Saturday, 30 December 2017

Book review - Hummelo by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

Another book review already, this is me working through the books I got from Christmas last year and that I bought at Barter Books last Christmas! I am determined to work through as much of my book mountain this winter as possible but they seem to be adding as quickly to the top! We'll see. Any way, this book I did get for Christmas last year, to add to my Piet Oudolf book collection. I love his style of planting and use of plants, it very much influences a lot of what I do in the nursery and at home. 


This is a lovely book to hold and look at, even before beginning to read, with it's more unusual dimensions and thick paper all the way through. The pictures are sumptuous as only an Oudolf planting could be on paper, you can almost feel the movement of the grasses and perennials as they sway in a breeze. This book has a well deserved place in my Oudolf book collection as it is more biography than planting plans. It tells the story of Piet Oudolf's journey from a nursery man and garden designer in the Netherlands through to his world renown as the designer of New York's High Line and Battery Park and many other international gardens.


Written by Noel Kingsbury to celebrate Oudolf's 70th birthday, this book takes us on a journey from his early days in Haarlem near Amsterdam to a plot of land near the village of Hummelo. This is where he created his nursery and famous gardens, bred new plants and trialled planting plans and combinations that led to the wonderful plantings Oudolf is now so well known for. The book chronologically follows his career and the development of his designs through the years. As Oudolf himself says, he has no real formula that can be written down and followed, he is very much a designer who sketches ideas but the work is really done on the ground as the plants are placed. 


Every so often there is a couple of pages about a subject that interests Oudolf, small insights to the man and his life. These include notes on people that he got to know or influenced him, things he collects, his interest in photography (almost all the photos in his books are taken by himself, this is interesting because it lets us see the plantings through the creators eye, always a valuable insight). 


Whenever I see photographs of Oudolf's work, such as the ones above, I instantly want to go out and start clearing an area and planting huge swathes of grasses and perennials. I love those huge plantings, intermingling and disappearing into the distance, the colour combinations and textures which last right into winter if left to their own devices. I have plans to do something similar in the nursery in the next couple of years and can't wait to get started. A lot of the plants Oudolf uses are tough perennials and grasses that will cope with our clay soil, weather conditions and we also stock, so it's a great way of showing what our nursery stock is capable of in a garden.




If you are a fan of Oudolf and his work, this is definitely a book to add to your gardening book shelf and a lovely book to read on cold, dark winter days. It is a fascinating insight not only of the man but of the new perennial movement and other plantsmen and women who were influential in it's creation. 

My Oudolf bit of my gardening bookshelves!

Available through online book sellers, or if like me you frequent second hand book shops, you may be lucky and find one. 


Previous book reviews:

Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd



If you are interested to see what else is on my garden book shelves have a look at this blog
My Gardening book shelves. Happy reading!







If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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Find out more about the nursery here - our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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Friday, 22 December 2017

Quirky Bird Christmas Food Traditions

It's been all go here at home preparing for Christmas in the kitchen. As you may know from my blog and instagram account, I like to cook and create. Christmas is a great reason to be in the kitchen creating all my traditional bakes and makes for my boys coming home for Chritmas, friends and family visiting and for gifts to share the love. 

Gathering together ingredients for the Christmas truffles

Cherry brandy truffles waiting for their chocolate covering

All done, they just need to dry then I can pack them up

Rocky roads and Italian truffles

White chocolate and lemon truffles

Merry Christmas gifts for friends and family

Next it's time to make the mincemeat pies with the mincemeat I made over a month ago. By now it will have matured nicely and absorbed the brandy. Some pies get pastry toppings and some get frangipan sponge (my favourite). The sweetness of the almonds and sponge make a lovely contrast to the rich mincemeat.

Cutting out the pastry shells, no space is wasted

Plenty for everyone

Every year I decorate our Christmas cake in a different way, this year it's candy canes and sweeties, a very red and white festive cake!








Before we know it, it will be Christmas day, so I'd just like to say have a very merry christmas

Hug your loved ones close and appreciate them

Love to those who can't be with their family whatever the reason

A special hug to those in hospital over christmas, when you'd rather be with your family, sending you positive hugs xx

For those that had a challenging year in 2016 I hope 2017 is kinder to you

To my family and friends thank you for everything and for helping make it a great year






You can see previous christmas make in these previous posts:

Home Made Christmas 
Truffling - Handmade Christmas Gifts
Food and Wrapping up for Christmas






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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Bats, Beaches and Antique Hunting


As is quite often the way at this time of year, we set off at the beginning of the week with a task list and find by the end of the week any out door jobs are very unlikely to have been ticked off. So it has been here, we've been frozen solid for several days and nights with alarming temperatures down to -9C! Poor plants I hope they will survive and that this is the only very cold snap we get over winter. On top of the frost we've had a sprinkling of snow, so no gardening, no clearing, no leaf lifting, just hibernating. But I do have lots of pretty photos to share, lol.

The tree is up!

I'd like to say that instead I've ticked everything off the indoor task list, but I'd be telling a lie. There is a distinct lack of motivation at the moment, yet I do seem to have got Christmas up and running. The tree is up and the house decorated, present buying nearly done, the 200 + truffles for gifts are made (more on those later) and I've deep cleaned another couple of rooms.

On Monday I had a day out with David who was meeting some fellow ecologists in East Lothian to look at a couple of potential bat hibernation sites. I don't need much excuse to get out and about even on a bitterly cold, frozen day. First we visited an world war 2 pill box buried underground in a field, the area is full of second word war buildings and such as the River Forth was seen as a possible attack area.








Great sky over East Lothian

Next we headed to the coast, yes it was bitterly cold on the beach, but I love the beach and sea at any time of year, as does Bracken. So we had lots of running about and rummaging in rock pools before heading to North Berwick for some hot soup for lunch, some christmas shopping and nice views of the Bass rock at sunset.

The Sea buckthorn was stunning along the back of the beach,
so many orange berries making the bankings very orange

Where will I go now

Looking to Fife

It's Freeeeezing!

The Bass Rock from North Berwick

Lone fisherman on the rocks at North Berwick

Bright colours in the fading light


Beach huts at the harbour, North Berwick

As I mentioned earlier, we've had very cold frosty days and nights again, topped with snow, not deep but on top of the ice and frost, it's lasted for days. I've been working on the website, designed and ordered a new banner and new leaflets for 2018 for the nursery. I've made the annual christmas truffles for gifts and for the boys munching when they are home. You can read about them in an upcoming blog about Christmas food. Being cold there's been lots of lovely clear skies and lovely lights to photograph. If I could get rid of this cold I'd do more walking but we did walk up to the local village the other day and the views down the valley were lovely.

Some lovely light in the mornings from the back garden

Echinops 'Blue Globe' frozen in time



I'm enjoying my new camera, having a proper camera again, can you tell? 

Shadows, the only time I get to be tall with skinny legs!








On Saturday we headed south to Penrith to one of our favourite places, The Brunswick Yard, in search of interesting items for the nursery. It was also their Christmas fayre so there was mulled wine, fresh pizza from the stone oven craft stalls and of course the usual great selection of antiques and stuff. We had cake and coffee in their excellent cafe to warm up, pizza and mulled wine round one of the outdoor heaters to keep us going on the road home. I treated myself to a cake stand, I've been looking for one for ages, and this one even has a quirky bird on the top! We found some interesting things for the nursery too, more on those later.

Enjoying some mulled wine

Pizza and mulled wine!

My new cake stand

This is awesome!

The weather and temperatures are set to be dry and much warmer so I am hoping to get back in to the nursery and catch up on some end of season tidying up over the next few days. It will be good to catch up with everyone too, oh and maybe a mocha or two to keep me going. I'll have mistletoe and vouchers for sale while I'm in the nursery, Wednesday and Thursday 10am to 4pm.






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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Book Review - The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd

This is one of those gardening books that should be on any discerning garden book collectors, keen gardener, professional gardener or some one who just likes to read about gardening's shelf. It's like being on a walk around the garden with Christopher Lloyd as he passes on little snippets of knowledge and information gathered over decades of gardening.


You could dip in and out as you please or read it from cover to cover on a few winter evenings, when we can't get anywhere near the garden. From his witty asides, in depth plant and garden knowledge to harking back to his own child hood and memories of gardening, this is a book that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages and learning, always learning.

One of my favourite quotes from the book which I quite agree with:

“Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative's latest example of unreasonableness.”

The book is loosely divided up into subjects, but quite often as we do in conversation, Christopher Lloyd goes off on a tangent, but always bringing us back by another plant or garden snippet to the original topic of discussion. These vary from methods of propagation, to planting combinations, pruning, varieties of plants he approves of (or doesn't) and every other garden subject in between.


Christopher Lloyd fitting in nicely between Beth Chatto and Gertrude Jekyll
where he belongs

I didn't go looking for this book but came across it in a second hand book shop and I'm glad I did buy it, it was a great read and a good addition to my book collection. I will definitely be going in search of more of his books. Interestingly he quite often references Scotland and just how different / difficult growing conditions ca be up here, which makes a refreshing change.

Available through online book sellers, or if like me you frequent second hand book shops, you may be lucky as I was and come across one in perfect condition.


Previous book review - Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury


If you are interested to see what else is on my garden book shelves have a look at this blog
My Gardening book shelves. Happy reading!





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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Feeling Freezing and Festive

The weeks seem to be steaming ahead, Christmas is looming and yet I feel I am and am not achieving things. We had two days travelling and being at my sisters funeral last week, Saturday to potter, check the nursery and catch a breath at home before heading to Alnwick on Sunday for David's families annual Christmas get together. In three days my car has done just under 1000 miles! Barter books is the meeting place of choice these days, it's half way between us all in Scotland and David's parents in York. Who doesn't like a second hand book shop to browse, especially one as good and Quirky as Barter Books. Yes I did buy books, yes I do need to read the ones I got last year and I may have to create another pile! Hmmmmmmm. 

I love these light shades at Barter Books, no idea why, just random

This is one of my favourite places

Still it was a good day but good to get home for a rest. Unfortunately not so much of a rest as being struck down by a dreadful cold. I'm never ill, so not sure what this is about, it's a shocking cold and both David and I have felt rubbish. He always has colds but has said this one was a stonker even for him! Keeping warm and out of the rubbish weather out side, I've started updating the website for next year so all is not lost. 

Lots and lots of new piglets on the farm when we went to
check the nursery on Saturday

Awwwwwww, everyone say oink

Who you gonna call? Leaf busters

In nursery news, it's all frozen solid. The past few nights we've had -9 celsius, brrrrrrrrrrrrr. Hopefully all the plants will survive in and out of the tunnel, only time will tell. When it's not been frozen we've been making the most of sunny, dry weather. David has started strimming the bankings, a massive job, but keeps him out of mischief and they look so much tidier for it. I've started lifting the leaves in the sales area, always a horrible job lifting them of the gravel. But not this year, no this year I have a new toy. A super duper industrial leaf blower which is doing the job very well and saving me days of back breaking work yeh! So far I've done in one day what it took me four to do last year, more than well worth the cost of the machine. David has also discovered it's great for rounding up the grass strimming - double win.


Some Hawthorn berries gathered on a local dog walk

On Wednesday night we wrapped up and headed into Edinburgh Botanic Gardens for the Botanic Lights, this has become something of an annual outing for us and you can read about this years trip here 

Twinkly christmas lights

There's no getting away from Christmas now, I've started putting out the decorations and lights around the house and the tree will go up in the next couple of days. I need to finish shopping and get the truffles made, then we're almost there. We had a lovely festive dinner with friends on Friday night, it was lovely to sit around their log stove with wine, chat and good company and food, great for the soul on a freezing night.

Christmas lights at the window

A new bauble for the tree this year sitting in my gorgeous wooden bowl by our dear friend
Andrew from Wood Yew Believe it



What do you do with your empty Edinburgh Gin bottles? I've put mistletoe in mine and stuck candles I had in a drawer in them, and voila free festive candle sticks!



On Sunday I was in the warm at Whitmuir selling, mistletoe, gift vouchers and seasonal gifts. It was nice to catch up with people and make sales. It was bitterly cold again, with the temperatures down to -9C overnight! Brrrrrrrrrrrrr. I will be there again next Sunday, 17th with more mistletoe and gift ideas. There is also great food in the cafe and farm shop, gorgeous art in the Dancing Light Gallery and antiques and Christmas trees at Gladstonebag antiques and Vintage. The fire will be on in the cafe, so why not come along and do some Christmas shopping.

Selling christmas cheer

So that's another week and a bit gone, there is lots getting done indoors and out, behind the scene and in the nursery. I am behind compared to the last two years, but funerals, bad colds and motivation do that. I am really looking forward to having all my boys home for christmas and spending time with my nearest and dearest and the comfort there is in that.

Until next time, keep warm, keep festive and I'll go and work on more christmas ideas, website work and leaf lifting!






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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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