Sunday, 23 September 2018

Hedgerow Bounty - Sloe gin

I've been keeping my eye on some sloes  (Prunus spinosa) locally and managed to find some time to pick them. There are not many but enough for a half bottle of sloe gin, which should be ready just in time for new year.

Sloes on the tree

I find sloes are always a lot smaller up here in our upland hills but they still do the job. The best we ever picked were in Yorkshire when we were staying with David's parents a few years ago.

Picked ready for taking home

Although I had the plants growing in the boundary hedge in my last garden, they rarely flower, never mind fruit! It was just too cold and high there. Regardless, the plants will grow anywhere, easily coping with clay soil and the wild windy cold weather forming tight dense hedging as long as you watch out for the thorns! The flowers and fruit are a bonus on a tough hedge.

Sloe gin ingredients

The recipe for sloe gin is quick and easy, as follows:

Sloe Gin

1 lb Sloe berries, washed and pricked all over
1 litre Gin
250g sugar

1. Once you have weighed, washed and pricked the fruit all over, place them in a wide-necked bottle or seal-able jar (we used a litre Kilner jar)

2. Place the sugar in with the sloes, then pour over the gin.

3. Give the jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar then place in a dark cupboard.

4. Shake every day until the sugar has all dissolved.

5. After about 3 months strain out the sloes through
muslin, bottle, store in a dark cupboard, and wait.

Sloe gin is a popular drink at Christmas, coinciding with it maturing. The colour is an amazing deep burgundy already and I can't wait to see it when it is ready to drink.

As well as sloe gin I believe you can make a jelly for eating with meat and jam with sloes and apples. I'll maybe try that next year if I can get some more sloes.

Have a look at some of our other Hedgerow Bounty blogs


Elderflower champagne 

#hedgerowbounty #sloes #selfsufficiency

If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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Friday, 7 September 2018

Catching up on a Summer full of family, friends and food

Not only has it been very busy in the nursery over summer we've been busy else where too. We've had lovely days out, a couple of days away for our first wedding anniversary and spent time with family and friends. 

One of the biggest highlights was spending the day in Glasgow with middle son Jamie as he graduated from university after four years of hard work. Queue proud Mum moment! With a first class honours with distinction in computer security and ethical hacking (yes it's a thing) he has done very well along with holding down a job to be able to pay his way. Jamie's girlfriend Natasha, his granny and my self cheered from the balcony of the concert hall as he was awarded with his degree and then we celebrated with drinks and dinner with the rest of the gang. Happy family day.

Eldest son Ben

Because of all the great sunny weather we had there were some great skies and sunsets too

The summer weather meant we sat outside for meals more than ever, enjoying leisurely coffees, a 
glass of wine or a few and lovely summery salads. 

A mega fruit cheesy salad

A very colourful dinner!

Lovely light over the fields on summer evenings

Pelargonium gibbosum, a new addition to my collection

In July we also did a walk from South Queensferry through the Dalmeny estate and back and we visited Edinburgh botanics with David's Mum and brother Ian. We took a trip to Anstruther where we parked the car and got the bus to Crail and walked back along the coastal path, with a picnic at Crail harbour and fish and chips in Anstruther it was a great day out. More about those in another blog.

David's mum visited for a couple of weeks,
needless to say Bracken made good use of this and
was spoiled rotten

All too soon it was August and the first weekend saw me driving up to Inveraray on my own for a slightly terrifying reunion with some of my classmates from college, most of whom I haven't seen for 30 years! We had a great evening, dinner and drinks catching up and by the end of the evening it was like 30 years had never been. Georgina and I shared a camping pod, which was ok, bit uncomfortable on the floor (I'm not a camper, I like my luxuries when I'm on holiday lol).

30 years later, just more wrinkles and stories to tell!

The traditional Inveraray photo after a long drive on my own

Another trip into Glasgow for Jamie's birthday and in
which David poses for yet another selfie!

Natasha and Jamie

Happy birthday to me, cake by Daniel
Hippeastrum flowering again, it's confused

I'm sure my sons love me really lol

I got to go on a couple of surveys with David to visit old buildings, which are always fascinating. If you've ever visited Holyrood Architectural Salvage in Edinburgh you'll recognise the first one. This was also the biggest survey team survey David's business has done, so at the end we celebrated with batman cake and champagne.

Another day and another abandoned building, this time an old hospital up on the east coast near Montrose. This is an ongoing job that David has been working on for several years as there are so many huge buildings. 

I've been doing a bit of cooking and baking again, using up the flour we bought last year in Winchester on our honeymoon and other new tasty meals.

Cheese scones for David

Chicken tagine ingredients

Chicken tagine 
A jug from Normandy, a sign from Arizona,
flour from Winchester, a multinational
breakfast setting!

Else where in August David, Bracken and I had a trip to Crawick Multiverse, I visited Portmore for the WRAGS 25 anniversary celebration and I finally got to visit Little Sparta gardens. We also went to Falkland Palace and gardens for a day out. Daniel and I attended a concert at Whitmuir by a 45 piece orchestra which was great and well attended, food provided by Whitmuir. David and I snuck away for three days to stay in a tree house for our first wedding anniversary.

I'm not going to mention the garden at home, it's a bit of a non starter and a professional gardener's embarasment, but the plants are still alive and thriving, possible on neglect. I have repotted a lot of my shrubs and started on the climbers to help them get through another year of being pots. They've done exceptionally well so far. I didn't have in mind four years later we'd still be renting and my plants would still be in pots. This looks set to continue for a while yet too.

So until the next time have a great weekend.

#summerfun #familyandfriends #glagowcaledonianuniversitygraduation2018 #sunset #summerskies #goodfood #homemadefood #summerfood #Pelargonium gibbosum #abandonedbuildings #winchestercitymillflour

If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Hello! I'm back, lets catch up on Summer in the nursery

How are you all? Sorry I haven't even been reading everyone else's blogs either. It's been a madly busy summer which has been equally great and exhausting. The nursery has been super busy with customers and so have I with all the work needing done in the gardens and nursery. Personally there's been lots going on too, reunions with old friends, college mates, graduations and trips away. More of that in the next few blogs as I try and catch up.

The herb garden has gone from strength to strength and really thrived in the hot sunny weather

Lets start with the nursery and everything that's been happening here over the last two months. We can't not talk about the weather, and that summer and oh my goodness the amount of watering and would our water supply dry up? Who would have thought after that winter and all the snow we had, we would get a summer like that? It was glorious, to have day after day of hot sunny weather, not having to worry about how many layers of clothing to carry around and being able to eat out on the patio every evening. The down side was of course keeping everything watered. In the nursery this became almost a full time job on top of everything else needing done. Everywhere needed watered every day, and towards the end of our heatwave it had to be timed so we didn't run out of water, eek! But we now know we can go at least five weeks with no rain and not run out of water.

Watering became a full time job inside and out

Who would have thought we'd get excited about
 rain in Scotland

The gardens have done amazingly well when you consider we went from that winter to that crazy hot summer. I am super pleased with how all the plants have survived and gone on to do even better. Older planting schemes are really filling out and the newer gardens we made last year have bulked up really well. The herb garden, which was a real experiment up here on the hill at 850 feet, on clay soil, on a north west facing slope, all things herbs really shouldn't like, is looking amazing. Customers and visitors to the nursery and gardens have been raving about how good all the gardens look which makes all our hard work worth it. It has inspired people to re-think their gardens, take away ideas and plants and also just enjoy walking around the gardens and nursery which is what we really wanted to achieve too.

It seems my plants are going the same way as my
dog, doing their own thing when I planned for
 them to be somewhere else. Not only that,
the poppies have thrown in some variation too!
#herbgardenhighjinks #poppygate #organicsgonetotheirhead

The Monarda's in the scented garden have
 really bulked up this year (there are
five varieties planted there). The one above is
M. 'Gardenview Scarlet' and has been
 a show stopper, infact we nearly sold out!

Sweetpeas - with their evocative scent of country gardens, Grandad's allotment and vases of abundant summer flowers. I love them and in the nursery I've grown them in wooden boxes as a back drop to the seating area in the scented garden. My favourite varieties and growing in the nursery this year are 'Beaujolais', 'Erewhon', 'Gwendoline', 'Nimbus', 'Royal Wedding', 'Wiltshire Ripple' and 'Painted Lady'

Last year the sweetpeas with the wetter summer
put on masses of  lush growth and finally came
into flower just before our wedding(whew!) This
year they put on hardly any leaf but flowered
well and early on due to the dry summer. It just

 shows the difference weather really does 
make to plants.

The lilies were a surprise too in the scented garden. I planted them for scent and colour for our wedding last year. Because of our clay soil I wasn't really expecting them to A. survive or B. flower again. Wrong - they flowered even bigger and better than before. Lily 'Stargazer' to the right was just stunning.

Phlox 'Dusterloh' above flowered it's heart out producing huge scented heads of flowers which combined really well with Monarda 'Gardenview Scarlet' and the grass Chionochloa rubra.

Veronicastrum 'Fascination' produced even more fasciated flowers this year. The ends of the flowers are flat as if some one has run an iron over them! A real curiosity as well as being a great midsummer plant for the back of a border.

The Scottish native plants borders have filled out this year with the Arctium (Burdock) flowering with it's curious purple flowers and deep roots.

The yellow Linaria vulgaris (Toadflax) looks like mini anthirrhinums and has flowered all summer.

The hips of Rosa spinosissima (Burnet or Scotch Rose) are dark red complimenting the dark spiny stems after lovely creamy flowers in mid summer. It's a bit of a spreader and I'll have to keep an eye on it in the hedgrow border.

The plants in these borders are knitting together and covering the ground as I hoped they would, copying what they should do naturally under hedgerows or in a woodland.

Pretty as a picture, so pleased with these combinations

Colour in the stream garden

In July we took our pop up garden shop to Biggar agricultural show and in August we went to the Peebles show. The weather was dry and behaved very well at both shows and we had great days out while working. We talked to lots of people, handed out leaflets and sold plants and garden things. Bracken of course did his best as nursery dog at Peebles. 

Biggar agricurltural show
Bracken the nursery dog at
Peebles show

We also had a table at the first Whitmuir Arts and Craft fair
(1st Saturday of every month, come and visit)

All our plants are stars in their own right but this summer our mega mystery sunflower became a social media hit and a constant talking point in the nursery. A seedling that appeared in spring, I left it to grow, thinking it was offspring from last year's sunflowers. But it was like no sunflower I've ever had planted here in the nursery and I've never seen a sunflower like it either. Its so robust, it's so dark, its got masses of side flowers all the way up the stem, it's like a small tree! It now has or has had over 30 flowers! That's the main flowers on the main stem, the flowers on all the side stems and then all the secondary flowers on all those flower stems! The depth of colour in the flower is gorgeous and it is standing at a height of 6.5 feet with a stem 5 inches in circumference at the base. It's stood up to all the wind and rain we've had recently too. I love it #organicsgonetotheirhead #supersunflower

Once the bulk of the mad spring work, propagating and busyness is levelling out I have time to get digging and creating again. My next project is a pink border. Now there is nothing Barbie pink about this, I want to explore flower shape and colour variations of pink flowering plants in this border. There are 4 beds which run across the end of the stock beds on the top terrace. Backed by a thuya hedge and book ended with box cubes I will be planting 

Eupatorium maculatum Atropurpureum Group
Geranium psilostemon
Liatris spicata
Lupin ‘The Chataleine’
Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea 'Cordoba'
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Rosea'
Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Pink Elephant'
Sedum 'Jennifer'

I've cleared and planted half the border and once
I've finished tidying the grasses stock bed I
will be finishing this border

Creating and planting gardens may sometimes seem like an indulgence in a nursery but it achieves several important things.

~ By having plants in the ground I can get plenty material for propagation, whether division, cuttings or seed, this means we are producing our own plants from strong healthy hardy plants.

~ Once the plants are established customers can see what plants will do in several years time or as a mature plant. Quite often plans behave differently in pots than they do in the ground.

~ It creates a lovely place for people to visit and get inspiration, to sit on a bench and enjoy the peace, views and scent of the plants.

~ I get to try out different plant combinations and create new garden and border ideas, I get to be creative.

~ we are creating an important wild life haven

Speaking of which ~ 

Newts in the polytunnel

A common green grasshopper in the
wildflower meadow

I wish i knew if I was seeing the same newt every time or not

Bees on Echinops

If you've visited the nursery or followed us for a while here on our Facebook page you'll know David always has a project or two on the go. He's just finished two - replacing the fence at the side of the office and making a new water feature.
When we started the nursery 3 years ago we put up hazel hurdles to filter the wind at the side of the office and to hide all the mess behind. They looked great and were much commented on by customers but sadly the hurdles haven't stood the test of time, disintegrating badly over the past few months .So we needed a plan B.

We also love recycling, it's cheap and saves waste so we set about thinking how we could build a new fence and yet again it was pallets to the rescue. So I give you David's pallet fence! We are delighted with it and it only cost a few bags of postcrete, one new fence post, a gate latch and some varnish!

As for the water feature - we've been collecting watering cans for a while to create a feature in the nursery and the new fence seemed the perfect place. It's still in the process of getting the water running just right but we're nearly there and I'm so happy with how this whole area looks now as you come into the sales area. Just a water plant to pop in the bottom container of the watering can fountain and we're done.
Thank you so much David for another fantastic creation (or two) in the nursery and for all your hard work.

I think that's a round up of all the interesting and exciting things that have kept us really busy over the summer in the nursery and gardens. We've loved being busy with new and old customers, catching up with our regualars some of whom have become friends. Word is spreading about the nursery and gardens, customers are telling friends and family about us and you can't get better advertising than that. So on that note I will say good night, I am hoping to ne back blogging regularly.

See you soon and happy gardening

#organic #scottishplantnursery #quercusgardenplants #quirkygardener #scottishgardens

If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
                                                      The quirky Bird Gardener 

 If you to see whats new and looking good at the nursery like our Facebook page
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants

Find out more about the nursery here - our web site:

Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list

All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden, thank you