Monday, 10 April 2017

March in the Gardens

March, well it may be the beginning of spring, the plants begin to emerge from their winter sleep, the nights get longer, the weather hopefully improves, the lambs start appearing in the fields and the birds begin singing their wee hearts out but it's not my favourite month. I'd like it to be, I love seeing the leaves emerging spring flowers unfurling, I love the first tentative warmth of the sun and the skipping lambs and David and I got engaged in March. But my Dad died in March, so did my old dog Sam, it's mothers day, my mothers birthday and the anniversary of my first marriage which remind me of fraught family issues. But moving on, because we must in order to survive, achieve and create.

Frosty Tiarella grandiflora 'Rubra'

We've had all sorts of weather this March; frost, snow, brilliant sunshine and everything in between but in the main it's been dry so there's been lots of progress in the nursery. We re-opened the nursery at the beginning of March after our winter break and have been busy since which is great and lovely to welcome back previous customers and new ones too.

One of my own Hellebore seedlings

Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy'

Bright Polyanthus for pots and containers

I've managed to do virtually nothing in the garden at home except for tidying some pots and top dress them and hopefully once the longer nights come in I'll get more done. In the nursery it's busy, busy, busy, it's  that manic time of year for gardeners.

We've made huge progress in the
new herb and scented gardens

The Quirky Bird Gardener planting in the herb garden

More herbs going into the herb garden

Elsewhere in the nursery I've started giving the stock beds their post winter tidy up and top dress. This involves lifting out  batch, sweeping and leaves and debris, weeding, cutting back the plants and topdressing them with fresh compost and feed. Rowed up and with new bed labels for this year, it's all looking very smart.

Starting to spring clean the stock beds

Cutting back, weeding and top dressing the plants,
ready for selling

we've really made progress in the
scented garden too
Digging over the border and
clearing where the path will be

Looking forward to seeing it finished

Meanwhile the herb garden beds are really filling up with plants

The hedge and catmint planted at
 the entrance to the scented garden

I grab an hour when I can to get seeds sown, with over 400 packets to sow it's a big task amongst everything else, but I do love doing propagation. It's nice to spend a quiet hour first thing in the morning in the poly tunnel getting organised before the chaos of the day begins. 

Trying to make room for seeds

It's in March colour in the garden really gets going with Hellebores, Crocus, Polyanthus and early daffodils. The bulbs that didn't sell as dry bulbs in autumn get potted up and sold in spring, so we've had lots of pots of colour for sale in the nursery. 

Crocus 'Romance' was a real show stopper

as were this lovely selection of Hellebores

Lots of colour in the nursery

Our old barrow loaded up with Polyanthus

Sowing beans, not magic one's though, just dwarf french

Despite the very windy wet weather or rather because of it, I got my potting area cleared of all the plants that have been patiently waiting to be potted or tidied to go into the sales area. I now gave a clear bench! Until the next time. I even got quite a few more packets seeds sown including these dwarf French beans. Love the colour of them.

Starting to plant up the scented garden

Potting up rooted pieces of Monrda

We've had a lot of this for March

David's plumber's nightmare is
switched on for the season

Sun and Daffodils

Valeriana phu 'Aurea'

I love blue skies and daffodils

We have a great expanding collection of
alpines, all propagated from
my collection at home

Sempervivium tectorium 'Rubin'

The mints all potted up for the herb garden

So as you can see March has been busy, busy busy and April is going to be just the same, hope you are all enjoying your own gardens and all the spring colour.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Blackness Castle, the boat that never sailed

It's years since I've visited Blackness Castle and indeed quite a while since I've walked on the beach next to it come to think of it. David and I didn't fancy travelling far on our day off so we headed up to the River Forth and Blackness Castle. The sun was shining and it felt quite warm too, not to bad for the beginning of March. We chatted with the ticket guy about the filming of Outlander there as you do as a fan. We noticed the series has left a trail of products through the shop.

Approaching the castle

One of the great things about today's trip was Bracken could go around the castle with us, Historic Scotland seem to be very tolerant of well behaved dogs and their well behaved owners in their properties these days, which makes for a great day out for all of us.

Exploring the castle

We were lucky with the weather as the sun was out and it wasn't too cold either. There's lots of climbing stairs indoors and out so wear comfy footwear, but the views are well worth it. From the mountains of Ben Lomond and Ledi to the west and north and right out beyond the Forth bridges to the east and the Ochil hills to the north, there's plenty to see.

The trio of Forth Bridges from Blackness Castle

The Ochils with a sprinkling of snow

Originating in the 15th century this castle has been both fortress, prison and noble home, protected by it's huge impressive curtain walls and boat shape this building has withstood wars and prisoners until Oliver Cromwell broke it's defences in 1650. Finally decommissioned after the first world war it was then passed into the care of the nation as a tourist attraction.

Inside one of the towers

The banqueting hall

From the towers you can walk around the curtain walls, looking down into the rocky courtyard or over into the river Forth. There are plenty interpretation boards around the castle explaining every day life for the inhabitants and about the history of the castle. We passed a pair of pigeons enjoying the sun on the wall, they weren't phased by us passing. 

Modern castle inhabitants

Bracken and I at the top of one of the towers

Looking back at the castle from the walls

Back down into the courtyard the walking is trickier as a lot of the surface is the original rock. Here down at sea level you can imagine on a stormy night the water thrashing against the thick walls, seeping in through the gateway to the pier, it must have been cold and exposed keeping watch a few centuries ago.

If you are an Outlander fan you might recognise this scene  (minus the fuzzy dog) both in the 1700's and 1960's

An imposing building

After walking around the castle and walls we walked out onto the pier where you feel you are out in the middle of the river. From here you can also get a sense of the boat shape of the castle and see why it was called the boat that never sailed. Bracken is never keen to walk over bridges or wooden walkways so he was pleased to get back on solid land. 

Walking out to the pier

The castle from the pier

Longannet from the pier

After visiting the castle we went for lunch and then meandered home, a nice relaxing day off not too far from home. 

You can get more information about the castle here

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A visit to Dr Neils Garden in Duddingston

Crocus in the lawns

Visiting this garden has been on my endless list of things to do for years and we finally made it this March. Located in the village of Duddingston in the shadow of Arthurs Seat on the south side of Edinburgh, this hidden treasure runs down to the shore of Duddingston Loch. 

A stunning red Euphorbia, perfect for a winter garden

In the early 1960's Dr Andrew and Dr Nancy Neil began work on a neglected piece of land next to the loch and church called the church glebe (church land). Previously grazed by cattle and geese the land was very rocky and of no use for crops. Gradually the couple turned the land into a garden full of conifers, heathers and alpines. In 1997 Dr Neils Garden Trust was created to take over the running of the garden and protect it for the future.

Gorgeous Hellebores
When we visited the snow drops were just going over and the Hellebores, Crocus and Iris were coming into full flower, giving lovely bursts of colour through the gardens under the conifers and shrubs. Hamamellis and early Rhododendrons were also flowering, underplanted with Ophiopogon nigrescens and Iris ungulicularis.

Crocus opening up

Rhus typhina

Iris ungulicularis, a winter flowering Iris

Walking through the garden under mature trees and along meandering paths you eventually come to Duddingston Loch. Edged with reeds, Cornus and willow, it makes a lovely outlook from the garden and a home to many birds. 

Duddingston Loch from the gardens

Weeping willows on the loch side

A happy home for ducks

In a corner of the garden, down at the side of the loch sits Thomson's Tower. Designed by Henry Playfair and built in 1825 for the Duddingston curling team to store their stones. The upper floor was a meeting room and a studio for the Rev. John Thomson who was the minister of Duddingston from 1805 to 1840. Restored in 2008 the tower forms a lovely focal point in the lower gardens. 

Thomson's tower

This really is a garden for all seasons, from spring bulbs and hellebores, to Rhododendrons, shrubs and then into autumn with grasses and autumn colour. There is a cafe open on certain days and an excellent pub selling food and fine beers in the village. 

Cyclamen, Crocus and Ophiopogon

Bridge over the pond

Garrya eliptica

One part of the garden I enjoyed was the physic garden, laid out in the shape of a flower and home to Dr Andrew's special interest in ear, nose and throat medicine on one side and on the other Dr Nancy's interest in gyno- urinary medicine. Thee is a very useful board explaining all the plants and their use. The physic garden was opened in 2013 in memory of the doctors, 50 years after they started work on the gardens.


Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Cherry blossom

Early Rhododendrons

After visiting the gardens we took Bracken for a walk along the loch side, you can't walk far and there are lots of hungry geese and swans. It was good to get another view of the loch and garden and get the doglet a walk before heading for a late lunch. We went to the Sheeps Heid Inn, tucked away behind the main road through the village. This old watering hole boasts a bowling alley and some excellent food. Website here.

The lane up to Duddingson Village

You can get information for visiting on the website for the gardens here Dr Neil's Garden

Looking over to the gardens from the Loch

Here's looking at you

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