The amaryllis has finished flowering for this year. I love the intensity of the deep red colour.
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
It's a mild showery day. I can almost hear the plants putting on a growth spurt as the rain falls.
Every day I notice differences as I meander up the path to the potting shed. Our hens are all looking a bit "droochit" (wet). If it gets too bad they go and perch in the hen house and look miserable. It's something to do with the body language and the fact they are wet rather than any facial expression. But then hens did originally come from warmer climes such as South East Asia. No wonder they look happier when the sun's shining.
Even in a garden the size of ours the micro-climates vary quite a lot. The giant cabbage with the froth of white flowers Crambe cordifolia, ) looks very different at the top end of the garden from the one planted nearer the house.
The Clematis alpina "Constance" is ready to put on a great show again this year. It's getting big and a bit straggly. Maybe I'll have to give it a haircut this year.
The teasles and the thistles cirsium rivulare (below) at the back of the borders have formed great rosettes of leaves.
The spears of the Soloman's Seals (polygonatum odoratum) are coming up all over the shade border in among the hellebores and friillaries. The arching stems and drop flowers of Soloman's Seal are so elegant. It's a plant that I would never want to be without.
So what else is putting in an appearance in the garden? The deep white buds of the peony Jan Van Leeuwen have pushed their way through the protective mulch and get bigger by the day. The clumps of the black iris Chrysographes are appearing through last years foliage. They will never be black but a deep velvety purple. There's a rash of seedlings round the clumps of astrantia major. Even though there are no true leaves showing yet that is what they are. Lots of weeding to be done at a future date... I always keep a few to pot up for friends and plant sales.
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I have done nothing in the garden today. Nada, rien, nothing.
So instead here's a small but fascinating part of Monty Don's TV Series "Around the World in 80 Gardens".
He visited many outstanding and beautiful gardens but the trip to Cuba was the highlight for me. It's about community, vegetables and alternative methods of growing. We could learn from this methinks...
Monday, 28 March 2011
This is the time of year when everything starts to gather speed and gardening for me becomes a bit of a roller-coaster. So many things to do and so many distractions. Am I the only person who can walk up the garden to do one job and end up doing something completely different?
I did get some things done today....
- Turned in the green manure and prepared the vegetable bed
- Took down the bubble wrap in the green house.
- Potted on some cuttings and seedlings
The vegetable border ready for tatties..
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Saturday, 26 March 2011
This is the sorry tale of Phyllis's spade. It belonged to my mother-in-law and was rescued from her house in Portsmouth after she died several years ago.
It was fairly well worn and it's handle was slightly shoogly (that's means shakey if you don't speak the lingo). But the handle was smooth and it was easy to keep clean and to sharpen. And most importantly the spade was the right height for me to dig with.
Unfortunately Phyllis's spade had an accident today. There are a lot of large sycamore trees in the neighbouring church grounds and the roots grow under our vegetable plot. Apart from robbing the soil of nutrients and water most of the roots are too deep to worry about. Today as we were preparing the vegetable patch we discovered a root near the surface. My husband grabbed the nearest implement (Phyllis's spade) and tried to dig the root out......
Sadly the root didn't budge and the spade broke.
At some point the spade will get a new handle. The old handle will make a very superior dibber.
Moral of the tale: Get the right tool for the job.
Friday, 25 March 2011
What could be nicer than to curl up on the settee with a glass of wine and Monty Don?
Well, not literally. My husband might be a bit taken aback at the arrival of Monty Don between us...
No, it's Gardener's World on BBC2. Bliss....
I photographed the gorse (Ulex Europaeus)(also known as "whin" in Scotland) today on our walk with the dog. The colour is stunning A hillside covered in yellow gorse is a beautiful sight.
Gorse likes free draining soil. I was surprised to find that gorse is a legume and therefore is known as a nitrogen fixer in the soil. Big bushes of gorse tend to be self mulching as they drop of lot of their spikes. But nothing will grow under them .They can look untidy and brown especially if they are cut back. But they also make a good fence or barrier.
It was originally introduced here as an animal fodder. It was ground down to feed to cows and horses. When it has been snowing heavily sheep have been known to eat the gorse as there is nothing else.
This got me to thinking about how plants are perceived by people. Are they friend or foe? One person's weed is another person's prize specimen.
Gorse has it's good points and bad and in the main is tolerated here.
But go to New Zealand's South Island and there is a zero tolerance to gorse. When we were there we became aware of what an invasive plant species it can be given the right conditions.. The climate is probably ideal for it and it flowers (and sets seed)at least twice a year. It covers more than a million acres and over a million dollars is spent trying to eradicate it every year.
It was introduced by early settlers. It must have seemed a good idea at the time. Given how much gorse there is in Scotland I wonder if it was down to a settler from these parts?
Most plants that cause problems here (and anywhere else) have been introduced from another clime often by Victorian plant hunters.and settlers. And they did introduce a few thugs unwittingly that now cost huge amounts of money and effort to remove.
I think I may be starting a theme here.....
Thursday, 24 March 2011
Alys Fowler was the class act at the Scotland's Garden Scheme conference. For those outwith this neck of the woods Scotland's Garden Scheme is a charity that supports private gardens opening to the general public for a small remuneration. These range from grand houses to small back gardens to allotments. The equivalent in England is the National Garden Scheme. Teas are a big feature!
Every year the SGS have a conferance in Edinburgh. After the AGM and lunch with the Sponsors (and a few glasses of wine) there is a talk from a well known gardening luminary.
On this occasion it was the ininimatble Alys Fowler. If you haven't come across Alys before have a look at this link:
Her subject was "The Edible Garden".
Why do we keep veg and flowers separate? Her talk focused on breaking with convention to create a garden that tastes as good as it looks. And there is a book.....
Alys grows her vegetables, herbs and other edibles (so many flowers and plants are edible) in among perennials. What some people might refer to as a herbaecous garden. Alys starts everything in plugs (yes even carrots)in her own DIY cold frames. There is no green house in her garden.
She included fascinating information about worms and breeding and how many there should ideally be to a spade spit in your vegetable garden. I must try that...
Alys is also in many ways a gardener of her generation. Not only did her husband (a non gardener) start a Face Book campaign to stop her chopping down a magnolia that he had become attached to but she is a regular blogger.
I was amused that Alys's mobile phone rang a few times during the talk. She was unperturbed and dealt with it without apologising or getting in a flap. I'm sure several of the audience were tut-tutting under their breath. If I had been watching a film I might have joined them . But it didn't put her off her stride in the slightest.
When Alys left the conference I saw her unlock her fold-down bicycle and launch herself into the Edinburgh Rush hour traffic. And that takes some nerve..
But all things that go around tend to come around. My mother (an immensely able gardener on a shoestring) often planted veg in the flower border. I don't think she knew why she did it except there was a space and why not?
I was a bit sarcastic at the time. A cauliflower in with the irises, please!
Now I'm rather proud of the fact that my mother was ahead of her time.
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
You may have noticed The Blotanical Blog Site logo on my blog.
I've spent way too much time looking at the gardening blogs on this site but it becomes a bit compulsive. There are so many interesting gardeners around and many of their sites are imaginative and beautifully crafted. The photography in particular is of a very high standard. I'm still trying to focus and stop camera shake!
The sites are also full of information and cover so many more subjects than gardening. I particularly like the blogs that diversify into nature and cooking. And the ones I can relate to because of similar garden experiences such as hens escaping, compost making and lots of little idiosyncrasies that gardeners share. It's also interesting to see how much variation there is in methods of gardening, plants grown and of course, the weather!
However I have found it complicated to navigate as a site. Most folk want to make contact with other gardeners and share experiences and I find it a bit frustrating working it out. . It takes up a lot of time to sift through the blogs, read at least one post, pick the post, decide whether you want the blog or bloggist as a favourite. You can see why it might become all consuming. And the garden calls...
You do not even have to have a garden or a blog. If you are interested in all things gardening have a look at the Blotanical site. Look out for the logo....
Don't you want to have a peek in other people's sheds given the opportunity? You can tell so much about a person by their shed.
I don't let many people have a peek in my garden shed unless of course it's had a good clear out... This happens when the frustration of not finding thing I need and tools falling out when I open the door, leads me to set time aside to tidy up. There's usually three of these "tidies" a season unless it's a real midden and then I take some precious gardening time to clear it out
We're only into March and it's already a bit of a mess - I'm not going to let you see the whole thing. I may post a "Tidy shed" photo another day..
What's on the shelves? Terracotta pots, organic sprays, tools,old tins for herbs and books (of course). There's also the plastic pee bottle for my husband's own personal use. It saves him trailing back to the house and is a good activator for the compost heap!
On another wall is my blackboard and my "aide de memoir". Things I need to make a note of have been forgotten by the time I get back to the house...... it's written in a sort of shorthand so don't expect to understand it.
The most perfectly formed wind flowers (anemone blanda) with a pale pink flush at the stem end of the petals.
Sister Lydia, the Head Gardener of St Michael's Convent in London has a motto for her relaxed gardening style "Let it flow". That is a great piece of gardening advice...
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
I finally got going today and did some gardening. Is there a more heartwarming sight for a gardener than freshly raked soil waiting to be planted?
I was supposed to be getting the vegetable border ready for cloches and planting the first crops of salad greens, beetroot etc. But at the beginning of the season when there are so many things to be done I get a bit distracted. I seem to spend an inordinate length of time looking for tools that are not hanging where they should be or going to and from the garden shed to collect things I've forgotten. Then there's my garden gloves. I keep leaving them places...
When I eventually got going on the veggie border (you get an idea of it's length by having a look at the garden plans page) I discovered the remnants of the green manure that I had put down last autumn and a rash of calendula seedlings (see above), hypericum and Leycesteria formosa.
I also came across three large hostas that had been dug in last year as there were no pots big enough for them.and they needed dividing. I'm loath to throw anything out especially as plants will be needed for the stall on the Open gardens Day (2-5pm Sunday 3rd July -Look forward to seeing you there) I managed to divide them into 12 good sized plants and put them into another spare part of the border. Again not enough plant pots of the right size.....
As you can see I used lot of the plastic pot supply for alliums ordered last year. They are for the gaps that we haven't yet discovered in the flower border. I may have overdone the ordering (again!)
The new cloche that Paul made me is full already with onions and garlic hardening off ready to be planted out. There's also the first green salad leaves of the year and the plants recently acquired from Elizabeth McGregor's nursery.
These are the heritage Broad Beans ready to be hardened off.
Monday, 21 March 2011
It's a balmy, blowy 15C today. The soil should be warming up well. I feel a sudden sense of urgency as the saps rising and green shoots are all around. And if I'm honest I've looked at other people's blogs such as Mark's vegetable garden http://marksvegplot.blogspot.com/ and they are getting on.. I have to remind myself that he is further south and probably two weeks ahead of us. (4 weeks ahead of places such as Orkney where we used to live)
I always tend to plant too early and then things bolt - onions and chard spring to mind.. Ours is a shorter growing season than south
Gardens Illustrated magazine arrived today. Was it Oscar Wilde who said "I can resist everything except temptation."? Time for a good read and a cup of tea.......
Sunday, 20 March 2011
We arrived home to a very cold house and some whining cats. I couldn't work out if they were hungry or cold. Our feline friends are rather spoilt and get their cat food augmented by tuna or prawns occasionally. So they may have been put out by the solid cat food for five days AND no heating. They are not allowed to roam the house freely either when we are away. It's a hard life.......
The cold was due to a defunct boiler. So there was no heating or hot water. The heating engineer came and I would like to say that we have heating and hot water but we don't. And we need new bits for the boiler. It's hardly five years old but you can bet it's out of warranty....
That's my boiler rant (for the time being - this is supposed to be a gardening blog!)
On the bright side some plants arrived from the Elizabeth McGregor Nursery in Kirkcudbright
http://www.elizabethmacgregornursery.co.uk/. There's nothing like a box with "Live Plants" written on the side to cheer me up........
They show every year at Gardening Scotland http://www.gardeningscotland.com/ and have some amazing plants. The plant photos were taken from the Elizabeth MacGregor catalogue
This is what I ordered:
We already have anemone rivularis in the garden and it can be grown from seed. I think they are all exquisite plants and have been on my wish list for some time.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Maybe you're like me you probably have a love/hate relationship with the likes of Tesco and yearn for the kind of shopping experience I grew up with.... One of the best places we discovered recently
is a wonderful indoor market called "Earthy"in Edinburgh.
It's definitely an exciting place to shop with lots of fresh vegetables and organic local produce and a cafe. They even use brown paper bags!
It featured recently in "The Sunday Herald "( http://www.heraldscotland.com/life-style/food-drink/natural-high-1.1084885
We arrived in the afternoon and the cakes in the cafe are just too tempting to ignore. So we had cake and coffee. We left with a bag stuffed with groceries and other assorted items. A bottle of wine (organic and free trade, of course), a tea towel (organic and far too pretty to use)flour and oatcakes. What a treat....
You can find out more about "Earthy" by visiting their site at http://www.earthy.co.uk/
Monday, 14 March 2011
It's very cold and damp again. There are lots of things to be getting on with in the garden but I have to persuade myself to go out to fill the bird feeders, feed the hens and collect the eggs..
I still have some early seeds to sow and plants to pot on. Some plants in the green house had died over the winter. That is in spite of the use of a beer chiller (thanks Beechgrove garden for that Beer Chiller Tip) to keep the place frost free.
All the tender perennials outside are still covered in fleece and sacking and will be for some time. It will be interesting to see how many plants we have lost this year. There were just too many "planting opportunities" last year.....
Another disaster with the dahlias in a box in the shed. They have all gone to mush (for the second year running). I think I'll have to bring them into the basement next year or maybe even leave them in the ground covered in a heap of mulch. This is how one of them looked last year... aah memories are made of this......
Saturday, 12 March 2011
It's celandine time. The lesser celandine (ranunculus ficaria) They make a stunning yellow carpet massed on banks on countrywalks. And then they disappear until next year.
If you get them in your garden (unless it's one of the cultivars like "Brazen Hussy")they are very hard to get rid off. They propagate primarily by small tubers and bulblets and spread quickly. But in the countryside at this time of year when the sun shines they are a joy.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
The Helleborus "Blue Metallic Lady"is one of my favourite plants on show at this time of the year. it is incredibly dark and glossy and provides a good contrast to the green epimedium next to it as well as to snowdrops and other early flowering bulbs. It was developed by Gisela Schmiemann a hellebore breeder in Cologne, Germany.
Hellebores are easy plants to look after but they do prefer shade and a bit of a mulch. It is important to cut off the old leaves to prevent the spread of black spot. Most hellebores like to self seed and a rash of small plants often appear under or around the parent plant. If I'm really on the ball I collect the seed when it's ripe and sow in pots of compost covered with grit. Germination can be sporadic.
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Today is the International Womens Day. It is therefore a a good time to reflect on some of the women gardners past and present that I find inspirational.
Carol Klein. Has a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm in equal measures.
Ellen Wilmott. She was known to secretly scatter seeds of eryngium giganteum(also known as Miss Wilmott's Ghost) in other people's gardens.
Beth Chatto Writer and nursery woman. Her guiding principle is that the right plant should always be planted in the right place. ie don't put a shade damp loving plant in sandy soil in bright sunshine.
Jekka McVicar an organic gardener who specialises in herbs.
Margery Fish An outstanding plantswoman, writer and plant collector
Check out more of them in this new book. It's on my wish list.. http://www.gardeningwomen.com/
When I was growing up in Edinburgh my mother (a keen gardener) gave my sister and I a small patch of garden each. I'm sure she was trying to encourage the horticultural genes but the only plants that I remember having in that small patch was a pink phlox. I never did take to it and all phlox (of whatever colour) will never find a place in our garden.
My enthusiasm for gardening was further dulled by the series of blunt spades that my mother seemed to have in the shed. Digging the vegetable patch was such a chore. How wonderful to discover that it need not be like that. Spades and other gardening implements can be sharpened and life (and digging) are so much easier....
Having said that my mother did instill some gardening know-how and horticultural enthusiasm in both of us much to her delight.
This unique garden is very much part of it's landscape. There are few boundaries and local plants such as sea kale (crambe maritima) abound. Many of the plants have been seeded into the shingle. In addition to the plants Derek Jarman created artistic pieces and plant supports using local beach combings. Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne's poem, The Sun Rising.
Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Derek Jarman's book and only try to grow plants that are suitable for that environment.
Monday, 7 March 2011
We hired a machine today to get rid of all the branches and leaves from the great tidy-up. It looked the business. I had high hopes after watching my friend at a garden in Edinburgh's New Town throwing all sorts of twigs, branches and leaves into one of these machines (albeit a larger more industrial affair!) and everything coming out the other end in a mulch like consistency. But our experience of shredders/chippers in the past should have warned us......
I was right .. . it got choked, blocked and ground to a halt. Why is it these machines only like certain sizes and consistency of branches? This one liked larger branches but found bamboo, cornus and phormium leaves totally indigestible.
We gave up in the end and rebuilt the compost heap by hand (or fork) putting very tough grass stems into the green bin for council collection. Perhaps we'll be able to get it back one day in the form of council made compost..but I won't hold my breath...
Sunday, 6 March 2011
The days are getting longer, the sap is rising and spring is on the way. There are lots of buds in evidence. The single pink camellia is covered with buds waiting to burst open.
The Cardiocrinum Gigantum(Giant Himalayan Lily) looks like it may flower again this year. (Watch
this space) It takes about 7 years for it to get to flowering size.
The buds of the Peony Jan Van Leeuwen.
An early Clematis Alpina.
The buds of Clematis Aramandii
Thursday, 3 March 2011
A wide expanse of deck can be a bit boring so we thought we would cut a triangle out of ours. To stop people falling down the hole at the Open gardens on July 3rd we will plant it up with parsley. As it's near the kitchen door we will be able to get it for cooking.
Work in progress.