We’re doing something different this week. We thought we’d share last week’s trip to Scotland with you.
We have always loved giving talks together (as you can see from our feature pic) – though it can be hard to juggle things in order for us all to be in the same place at the same time! So we were delighted to accept an invitation to give a talk to the illustrious Helensburgh Horticultural Society, giving Laura and I an excuse to travel north for a change. An absolute age has passed by since then and suddenly….the time was upon us, and we’ll never forget it.
It all began in a pleasantly humdrum fashion, when I met Laura at the train barriers at Gatwick. She got a serious frisking as usual in Security (they stopped short of snapping on the rubber gloves this time), and then it was time for a relaxed coffee-and-cake while we learnt that our flight would only be half an hour late in leaving. Pretty good.
Obviously torrents of rain were bouncing off the tarmac by the time we landed in Inverness. Caroline was there to meet us, and only a very small confusion between the accelerator and brake pedals on the hire car slightly delayed our exit from the airport. The rain was easing by the time we arrived at Caroline’s lovely Highland home, and we were able to have a walk round her new garden.
What a surprise! All her plants looked super-healthy, cared-for and beautiful – Laura and I wandered round open-mouthed at the clear evidence that our younger sister was ACTUALLY a gardener! As you can imagine, it would have been a massive mistake to tell her that, so we muttered stuff about how good the soil must be up there, etc. and retired indoors for a great evening catching up with friends and family round her big kitchen table.
We spent a couple of fruitless hours the following morning, trying to link our new clicky/pointy presentation thing to Caroline’s computer – longing for a competent 5-year old to show us how to do it. And then we were off on our four-hour drive to Helensburgh on the west coast…………………
It wasn’t just the clicky thing. Have you noticed how breakfast takes longer as you age? By the time I’d prised the old girls from their croissants we had only 10 minutes to cuddle new Growbag baby Madeleine, before the infamous A9 beckoned and the Growbags were off at full gallop.
I gave them clear instructions to simply grab a sandwich ‘to go’ at House of Bruar but still they got lost with Laura becoming quite deeply embedded in the men’s urinals. How were we going to be on stage by 7pm?
We battled on through torrential rain for several hours until Camelot, aka our Helensburgh Airbnb, finally appeared before us.
It still required the very limits of Laura’s Cambridge degree to fathom the keybox, but dear readers we did it……we made it to the stage at the Victoria Halls after a very nice early dinner with the club’s president and secretary.
From then on, things just got better and better. Sandwiched between Laura’s views on west coast gardening and Elaine’s report on her Normandy garden, I got revenge for my sisters’ mean comments about my horticultural inadequacies by sharing images of plants I’m able to grow which my sisters’ aren’t. Very satisfying.
Elaine forked out for raffle tickets, Laura got her bank card machine out behind the counter of Our Little Shop of Garden Delights, and my role seemed to be to simply enjoy the company of our wonderfully funny and well-informed audience.
When a member asked whether we were considering producing The3Growbags wine, it sealed my opinion that this was a visionary club of the highest order.
There was no ‘lying-in’ though, after our lovely evening at Victoria Halls. In my part of the talk the night before I had extolled the benign maritime climate on the west coast of Scotland. It allows more tender species to survive than down south, and we were lucky enough to be about to experience the consequences of this for ourselves….
The new owner of the intriguing Linn Botanical Garden, just a few miles up the coast, had agreed to show us around the work in progress to restore this unique sub-tropical horticultural gem.
We were in for an inspiring morning, and I have written a full review of our visit with a link at the end of our blog.
But then things started to turn rather surreal – remember this was Thursday 8 September. Arriving early at Glasgow airport, Elaine and I bid farewell to Caroline and settled down to wait for our flight. The news that our flight to Gatwick was in fact cancelled set a desperate hunt for alternative routes home.
So whilst trying to preserve the battery life of our smart phones, we were reliant on helpful strangers to keep us abreast of the breaking situation at Balmoral. We knew it was getting serious when our new friend announced the newscasters had changed into black outfits and ties.
Eventually securing the last two seats on a late-night flight to Luton we dug in for a long wait. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news. Elaine and I were queuing for fish and chips at Glasgow Airport….
It felt very strange to be travelling home amongst constant reminders of the end of the reign of our beautiful Queen Elizabeth. But rattling home on the night train through London in the small hours of Friday morning gave plenty of time for reflection. Thoughts that we will never again watch the Queen accept a bouquet of flowers from a child, give her Speech on Christmas Day, or alight from her car at Chelsea Flower Show.
But we know that her high ideals, respect for tradition, love of the British countryside, and of course of gardening, lives on in her son, our new King, Charles III, so amongst the sadness there is also great optimism.
Read Laura’s poignant account of her Queue for the Queen as she joined other mourners for 14 hours to say a personal farewell to our monarch.
Hear all about the wonderful work taking place at Linn Botanical Garden
Louise’s latest great plant is one is a truly gilded grass. Click on the box below to find out what it is.
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