Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Scottish Gardens
Monreith, Wigtownshire


NE writing about daffodils should foreswear poetic quotation, were it only in common consideration for his readers. Nevertheless there is one practical point connected with this favourite flower rendering excusable a reference to a passage in the greatest of English poets. When Shakespeare wrote of daffodils.

That come before the swallow dares, and take
 The winds of March with beauty.

He had in mind, not the March of our calendar, but March old style, which, according to Julian reckoning, was in the seventeenth century, ten days in retard of the Gregorian dates. Although the Scottish Privy Council decreed the adoption of the new style from 1600, it was not until 1751 that the British Parliament followed suit, passing an Act in that year which set matters in order by the omission of all dates between the 2nd and the 14th of September, 1752. Thus when The Winter's Tale was produced in 1611, Shakespeare's month of March corresponded to the period

now noted by us as extending from 11th March to 10th April, both inclusive. This puts the poet's chronology in harmony with our present experience: for the common daffodil is never at its prime till the beginning of April, even in early districts. In backward districts the full flush is not to be expected before the middle of the month. It was on the 2nd April that Miss Wilson made her study of daffodils at Monreith, and they would have made a braver show had she been able to wait till the following week.

There is no plant, not even the rose, which has undergone more frequent transformation at the hands of the hybridiser than the daffodil; but the natural species were perfect before man took to playing pranks with them, and I confess to thinking the new varieties no improvement on the old types. Those which have run riot through the Monreith woods are the common sort, Narcissus pseudo-narcissus, which is probably a native of England, and certainly revels in the humid climate of Scotland. One wants nothing better; yet there are some varieties of this species which it would be folly to reject. The one known as bicolor, for instance, with a golden tube and broad, ivory-white segments, is quite as beautiful and as easily naturalised as the type, but it flowers a fortnight or three weeks later. Then there are the miniature forms, minor, nanus, and minimus, with tube and segments alike of rich golden yellow. These should be grown in borders, with such contemporary flowers as hepaticas, chionodoxa, early squills and dog-tooth violets. As for the double varieties, out upon them! To quote Perdita once more

I'll not put
The dibble in earth to set one slip of them.

The sculptured design of this flower is so admirable that it is sheer sin to let it be disfigured by doubling.

Talking of daffodils, one cannot but breathe a thanksgiving to Nature for that she has furnished them with an infallible protection against the well-nigh omnivorous rabbit. One would suppose that the succulent green blades, pushing up through winter-slain herbage, were just the diet to whet the unholy appetite of these brutes. But they know better than to set a tooth to them. As the protective agent in certain plants is very obscure, perhaps I may be allowed to quote here what I have said elsewhere on this matter.

"In regard to daffodils, they appear to be protected, not by any chemical poison, but by a purely mechanical agency which has been brought to light by the researches of the Rev. W. Wilks, editor of the Royal Horticultural Society's Journal. In February, 1905, he heard from a nurseryman, who grows daffodils for the flower trade, that men and boys employed to gather the flowers suffered from poisoned hands. He explained that after the men had been at work a little while, their hands became sore, gatherings forming under the finger-nails and wherever the skin was broken or chapped. This statement having been confirmed by another daffodil-grower, one of the largest in the trade, Mr. Wilks instituted research into the cause, and came to the conclusion that the irritant in the sap of the daffodil is not a true poison at all, but that the mischief is caused by small crystals of lime, called raphicles, of which the sap is full. He recommends that people employed to gather daffodils should oil their hands before setting to work, and rub tallow under their finger-nails."

Monreith has been in possession of the same family for 427 years. That it has been for a considerable part of that period a home of flowers, there is the evidence of a fine piece of tapestry to prove. This was the work of the wife of the third baronet (he died in 1771), who set herself to depict in applique the flowers growing in the castle garden. They were laid on a maroon ground to serve as a carpet—literally a parterre—for the castle drawing-room. A laborious task, but evidently a labour of love, so faithfully are the dame's favourites set out in a design of remarkable grandeur. A large basket of flowers forms the centre; smaller groups fill the four corners, and round the carpet runs a continuous wreath looped with ribbons.

Stowed away in a lumber room, this fine piece of work was unearthed thirty years ago. Moths had played havoc with the ground cloth, but the needlework was almost intact, and the colours fresh : skilful hands were set busy relaying the flowers upon cloth of an old gold colour, and the piece now hangs on the wall of the ante-room in the modern house of Monreith. Among the flowers most easily recognised in the design are the madonna lily (which refuses to flourish with us now), the Isabelline lily, clove carnations, mullein, lupine, hyacinth, red primrose, auricula, polyanthus, guelder rose, anemone, moss rose, scarlet lychnis, pink geranium (its leaves variegated with white), convolvulus, sunflower, sweet-William, scabious, and Canterbury bells, whence one is able to form a good notion of the furniture of a Scottish garden in the eighteenth century. Strange to say, the common daffodil is not among them ; the only representative of the family being that double form of narcissus incomparabilis which goes by the homely name of Butter-and-eggs.

No doubt many of the flowers still adorning these grounds are borne on the same roots which furnished patterns for the gentle artist a century and a half ago ; for there is no fixed limit to the life of some of the humblest herbs. The oxlip may outlive the oak which overshadows it; yonder massive sycamore may be but a child in years compared with the celandine that stars the bank at its foot, and who shall declare the "expectation of life" in the lowly stonecrop that creeps beneath our feet. The green mound, whereon stands the keep of the old castle, breaks out each spring on its south side with a constellation of white violets, wide-spread on the slope. They have long outlived the memory of her who planted them, for it is more than a century since the castle was inhabited. On the terrace at Monreith there is planted in clipped box the Psalmist's note of warning—Homo quasi flos egreditur et conteritur; but those who covet length of days might willingly exchange terms of life with "the hyssop that springeth out of the wall."


Return to Scottish Gardens Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast