Saturday, June 29, 2013

Finlarg Hill: a fernery

Dryopteris filix-mas from Kohler's Medizinal Pflanzen
This 19th Century botanical print gives a taste of the elegance of Male Fern, one of the most widespread ferns of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the commonest shield fern native to Colorado (which is a bit of a joke--there are only two shield ferns native to the state--and the other is extremely rare!). Male fern is actually quite local and sporadic in its occurrence in my state--and I have always enjoyed stumbling on new colonies (of which only a few dozen are known to tell the truth). And even in its most lavish Colorado presence--around Boulder for instance--you are not apt to find more than a dozen or so specimens at a site, and these are modest in size and stature. So you can imagine my delight and amazement when I found THESE a few days ago while driving through Angus with Carole Bainbridge, president of the Scottish Rock Garden Society:
Male ferns on Finlarg Hill
 This is actually a closeup--the full scope of the hillside is shown a bit more fully in the next two pictures--and even they don't take in all the hill or all the plants. Each one of those clumps of male fern are probably over a meter tall and many a meter wide or more. The magic of the Web is such that you can click on this link and you can get a precise map of this hill--so you can wend your way there one day and marvel as I did at the profusion of ferns!

Male ferns on Finlarg Hill photographed from Lumley Den
Mind you, this is only half the hill--check out the next picture for the other half (including the carcass of a car that got distracted--possibly by the ferns?). I have been beguiled, becharmed and just generally besotted by Scotland since I first visited in April of 1981. I am not sure what delights me more: the verdant countryside and quaint villages, the grandeur of Edinburgh and the wonderful history, the incredibly melodious and poetic Scottish burr--and the friendliness of the Scots (I think I find the style of the Scottish people just about the most congenial of any nationality: they are incredibly friendly without being overly effusive, they are constitutionally cheerful and very funny and there is an authenticity and a power in their interactions that is utterly unique: the Scots are simply wonderful). And the Scottish place names! Finlarg Hill and Lumley Den are just the scan that map: Tarbrax, Huntingfauds, Gallowfaud, Brighty...on and on they go--one more colorful name than the next. That's Scotland in a nutshell!

During the week I spent in Scotland I doubt the daytime temperature rose much above 20C a single time (that's roughly 66F): I came back to Denver with near 100F temps and warm nights not much below the warmest temperature I experienced in Scotland: it was like coming back to a blast furnace!
Last night it rained quite hard--if only for a few minutes (maybe a quarter inch precipitation) and this morning I felt a gentle kiss of Scotland on my cheek as I looked out at my garden. I suspect I shall be treading Finlarg hill in my imagination quite a bit in the coming, toasty weeks!


  1. Panayoti,

    Your post forced me to get a botanical manual out and look at my ferns. The truth is I did not remember if I had Dryopteris filix-mas in my garden. Indeed, my most robust fern is this species. The other ferns I have are Lady Fern and Japanese Painted Fern. My male fern has a place of prominence among sedges in between two Fothergillas at the front of my drive. My arrangement is pleasing, but not nearly as breath taking as the fern on talus in the wild.

    James McGee

  2. I am ashamed to say I don't have Dryopteris filix-mas in my garden at all, James (not to mention a brace of Fothergillas)--I must remedy that! Glad you were impressed with the Scottish slope!

  3. I had to keep reading a minute to figure out that you were touring in Scotland, initially thought this was a new (very uncharacteristic) hill you'd come across on Quite stunning! Our summer here this year has been nearer to Scotland than to Colorado...


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