Sunday, 30 August 2015

Glasgow Botanical Gardens, vintage and wild carrots

Hello, how are you, how's your week been? Busy as always here, the weather is as mixed as always and we are working away at the nursery making lots of improvements as always. We've had some really heavy rain, some sun and it is definitely getting colder. The highlight of the week was a trip to Glasgow Botanic Gardens, more of that in a minute.

I treated my self earlier in the week to a wee snack from the farm
 shop at Whitmuir the Organic Place
Healthy but very tasty treats this week, I've been feeling exhausted and lethargic so have gone back to healthy eating (still with chocolate treats though). I've been eating more and losing weight, but eating the right foods and I've lost 8lbs which is fantastic as its been a struggle to lose anything of the extra 1.5 stones over the past couple of years. I feel so much better, energetic and healthier, long may it continue.

We had some classy glamour visit Whitmuir today, a 1932 Rolls Royce and it's lovely
owners who were buying paintings at the Dancing Light Gallery

At the nursery I have finally finished re-potting and propagating all the shade plants and they are all together in one area now. We will have a good comprehensive range for next year which will fill the shade tunnel and more. David is musing about building a pergola to create a shade area for the plants, which would be another great project and point of interest in the nursery. Now I am back to working through the rest of the stock, re-potting and propagating the neglected stock we bought with the nursery. It's lot of work but we will have some cracking plants for next year and it is satisfying to see the plants lined up with a new lease of life. We've got some new trees and shrubs in for winter interest and bulbs arriving soon.

Another vase of Sweet peas are scenting the kitchen

The slugs have eaten through the stem of this sunflower so I've popped it in a
vase on the kitchen window sill

On Tuesday, our day off, we packed up the car with middle son's belongings to take him back to Glasgow for his second year at uni. He has a flat with friends, so was keen to get back and settle in.
Typically it was on the second floor so lots of exercise carrying his stuff up. After we left him to get unpacked we made the most of the sunny afternoon and visited Glasgow Botanics.

Climbing lots of stairs to a new student flat

The Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

I've never, believe it or not, been to Glasgow Botanics, David was appalled. I am not really Glasgow orientated, I am much more likely to go into Edinburgh for anything. Luckily dogs are allowed in the gardens, so Bracken got a walk too, which he enjoyed as there were plenty people to say hello to. At the Eastern end is the Kibble Palace, a large round glasshouse with two side glasshouses. The first of these houses a very impressive and well maintained carniverous plant collection. David was in his element with all the mosses in there too. 

The carniverous plant house, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The main house of the Kibble Palce, lots of great tree ferns, bananas and other exotics

Great tree ferns in the Kibble Palace

I like the combination of white metalwork, glass and ferns and palms

Elsewhere in the gardens there are herbaceous borders, a herb garden, vegetable plot, lovely Acers and other specimen trees and another greenhouse range with cacti and orchids, more palms. It is a small botanical garden but has plenty packed in and lots of grass areas where people were making the most of the sun and soaking up the heat. 

Echinacea purpurea

Felicia 'Santa Anita', gorgeous blues, loved by the bees

We put Bracken back in the car, which was parked up a shady side street and treated our selves to some late lunch in the tea room. Well I say lunch, but we had a high tea. I've been wanting to have one for ages and it was lovely sitting in the sun, stuffing our selves. Of course we went for the top option, it's our day off and we work hard, so we like to treat ourselves on our day off. 

High tea for two, don't mind if we do

Lots of lovely cake, we didn't bother with dinner
that night!

Lots of candy bright Pelargoniums outside the glasshouse

A cheeky chap also having his lunch in the Botanics

Bracken the dog, travelling home

Sadly the wild flowers are coming to an end on the terraces at the nursery, they have been stunning since we started contemplating buying and visiting the nursery back in April and then through the start of our journey creating the nursery as it is now. Starting with the Cow slips, then red campion (with some pink and white mixed in), Ragged Robin, Ox eye Daisies, lots of grasses, and now Hypericum, Achillea and wild carrots. One of my favourite wild flowers is the wild carrot, Daucus carota. I love the way the flower head folds up on itself once it has finished flowering. It is great for photographing and is a simple, beautiful plant. 

WIid Carrot

Eldest son is enjoying his new job, he's so much happier and back to himself which is great and relief for his mum, no matter how old your kids, you always worry about them. Youngest has settled back into school, I can't believe he is second year already, where does the time go? 

Cautleya bringing a bit of exotic to the patio

As for the house garden, it's a bit of neglected garden, my plans to bit in the evenings once I was home from the nursery haven't really happened as I've been so tired and had the house to keep on top of too. Tonight however the sun was shining and I was home earlier than usual so I headed to the greenhouses to give them a tidy and water. I don't think we're going to get any tomatoes either, they are just too small and green. Feeling good about getting that done I got the hoe out and hoed the tattie and bean plot, the sweet peas are almost over sadly. I've really enjoyed growing them again and loved having them in vases scenting the house. I'm definitely going to grow more next year. Feeling frustrated by the weeds growing between the slabs on the patio, I got the sprayer out and weed killed the paths, patio and drive, wow excelling my self now. Without really thinking about it or planning to I'd crossed several jobs off the to do list, woo hoo. 

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Garden Challenges: Dry Shade

An often challenging garden area is dry shade, be it under trees, against a wall or even a shaded banking. The ground is often shallow, lacking in nutrients and water and of course lacking in sunlight especially if North or East facing. Often it is not possible to dig in organic matter due to wall foundations or tree roots so in some cases plants have to cope with shade, poor soil and shallow root space.  But there are plants that will grow in these conditions and indeed will thrive, providing colour and ground cover all year round.

This is a shady banking at the nursery, under trees and very dry unless it rains heavily

The same banking from the other direction

Before planting consider removing some of the lower branches of trees to heighten the canopy and let in some light. Also dig in as much organic matter as you can to enrich and add moisture to the soil. This will give the plants the best chance to thrive.

After the hard work  comes the fun part: choosing plants that will brighten up your shady area. The space you have dictates the size of plants you choose and how many. I have put together a list of plants that will grow in dry shade, under trees, walls or on shady bankings. As always I have suggested  tough plants that will cope with our Scottish garden conditions and which are available in the nursery.

Epimedium 'Pink Elf'

The Quirky bird recommends the Genus Epimedium, one of the best perennials for shade and one of my favourite plants. Not only do they have lovely little flowers in spring, quite often the new spring foliage is colourful and they have great autumn colour, so a good all round plant. They aren't invasive but form good ground cover over time. Inter-planted with small bulbs they provide year round interest.

Epimedium grandiflorum nanum

Epimedium 'Lilafee'

Epimedium pinnatum ssp. Colchicum

Other plants that will tolerate dry shade and give you colour include Valerian officinalis, a tall perennial with pink scented flowers. It can seed around but I think that's a good thing if you have a tricky garden area. The seedlings are easily pulled out if not wanted. Valerian is a herb that has medicinal uses.

Valerian officinalis

Foxgloves also do well in dry shady places, again often seeding around

Brunnera are another great Genus for shady areas and will tolerate dry shade. They mainly have vivid blue flowers and are often referred to as perennial Forget-me-Nots. As well as B macrophylla there are numerous striking cultivars with veined and marbled leaves. Most commonly found are B. 'Jack Frost', B. 'Emerald Mist' and 'Blaukuppel'. They will flower over many weeks and are well worth growing in the garden. 

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

As well as perennials some grasses will cope with dry shade. Deschampsia and it's culivars will do well. Clump forming with arching flowers stems they are hardy and occur naturally in woodland and meadows. They look lovely when the sun catches the fine flowers in dappled shade. Luzula sylvatica, a native and known as "Woodrush", is a lower growing grass with broad strap like leaves. It is great for ground cover or holding a banking together. Brown flowers appear from May to late June.

Deschampsia cespitosa

There are a small selection of ferns that will grow in this situation. Dryopteris and Polypodium species and cultivars will give all year round leaf form. I like Polypodiums or Polypody, especially the more interesting leaved forms. They are a native and you quite often see them growing up trees, clinging to the branches with their roots or on walls. They are evergreen, low growing and hardy, forming carpets of ground cover. Drypoteris affinis is partially evergreen and D. felix-mas which is deciduous, both will do well in dry shade. Both are hardy and do well in exposed gardens. 

Polypodium vulgare

Alchemilla mollis
Anemone japonica
Anemone nemerosa
Aster divaricatus
Dicentra bachanal
Dicentra spectabilis
Euphorbia amgdaloides var Robbiae
Geranium canabridgensis vars
Geranium phaeum vars
Geranium nodosum
Geranium machorhyzum vars
Iris foetidissima
Lamium maculatum vars
Lunaria annua

Luzula nivea
luzula sylvatica

Polypodium vulgare


Mahonia aquifolium

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Friday, 21 August 2015

This week, School is back, Sunflowers and Sweet peas

Firstly I'd like to say a huge thank you to Angie from Angie's garden for her lovely blog about her visit to the nursery a couple of weeks ago, you can read her blog here: A visit to the Quirky Bird

We've had some lovely sunny and warm weather this week, probably because the kids are back at school. I've enjoyed some warmth although it is probably too late for the veggies, they aren't going to do much now sadly. However we do have a sunflower! The shallots are on the very small side and I don't think there will be enough time for the beetroot to progress beyond marble size. Next year I would like to have a corner in the poly tunnel at the nursery to grow some veg, we'll see.

We grew a sunflower

The week started with good news in that eldest son has got a months trial with a local firm with a view to an apprenticeship, I'm really pleased for him and hopefully it will lead to more good things and a job. Well done Ben. Youngest son went back to school on Monday, so it was early morning chaos getting him up and off on the school bus at 7.30am, then eldest son starting his job at 8am, that will be a shock to his system. Middle son goes back to uni next week, so it's all change again.

A lovely vase of sweet peas from the garden, this year I have
grown 'Beaujolais', 'Cathy' and an unknown cream one
I brought back from Coll

Typically our day off on Tuesday was wet, not sunny as the previous couple of days had been or the rest of the week is forecast to be. We went to pick up some plants I'd ordered from a nursery in East Lothian and had planned to take the doglet to the beach for a walk. Instead we headed back to the nursery and dropped the plants off then decided to go to Dawyck for lunch. It's a lovely place to eat and the food is always good. We didn't have a walk around the garden as the rain was heavier but you can read about two previous visits here and here. We came home via Biggar to do a couple of errands and walk Bracken along the old railway line. It was great to get a  walk with Bracken, I do miss my daily walk with him now I am back working.

Sculpture exhibition at Dawyk

Great art at Dawyck

Allium vineale growing on the old railway line

Bracken being cute

Harebells on the railway line

There were plenty of wild flowers along the old railway line

Wednesday was a good day, the sun shone, it was warm and it was my birthday, these days they are happy days full of happiness and good times. After a lovely birthday breakfast I spent the day at the nursery enjoying working in the sun and I cut a new bunch of flowers for my desk as you can see below. I received lovely gifts, cards, good wishes from friends and family and had dinner out with David in the evening, but the best thing was having wonderful people around me, great friends and family. 

Flowers for my desk from the nursery gardens

Apparently there wasn't enough room on one cake for all my candles! Cheeky

I've admired this metal and wood conker for a month or so at the gallery at work,
thanks to David I now have one of my own, my gift from him for my birthday

Two or three months ago my grape vine suddenly died. The branches and shoots wilted and died and there has been no signs of life since. I was really sad as I've had it for 21 years and it was a good size when I got it, it always has grapes and is like an old friend. It was dug out of the ground and potted into a massive bucket when we moved house last year and coped with that no bother at all. I hadn't got around to moving it out of the greenhouse, as the pot and it are quite a size and heavy to move. Imagine my surprise when I was watering the greenhouses tonight and there were 4 good sized shoots on different parts of the plant. It must have suddenly shot away as there was nothing when I was in the greenhouse a few days ago. So there is life in the old vine yet, hooray.

The re sprouting vine

 It's been another busy week, they are going so fast, can't believe the kids are back to school and Jamie goes back to uni next week. The forecast for the rest of the week looks not bad, but I have a lot of potting up to do, new borders to create, I need to come up with a plan for the wild life garden and do some watering. Looking forward to friends visiting the nursery at the weekend and catching up.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

This August I am .......

I haven't done one of these blog posts for ages.

Making: Huge progress with the nursery as you will have seen in other posts

Cooking: quick, easy meals and the kids favourites while they are home for summer

Drinking: The best mochas from Whitmuir the Organic Place

Reading: Books about creating a wildlife garden, next project at the nursery

Wanting: to succeed

Looking: At how much we have achieved already

Playing: Still playing the Outlander series Soundtrack, love love love the music

Wishing: My sister didn't have breast cancer and have to go through so much

Enjoying: The very positive feedback we keep getting from customers

Loving: the positive people I am colaborating with at Whitmuir

Smelling: The sweet peas growing in the garden

Wearing: too many layers, such a cold summer

Anticipating: the future

Buying: books

Disliking: the unseasonally cold summer

Eating: Too much chocolate, it's a stress management thing :)

Planting: new borders in the nursery

Marvelling: at life's twists and turns

Wondering: just wondering

Feeling: worried about my sister, her operation and recovery

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Plant Profile: Astrantia

This genus of herbaceous perennials originates from shady woodlands of Central, East and South Europe and is commonly known as Masterwort. It is one of my must have plants due to it's long flowering period, lovely flowers which are great for photographing and it's self sufficiency in the garden. It is a tough, hardy and long living plant and doesn't need staking or fussing and will grow happily in shade or in some sun. 

Astrantia 'Buckland'

It livens up a shady border, growing happily with Hostas and other shade lovers and will tolerate most soils. I have seen it growing in anything from dank clay to light dry soils under trees and shrubs. Left to its own devices it will form a sizeable plant after three or four years, apart from A. maxima, which has a mind of it's own and likes to travel, not too much, but it will form a large plant much quicker, so something to be aware of. 

Astrantia 'Buckland' and a hybrid Dactolorhyza

The flowers of Astratia are well worth looking at close up. Each flower is a miniature bouquet with a crown of miniature flowers and stamens surrounded by stiff bracts giving the appearance of petals. These papery bracts help the flower last well past it's flowering season. I often leave them through winter to give height and structure when all else is died back and they look good with frost on them.  The flowers cut well for flower arranging, they will dry easily and bees love them.

The detail is in the flower, Astrantia 'Buckland'

Because of their toughness and ability to cope with poor soils and shade they are great in woodland gardens, prairie gardens and the more exposed colder gardens of Scotland. I successfully grew them in my last garden which was on top of an exposed hill in central Scotland at 850 feet above sea level in clay soil. Their pretty shades of pink, white and red go well with other pinks, mauves, blues and whites as you can see in the photos below. I have previously teamed them up with Persicaria bistorta 'Superba', white Alliums and double white Ranunculus.

Astrantia 'Buckland' and Persicaria bistorta 'Superba'

Astrantia 'Claret' with Allium 'Mont Blanc' and Ranunculus aconitifolius pleniflora 

If you have a space in a shady part of the garden I would recommend you give these plants a go. Which one to go for depends on your colour preference. I have grown all these cultivars in exposed gardens on clay soil. The Quirky Bird recommends the following:

Astrantia 'Snow Star'
White with green tinges to the tips, it grows up to 100cm and flowers from May to late summer. The one I am growing at home is doing well in a shady north west facing border under the eaves of the house.

Astrantia 'Buckland'
Pale pink with a tinge of green on the petals, these large flowers will keep going all summer long, growing to 75cm. A real tough plant that looks good too.

Astrantia 'Roma'
Darker pink stamens and mid pink bracts make this a real winner in the border. It flowers from May until well into late summer growing to 75cm.

Astrantia 'Claret'
A great dark cultivar which again flowers for weeks getting up to a metre tall. With darker stems well worth growing.

Astrantia maxima
With larger flatter flowers in mid pink this enthusiastic grower is worthy of a place in the garden if you have the room. Ideal for large borders where it can do it's thing.

Astrantia major
This genus grows easily from seed and will throw up a range of flower colours, which makes it interesting to sow seeds and see what comes up.

Astrantia 'Sunningdale Variegated'
As the name suggests a variegated form with yellow colouring on the leaves. The flowers a pale pink ans the plant is probably better in light shade so the variegation is not lost through lack of light.

Astrantia 'Shaggy'
White with shaggy green edges to the bracts, hense it's name, upright and shorter than most growing to 50cm.

Astrantia 'Ruby wedding'
One of the best with it's deep red flowers and darker foliage reaching 45cm in height.

Astrantia 'Moulin Rouge'
Another deep red flowered culivars with black tips tot he bracts and green centre to the flower. A shorter variety worthy of a space in the garden.

A. 'Madeleine', A. 'Lars' and A. 'Bloody Mary' are other culivars worth considering for your garden.

Astrantia 'Roma'

We have several varieties available from the nursery including A. 'Claret', A. major, A. 'Roma', A. 'Sunningdale Variegated' and A. 'Atomic Sunburst'. I will be adding more to our stock list as time goes on.

Astrantia 'Buckland' coming into flower with it's green tinged petals

Astrantia maxima with larger flatter flowers

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