Slow painting

Sunday 7 September 2008

Shetland gardening

Sorting through some photos today I came to a folder from a holiday in Shetland a few years ago. Amazingly, we had two weeks of almost constant sun, and of course that far north it's never completely dark in summer - the 'simmer dim' as it's known in Shetland dialect. Since it's raining again today, and we were chased from the allotment by a downpour after a couple of hours of determined work this morning, I felt like letting some sunshine in to these posts.

We rented a cottage from friends, undertaking to water their garden. In Shetland the great enemy of gardeners is the salt-laden wind. Many houses have shelter belts of 'rosa rugosa', with the seaward side of the bushes burnt brown by the salt in the wind. Tender vegetables are still grown inside the traditional circular stone enclosures. On my first visit to Shetland I took these for sheep fanks until I was corrected. Here's the gardening apprentice setting out to do some watering.

As well as the constant winds, the plants have to survive the attentions of the rabbit population, hence the chicken wire barriers.

When we returned to the mainland we were overwhelmed by the lushness of the vegetation after the wind-blown landscapes of Shetland. It all seemed too much - the municipal flower beds we passed in Aberdeen after getting off the ferry were psychedelic, and tall beech and chestnut trees seemed blowsy and fantastic. We have to go back. I think we all hanker after the space and sense of being at the edge of the world.

The lines of buoys marks out a salmon farm.

Gulf Stream notwithstanding, the sea temperature is pretty glacial. Who cares when you're young and have a beach to yourselves to build a sandcastle.

By car and ferry we made it right up to the tip of Unst, Shetland's northernmost island. Much of Shetland life revolves around the sea, and garden sheds on Unst are no exception.

We called in at the famous Unst bus shelter, which features a sofa, TV, microwave, lace curtains, a stuffed cat, and more.

The day we visited, the current planting was a trellis of sweet peas.

More about Unst here.

So today, on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, I wish I was in Shetland.


Alison Kerr said...

I love the shed and the bus stop, not to mention the wonderful colors (colours) of the vistas.

Janet said...

I saw the boat roof and knew you had to be in the Northern Isles somewhere. I used to live in Orkney and visited Shetland a lot over the years. Sadly the bot roofs are fast disappearing.
Wonderful beaches. You don't realise about the wind when you're looking at photos.