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  • Writer's pictureDigger and Gina McLean

Himalayan Blue Poppies and Giant Rhododendrons, Oh My!

Vacation is always a good time to get away and see new things. This summer, we had the once in a lifetime chance to go to Scotland. The land of castles, William Wallace (Freeeedom) and Robert the Bruce welcomed us with open arms. Scotland is an incredible place to visit and a country that is easy to fall in love with. Our guide in Edinburgh said in her wonderful Scottish accent, "You can walk anywhere and there's no dodgy bits." Indeed, there weren't any dodgy bits.

I love plants and gardening, so when I travel I enjoy seeing gardens and flowers. I always seem to come home with way more pictures of plants than people. Ha ha. It's fun to see things I could never grow in Mississippi, and to see plants I've never seen before. The cool Scottish climate, so different from the the Southern United States, grows the most beautiful flowers. Is it the cool climate? The abundant rainfall? The short growing season? I don't know but I saw familiar flowers, like roses, and many I was totally unfamiliar with.

Himalayan Blue Poppies, are a showstopper. They are so stunning that when we saw them, we said, "What is it?" A vibrant blue flower with a yellow center, I took a picture and looked it up when I got home. I have never seen a flower that color. Sadly, they won't grow here, as they can't really tolerate temperatures above the 60's. (Insert crying sound here.)

We saw lots of lupines, which is another flower that won't grow below zone 7. (More crying here) I love their upright habit, tall spiky flowers and gorgeous colors.

I had never seen a Golden Chain Tree before. Golden Chain Trees have long panicles of yellow flowers cascading all over the tree. These beauties were growing over a garden path and the petals were falling on the path like snow. Golden Chain Trees will grow in Zone 8, but flower better in cooler temps. It figures.....

Rhododendrons are growing all over Scotland. These beautiful acid lovers do grow in the Northern U.S., but I had never seen rhododendrons as big as the ones we saw in Scotland. I have seen them about chest high, but Scottish rhododendrons were way taller than we were, with prolific blooms.

I love Oriental poppies, and they are supposed to grow to Zone 9, but they do better in cool climates and don't really grow in the South's high heat. (This explains why mine kept dying!) Scottish oriental poppies are huge and come in so many different colors. Pink, coral, orange, red.'s love.

We were able to see something in Scotland that has always been on my bucket list: a garden center. (I know you were thinking Nessie. We launched an expedition to Loch Ness in search of her. Our boat was filled with hopeful children longing to catch a glimpse of the mystery monster, but she remains elusive.) Dobbie's Garden Center was a blast for those of us who think heading to a garden center is better than Disney World. They had a buffet with all kinds of lunch items, and an atrium to eat it in. They had everything else you could imagine a garden center could have. My favorite thing at Dobbie's was a blue hydrangea. The color was called "Blue Ballad" and I have never seen this variety in the U.S. If I could have carried it on the plane, and they would have allowed me to bring it through customs, there would now be a Blue Ballad hydrangea in my yard.

Castles with gardens and lunch at a garden center? Best. Vacation. Ever. Oh, and Nessie was pretty good too.

Dig It? It's Grow Time!

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