Along with strips of bark, seed heads and numerous photos, I’d returned from Arran last year with a bag of huge Rhododendron magnificum leaves. Letting my hands do the thinking, I’d slice into one, feathering or ‘serrating’ the edges. As I played I realised their robust leathery skin and arrangement of veins leant themselves to becoming Rowan leaf look-alikes. Since the last glaciations on Arran there have been genetic transformations taking place unique to the island, a co-mingling of Whitebeam and Rowan has produced at least two new trees: S.arranensis and S.pseudophennica. Here seemed the heart of an idea worth pursuing: a genetic metamorphosis; the nature of change.
So during last month’s site visit I showed my changeling leaves to the Rangers who suggested a walk to a beautiful/magical glade where magnificum has self-seeded. It feels like the perfect location to implement another transfiguration unique to Arran; I have already re-shaped 3 leaves there which – despite the weather – are coping well with their new form. The resilience of other leaves within the glade to nature’s own manipulations suggests ‘my trees’ should survive the cuts.