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On Planting by Cannon

Craigybarns, image available at redbubble
"The Duke of Athol consulted my father as to the improvements which he desired to make in his woodland scenery near Dunkeld.  The Duke was desirous that a rock crag, called Craigybarns, should be planted with trees, to relieve the grim barrenness of its appearance.  But it was impossible for any man to climb the crag in order to set seeds or plants in the clefts of the rocks.  A happy idea struck my father.  having observed in front of the castle a pair of small cannon used for firing salutes, it occurred to him to turn them to account.  His object was to deposit the seeds of the various trees amongst the soil in the clefts of the crag.  A tinsmith in the village was ordered to make a number of canisters with covers.  The canisters were filled with all sorts of suitable tree seeds.  A cannon was loaded, and the canisters were fired up against the high face of the rock.  They burst and scattered the seeds in all directions.  Some years after, when my father revisited the place, he was delighted to find that his scheme of planting by artillery had proved completely successful; for the trees were flourishing luxuriantly in all the recesses of the cliff."

And according to contemporary photos of the now-climbable cliff, they still are.

Inspiration for your spring planting from the famous engineer James Nasmyth (inventor of the steam hammer), who was writing about his father, Scottish landscape painter Alexander Nasmyth.  The cannon-planting took place about 1788.  Both Nasmyths were polymaths with wide interests.  Alexander was considered the founder of Scottish landscape painting, but he was trained in architecture and  dabbled in engineering and in the formation of actual landcapes,  providing designs for the pump room that still stands over St. Bernard's well in the center of Edinburgh, a picturesque plan for the landscape at Inveraray (including a 'beehive cottage' for the gamekeeper), and advice for turning the ruined Colinton Castle into a folly.



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The Artful Arranger said...

That's thinking outside the box!
As always, thanks for posting. I don't comment a lot but I read it all.

Molly said...

Love your blog the best! Hope that whatever is keeping you away is something that brings you great joy.

arcady said...

Oh, thank you Molly. What is keeping me away is trying to finish the book! I can only write so much, it seems...

Gardeningbren said...

Hope we will all get a heads up when the book is finished. So look forward to your posts. By the way, when hubs family came over to Canada to settle, they came on a ship called the Dutchess of Athol. Assume it was the wife of said cannon planter. Best

Aussiegardenhistorynut said...

Seeing Dunkeld in your post reminded me of the lovely small Arboretum at Dunkeld Victoria at the southern end of the Grampian Ranges, a seriously rocky place where they too have been trying to restore native grasslands and forest species with some success also due to a great philanthropic team of landowners.

Laurin Lindsey said...

Thank you! Love history and gardens. What a brilliant idea...early flower bombing : )

Commonweeder said...

You have the most amazing stories!

Frederico Gorski said...

Hi Arcady,

Nice story! It's been over a year or maybe more that I've been following your inspiring blog, being myself a gardenblogger.
By the way, I would like to translate and publish some of your posts on my own blog if you allow me to. this is the address: http://jardimdecalateia.com.br/


GhostRiderInTheSky said...

That was some ~serious~ seed bombing here... over 2 centuries ago. :-) (Y)

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