjoying a welcome mug of hot tea at the bottom of the garden 🙂


The Road to The Isles

It’s fully 16 months now since Helen and I moved to the Isle of Luing in the Inner Hebrides where the weather can be wild and windy one minute and quite benign the next —

The roads are fewer, rougher and tighter than those to be found in the rest of Scotland so it’s very much a case of horses for courses —

Helen and I have had to adapt in many ways but overall it has been well worth the effort —

Shopping – gardening – cooking and baking can be more of a challenge but the occasional success has it’s own rewards —

and with our second Christmas together on the island fast approaching we are looking forward to 2018 with confidence —

The photo was taken just a few minutes before Boss-cat dug his claws into my forearm to get my straying attention! He is a farm cat after all and is as much at home in the tumbledown steading catching vermin or out on the hillside with the deer and the ever-present threat of attack from above as he is on my lap in front of the log fire of an evening —

I blame Netflix where ‘Medici’ has taken us into devious Italian banking circles and ‘murrder’ awaits round every street corner – ‘old hat’ to some perhaps but brand new to ourselves here on Luing 🙂


Love is in the air at Bardrishaig

I may be stretching a point here when I credit our wild roe deer with feelings normally associated with humans –

but – having watched our resident buck at close quarters for several months now –

and – our more timid females as and when they make their skittish appearance –

it certainly looks like there is a match made in heaven taking place on our doorstep.

But work came first this morning as our fine fellow trimmed the front lawn —

under the watchful eye of his bride-to-be —

Even our resident cock pheasant get’s in on the act as he sprints across the lawn to his position on rowan tree knoll in time to take his place as best man —

He had to be quick for the groom has smartened up and is on his way too —

How about that then – even the cock pheasant seemed a little envious – if a tad embarrassed at the speed the nuptials took place —

No doubt – all being well – we will hear the pitter-patter of little hoofs around here again next spring 🙂

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


CRF250 Rally Does the Cliff Walk

Sunday was one of those days when I thought I might dig over part of our vegetable patch only to find it water-logged from all the ‘weather’ we have had in recent months so I left it in the capable care of our resident roe deer buck —

and headed out on the 250 Rally with the intention of riding some of the farm tracks on the island —

The tracks were OK but when they ran out I found the grass covered sections to be just as water-logged as my garden —

Rather than cut them up I pulled out and cantered over on the tarry stuff to Blackmill Bay —

where I took a few ‘artistic’ shots of the remains of the old jetty —

that – as this old post card shows – had once been the main lifeline to and from the island —

But a red-blooded guy with a itchy throttle hand can only take so much of this before his mind starts to wander and thoughts turn elsewhere —

to the stony path running part-way up the cliff between the two slate quarries in the north-west of the island —

Stormy seas have washed out parts of the old track but there was enough left for me to get a pic or two —

and set the scene —

before heading back to meet up at the Atlantic Island Centre in Cullipool where my son Jim was celebrating his birthday with friends and family —

Not a bad day all round 🙂


Tatties Galore 2017 – a Poem

I first dabbled with poetry for a pleasant distraction from working twelve hour shifts as a plant fitter in the dangerous hard rock tunnels being cut out of the hillside for the North Bank Power Station at the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River from 1969-72. As if the fissured rock we were tunnelling through leading to deaths of colleagues wasn’t tough enough – the fact that the dam itself stretching 173 miles along the border between the warring nations of North and South Rhodesia brought extra friction to life including an unwanted introduction to landmines.

Current day life on the Isle of Luing is peaceful in comparison – most of the time – but the physical effort required to prepare the neglected garden at Bardrishaig for cultivation was going to be a real test for the old body.

Tatties Galore 2017 – a Poem.

Spring is viewed with trepidation – choose enough seed to feed a nation

Weeds in abundance get there first – thistles – docks – briars are the worst

Garden fork – spade – a mattock too – times when nettle stings turn air blue

Blackbirds – chaffinch – robins arrive – birdsong brings the garden alive

Weeds all gone – I’ve flattened the lumps – leave slate blackened soil without any humps

Cakebreads calling – seed potatoes stocked – fertiliser scattered – growing season unlocked

King Edwards – Kerr’s Pinks – Home Guards – names to thrill –

Marris Bards – Marris Peers – Golden Wonders fill each drill

In two weeks or three – green shoots appear – bring joy to a gardener full of good cheer

Earlies – Seconds – Main Crops all show – cover them up – bring out the hoe

Spend many a day the straight drills admiring – leafy shaws blot them out – flowers arriving

King Edwards crop first to the gardener’s surprise – Marris Bard by the bagfull are next to arrive

Knobbly Pinks – Marris Peers – Golden Wonders spill to borders

Dig tatties – fill baskets – bring chaos to order.


Don 🙂

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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about


Bardrishaig in Bloom

Well bits of Bardrishaig are in bloom – it has been a tough task – what with the persistent roe deer on their nocturnal visits – the gales blowing from the Sound and the vagaries of the slate soil here on the Isle ofLuing but Helen and I have persisted and we have a few blooms to show for our efforts —

The blue anemonie is one of several bulbs I planted which in the main came to nought – if I knew what I did different with that particular flower I could have a garden full of them next year.

The dahlia was also a success and a surprise having forced it’s way upwards to shine above the invasive dockins.

The pink rose survived the greedy roe deer and does well in the shelter of an aster and a fuschia.

The border plant above will remain nameless but it is just one of a variety of ground cover plants Helen and I have planted in an effort to subdue the prolific weeds.

I’m particularly proud of this agapanthus having grown him from a single bloom – a gift from a friend who had connections with the artist Hornal’s famous garden in Kirkcudbright where I spent some time as a guide to visitors. It has surpassed all our expectations – having been transplanted from my previous cosy garden and survived the salt laden gales up here at Bardrishaig to produce a myriad of beautiful blooms in a fairly exposed position at it’s new home.

Yet another flowering perenial which should spread through the border by the kitchen door from it’s sheltered position by the pale pink but vigorous fuschia.

The geranium in a pot by the kitchen door is another healthy specimen with it’s lilac shade of pink flowers.

My first attempt to form a border under the downstairs bathroom window with a double row of pretty stones from the beach with lilies was a sad failure but we are hoping for better luck this time now that Helen has refreshed it with the central herbaceous primula – a creeping thyme which should form a red carpet and a ‘Red Dwarf’ dianthus to give a bit of competition.

And – when all else fails there are always the potatoes which have been a resounding success with six varieties – Marris Bard – Marris Peer – King Edwards – Home Guard – Kerr’s Pink and my favourite – the dry and crumbly Golden Wonder all doing well.

Not bad really for our first year in Bardrishaig – the state of the garden area when we arrived twelve months ago was not for the faint-hearted but Helen & I have persevered and hopefully next year will be easier – especially if we can bring our six new fruit trees through the winter safe from the maruading roe deer. We had a single puny Braeburn apple to show for this year’s efforts but at least the two gooseberry bushes that came with us from my old garden down south produced an abundance of fruit.

Who knows what the future might bring – perhaps it will be a postcard from Australia to say ‘Thank You’ to Helen for the rhubarb she planted by the kitchen wall. There is no sign of it above ground and I can only imagine it’s heading south instead of north 🙂

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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing


Weekend Wandering

With all that’s been going on since the wedding – flitting – trying to fit furniture from two houses into one and various bits n pieces – it hasn’t all been about counting spuds from the garden at Bardrishaig – or watering the sweet red pepper plants that appear to be flourishing on an upstairs – south facing windowsill —

Helen and I have spent a few hours out and about this weekend —

From a weather point of view Saturday was the best day and a couple of shots from Helen across Oban Bay set the tone —

On Sunday it was back to rain and reduced visibility – nevertheless we were on the road again – this time to the picturesque Glen Orchy which I have promised to show H for some time.—

Still very beautiful but I did struggle to remember it from my many previous visits by car and motorcycle over thirty years ago —

Probably down to the tree growth – as I seem to remember the river as being more accessible back then —

No worries – I did get a chance to wave to the camera —

Here I am – over here – the ijit in the green jaikit 🙂


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Posted by on July 9, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about


Prolific Potatoes – 36-1

I’m like a kid in a sweetie shop when I go down the garden with my fork to dig up another shaw of my Bardrishaig Bard potatoes.

The tubers are filling out daily and the count this morning was 36-1. Yup – thirty six spuds from one seed potato.Perhaps that’s normal nowadays but I can’t remember getting anything like that when I was a schoolboy picking his ‘stint’ in the field while on his annual two week October Tattie Holidays.

Yields were undoubtedly lower back then but there was still enough to give me many a sore back from being bent over while trailing a heavy – sodden – mud covered wicker or wire mesh basket between my legs as I gathered the tatties that had been uncovered and scattered by the spinning wheel on the tractor-drawn tattie digger before it came round on it’s next circuit.

The quicker you could pick your stint – one of twenty or thirty marked out by the frightening foreman with pieces of broken branches across the drills depending on how many pickers there were – the sooner you could stretch your aching back.

It was all worth it when payday came at the end of the two weeks. That new pair of rugby boots might be achievable now or some other item of school clothing – anything to get away from the continual wearing of worn-out ‘hand-me-downs’ that came from being number three of four brothers in the family.


Ah – 1948 – the year after the ‘big sna’. I started school at Blair Athol that year and made the front page of the Scottish farmer while my dad was competing in a ploughing match with his two Clydesdale horses up by Blair Atholl Castle.

But it didn’t lead to a career in modelling unfortunately 🙂



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Posted by on June 29, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing


Tatties Galore at Bardrishaig

I expected the roe deer to be a nuisance in the garden in wintertime when food was short in the wild but our local population appear to have become domesticated and are regular visitors to our garden even now in mid-summer. They have trimmed our young Braeburn apple and Damson trees already and appear to be working towards our new – Pear – Plum – Cherry and  Bramley’s.

Now with the wet season here any thoughts that our redundant snake-like water hose lurking in the shrubbery would give them food for thought has joined the pile of wishful thinking.

I should have left the orange glow Daleks around them – they may have been unsightly but they worked a treat while they were there.

The Tenderstem Broccoli patch barely slowed the roe deer down – it was gone in a night – decimated.

They have yet to show a taste for gooseberries but I have it on good authority that the birds are watching these fellas and unless I net them they will be nabbed by our feathered friends as soon as they ripen —

They may be sweet and tastybut these few brave berries won’t go far – so it’s just as well we planted some spuds.

They are growing great guns with the Marris Bard in the forefront —

The King Edwards aren’t far behind and we still have drills of Kerr’s Pinks plus another three potato varieties showing good growth —

The deer will need to be hungry before they make a dent in these fellas and unless someone introduces wild boar to the island —

we should be eating tatties from our own garden till Christmas at least 🙂

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Posted by on June 27, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, Wildlife