A sight we love to see. The wild plum tree blossoming by the gate to Pond Cottage is now 30 years old and the older it gets the more beautiful it grows. It stands as a warm welcome to all visitors and once again we’re looking forward to welcoming Scotland’s Gardens Scheme explorers. We have enticing plans for the new season.

First a confession: for a long time we thought these wild fruit trees were blackthorns (Prunus spinosa) – that’s what it says in the list of shrubs and trees which were planted along our newly defined boundary back in early 1994 (thanks to a generous grant from Tayside council in those happy days of generous grants).

But autumn brought a correction though it took us a while to realise it. Blackthorns produce sloes, the small blue-black berries that tend to end up flavouring gin. Our trees are laden with bullaces – small and slightly bitter plums in shades of purple-black, red and gold, they are not hugely tasty but butterflies love them.

You could spend a long time searching for the precise ID of our wild plum tree. Is it a subspecies of Prunus domestica or a hybrid with Prunus cerasifera? An ancient symbol of fertility, resilience, survival, and renewal, many forms are found across Asia, southeast Europe and North America, says the Wild Flower Web. But I like the possibility (thank you Wikipedia) that our bullace is native to Britain.

Whatever! It is beautiful, right now the bees are loving it, and so are we.

Time for storytelling

Hey presto, in April
the poem budded and bloomed

Blossomise, Simon Armitage

After a hard winter it is good to see signs of new life. As climate change blows hot and cold, Spring feels both fragile and determined. I’m hovering over the poem Blossomise by poet laureate Simon Armitage who captures the strange unsettled state we are in. ‘What have we done?’ he asks.

But as we clear heaps of fallen timber left by winter storms all around The Pond Garden the trees are full of birds and birdsong. The ground bright with bulbs. We see space for new plants. And plans are growing for new events through this year’s openings with Scotland’s Gardens Scheme.

During 2024 we are hoping to develop activities for and with local groups which will give us new opportunities to support and promote the wonderful life-enhancing work of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS).

The closing weeks of winter have been unexpectedly busy with really cheering developments. Easter Weekend got off to a great start with another bird-ringing visit from BTO volunteers who will be back again soon (more about that in the next post). And in the first week of longer days, I’ll be exploring possibilities for collaborative storytelling events. I’ll share news and invite ideas as soon as I can on Facebook, Instagram and (what I still call) Twitter. We’d love to hear from local groups.

Positive openings

It’s good to be looking at positive openings. Among victims of the storms was our oldest plum tree, that has celebrated every spring since we arrived here with a burst of blossom just beside Ray’s wood turning shed. A handsome stump now marks the spot.

The old tree was beautifully gnarled and leaves richly coloured, tantalisingly grained wood for turning as well as burning. And that’s not all. This was a mother tree. She has left a few healthy looking youngsters and one of them is already in bloom.

We will be organising open days later this year but are always delighted to welcome small groups by arrangement. Just get in touch through the Contact form or our listing on Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. It will be great to see you.

Wild Plum trees are also important in the conservation of biodiversity. They provide habitat and food for many different species of birds, mammals, and insects, helping to support the ecological balance of natural areas.

Wild Flower Web

New life from the old plum tree: photo Fay Young, Pond Cottage