garden history gi rl

On Planting by Cannon

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.
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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