Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tantallon Castle

A month ago we headed to East Lothian on a sunny but blustery day to visit Tantallon Castle. We seem to be doing  lot of Historic Scotland castles at the moment, but they are all places we've talked about visiting and Bracken can go too. It's a short walk on a grassy path from the visitor centre to the castle, walking below the grassy ramparts and then across a bridge under what was the main gate into the castle grounds. 

Bracken enjoying his visit to Tantallon Castle

What was once the entrance gateway to the castle grounds

Once across the expanse of grass and the wooden bridge we walked through the imposing entrance to the castle. Having been altered many times in it's past there is no longer a portcullis or draw bridge but if you look carefully you can see where they were. Walking through we came into the courtyard which gives amazing views out to the North sea. The castle and courtyard are unusual in that they are an L shape, with high cliffs and the sea to the east and south there is no need for a traditional four sided defensive castle.

Entrance with a view and a doglet

Like all these old castles there are dungeons to explore, vaulted cellars, once grand great halls, window seats where ladies would sit and sew and kitchens with bread ovens, huge fireplaces and sluices onto the rocks below. Narrow spiral staircases rise to lofty tower and battlements where soldiers once huddled against the bitter easterly winds blowing in from the sea. We love exploring them all although Bracken isn't keen on the stair and high up places. He thinks doglets should be warm and cosy in plush beds with a constant supply of treats!

The main castle building from the kitchens

Steep stairways

I last visited this castle a loooooooooooooong time ago as a child with my Uncle Andy and family when we were staying in Dunbar in the holidays. I think It might even have been pre- entrance hut and paying, but I don't remember much apart form walking across the large area of grass infront of the castle. I certainly don't remember the amazing views of the Bass Rock, so close you feel you could reach out and touch it. I have tried to resist putting tooo many photo of the Bass rock here, just one or two or a few of the best.

The Bass Rock, a regular sight through my life, with holidays and
trips to Dunbar and the east coast to visit family

We watched a snow shower come down the River and past the Bass Rock,
the changes in sky and colour of the water were dramatic

Bass Rock and Isle of May

The best views were to be had from the top of the battlements, it was very windy and we scuttled from one high piece of wall to the next, but it was worth it for the views out to see and inland towards Berwick Law. 

Views from the highest battlements

Looking south towards Dunbar

Look at that sky and water!
Once we had our fill of stairs, views and dungeons we headed across the green to the doocot. Standing in splendid isolation, it was open so we were able to go in and get a pigeons eye view of life at Tantallon. We timed it right reaching the building as a hail shower blew in.

The doocot with views to Berwick Law

The imposing front of the castle from the doocot

As we left a rainbow appeared

Wall flowers growing in the cliffs below the castle

So there it is, a wee tour of Tantallon Castle, hopefully you will be inspired to go and visit. Afterwards we went to North Berwick in search of a late lunch and coffee to warm us up. Unfortunately the rain and hail followed us and we didn't spend much time walking around the shops as we'd planned.

Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants

Our web site:

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

Garden Challenges - Deer

One of the most common garden and plant issues I find myself discussing with customers in the nursery is deer. Because of where we and a lot of our customers are in deer country; surrounded by hills, forestry and woodland Cute though they may be, they can cause destruction in a garden in a short time, typically to the plants that take the longest to grow, trees and shrubs. They commonly eat the bark all the way round the main trunk thus “ring-barking” them which will eventually kill the tree.

Deer are lovely to see but can be very 
destructive in the garden

As with any garden problem prevention is better than cure if possible. Some times it can be too costly or impractical to do this, so then we need to think of what plants we can put in the garden that deer 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 deer resistant plants. There have been many books and leaflets written about this subject which you can source in a good book shop or online.

In general deer tend not to eat plants that are thorny or poisonous or plants that taste bad. They are very agile animals and fences need to be at least 2m high. Fencing your garden with thorny plants can be a deterrent. Unfortunately, roses cannot be used as deer will eat them. Deer are also deterred by dogs, hanging up aluminium foil, mirrors and things that make a noise like wind chimes.

Surrounding borders and more vulnerable plants with strongly scented plants such as herbs can help as the smell will throw deer off investigating any further. Try the following herbs to deter deer, 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, Lavender, Sage, Anise, Dill, Horseradish, Lemon balm, Mint, Parsley Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme

Herbs have many uses including helping to deter deer

There are many plants that are deer 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.

Bamboo, Berberis (not purple leaved varieties), Buxus, Chaenomeles,
Buddleja davidii, Choisya ternata, Clematis, Cortaderia selloana,
Forsythia, Gaultheria shallon, Lonicera, Gooseberry, Hydrangea, Kerria japonica, Mahonia, Philadelphus, Potentilla fruticosa, Rhododendron (deciduous), Rosa rugosa, Ribes, Vinca , Viburnum (deciduous), Weigela    

Chaenomeles 'Crimson and Gold'

Perennials are equally vulnerable to deer but at least they have a better chance of recovery. Here are a selection suitable for our Scottish gardens.

Aquilegia, Delphinium, Digitalis ( Foxglove ), Echinops species ( Globe Thistle ), Euphorbia species ( Spurges ) Hellebores, Leucanthemum x superbum, Lupins, Monarda didyma ( Bergamot ), Narcissus ( Da­fodils ), Nepeta x faassenii ( Catmint )

Euphorbia and Aquilegia

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

- Pepper dust made from chilli or paprika can be sprinkled around the plants but be aware of damage to favourite plants and insects.

- A solution made from liquidised unsavoury things from the kitchen (rotten eggs, chilli, hot pepper sauce) and then sprayed onto targeted areas has been known to work. 

- Fencing should be as high as possible, usually 5 to 6 feet as deer can jump well. This can be expensive and so isn't a solution for everyone.

- Use spiral tree protectors which are perforated to allow the tree to breath or home made wire guards made with chicken wire.

- Deer scarers can be home made using tin cans, tinsel, tin foil, old CDs, coloured rags or feathers. Anything that makes a sudden movement, light or noise will scare the deer. You can also buy deer scarers made from bamboo as a water feature. The sudden noise of the bamboo tipping over should give the deer a fright and scare them off. 

- Don't tempt them with the plants they love which include Azalea, Clematis, Roses, Rowans, fruit trees, Holly, Spirea, Hydrangea and Cotoneaster.

Bamboo deer scarer (image from google)

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

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

Deer in the hills in Perthshire, while I was out on a hill walk

Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants

Our web site:

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

Monday, 10 April 2017

March in the Gardens

March, well it may be the beginning of spring, the plants begin to emerge from their winter sleep, the nights get longer, the weather hopefully improves, the lambs start appearing in the fields and the birds begin singing their wee hearts out but it's not my favourite month. I'd like it to be, I love seeing the leaves emerging spring flowers unfurling, I love the first tentative warmth of the sun and the skipping lambs and David and I got engaged in March. But my Dad died in March, so did my old dog Sam, it's mothers day, my mothers birthday and the anniversary of my first marriage which remind me of fraught family issues. But moving on, because we must in order to survive, achieve and create.

Frosty Tiarella grandiflora 'Rubra'

We've had all sorts of weather this March; frost, snow, brilliant sunshine and everything in between but in the main it's been dry so there's been lots of progress in the nursery. We re-opened the nursery at the beginning of March after our winter break and have been busy since which is great and lovely to welcome back previous customers and new ones too.

One of my own Hellebore seedlings

Ranunculus 'Brazen Hussy'

Bright Polyanthus for pots and containers

I've managed to do virtually nothing in the garden at home except for tidying some pots and top dress them and hopefully once the longer nights come in I'll get more done. In the nursery it's busy, busy, busy, it's  that manic time of year for gardeners.

We've made huge progress in the
new herb and scented gardens

The Quirky Bird Gardener planting in the herb garden

More herbs going into the herb garden

Elsewhere in the nursery I've started giving the stock beds their post winter tidy up and top dress. This involves lifting out  batch, sweeping and leaves and debris, weeding, cutting back the plants and topdressing them with fresh compost and feed. Rowed up and with new bed labels for this year, it's all looking very smart.

Starting to spring clean the stock beds

Cutting back, weeding and top dressing the plants,
ready for selling

we've really made progress in the
scented garden too
Digging over the border and
clearing where the path will be

Looking forward to seeing it finished

Meanwhile the herb garden beds are really filling up with plants

The hedge and catmint planted at
 the entrance to the scented garden

I grab an hour when I can to get seeds sown, with over 400 packets to sow it's a big task amongst everything else, but I do love doing propagation. It's nice to spend a quiet hour first thing in the morning in the poly tunnel getting organised before the chaos of the day begins. 

Trying to make room for seeds

It's in March colour in the garden really gets going with Hellebores, Crocus, Polyanthus and early daffodils. The bulbs that didn't sell as dry bulbs in autumn get potted up and sold in spring, so we've had lots of pots of colour for sale in the nursery. 

Crocus 'Romance' was a real show stopper

as were this lovely selection of Hellebores

Lots of colour in the nursery

Our old barrow loaded up with Polyanthus

Sowing beans, not magic one's though, just dwarf french

Despite the very windy wet weather or rather because of it, I got my potting area cleared of all the plants that have been patiently waiting to be potted or tidied to go into the sales area. I now gave a clear bench! Until the next time. I even got quite a few more packets seeds sown including these dwarf French beans. Love the colour of them.

Starting to plant up the scented garden

Potting up rooted pieces of Monrda

We've had a lot of this for March

David's plumber's nightmare is
switched on for the season

Sun and Daffodils

Valeriana phu 'Aurea'

I love blue skies and daffodils

We have a great expanding collection of
alpines, all propagated from
my collection at home

Sempervivium tectorium 'Rubin'

The mints all potted up for the herb garden

So as you can see March has been busy, busy busy and April is going to be just the same, hope you are all enjoying your own gardens and all the spring colour.

Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants

Our web site:

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