Friday, 25 October 2013

Building the Pond in the Scottish Natives Garden

A new part of the garden we have been designing and working on this year is the Scottish native garden. Once the new office was finished we wanted to landscape the bit of ground between it and the drive, not least because it is the first thing you see when you drive up the drive and draw up in front of the house. For 13 years this has been an unsightly patch of weedy waste ground where things got dumped.



So how do you build a pond? It really depends on what style and design you want. We wanted a natural style of pond that would fit into the native garden and provide homes for small creatures and be big enough to make a visual impact. Firstly you have to decide where it is going to go and start digging a hole! The most important thing is to make sure the sides are level all the way round, otherwise you'll have water escaping and liner showing which spoils the whole effect. This series of pictures shows the process we went through with this pond.

Fine tuning the levels and depth of the pond, this pond has 3 different depths

I added a thick layer of sand to protect the liner, especially as this is stoney soil

Next lay in some underlay. This can be old carpet, carpet underlay
or a ready made pond liner. We recycled some old office carpeting

Yes it was freezing! Its Scotland in October, even if the weather has been unseasonably warm! 
Someone has to get the short straw to make sure  all the creases are smoothed out as the pond fills


Here we have started trimming the liner to size and burying the edges under soil and put in place bags of gravel and cobbles for beach at this end where it merges into the gravel of the drive. We used three different sizes of gravel and cobbles to give a more natural look.

The border along the left side has had compost added and some plants planted. Two big pieces of stone have been put in place as stepping stones along the back of the pond to access the seating area. Once the rain stops we can finish burying the pond liner and borders to the right of the pond.

When the water has settled in a couple of weeks time, we'll introduce some aquatic plants and when it stops raining we'l get the rest of the native garden round the pond dug over and planted up and another area in the garden or mini garden will be finished.





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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hedgerow Bounty Part Two - Abundant Brambles

Autumn is one my favourite times of year. I love the colours as the leaves turn, the chilly mornings though the sun is shining, the smell of the leaves decaying and the abundant crops in the garden and free pickings in the hedgerows. Working as I do in the countryside I frequently spot something that can be picked and taken home to cook and keep us in jams, jellies, cakes, etc for quite some time, and when I freeze some, out of season too.

Brambles ready for picking

This week I came home with 2 3litre pots of brambles. Because of the hot and sunny summer we've had, the berries are huge, beautifully black and sweet but still with a bit of tartness. Although it cost me quite a few scratches and nettle stings to pick them it was worth it for the bonus fruit.

Once I had cleaned them up (not much cleaning is needed if you are thorough when you pick them) I weighed them out to help me decide what to make. 12 lbs of fruit eventually became 6 lbs of jam, 5 lbs in the freezer and 1 lb in a bramble and pear
cake. Brambles are not to everyones' taste. They can be quite tart, but make a wonderful accompaniment to apples or pears and are great for jam. The best way to freeze any soft fruit such as brambles, raspberries and strawberries is to lay the cleaned fruit on trays and freeze. Once frozen they can be weighed, bagged and stored in the freezer. I usually bag them in pound lots. This ensures the berries are more likely to stay whole once defrosted and not become a fruity mush.

On trays to be frozen

Bramble jam is tasty and easy to make and there is nothing nicer than toast and home-made jam for breakfast.

Bramble jam

6 lbs blackberries
5 fl oz water
juice of 2 lemons
6 lbs of sugar

Hull and pick over the berries; rinse and drain
carefully. Put in a pan with the water and
lemon juice.

Simmer until the berries are soft, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Boil rapidly until it reaches setting point. There are two ways to identify this. Spoon a little onto a cold saucer. Once cooled a skin will form and will wrinkle if you push it. Alternatively stir the jam gently with a sugar thermometer and watch for it to reach 105 degrees Celsius or 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once it has reached setting point the jam can be spooned into sterilised jars and left to cool. Once cool put lids and labels on and enjoy through the winter.

Easter Mosshat Bramble Jam


There are cultivated thornless varieties, one of which I have growing here in the garden. Bramble 'Oregan Thornless' produces lovelybig berries with no pain when picking them! It makes a BIG plant so leave plenty room for it with some way of tying it in.






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