Yesterday we went over to Loch Ness and Cromarty with yet another friend who came by for a few days (no bear he, but a legal eagle. Fish eagle, you might say, since he does business in deep waters). We went to my favourite nursery (Abriachan, overlooking Loch Ness), where I met a charmingly goofy puppy, a Hungarian Vizla (he hurtled out to greet us, regardless of the A84, clearly determined to become paprika flavoured road pizza, I do hope the little creature survives to years of discretion). There, once pup had been successfully lasooed and returned to a place of safety, I bought, of all things, a palm tree. A Chusan palm, they come from north China and can stand an awful lot of weather. It is perfectly enchanting, stiff, lime-green fans. Last week the Real World Consultant brought me up a 150-year old olive tree from the Columbia Road. So I now have two lemons, an olive, and a palm. Also camellias, jasmine, Florentine iris, a strelitzia, Tuscan artemisia, rosemary, and two delicate Chinese roses. It goes down to 15 below in an Aberdeenshire winter. Sometimes I think I must be mad. On the other hand, there is a sort of crazy poetry in a total defiance of the winter. Most of them spend half the year in the greenhouse, in somewhat overcrowded conditions, but walking in there in January with hail hammering on the roof and looking at a sort of portable Mediterranean is the most wonderful feeling. ‘Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen blumen?’ (I have probably got that wrong, I don’t really do German). Goethe wasn’t thinking of North Aberdeenshire, but bloom they do, wafting their intense, too-sweet perfume.