Monday, 27 July 2015

Come along to the Open weekend at Whitmuir



Come along and join us at Quercus Garden Plants this coming weekend when there will be lots happening at Whitmuir. These activities form part of an Open Weekend on the Farm,  with a new Dancing Light Gallery Exhibition opening at 6pm,  an evening Jazz Band and supper in the licensed restaurant on the Friday evening and 10% discounts on all plant purchases from the newly opened Quercus Garden Plants.

On Friday 31 July the Edinburgh Zoo Bus “Wild About Scotland” will be visiting Whitmuir Farm at Lamancha, West Linton. The Zoo staff will be running mini-beast safaris throughout the day and we will be encouraging every one to walk on the wild side of the farm”




Everyone is welcome to visit the bus from 10am through to 4pm and Zoo staff will be running their mini-beast safaris at 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm.
  Children will be discovering bugs and beasties on the farm and bringing them back to the bus microscopes for analysis and investigation.  Children and parents can also learn about Scottish Wildcats and Beavers and ask the experts questions about wildlife on the farm.

The farm will also be hosting 3 workshops with Brian Poole, Beekeeper in Residence with the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland.
  Brian is a third generation beekeeper and he currently manages 70 hives at the Zoo and the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.  The workshops are free and will last an hour and will run at 10am, 12 noon and 2pm.  They will include a talk and his demonstration hive will allow people to see the bees in action.

So come along and join us, enjoy free kids activities and walks around the farm. Enjoy a walk around the developing gardens at Quercus Garden Plants and buy some plants with 10% off all weekend. Enjoy good food, great shopping and great views in lovely surroundings all weekend.

We look forward to welcoming you.

To book a place on one of the mini beast tours or one of the 3 beekeeping sessions please email 
contact@whitmuircommunityfarm.org



Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Creation of the nursery entrance

One of the first things we worked on doing was improving the nursery entrance to encourage people to come up and visit the nursery. It has certainly worked, the tidy borders, tables full of flowering plants at the top, weeded track and signs all encourage people to visit. 

As you can see from the photos there has been quite an improvement since we took over just five weeks ago! 

How the stream, entrance and track looked back at the beginning of June 2015

There were more weeds than plants, yes there are plants in the border across the stream. The willows hung over the track hiding the top of the track and sales area and the track was green with weeds. The first thing I did was spend several days, with the help of my friend Fiona clearing the big bed between the track and stream. We were quite amazed how many plants there actually were once it was done. 

Part of the way through weeding the big bed

Because the gardens have to be easily maintained by myself and because the ground is very clay and unworkable we decided to put bark down to suppress the weeds (see my previous bark blog here) The bark also makes the border and entrance look tidy and cared for. In order to stop the bark disappearing down the bank into the stream we put in back boards to retain it. 

The back boards in place to retain the bark, you can see how well the plants
are coming on now they have space and light

The bark in place, it is quite chunky but so are the plants, I love the smell of new bark. The track has also been
weeded and is no longer green

We spent some money on a bridge because we wanted to the entrance to have impact and draw people up into the nursery, and hey who wouldn't want their own Monet bridge? It works and visitors, customers and the staff at Whitmuir are really positive about what we have done and are doing. The bridge adds something to the place, something quirky. 

The bridge when it was installed three weeks ago

Once the bridge was in I cleared the bankings of weeds, leaving as much of the root structure in to maintain the banking. I then planted lots of large leaved, shade loving, damp loving plants to give a lush waterside look. Although small at the moment they will grow and the leaves will all intermingle as they grow together.

First banking cleared and planted

I can't wait until the Astilboides tabularis has its big dinner plate sized leaves
and fills a lot of this space

Looking up to the nursery across the bridge

Placing plants  on the car park side of the stream

Welcome to Quercus Garden Plants

This side of the bridge completed, now all I need to do is do beyond the bridge

Where I am standing taking the above photograph, the stream disappears into a big pipe under the road. In front of the pipe I have planted a gunnera on both sides. My idea, I hope (if the Gunnera survives) is that the water will disapear behind a curtain of huge Gunnera leaves and they are also big enough to screen the ugle concrete pipe.

The completed project

Ready for the official opening

I have been weeding beyond the bridge and planting up arond the sign, This area only extends about 6 feet as I want it to gradually blen into the natural surrounding beyond.


Planting List

Perennials
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'
Aruncus dioicus
Astilboides tabularis
Astrantia major
Epimedium pinnatum ssp. Colchicum
Geranium 'Orion'
Geranium Sirak
Gunnera manicata
Hosta 'Blue Angel'
Hosta 'Frances Williams'
Iris siberica 'Persimmon'
Ligularia przewalskii
Lythrum 'Blush'
Lythrum 'Rosy Gem'
Maianthemum  racemosa
Persicaria bistorta 'Superba'
Primula chungensis
Primula florindii
Primula pulverulenta
Pulmonaria rubra 'Ann'
Sanguisorba officinalis
Tellima grandiflora
Veronicastrum virginicum 'Fascination'

Grasses
Luzula 'Hohe Tatra'
Miscanthus 'Gracillimus'
Miscanthus 'Malepartus'
Miscanthus 'Morning Light'
Molinia 'Windspiel'

Ferns
Asplenium scolopendrium Undulatum
Onoclea sensibilis
Osmunda regalis
Polystichium aculiatum



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Monday, 20 July 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day July 2015

Here in the garden at home there seems to be lots of purples, pinks and whites, that serene, laid back period in the garden before we land in late summer and autumn and all those oranges, yellows and reds. There has apppeared some rather nice colour combinations too with pink Astrantias and purple hybrid dactylorhiza. I shall leave you enjoy the photographs, the plants speak for themselves.

Astrantia 'Roma' and a hybrid Dactylorhiza looking really good together


Astrantia 'Buckland', I love this genus and have at least siv varieties, they grow in most situations and flowers for
a long time


Briza media, a delicatly flowering grass but can get quite big, looks
can be decieving, but worth growing


Dianthus 'Houndspool Ruby', I grow it in a pot on the patio, a glorious scent when you step outside in the evening


Mentha 'Eau de Cologne', great minty smell but must be grown in a pot or bucket, as with most mints it will take over the
world given half a chance


Geranium psylostemom, gets tall but lovely with pink roses, Allium giganteum and pale Aquilegias

Semperviviums or house leeks, who's have thought something so small and unasuming as the house leek could have such
 outstanding flowers? 

Sempervivium var.

It's been a wet and cold July, even for Scotland, we are averaging temps of 13 to 14C and lots of rain, which is
great for the plants, I guess.

Artemisia 'Powis Castle' with rain drops

A particularly fine speciman of Primula florindii Red form, selected by myself. I am hoping to get seed from it this year,
it is scented along with it's yellow ans orange cousins, great for damp spots in the garden


We've already harvested some kale and potatoes, nothing better than home grown

Viburnum chaixii 'Album', bit of a self seeder but worth growing for these glorious fluffy flowers once you get up close to it.
Join us over at May Garden Dream where other gardening bloggers share what's looking good in their gardens this month.

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Friday, 17 July 2015

A New Home for the Aquatic Plants


One of the things we are keen to do here in the nursery is recycle and reuse what ever we can to create interesting and useful things. So far the sales tables are mainly made from pallets and cable drums that were lying around the farm. One of the items lying around in the long grass of the nursery were seven black plastic troughs containing water plants that used to be for sale. 

Water troughs hiding in the long grass

David came up with the great idea of putting them together and creating a sales area for the aquatic plants. Not only would it be functional, but look good, and accesssible for frogs and toads. It was build from wood we had already and is strong enough to sit on. 

Building the frame of the water feature

Once the frame was made we positioned it, levelled out the soil underneath and then placed six of the troughs inside before filling them with water. 

Troughs in place

Filled with water and with the cross pieces on

Another thing we are keen to work with and encourage is wildlife. This fits in with Whitmuir Farm and David's ecology interests. Hopefully the frogs and toads will find their way back to the troughs and if they do there are ladders in place so they don't get stuck in the troughs. We are also planning a wild life garden on the lower terrace, where you can walk amongst the wild flowers looking for all the things we'll be hiding for small creatures to use. David is creating a 5 star bug hotel as we speak at the entrance. Over time we hope to put up information boards and print leaflets. Alot of families and children visit so it would be great to capture their imaginations at a young age.

A nursery frog, these guys are great

Frogs this way

The water feature within the sales area

Rain on water lily leaves

Repotted water lillies

Once the troughs were filled I repotted the water lilies and equisetum and they are now very happy and growing in their new home and should now sell. Next year we plan to add to the aquatic plant collection for sale.

Equisetum close up




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Friday, 10 July 2015

Celebrate with Elderflower champagne

Although I haven't got time to make elderflower champagne this year, sadly, as there are huge flowers on the trees at the moment, here is an adaptation of the post I wrote a couple of years ago here, in fact, it was my first ever blog post as the Quirky Bird Gardener, how things have changed.

Elderflowers before picking
Until I made it last year I haven't made Elderflower champagne in years so I have enjoyed capturing summer in a bottle. We of course sampled some before it was bottled, its still at the moment but given time it will become fizzy and more alcoholic (yeee ha!). And hopefully not explode out the bottles! More on that later. Needless to say at the moment it is a refreshing summer drink, especially if chilled.

Large frothy elderflowers

 Re the bottles exploding........I remember when I was young (aye longer ago than i care to remember) my parents made this, bottled it in wine bottles with corks and laid the bottles in the wine rack in the dining room. One evening there was a series of small bangs like a small gun going off and the noise was traced to the dining room which was by now awash with Elderflower champagne. The pressure in the bottles had built up too much and they had popped their corks!!!! Nowadays its recommended to bottle it into screw top fizzy drink bottles, so we shall see!

Elderflower champagne is easy to make, and you don’t need any special equipment: just a clean saucepan (or wine bucket as we use, depending on the quantity you intend to make!) and some empty fizzt juice bottles. Elderflower champagne is similar to lemonade but with a beautiful floral taste, and is mildly alcoholic (drinkable from about 1.5% alcohol by volume). You only need 5 or 6 “heads” of flowers to make one gallon of champagne so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to gather them, and the finished champagne is ready to drink in two or three weeks.

For 4.5L (one gallon) you will need:

  • five or six heads of elderflower
  • two lemons
  • 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar
  • two tablespoons of vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
  • enough plastic fizzy drinks bottles to hold the elderflower champagne.

Elderflowers, lemons and water

Plastic bottles are better than glass because you can give them a squeeze to see how much pressure has built up, and if you forget them for a few days they won’t explode – the crimp at the bottom will pop out instead, and the noise of the bottle falling over will alert you.

Note that there is no added yeast in this recipe. The flowers are not scalded or sterilised, which leaves the wild yeasts naturally present on the blooms to do the fermentation for you.

How to make elderflower champagne

  1. Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll get pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant.
  2. Put 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water in a large lidded saucepan.
  3. Add the elderflower heads (having shaken                                                                                
    any bugs off them first) and two sliced lemons. Put the lid on, and leave it for a 24 to 36 hours.
  4. Strain the liquid through a clean cloth. A seive will do fine if you don’t mind a few petals or tiny bugs in the drink, and it won’t alter the taste one bit.
  5. Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
  6. Pour into fizzy drinks bottles. Put the tops on to keep fruit flies out, but don’t screw them on tight yet – just stand the bottles in a corner and keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts get to work on the sugar.
  7. After one or two weeks the bubbles will gradually slow down. When they look like they have pretty much stopped, screw the lids down and put the bottles somewhere fairly cool. Give them another few days to generate enough gas to carbonate themselves, and you’re set – just refrigerate the bottle before you need it, and serve over ice with lemon.
Bottled, in jugs, glasses and whatever else we could find to keep it in!
The elderflower champagne is still ‘live’ and continuing to ferment, so the longer it is stored the more alcoholic (and drier) it will become. Keep a note of how long it takes to be perfect for your taste, and bear that in mind for following years: by three months old it will be too dry for most tastes, but unless you make large quantities it’s unlikely to last that long.


The trick with this method is to keep checking the pressure in the bottles, particularly for the first few weeks. Just give each bottle a good squeeze – if you can’t squeeze the sides in at all, then the pressure is getting too high. When this happens very gently loosen the cap until you hear gas releasing, and wait until the noise dies down (be careful of the froth) before tightening up again.



Then all you have to do is sit back, relax, enjoy the summer weather (hopefully) and drink elderflower champagne.

If fermentation won’t start Wild yeast gives the best results for elderflower champagne, but it isn’t 100% reliable. if fermentation doesn’t start within ten days (tiny bubbles at stage 6) then add a tiny pinch of yeast to each bottle. Leave to stand for five minutes, then give it a gentle shake to disperse the yeast. There’s no need to use fancy yeast because we’re not trying to produce a high-alcohol drink: bread yeast is fine, as is general purpose beer or wine yeast. If you ‘rescue’ a batch this way it will tend to end up too dry unless you intervene. Taste a little from time to time and, when it’s just right, screw the lids down and move it to the fridge.


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Thursday, 9 July 2015

Wild flowers, bridges, water tanks and 20 tons of gravel

I love this view on the way to work every day, a 15 minute comute through lovely countryside is just what I need in
the morning

Hello how are you? I am tired but happy, is that fair balance? I knew it would be tough working six to seven days a week getting the nursery business up and running again, but it is a satisfying and happy tired, we are achieving so much and getting so much positive feed back it more than makes up for lack of time off at the moment.

Following on from my last blog, we had a birthday boy in the house last Thursday, hard to believe my youngest is now 14, where does the time go? 

Bracken getting in on the birthday cake excitement

Then on Saturday there was great excitement as our new bridge was installed at the nursery. This gives a great entrance to the nursery and a real focal point in the car park. I have always wanted my own Monet bridge and now I have one, I am so pleased with it and love the colour.

Our new bridge, before I started clearing the bankings to plant up

Both sides cleared and started to be planted up, lots of large foliage plants,
 flowers and plants for moist soils will make this a lush water feature

The bridge leads you over the stream and up to the nursery

The weather has been very mixed, you can tell it is summer in Scotland. But mainly it has been heavy rain at night, perfect for watering plants and dry during the day, but we have had some heavy day time showers, luckily there is plenty potting to do in the shed. It is still strange working nearly every day and not having weekends off, but I am loving being at the nursery and creating something special.

Speaking of time off, our day off this week was on Tuesday. We seem to be developing a theme! When David has no work to do he comes and helps at the nursery, which is great as we can work on our business together and when I have a day off I go on a bat survey with him in his business! 


Once we'd finished with the bat work we meandered home through the borders, via Melrose for lunch, where we also found a fantastic antique shop, and yes I did buy some things for the nursery shop. We stopped at Innerleithen and Peebles to hand in some leaflets to the tourist offices there, spreading the word about our nursery supplying tough plants for Scottish gardens. Then we headed home for dinner, a lovely day out in the sunshine and great company.

Does anyone else think the wild flowers have been particularly good this year? The Ox Eye daisies are plentiful and combine beautifully with pink campion and Ragged Robin. Bright orange Fox and cubs grow happily with lots of different grasses on the bankings and pink and white fox gloves tower above. There are bees, hover flies, buterflies and all sorts of other insects enjoying the organic farmland here at Whitmuir.

Wild flowers on the terraces at the nursery


Fox and cubs on the terrace

Stately foxgloves

Ragged Robin

Centaurea

I have also been sorting out items for selling in our wee shop at the nursery. Antiques, garden related items and notebooks with plants and flowers on the covers, baskets for herbs and nice gifts.

A lovely wee vase and stone ware jar

Basket with herbs makes a nice feature on a window sill or patio

Stoneware jars and bakers twine for sale

At home I haven't had much time to do any gardening. The grass gets cut in an evening when I have the energy, or not. The prairy garden  (and see here) is coming on, I planted some Verbena bonariensis in it this week which looks great. The plants are all growing and I must take some photos for the next blog, hopefully I will remember. We have had giant rhubarb from the garden, seriously the stems are almost 3ft long and as thick as a small arm! We should be able to harvest our first lot of potatoes soon, everything is as usual so small and whether we will get a crop is open to debate. The squashes and courgettes in the greenhouse have flowers on as do the tomatoes. But the weather has taken a cold turn so this will slow everything down again. My plant collection in their moving troughs however are thriving in their more sheltered aspect (compared to the last garden at Easter Mosshat).

A great colour combination, Astrantia 'Roma', hybrid Dactolorhyza,
Geranium 'Mrs Kendal Clark and Meconopsis

Phyteuma sceuchzeri

Another great colour combo, Luzula nivea and
Centranthus ruber var. Coccineus in the front garden

Today we had 20 tons of gravel for the nursery sales area and two 1000 litre water tanks delivered! This means, along with the pumps we have installed, we are now self sufficient for water supply as the nursery isn't on the mains and the farm supply is limited. We will also have strong arms by the time we have barrowed all that gravel and levelled it out. If anyone has a spare wheel barrow and is at a loose end over the next few days we, would love to have your help.

Anyway that's another week caught up, hope I haven't blethered too much, enjoy your weekend when it comes. I'll be at the nursery, if you make a visit we will make you welcome, except on Tuesday when I have a day off again.



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