Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Flora, Fauna and Felco's

My opening lines always seem to be about the weather, I think that's a gardener thing! In fairness that rain over the past day or so has really freshened things up and given the plants a much needed soak. It's also made the weeds grow, us gardeners are never happy. 

There's a new crop of piglets in the field behind the nursery,
as long as they stay on their side of the fence, we'll be friends

This week's main task is to weed the stock beds and pot up as many of the pots of cuttings from the tunnel and finish tidying the stock beds and move the rest of the plants out the wee tunnel and plant up the last of the herb garden and all the other jobs that need done and and and ..........

The stream planting is really coming together this year,
the Persicaria bistorta 'Superba' is bulking out nicely, unsurprisingly

In between everything else I've been doing wee jobs just to keep the place looking top notch. It's easy to get caught up in every new project, garden or border but it's important to keep everything done before looking good too. The bridge has had a clean, the mini hurdles at the entrance have been tied together and I've replaced the bright orange unsightly cones in front of the scented garden path with a temporary cane fence.

The gunnera I planted in the stream is flowering this year

Another of my favourite plants, Astilboides tabularis.
These leaves will be bigger than a dinner plate
once they've finished unfurling

I treated my secateurs to a new blade, it's been a while! This old friend has been at my side for the past 30 years! Can you believe that?!? I can't, I still think I'm the 18 year old that got them for my 18th birthday. It just goes to prove that if you invest money in good tools they last a life time. Now how long do you think it will take for me to cut the top off my finger with that shiny shiny sharp blade?




I tried very hard, I really did to get more of the grasses stock beds tidied but we were busy with customers (which is fab) so I only got a wee bit done, still some is better than none and the plus (apart form all the lovely customers) was I got some of the potting back log and cuttings done as I like to be at the potting area when customers are around in case they need help.

Saturday was a very wet day so I spent a good bit of it in the tunnel weeding and potting and loading up the barrow with plants to come back to the sales area and stock beds. I'm very nearly caught up in there, yeh! Just a few more things to pot and that's it until the next batch of seedlings area ready. The rest of the day was spent potting in the potting area and putting plants out in sales area.

Dianthus monspessulanus 

Dianthus monspessulanus is now available, the scent on this one is amazing. When I open the tunnel door in the morning the scent hits me, small flowers, big scent and with it's fringed petals well worth a spot next to a path or in a pot on the patio.

Putting up supports for the sweet peas

Another job finished

Today I finally got the sweet peas planted. I've recycled some boxed David built, lining them with black plastic and sitting them behind the wee seating area in the scented garden. They will form a back drop and screen for the seats and surround us with a lovely sweet pea scent. Using canes for support I've planted 6 varieties: 'Gwendoline', 'Nimbus', 'Royal Wedding', 'Old Times', 'Charlies Angels' and 'Wiltshire Ripple'. It's another wee area of the garden that customers can take the idea and easily do at home for little cost. 

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum'

Geranium x monacense 'Claudine Dupont'

Pulsatilla seed head

I found where Mrs Blackbird has her nest this year, fortunately more out of the way and less inconvenient than last year. There are 3 babies in the nest this year. An unexpected rainy morning meant I got all the plants piled up in the potting area sorted out. They've either been potted, propagated, planted or put out in sales. For the first time in a long time there are no plants waiting in there to be dealt with and an empty bench, yeh! Once the rains stopped at lunch time I at last got back to the grasses area and made big progress over the afternoon in between helping all the customers. I really want to get this area finished as soon as possible. :)

And of course it's Chelsea week, I've set all the programmes to record so I can catch up at my leisure (when I'm lying exhausted on the sofa in the evenings lol). It's always interesting to see what's new in both design and plants.

Gorgeous Acers in Branklyn Gardens

On Tuesday we headed north to Perth to visit Scone Palace and Branklyn Gardens. You can read about those visits in the next blog.

Have a great week, another wee heat wave is forecast!

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

May Madness in the gardens

The great weather continues, so much sun and blue sky for two weeks now, very unusual for here. It has meant we've got a lot done outside but the poor plants really need some proper rain and here I am in typical gardener weather speak again.

Oxalis ennyphyllum Dark Eye
Fern unfurling


So what's the plan for this week? More of the same really.

~ keep watering
~ finish tidying the stock beds
~ keep on top of the potting
~ to keep moving plants out of the tunnel to the stock beds or sales area.
~ to pot up seedlings in the tunnel that are ready to move on from plugs to pots.
~ to empty David's workshop tunnel of plants that were in there for winter.
~ to plant up more of the new herb garden.

Did I finish anything from last weeks list? Yes! I finished tidying the tree and shrub stock beds including potting the ones that needed potting up. I also finished potting and propagating the herbs in the tunnel, so we have plenty stock for the summer. I've started the grasses stock beds at last, though there's a lot of potting needing done there too. The borders are all weeded and I've moved some plants out the workshop tunnel, it's all progress, even if small steps in the right direction.

What do you mean this seat's
not for me
Nice to put the old feet up and
enjoy the sun at home after dinner

Spring is not just about the plants, it's about the beasties too, especially here in the nursery and on the farm. Two days in a row I've seen a stoat in the nursery. These wee creatures are sleek with their distinctive black tipped tail, they win points with this gardener because they keep on top of the rabbit and vole population. Today when I was working in grasses it ran right by me! We have at least three bird nests active in the nursery, that we know of, wren, blue tits and the swallows. There are two lots of new piglets in the field behind the nursery and calves on the farm too. 

Our nursery stoat, can you spot it?

Another couple of recipes from my ottolenghi books,
feta and pomegranate salad and Poppy seed and
cucumber salad with roasted tomato focaccia

The herb garden in the sun

Wee shop expansion

After a very busy Saturday in the nursery David and I headed to Langholm in the borders where David was doing a bat walk and talk. After a poor take away for tea we met every one in the church where David did his talk which was well attended. After David took the group along the river path where the group were lucky to see three species of bat. A late night as it's an hour and half drive home, but good to go somewhere different.

On Sunday I took a break from all the nursery work to finally get the checkerboard in the new herb garden planted up. David finished laying the slabs last weekend so they had a week to set before I was let loose about them with a fork! Over the afternoon, in between helping customer I got all 18 spaces planted up with low growing herbs which will give a pleasant scent when walked over.

Planting the herbs, adding in some organic matter to the clay soil

Progress! Determined to get it finished before the end of the day

Finished! So pleased with the end result

The rarely photographed Quirky bird at work, not that I don't work as you'll know
 if you've visit the nursery

Monday, and rain at last! it rained heavily most of Sunday night and most of Monday and it was good ground and pot soaking rain. No running around connecting up sprinklers today for a change and no outdoor work. It did mean i got the piles of potting that had accumulated in the potting area worked through, potted and put away and then some more besides. Lots of plant from the two tunnels put out side or potted and cuttings taken too. Whew! No matter the weather it's always a busy day, but I love it.

Sweet tea brined fried chicken, corn bread
and broccoli salad from the Outlander
cookbook for dinner tonight

Tuesday and a day off at last, though I love this crazy mad time of year, it is good for me to stop for 2 seconds! After a long lie and dropping Daniel off at school for his last exam we headed to the Bathgate Hills and Cairnpapple. Having lived in the area for a good part of my life, I've never visited this neolithic burial and ceremonial site before. A short walk up from the lay-by takes you up some steps and across the field to the enclosure that contains the ancient site. Unfortunately we couldn't get entry to the tombs as they are only open Friday to Monday. We did enjoy our walk around the site and up onto the mound over the tombs. There were great views in all directions, from Binny Crag to the Bass Rock and Berwick Law in the East, to the Pentlands round westwards to Glasgow and then round to the Ochil Hills, Cockle Roy hill and the Forth Bridges.


Cairnpapple’s henge dates from about 3800 BC. Centuries later the landscape was chosen for a number of Bronze Age burials. Much later still, it was used for early Christian graves. In the 19th century the site was completely concealed by trees, then in 1947–1948 excavations by Stuart Piggott found a series of ritual monuments from successive prehistoric periods. You can read more about the history of Cainpapple here .

Walking up to Cairnpapple

The burial mound at Cairnpapple

Looking East

The Forth Bridges

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A visit to Craigmillar Castle

We seem to be developing a theme this year with our days off, castles mainly but lots of places run by Historic Scotland. A couple of weeks ago we headed to Craigmillar Castle on the south side of Edinburgh which is about 45 minutes from the house, so an easy day out. The weather was good, dry with a cool wind and my leg seemed to be on the mend so walking around was much easier. Again as with all the HS properties we've visited lately Bracken was allowed in too. 

Craigmillar Castle

Inhabitants of the castle

Although ruined there are plenty nooks and crannies, rooms, stairways and battlements to explore. Heavily adapted and changed over the centuries the castle is a warren of passageways, stairways and cellars. Building began in the late 14th century by the Preston family and when it was sold to Sir John Gilmour in the 1600's it was further altered. The Gilmores left the castle in the 1800's and the castle fell into ruin.

A view of the courtyard and yew trees

Window detail

Famously Mary Queen of Scots used the castle to recover from illness after the birth of her son. Before she left on 7 December 1566, a pact known as the "Craigmillar Bond" was made, with or without her knowledge, to dispose of her husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Ironically she was eventually to be a prisoner there.

The great hall

More window details

Climbing up one of the main staircases we eventually emerged out onto the roof and battlements. From here we got great views in all directions. In the East we could see out to see beyond the Bass Rock and Berwick Law moving south to the Lammermuirs past Midlothian to the Pentland hills and further west to Balerno then over to the city with Edinburgh Castle perched on it's rock and then round to Arthur's Seat clothed in golden gorse. 

Arthurs Seat

David and Bracken, Craigmillar Castle

Looking along the roof walkway


Edinburgh Castle and Salisbury Crags

Roof with a view

Inchcolm Island

Looking down from the tower

One of the things I really liked about the castle was walking through the main gateway into the court yard which is dominated by two huge yew trees framing the doorway. 

Looking back at the doorway with the yew trees

Yew trees at Craigmillar Castle

There was plenty more plant interest around the castle from ferns in the stonework to soaring trees in the park land and herbs gone native along the base of the battlements. There was an impressive amount of Smyrium (Alexanders). At first glance and from a distance it looked like Lovage but when we got down to that part of the grounds the leaves were too rounded, the plants too short and of course flowering too early. After a hunt through my wild flower books and comparing my photos to some online we can now reveal Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum). It certainly is growing in abundance and enjoys it's situation under the castle ramparts on a south west facing bank under trees. Introduced by the Romans to this country, almost all the springtime plant would have been used, roots, stems, leaves and flower buds. Alexanders were cultivated in the medieval period in monastic gardens which explains why they are often found in and around old and religious buildings. The flowering season is between April and June when you will see the clusters of yellow umbel flowers. I have planted Alexanders in the new herb garden this year, the juvenile leaves are quite different, that's why I didn't recognise it. I'm looking forward to seeing it do this in years to come and plants will be available once I have seed.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

Maidenhair Fern growing in the castle walls

We finished off our visit by walking in the parkland around the castle where you can see the "P" shaped fish pond below the castle. Now empty it still retains it's shape, would be great to see it re-instated.

Have you visited any castles recently, which was your favourite?

The Impressive approach to the castle

The castle from the old fish pond

Tantallon Castle

Blackness Castle

Dryburgh Abbey

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