Sunday, 26 February 2017

Dryburgh Abbey Snowdrops

Hi, how are you? Have you enjoyed a snowdrop visit yet this year? We always try to go somewhere different every year, so far we've been to Kailzie, Dawyck, Hailes Castle and Howick Hall. While I was researching somewhere different to go and see snowdrops this year, Dryburgh Abbey popped up. We were last down in this area a year ago when we walked up to Scott's view and along the River Tweed but by the time we got back to the car parked at the abbey it was closed, so missed out on visiting it then.  It takes about an hour to drive there from home along the tweed valley through Peebles, Innerleithen and on through Galashields and .Melrose which alone is a lovely drive. 

Dryburgh Abbey through the trees

The Abbey is run by historic Scotland (now known as Historic Environment Scotland) and you can get visit details here. There is an entry fee if you aren't members, but the best thing was dogs on leads are allowed in so Bracken got to come too. We were very lucky to get good weather with blue skies and sun, making it feel much warmer.

Looking through one of the many arched doorways of the Abbey

We followed the trail of snowdrops which are mainly concentrated in the grassy area and a deep ditch running from the abbey towards the River Tweed. Mixed in with them are many many winter aconites adding a bright splash of yellow amongst the white of the snowdrops. As you can see in the photographs it makes quite a sight.

A river of snowdrops and winter aconites

Double snowdrops in the grass, Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

I haven't seen so many winter aconites in quite a while, they really are something

The River Tweed, running past the Abbey

A carpet of colour

Galanthus nivalis growing along the walls

The abbey ruins

The abbey was founded in 1150 by cannons and an abbot from Alnwick Abbey, it was burned by English troops in 1322 and subsequently restored, only to be burned again by Richard II in 1385. The abbey flourished in the 15th century and was finally destroyed in 1544 when it was given to the Earl of Mar by King James VI. In 1786 the 12th Earl of Buchan bought the land. You can read more here.

Winter Aconites a plenty

Some parts of the abbey ruins were enhanced and "restored" by the Earl of Buchan in the 1700's, in fact if it wasn't for him there might be nothing left for us to visit. He also created park land around the ruins and planted trees. Many of which now make excellent specimens, particularly the Cedars. You can climb up a tiny tower in the ruin which gives you a fine view over the abbey and you feel you are amongst the branches of the cedars.

One of the fine cedars in the grounds

View from the tower

The chapter house, where you can still see remnants of the painted walls

Another archway

Himself, the doglet and me

Sir Walter Scott and Earl Haig are both buried in the abbey

The abbey and parkland beyond in black and white

Where forward thinking and planning gives future generations trees

A bull finch in the abbey grounds

A Soaring roof above Sir Walter Scott's grave

We spent ages exploring the ruins, climbing up to the second floor where the dormitories would be and up a tiny spiral staircase to look out over the ruins. It was well worth a visit, with or without snowdrops. You can always add on a walk along the River Tweed to the suspension bridge and temple of the tree graces. You can read about our walk along the Tweed a year ago here.

Lunch, cake and coffee

We visited the Main Street Trading Company again for lunch where the food was excellent and we browsed the book shop, deli and homeware store. Definatly pop in here if you are passing St Boswells. We followed the sunset back home along the Tweed Valley back through Peebles.

Sunset over Peebles

Previous blogs on snowdrop visits

Where's your favourite snow drop place to visit? Why not share it in the comments below.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Book Review ~ Planting Design by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

A new book for the collection

This was one of many books on my book list and appeared under the Christmas tree for me last Christmas. I wanted to add this book to my collection of Piet Oudolf books. I really like his design ideas and use of plants and have used some of the ideas in previous gardens. The other books have been lovely to browse through, full of delightful planting combinations which are easy to re-create in your own garden and the narrative has flowed easily taking you through the background of the design and which plants to use and why. The photos alone are lovely and I hoped this book would be similar.

Piet Oudolf has developed his prairie style planting over several decades, incorporating grasses and perennials together to provide long periods of interest in the garden. Originally from Holland he has worked extensively world wide creating beautiful "landscapes" of colour and movement in private gardens and city green areas.

Noel Kingsbury is a British landscape designer and garden writer and is best known for his naturalistic approach to planting and for incorporating it into landscape design.

Written together by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury the book seeks to cover "the general principals behind creating successful and beautiful plant combinations in both time and space". It is aimed at the home gardener and professional landscaper designers but in my opinion I'm not sure it would appeal to most gardeners. As a professional I found the text very dry and to be honest it was like wading through treacle. Piet Oudolf''s passion for plants and his style of planting usually shine through in his books but not on this occasion; it came over more as someone writting a thesis. Usually the books are peppered with useful planting lists linked to photos, but there is very little of this in this book.

The book fits in the Landscape / garden design genre and for someone studying the subject academically this would certainly be a good book to have as it is certainly written more formally than for some one with a passing interest to easily dip in and out of.

I have waded through it, enjoying the thick paper it is printed on, making it feel like a good quality book and the photos which display Piet Oudolf's work to it's best.

To be honest there wasn't an awful lot I liked about the book, apart from the photographs and it's addition to my collection.

In hindsight I wish I had been able to look at this book before putting it on my list, I probably wouldn't have bought it or had it given as a gift. But it does add to my collection!

Just a few Oudolf books!

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!

Planting Design - Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. Timber Press, 15 Nov 2005
ISBN -13 978-0-88192-740-5

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Monday, 13 February 2017

In a Vase on a Monday - Shots of Snowdrops

We are now well into Snowdrop season with plenty wintry weather to match. Sometimes the flowers are completely disguised by a layer of snow. Small and perfectly formed the flowers fit into a shot glass or two or three. Interestingly so far only the common snowdrop is in flower, all my other cultivars are being very shy. I shall have to go and have a poke about and see if they are still there.

Galanthus nivalis, a spotted Hellebore and some evergreen ferns

Snowdrops in a drawer of course, what else would you do with them

One of my specially selected spotted Hellebores, floating 

My Hellebores are still in the huff with me after I lifted some of the clumps when we moved house nearly three years ago. They do have a reputation for this and I will just have to be patient until they start flowering as prolifically as they used to do.

Evergreen ferns

Desperate for some green I went looking for some of my evergreen ferns. Though battered by weather over the winter there were still plenty usable fronds for this wee vase. In the glass are Asplenium scolopendrum 'Angustatum', Polypodium x mantoniae 'Bifidograndiceps', Polystichium setiferum 'Plumosomultilobum grp and Polystichium setiferum.

The whole ensamble brightened up a shelf for a few days

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a vase on a Monday. You can visit here blog for more inspiration and vases.

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Quirky Bird's Top 100 plants

Everyone has favourite plants so I set myself the task of listing my top 50 plants and ended up with a top 100! So here they are, plants I would always have in my garden, from trees and shrubs right down to bulbs. I could add more but for the reader it might become sleep fodder. Some in the list are an entire genus because I couldn't pick just one species or variety, some are that one special that I must have. Most of them you will notice are also tough, good doers and often have more than one feature that will increase interest in the garden. I have grown all of them successfully in my exposed Scottish gardens. In winter the Eucomis and Pelargoniums always go in the heated greenhouse and the auricula Primulas into the cold greenhouse but everything else is year round tough, colourful and well worth trying in your own garden.

Trees, shrubs and conifers
Betula - Amelanchier lamarkii - Blueberries
Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'  - Euonymus alatus 'Compactus' - Ilex 'Blue Princcess'
Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea' - Abies koreana - Corylus maxima 'Purpurea'

Trees, shrubs and conifers
Cercidiphylum - Viburnum bodnatense 'Dawn'
Parottia persica - Liquidamber styracifolia

Abies koreana                                                                    Amelanchier lamarkii
Betula                                                                                Blueberries
Cercidiphylum                                                                   Corylus maxima 'Purpurea'
Euonymus alatus 'Compactus'                                           Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea'
Hebe buchananii 'Minor'                                                   Ilex x meserveae 'Blue Princcess'
Liquidamber styracifolia                                                   Nothofagus antartica
Parottia persica                                                                  Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'                                     Sarcoccoca hookeriana var humilis
Viburnum bodnatense 'Dawn'

Muscari 'Dark Eyes' - Fritillaria meleagris - Narcissus 'Ice Follies'
Lilium 'Black beauty' - Allium sikkimense - Tulips
Eucomis bicolor - Snowdrops - Colchicum 'Waterlilly'

Allium sikkimense                                                                Colchicum 'Waterlilly'
Eucomis bicolor                                                                    Fritillaria meleagris
Lilium 'Black beauty'                                                            Muscari 'Dark Eyes'
Narcissus 'Ice Follies'                                                           Snowdrops

 Carex - Luzula nivea - Molinia
Melica nutans - Stipa gigantea - Miscanthus sinensis 'Cosmopolitan'

Carex                                                                                       Hakonechloa macra
Helictotrichon sempervirens                                                   Luzula nivea                                              
Melica nutans                                                                          Miscanthus sinensis 'Cosmopolitan'
Molinia                                                                                    Stipa gigantea

Veronica gentionoides - Chaerophyllum rosea - Digitalis purpurea 'Sutton's Apricot'
Acaena - Aquilegia 'William Guinness' - Lunaria redivia
Francoa sonchifolia - Cyclamen hederifolium - Euphorbia myrsinites

Acaena                                                                                    Actaea simplex 'Brunette'
Aquilegia 'William Guinness'                                                 Aruncus dioicus
Astrantia                                                                                 Bergenia 'Claire Maxine'
Brunnera macrophylla 'Langtrees'                                          Cardamine
Cephalaria gigantea                                                                Chaerophyllum rosea
Corydalis flexuosa 'China Blue'                                             Crepis incana
Cyclamen hederifolium                                                          Dalmera peltata
Daucus carota                                                                         Dianthus
Digitalis purpurea 'Sutton's Apricot'                                      Dipsacus fullonum
Echinacea                                                                               Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Globe'
Epimedium                                                                             Eryngium x zabelli 'Jos Eijking'
Erysimum 'Apricot Twist'                                                      Euphorbia myrsinites
Francoa sonchifolia                                                               Geranium phaeum 'Album'
Geum 'Pink Frills'                                                                  Hellebores                          

Papaver - Actaea simplex 'Brunette' - Dalmera peltata
Bergenia 'Claire Maxine' - Omphaloides cappadocica 'Cherry Ingram' - Dipsacus fullonum
Sanguinaria canadensis 'Plena' - Tiarella - Saxifrage ‘Spotted Dog’

Valeriana phu 'Aurea' - Sedum - Dianthus
Cardamine - Eryngium x zabelli 'Jos Eijking' - Thalictrum
Sanguisorbas - Pelergoniums - Epimedium 
Hosta 'praying Hands'                                                          Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver'
Leucanthemum vulgare                                                       Lunaria redivia
Monarda                                                                              Omphaloides cappadocica 'Cherry Ingram'
Ourisia alpine                                                                      Papaver
Pelergoniums                                                                      Primula auricula
Pulmonarias                                                                        Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy'
Sanguisorbas                                                                       Sanguinaria canadensis 'Plena'
Saxifrage ‘Spotted Dog’                                                     Sedum
Stachys lanata 'Silver Carpet'                                             Thalictrum 'Elin'
Tiarella                                                                                Trifolium 'Red Feathers'
Valeriana phu 'Aurea'                                                          Verbascum thapsus
Veronica gentionoides                                                        Veronicastrum

Ferns, Herbs, annuals and Climbers
Salvia officinalis 'Purpurescens' - Matteuccia struthiopteris - Clematis montana 'wilsonii'
Osmunda regalis - Nigella - Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata'
Primula auricula - Polypodium - Hedera hibernica 'Rona'

Clematis montana 'wilsonii'
Clematis viticella Purpurea Plena Elegans
Hedera hibernica 'Rona'

Dryopteris erythrosora
Gymnocarpium dryopteris
Matteuccia struthiopteris
Osmunda regalis

Melissa officinalis
Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata'
Origanum 'Country Cream'
Salvia officinalis 'Purpurescens'


Leucanthemum vulgare - Cephalaria gigantea - Aruncus dioicus
Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Globe' - Daucus carota - Monarda
Stachys lanata 'Silver Carpet' -   Hellebores - Pulmonarias 

Hopefully this list has given you some inspiration for your garden and some of your favourites are in this list too.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

A walk along the water of Leith

A couple of weeks ago we headed into Edinburgh on our day off to walk along part of the Water of Leith. This small river runs from the Pentland hills to the south of the city all the way to the Firth of Forth at Leith. I have walked and cycled other sections of the river in years past but never this part. One of the lovely things about the river is a lot of the time you feel that you are not in the city at all but in the country or walking through a picturesque village. 

The Weir just before Dean Village

We parked in the Gallery of modern art car park, which at £2 for a whole day is a bargain. From here it's a five minute walk down to the water of Leith at the bridge where Belford Road crosses the river. Although some of the paths further on are tarmac this section was quite muddy so it's well worth weather good walking footwear, the walk is also seven to nine miles if you do it as a round trip, so well worth being properly dressed. The river at this point is down in a secluded cutting with cliffs on the south side, topped by houses. A new walk way takes you out over the edge of the weir and round the corner to Dean Village. There are now plenty reports of otters and kingfishers making the river their home, which is encouraging.

Part of Dean Village 

This section is very picturesque with stunning old buildings tucked away off the main roads that you would never see unless you stepped out the car and on to the river path. From bright yellow rows of houses to very old Scottish buildings with their crow step gables, old stone plaques and cobbled alleys. Here we crossed a footbridge to the other side which allowed for great photo opportunities before walking up the cobbled path past the yellow houses and an amazing Garrya eliptica in full flower, look at those tassels!

Garrya eliptica looking fabulous in winter, easy to see it's in
 the city in it's own micro climate

Looking back over the roof tops

The path here climbs up between the buildings and if you look back you get a great view of the varied roofs and sky line, and blue sky if you are lucky. Walking between the buildings at the top of the cobbled path look out for the plaque set in the tall yellow building dating from the 17th century before crossing the road and heading down Miller Row. It's always interesting to learn of the history of where we walk, and although now a mainly residential area of the city this part of the Water of Leith supported many mills and industrial enterprises in it's time. There isn't much evidence left now apart from a hint in the Street names or parts of old buildings.

Narrow cobbled lanes

From small riverside paths squeezing between very old buildings the path now takes on some grandeur as we approach Edinburgh New Town. With wide walk ways, wrought iron fences surrounding town gardens, pavilions and statues, you can imagine the up and coming new town dwellers taking the air and parading their finery as they walk beneath the Dean bridge towards Stockbridge. Look out for St Bernards Well and the next bridge with it's steps and arches.

A touch of grandeur in the new town

Walking under Dean bridge

From here it's back onto the street until you get to Stockbridge, cross over and turn left and down the steps at the side of Pizza Express. On this stretch we saw a dipper and some ducks before briefly leaving the river path to walk along Arboretum Avenue. Edinburgh Botanic Gardens is just five minutes walk from here if you fancied a horticultural interlude. Unfortunately they don't allow dogs, so if you have your four legged friend with you as we did, this isn't an option. I would say from here on it is less pretty as the path leaves the New town and heads towards Leith and it's old industrial past.

Alder by the side of the river

Before leaving Stockbridge look to your right across the river and you will see rows of cottages. These are known as the colonies. There are eleven parallel streets built between 1861 and 1911 by the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company to provide low cost housing for the artisanclass. The streets are named after the companies founders, including writer Hugh Miller. These houses are now coveted for their location near the Botanic Gardens, Stockbridge and the city centre.

A goosander duck on the river

Crossing the river again the path goes between some buildings, graffitti and under a bridge before climbing up some steps to Brandon Terrace which takes you to the bridge at Cannonmills. Follow the signs for the Water of Leith walk along Warriston Road until the road crosses the river again, here we cross the road and take the riverside path through Warriston Park. The path meanders along the side of the river reminding us of the city's industrial past, with old railways now used as walk and cycleways, remains of old industrial buildings and weirs that would have driven mills and machinery.

Remains of the station at Newhaven road

Alongside Connaught Place the path leaves the river side and follows the old track bed of one of many railways that criss-crossed the city. Under the bridge that carries Newhaven Road you can see the platforms of one of the old stations. For a while we walked past factories and industry with the river on the other side of industial parks before we eventually meet up again where the river takes a right angle bend to the east. The paths are wide and open now as is the river, with only a short journey left before it empties into the sea at Leith docks. By now we were pretty hungry, but not easy to eat when you have the hound with you. By luck and clever advertising by a local cafe we found a dog friendly eatery just off the river path. Where else would you put a chalk board advertising you are dog friendly but at the side of the river walk. Aside from being dog friendly I'd thoroughly recommend Ostara Cafe on coburg Street. Their staff were very friendly and helpful, bringing Bracken a bowl of water which he promptly stood in and it was no bother for them to clear up after him. The food was excellent, locally sourced and very tasty and Bracken behaved himself. You can find the cafe here .

David had a falafel platter and I had french toast,
bacon and honey

From here it's a five minute walk to Leith Harbour. Now revamped with flats and eateries the area is a far cry from it's origins as a busy port bringing in goods from all over the world. Many of the old dock buildings have gone, replaced by modern flats, but every so often an old stone building remains, strangely out of place amongst it's towering modern neighbours.

The revamped dockside buildings in Leith

One of the old railway bridges in the docks

Modern railings around the trees

Old railway bridge

Railway lines and cobbles in the docks

A dazzle ship in the docks

Reaching the docks at Leith was the end of our riverside walk, you can take the option of a bus back to the new town and then back to where you started, but we opted to walk back through the town. My more recent predecessors came from Leith so I like to see how places I visited as a child have changed over the years. We walked back up Leith walk, past where my grandparents and great granny lived and past the church my parents were married in. At the top of the walk we headed west along Queen Street, back into the new town and its Georgian architecture. Along Albyn Place, St Colme Place, Queensferry Road and then turning left down Bells Brae just before Dean Bridge. From here we retraced our steps back through Dean village and back, eventually to the car.

Walking back through Dean village

In total this walk was nine miles, but you can do a part of it, all of it one way and get the bus back or mix and match. We really enjoyed seeing parts of the city from a different view point and a lovely lunch. 

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