Friday, 20 October 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2017

Despite us being half way through October there is still loads of colour in the gardens in the nursery. A lot of it will carry on until the first frosts up here in the Scottish borders. Two great annuals in the herb garden are marigolds and Sunflower 'Claret' is still flowering with it's yellow and brown flowers. They've been in flower since August and I will definitely be growing them again next year. The ordinary humble yellow sunflower however has not flowered, they've been sitting in bud for weeks with not a hint of yellow petal.  

Sunflower 'Claret'

Also in the herb garden are the last of the marigolds (Calendula), this year I sowed 'Art Shades' which come in creams, yellows, oranges and any combination in between. They have also flowered since August and I've gathered seeds for next year. I'm hoping they will also self seed in the border too.

I love marigolds (Calendula), they are such a cheery flower

Late summer perennials are such good value as many of them flower right through autumn until the first frosts. This is when Asters or Symphyotrichum as they are now known come into their own. Flowering in whites, blues, purples and pinks they can be anything between 1.5 feet to 6 feet high. They are also great for flower arranging and will last in a vase for more than a week.

Aster 'Coombe Fishacre' has sprays of pale purple flowers

White Aster 'Monte Casino' which has sprays of tiny flowers all the way up it's 6 foot high
 stems and an unknown purple Aster

Another great perennial in flower now is Rudbeckia, again a variable genus of plants all with big cones in the flower centres. Some are 2 feet high and some a massive 7 feet! Again they flower for weeks and will tolerate a range of conditions, especially our clay soil and exposed conditions.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'

Rudbeckia lanceolata, a towering species, great for the back of a border with tall grasses
such as the Stipa gigantea in the back ground

Sedums and Persicarias are still holding their own despite having been flowering for a month or so and all the Calamagrostis are turning lovely buff and caramel colours. They give a lovely variation of texture and movement in the borders amongst other tall perennials. The flowering stems will stand through most of winter too, looking pretty with frost on them. 

Sedum 'Herbsfreude' and Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Atrosanguineum'
with Lathyrus latifolius in the foreground

Then there's the apples on the trees in the stock beds, I'm looking forward to apple pies and crumbles through winter

Thanks to Carol for this meme, you can see what is flowering in her garden here  May Dreams Garden




In other news

~ I was delighted and surprised that my blog was featured on Thompson and Morgan's blog, you can see it here Thompson and Morgan blog

~ If you are looking for a garden to visit why not visit Floors Castle, you can read about my own visit here Floors Castle Gardens

~ If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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~ If you to see whats new and looking good at the nursery 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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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Bracken visits Floors Castle Gardens

A lovely day was forecast so we decided to head further east through the borders and visit Floors Castle and it's gardens. I'd heard good things about the gardens and was keen to see them for myself. Bracken of course was enthusiastic as ever to explore somewhere new and have a walk. Although dogs are not allowed in the castle itself, the castle gardens and grounds are all open to dogs and there is outdoor seating on a nice day at the tea room for customers and their furry frends. 

Great sky as we headed through the Scottish Borders
Great sky as we headed through the Scottish Borders

We decided to park in the car park outside the gardens and tearoom and go for some lunch first. The food and service were excellent and we chose the autumnal pumpkin soup with flower pot bread. This it turned out was baked in terracotta flower pots and arrived still in the pots for us to slice as we wanted, both were delicious. We finished off with coffee and cake before heading out in to the walled garden to explore.

Flower pot bread
Flower pot bread

The walled garden covers four acres and is home to a wealth of colour, glasshouses, fruit and vegetables and stunning herbaceous borders. Originally the walled garden was built to supply fruit, veg and flowers to the castle and it still does! There are several long glasshouses which date from the 1850's when growing tender exotic plants were all the rage with Victorians. The glasshouses are open so we could wander through them and enjoy the scent of Pelargoniums and see a lot of indoor plants I used to grow when I worked in the glasshouses at Threave as a student.


Bracken inspecting the Dahlias outside one of the glasshouses
Bracken inspecting the Dahlias outside one of the glasshouses

Some of the glasshouses
Some of the glasshouses

New in the garden is the massive fruit cage built from huge pieces of oak from woodland on the estate. The fruit cage is home to soft fruit such as strawberries, Scottish raspberries and gooseberries. It certainly makes an impressive feature.

The new fruit cage
The new fruit cage

I liked this combination of blues using Perovskia and Nepeta (catmint)
I liked this combination of blues using Perovskia and Nepeta (catmint)

Cutting across the walled garden was this lovely double herbaceous border
Cutting across the walled garden was this lovely double herbaceous border

There were many plants used in these huge borders including Sanguisorba, Phlox, Eupatorium, Perovskia, Centranthus, Geraniums, Heleniums, Actaea and so many more. It was a tapestry of colour, heights and textures enhanced by the arched gate way at the end making a great vista.

Bracken exploring the herbaceous borders
Bracken exploring the herbaceous borders

Actaea in the herbacious border
Actaea in the herbacious border

Phacelia
Phacelia in the walled garden,
loved by bees and a gorgeous colour.
I am definatly going to grow this in
 the nursery next year

If we thought the herbaceous border was amazing, we were blown away when we turned the corner and saw the hot borders. Again a double border, rising up on either side of us in a blazing glory of yellows, oranges and reds. In amongst the perennials are impressive grasses including Miscanthus varieties with red feathery flowers. 

Looking up the hot border towards the gardeners house
Looking up the hot border towards the gardeners house

Yellow kniphofia adding a different texture to the border
Yellow kniphofia adding a different texture to the border

On one side the brick walls of the walled garden add a great backdrop
On one side the brick walls of the walled garden add a great backdrop

Rudbeckia and Helenium
Rudbeckia and Helenium make a great
team from late summer into autumn

Miscanthus putting on a great show with towering Rudbeckia in the background
Miscanthus putting on a great show with towering Rudbeckia in the background

In another area of the walled garden is the tapestry garden. Started in 2016 this garden is a mix of borders divided by meandering grass paths. When we were there it was all blues, whites and pinks with interesting plant combinations. I liked the tall white Sanguisorba used as feature plants through the borders.

Selfie in the tapestry garden, the gardener explores another garden
Selfie in the tapestry garden, the gardener explores another garden

 The Tapestry garden
 The Tapestry garden

Ceratostigma, Wisteria and Nerines
A sheltered corner planted with Ceratostigma, Wisteria and Nerines, can you spot Bracken
has managed to get into another photo?

Through an arch on the East side of the walled garden is the Millennium Garden. This formal garden has been planted in the French parterre style. The initials of the Duke and Duchess, the date and ducal coronet have been created using box and Euonymus. Scottish apple trees have also been planted on the raised terrace in front of the walls.

Yew berries
Yew berries
Leaving the walled garden we decided to do one of the walks around the castle grounds. We wandered through the Star Plantation, a mix of trees and shrubs with clearings and grassy paths which eventually brought us out in front of Floors Castle. Walking along we managed to persuade Bracken he didn't need one of the chickens free ranging in front of the castle. From the front of the castle we followed the signs taking us past the old courtyard and stables and through the woodlands heading down towards the river. We enjoyed the beginnings of autumn colour, found conkers and acorns and Bracken of course had a great time exploring. The path eventually brought us back uphill and along the west side of the walled garden and back to the car park.


Floors Castle
Floors Castle

Stable doorways
Stable doorways

Bracken pretending to be Sir Doglet of the Castle
Bracken pretending to be Sir Doglet of the Castle

Lovely Acer autumn colour
Lovely Acer autumn colour

The childish delight of conkers
The childish delight of conkers

Conker time
Conker time

I hope you've enjoyed a wander round the gardens and grounds at Floors Castle with us. You can find out more about visiting from their website here

In other news

~ our wedding was featured on a Scottish Wedding website and blog We Fell in Love, a lovely write up and great advertising. 

~ If you have a problem with rabbits, have a read at my last blog Garden Challenges - Rabbits

~ 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
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Find out more about the nursery here - our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Garden challenges - Rabbits

I've been going to write a blog about rabbits and gardens for a while, but now more than ever it has become very topical as we have had a rabbit problem in the nursery and gardens over summer and ongoing. It is also one of the most common garden and plant issues I find myself discussing with customers in the nursery. Being where we and a lot of our customers are in the country; surrounded by rabbit habitat it's inevitable we will have to deal with this cute but destructive problem at some time. Not only will rabbits eat the leaves, flowers and stems of veg, annuals and perennials, they will also eat bark of shrubs and trees if desperate enough in cold winters.

Damn wabbits

As with any garden problem prevention is better than cure if possible. Sometimes it can be too costly or impractical to do this as fencing is expensive and it's a big job to do. In my last garden the first job I did, (knowing I was going to be creating a big garden) was to put in rabbit fencing as soon as the fencers had finished putting up the stock fence around the property. This involved attaching chicken wire to the stock fence right around the perimeter and burying it six inches or so into the ground. Here in the nursery our big winter job this year is to finally get the fencing up around this nursery, so we will be incorporating rabbit fencing as we go, again using chicken wire, stapled to the wooden fence and buried below.

The rabbit fencing on the new fence in the nursery

Attaching the rabbit fencing before the slats go on

It is possible to fence off smaller areas of the garden, say the veg plot or a particular area of plants you have that rabbits love. This can be done with smaller fence posts and chicken wire stapled to them around the smaller area. Locally you can put upturned wire hanging baskets over plants if there are only a certain few being nibbled. This will protect the crown of the plant so you don't lose it all together, but anything above the protection may be eaten. You can also put spiral tree guards round the trunks of young trees to give them some protection.

Up turned hanging baskets to protect plants from rabbits

If you don't want to go to all the work and expense of fencing then we need to think of what plants we can put in the garden that rabbits won’t eat. Of course, it’s not that easy as there is always that one animal that will go against the norm and eat these rabbit resistant plants. There have been many books and leaflets written about this subject which you can source in a good book shop or online.

Generally speaking, plants with scented, hairy or succulent type leaves and those with toxic sap are unappealing to rabbits but that doesn’t mean that they won’t have a go at them when they first appear as a new course on the menu! It is worth trying surrounding borders and more vulnerable plants with strongly scented plants such as herbs which can help as the smell may throw rabbits off. Try the following herbs to deter rabbits, and you can use them too! Many of them are available for sale in the nursery and you can see them growing in our new herb garden.

Chives


Chives, Mint, Oregano, Sage, Thyme











There are many plants that should be rabbit resistant but I am going to list the ones that are tough, hardy and will cope with our Scottish gardens, starting with trees and shrubs.

Vinca
Alnus, Bamboo, Berberis, Betula, Buxus, Buddleja davidii, Choisya ternata, Clematis, Cornus sanguinea, Cryptomeria japonica, Cytisus, Escallonia, Eucalyptus, Euonymus europaeus, Gaultheria Hippophae, Hydrangea, Hypericum, Laburnum, Ligustrum, Lonicera,  Philadelphus, Prunus, Rhododendron, Ribes, Rosa, Sambucus, Sarcococca, Skimmia, Syringa, Vinca , Viburnum, Weigela









Perennials are particularly vulnerable to rabbits, being soft and tasty but at least they have a better chance of recovery. Here are a selection suitable for our Scottish gardens.

Aconitum
Aconitum, Alchemila, Anemone, Anthriscus, Aquilegia, Artemisia, Arum, Aster, Astilbe, Brunnera, Bergenia, Campanula lactiflora, Chaeaemerion 'Album', Colchicum, Corydalis, Crocosmia, Cyclamen, Digitalis, Epimedium, Eupatorium, Euphorbia, Geranium macrorrhizum, Helenium, Helianthus, Hellebores, Hemerocallis, Iris, Knautia arvensis, Lamium, Lysimachia, Melissa, Nepeta, Omphaloides, Paeonia, Papaver, Polygonatum, Persicaria, Phlomis, Pulmonaria, Rheum, Salvia, Saxifrage, Sedum, Stachys, Tellima





Some grasses are also unattractive to rabbits:

Calamagrostis
Calamagrostis, Cortaderia, Deschampsia, Juncus, Luzula (but not L.nivea which the rabbits have ravaged in the nursery), Miscanthus
















As well as experimenting with rabbit resistant plants the following deterrents are also worth trying:

As their twitching noses indicate, rabbits sniff a lot. Try sprinkling talcum powder or powdered red pepper around or on your plants. Rabbits also dislike the smell of onions, so try planting these around your garden to further deter the furry creatures.

Make a bad-tasting rabbit cocktail by grinding together three hot peppers, three large onions, and one whole bunch of garlic. Add water to cover, and place into a covered container overnight. Strain, and then add enough additional water to make a gallon of the mixture. Spray onto plants, repeating after rainfall. Commercial products using pungent garlic oil are also worth a try.

Some people protect plants with individual “collars” of tin cans or screening so that the plants may reach a less vulnerable size. Put the collar around each stem for protection.

Some of the deer techniques related to smell are also said to work against rabbits. You can read my deer blog here 

Legend has it that rabbits are terrified of their own reflection, so try an old-time rabbit remedy and place large, clear glass jars of water throughout the garden. Garden centres sell ready-made reflectors, as well as other devices—crouching cats, fake snakes, menacing owls—designed to frighten bunnies away from your plants.

Sometimes, humane traps are the best solution. If you don’t want to buy a trap, consider building one. Place the trap where you’ve seen the rabbits feeding or resting, and cover it with a piece of canvas. Apples, carrots and cabbage and other fresh green veggies make excellent bait. Check it often, and release bunnies in rural areas several miles away.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas to help protect your garden and plants from rabbits. We have many of the plants available in the nursery.

Do you have a problem with rabbits in your garden and what do you do to deter them?

Humane rabbit trap (image google)






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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bracken takes a walk round Culross

This is a walk we've been planning to do for a while, we just needed the right weather and nothing else that needed done. It also gave us a chance to cross the new bridge over the River Forth, the Queensferry Crossing. We were lucky with the weather in the morning and the views from the new bridge were great, if a little odd seeing the original two bridges from the west.

Queensferry Crossing
Crossing the new bridge
Queensferry Crossing
Crossing the bridge


After parking in the west car park on the foreshore in Culross we headed west along the main road. Bracken by now has worked out he's getting a walk and is raring to go. Once the pavement ran out we kept walking past the entrance to Dunimarle Castle on our right and continued until we reached the entrance to Blair Castle. Here we turned in and up the rhododendron lined drive heading up hill towards the castle. It was a relief to get away from the main road. Once we were nearly at the castle we took a right turn onto a track which took us up past Blair Mains farmhouse on our left. Now we were beginning to get views out over the River Forth and the now closed power station at Longannet. 

brambles in the hedges
There were plenty plump brambles in the hedgerows

Hawthorn in the hedges
Hawthorn berries

Rose hips in the hedges
Rose Hips

We continued walking uphill along the farm track bordered by hedges full of brambles, hawthorn berries and rose hips, a sumptuous feast for the birds and we enjoyed some brambles too. We passed a field full of sweetcorn with the cobs well on the way to ripening. Interesting to think of sweetcorn growing in Fife! Bracken loves this kind of walk as there are so many things to sniff and investigate.

David and Bracken, Culross
There always has to be a dog on a stone / trig point /
hill summit photograph on our walks

Once we started to walk through woodland we took a right turn along a small path between trees opposite a metal gate, heading back in the direction of Culross. The path follows a robbed out dry stone wall with woodland on the left and fields on the right. There were plenty fungi growing amongst the birch seedlings, more brambles and views of the River Forth again.

fungi in the woods
Plenty fungi on our walk

Half way along this path there is a sign for plague graves in the woods. It marks the spot where three children Robert, Agnes and Jeanne Balds, are said to lie after succumbing to the plague on the same day - 14th September 1645. We didn't have time to take this detour and carried on along the path, passing under pylons and towards the ruins of West Church where we stepped off the path and investigated the ruins and graveyard. There were lots of very old stones in the graveyard and set into the crumbling walls of the old kirk and an old mausoleum hidden in the undergrowth. The peace of the ruins was shattered by the arrival of a team of council grass cutters so we left them to it and headed off along the path. 

mausoleum at west kirk Culross
A mausoleum hidden in the trees and brambles

west kirk Culross
Part of the old kirk

Bracken, west kirk Culross
Bracken investigates West Church

Carrying on along the grassy track towards Culross, we left the fields behind as the track headed downhill between tall hedges until we came to a split in the path. The right hand path is signed Culross and foreshore and the left Culross Abbey. As we wanted to visit the Abbey we headed left, sheltering under some large trees during a sudden shower. Once it eased off a wee bit we headed into the town and up to the abbey. The rain persisted and we were hungry so we went for lunch in the Abbey tea rooms. Tucked away between the abbey ruins and graveyard this wee tea room was basic but nice, though it did feel we were having lunch in a charity shop. We had soup and a sandwich then cofee and cake, which was nice, nothing fancy but nice.

culross abbey
You can climb up this mad ladder to the
dormitories of the monastery

culross abbey
Even Bracken came up to see

culross abbey
Culross Abbey

culross abbey
A corner of the graveyard at Culross Abbey

Once we left the tea room we headed back down into the centre of the village, it was still drizzly so we didn't linger but taking care on the wet cobbles. A quick nod to the scenes where Outlander (sigh) were filmed and we were back at the foreshore and car park. 

Culross
Walking back down the narrow streets of Culross

Culross abbey
Culross Abbey

We walked out onto the old pier out into the bay which gave great views up and down the river and back towards Culross. It was windy but a great vantage point for photos but Bracken was not happy walking over the wooden slats on the walk way. 

the pier at Culross
Walking out to the pier


selfies on the pier at Culross
A windy selfie, ears flapping in the wind


looking towards longannet power station
Looking towards Longannet Power station
We really enjoyed this walk which is about 3 miles in total and not difficult at all. It combined country views, history, a pretty village and the River Forth. Bracken would give it 10/10 for doggy interest, but then he thinks every walk is brilliant (perhaps not the pier though). 


To see other walks and visits to interesting places we've done visit my page here for ideas




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