Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Search for the Quirky Bird Gardener's new home

Its been an interesting few weeks, putting the house up for sale, having it viewed, watching other people walking around my home and garden discussing it. Then there's the separation process of moving on and getting used to the fact we wont be living there any more. This has been a three fold process; giving up my home and garden and getting used to the idea of it not being mine any more, grieving. Then comes acceptance; that that's the way it has to be and realising there are actually benefits to this happening. Finally moving on, focusing on the future, looking for some where new and planning the things we will do and the great new home we will create.

Then there is the quite exciting and slightly terrifying process of looking for somewhere new. Fortunately David and I have the same idea of what we want, small country cottage type house, no neighbours, as big a garden for our money as possible and some where we can put our own unique stamp on together. It also has to be in a very narrow area so that my youngest son can stay at his high school and not any further for David and I to travel to work. Sometimes the search has felt like a needle in a hay stack. It also has to fit into our down sizing house and up sizing life plan and budget. I have become very familiar with all the estate agent websites, quick at skimming through the photos of houses and being amused at the description of huge garden or extensive garden actually doesn't mean that at all.

Easter Mosshat Gardens is two acres, ridiculously large for someone who works full time, wants to do lots of other things in life, runs a home and tries to keep ahead of numerous teenagers. But we all have a dream some time in our life. I still want a BIG garden to try out my ideas and designs and to replant my plant collection. At the last count on Saturday I have potted up pieces of or taken cuttings of 1144 plants to take with us! But, it also has to be manageable and enjoyable and not a chore or burden that will stop us adventuring around the globe or too the far reaches of our own country.

This next garden will be quite different, my ideas have changed, I want to try new planting plans, new plants and with David's influence and ideas too, it will be something quite amazing. Hopefully it will be less exposed. Easter Mosshat sits on top of an exposed hill at 850 feet above sea level. I won't deny it's been interesting to garden in a challenging environment, I've learnt a lot about shelter and what you can grow if you are clever about it.

So far we've looked at a house in need of attention, with a large back garden containing mature beech and a wide swath of grass and dockens, an exciting challenge, scope for all my ideas, but would you believe after two months on the market, on the day we were going to put in an offer, someone beat us to it that morning! We also looked at a beautiful wee cottage, lovingly restored by its current owners with an acre of garden, most of which was paddock. Backed by an abandoned railway embankment, we were very taken with it, but honestly it was over our budget.

We have also looked at a house which we really like, small, old, plenty character, needs a bit of attention, but we like a project and one we can do together. The garden is 3/4 of an acre, pretty much a blank canvas and OMG it has a stream running through it! I've always wanted a garden with a real running stream, and it has a copper beech tree, one of my favourites and an old knarled apple tree which would look lovely in a wild flower meadow, maybe this one is meant to be? If Mr mortgage man would get back to us with number crunching, who knows. Maybe the Quirky bird has found her new home. Watch this space ..............................

The nightmare of de cluttering, packing and moving house .............

Even dolls houses have to be packed!

Another car full for the tip

Emptying the attic, 3 weeks work
Plenty bonfires

And another bonfire in the making

Clearing out the attic
At last the attic is empty

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A trip to Dawyck Botanic Gardens

We had a well earned Saturday off this weekend. Work is hectic for both of us at the moment and the next few weekends will be spent working, with lots more packing and de cluttering for the house move in between. After a well needed lie in and lovely breakfast of croissant, wild boar salami, chilli brie and Jamaican coffee we set off for the afternoon. Our destination was Dawyck Botanic Gardens, an out post of the the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh situated near Peebles and only just over half an hour from home.

Bracken goes to Dawyck

It's years since I've visited the gardens, and I've always been trying to get back but life gets in the way. One of the many things I am looking forward to when we sell the house and downsize is having more time and money to travel,visit places we've always wanted to see and experience lots of new places and things.
Mateucia struthiopteris
Dawyck lies in the beautiful borders countryside, the woodland garden clothing both sides of a small valley around a tumbling stream above Dawyck House. It has been described as one of the finest arboretums, and indeed its collection of trees is outstanding. Under planted with many fine specimens of shrubs, Rhododendrons and perennials, there is colour all year round but in spring it is outstanding. There are many paths up either side of the valley taking you up to the chapel or view point or round the top of the gardens where you have beautiful views of the countryside and tranquil walks through stands of birch or fine beech trees.

Heading into the gardens
The run down to Dawyck is lovely and a road we know well, then we arrived in the middle of a shower (the forecast was for heavy rain, but when we were contemplating what to do at breakfast the sky was quite high and armed with coats and umbrella we were happy to dodge any showers). Bracken was de piddled and put back in the car, only assistance dogs are allowed. The shop, visitor centre and cafe are all new since I was last there, the building has been well built sympathetically with its surroundings, softened with existing trees and the cafe with its floor to ceiling windows gives lovely views whilst eating. Once we'd paid out £6 each entry fee, we ventured back out into the rain and up into the gardens. The spring colour hits you as soon as you leave the visitor centre with bluebells and a stunning stand of Mateucia struthiopteris, then fabulously big plantings of Trilliums in white and red.


We decided to walk up one of the paths that follows the side of the stream, criss crossing over wee bridges. through over hanging Rhododendrons, heavy with beautiful large flowers. The rain went off and the sun came out and it was warm and a very enjoyable walk, a chance to catch up and make plans as we meandered through the gardens. Of course there was lots for me to photograph and David made the most of the great diversity of lichens and mosses, another interest of his.

Textures and colours
By the time we reached the top of the hill we were warm! We followed the path through stands of Birch and eventually to the Cryptogamic Sanctuary, where there is information about this area of botany. For the curious 'Cryptogams' make up around 84% of the worlds botanical diversity: they include the fungi (including lichens), bryophytes (moses, liverworts and hornworts), the pteridophytes (ferns and horsetails) and algae.

Beyond this area are stands of huge trees, with dappled sunlight filtering through the fresh green young leaves, it was indeed tranquil and a lovely place to just be.

From here it's an amble down through newly planted shrubs and trees with lovely views of the surrounding hills and Dawyck house.

Once back at the visitor centre, we had some lovely lunch sitting at a window table with lovely views up into the gardens. We'd highly recomend their soup (real soup) and rolls, oh and coffee of course. I'd thoroughly recomend a trip to Dawyck at any time of year but particular now in early May


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Moving house is one thing, what about a garden?

I am sure most people have moved house at least once in their lives, I certainly have, several times, though the last time was 14 years ago. But have you moved a garden? Not literally of course, that would be awesome and so much easier. But taking some or all the plants you have in your garden. What is the best way to do this?

I am fortunate enough to work in the horticultural trade and can get my hands on lots of pots, especially big ones from work. Luckily, left over from a job a couple of years ago are a reasonable number of big plastic troughs, approx 2 ft by 1.5 ft wide and deep with holes in the bottom. Being plastic this makes them relevantly light and durable. Having given the whole plant moving exercise some serious thought, putting them in larger containers, though heavy to move will be better for the plants in the long term. We don't know how long the house will take to sell and therefore how long the plants will be potted for.

There are several advantages of putting plants in bigger containers. The plants won't dry out too much if watered regularly as there is plenty soil. Similarly if they are in the troughs over winter then the volume of soil will protect the roots from frost far more than if they were in small individual pots. It will be quicker to move 30 troughs than moving 1000 individual small pots! Also weeding and watering them will be easier. I will put plants from each separate border in  a trough together, maintaining planting partnerships, until I decide if I will keep them together in the new garden. I can also identify which plant is which by what border it came from and who its neighbours are. The perennials and bulbs are all being planted into these troughs and shrubs into large individual pots.

Fruit bush cuttings in the cold frame

Then there are the plants I can't take with me.  I am taking cuttings of those that will propagate by this means. Its a bit early for decent cutting material for some shrubs, but I am managing to get enough that will hopefully take. Some plants like the Currant fruit bushes come really easily: with foot long stems of last years wood pushed into deep pots of compost, there should 100% success.

Shrub cuttings in the greenhouse

I have also found seedlings germinating of plants I want to take, so these have been potted up and put in the cold greenhouse to grow on. Angelica, Hellebores and Viola seedlings have all been potted up so far.

Then there are the ones I cant take with me: trees and shrubs that are too big to move or don't come from cuttings. So I have to leave them and will buy new ones for my new garden. Any gardener will know what it is like to become attached to plants, especially trees and shrubs which you have nurtured from seeds or young plants to mature specimens. Typically my Abies koreana that I grew from seed is having its first beautiful cones this year. I can't lift this plant: its over eight feet tall and six feet across, so it stays to hopefully give the new owners lots of pleasure for many years to come. 

After this afternoon in the garden, another six troughs are filled

As I walk around the garden, deciding on everything that will go, including pots, containers, benches, plants etc., I am becoming aware that there will a lorry for the house stuff and a lorry for the garden! Then there are the two greenhouses and the potting shed, with all their contents. Now I am feeling slightly overwhelmed and so wine and chocolate are required. It will be fine, I know it will, as the advantage of moving when your kids are older is you have plenty of strong helpers. So far all three of my boys have been a fantastic help with the clearing out, de-cluttering and moving boxes into storage.

Today I spent a few hours digging up bits of all the plants around the house and patios and taking cuttings, making the most of a dry day. We also had a huge bonfire of rubbish out of the attic and David and the boys finished filling the potholes on the drive, both for our benefit and for anybody coming to view the house.