Saturday, 28 October 2017

A circular walk from East Linton

Sometimes you come across a walk somewhere you know really well and have travelled through by car all your life. But by getting out the car and walking, it gives you a whole different perspective. This was the case when David, Bracken and I headed to East Linton one sunny day to do a circular walk from the village to Hailes Castle and back along the river. With family living in Dunbar when I was a child, we regularly travelled there by train and lately by car, along the A1 and past the village, over the river and on Eastwards. 

The fertile lands of East Lothian are well known for their vegetable growing
The fertile lands of East Lothian are well known for their vegetable growing

Parking on the main road just beyond the road to Preston Mill we headed up the wee lane called Langside. At the end of the lane it opens up onto a playing field where we took the path along the right boundary and under the railway. Once on the other side of the railway we turned off the paved path and up the grass path on the field boundary. The gentle climb takes you over a style in a wall and through a gate, past a huge field of cabbage and eventually to the top of the hill where there are wonderful views to north and East. Berwick Law, the Bass Rock, Trapain Law and the Parish church in Dunbar were all easily picked out. 


Berwick Law
Berwick Law

Looking back to East Linton and Dunbar beyond
Looking back to East Linton and Dunbar beyond

Traprain Law
Traprain Law

Now we walked along the pavement along side the original A1 to the top of the hill and the parking area. There were good views of Traprain Law and Hailes Castle from the car park but we were glad when we turned off the road and away from the noisy traffic. Taking the road off to the right we followed it down and under both the old and new A1 towards Overhailes Farm. Once at the farm we followed the wide track past the buildings and cottages and down hill towards the river.

Traprain Law and Hailes Castle
Traprain Law and Hailes Castle

Once at the river it is easy to follow the sign for East Linton and away from the traffic, this was a lovely part of the walk with just birds and plants for company. Don't cross the bridge but pass around it and follow the path past a cottage and on into the trees.

You could take a small detour and explore Hailes Castle before returning to the walk
You could take a small detour and explore Hailes Castle before returning to the walk

Bracken exploring along the river path
Bracken exploring along the river path

Bracken exploring along the river path
There was also plenty Himalayan Balsam

Dappled shade under the trees
Dappled shade under the trees

We saw plenty swans and ducks on the river
We saw plenty swans and ducks on the river

Walking towards the bridge
Walking towards the bridge

Bracken enjoying his walk
Bracken enjoying his walk

Eventually the woodland fell away and the landscape opened up as we walked under the bridge carrying the new road. Once we walked under the next bridge the path goes through the edge of a garden and then we turned left up the lane and onto the main road. From here we crossed over and walked through the main square of the village and back to the car. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Smeaton Nursery afterwards. The walk is about 4 miles long and not too strenuous. 


If you are looking for more to do in the area you can read my blogs here:


A walk up Traprain Law






~ If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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                                                         Quercus Garden Plants





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


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All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden, thank you


Friday, 27 October 2017

My Top Tips for Preparing the Garden for Winter


With the first frost of autumn this morning I thought this would be an appropriate blog for this week. Fortunately I've been well organised this year and all the winter preparation is done both at home and at the nursery. This is especially important as it all needs to be done before we go away on holiday.

Plastic toggles to attach the bubble  wrap to the greenhouse
Plastic toggles to attach the bubble
 wrap to the greenhouse

~ Clean out the greenhouse
For me this means tidying and cutting back any plants already in the greenhouse, dead heading and removing any dead leaves. Once this is done I sweep up as I'm moving the plants about, brush down the benches and shelves as I move plants and finally everything gets a good water. 

~ Putting up the bubble wrap on the greenhouses
This gives an extra layer of insulation for when it gets really cold. Although expensive to buy initially, its worth the investment. I bought bubble wrap for both greenhouses 20 years ago when I first got them, and I am still using the same bubble wrap.  Now that is money well used and it has plenty life left in it yet. Every spring once it gets taken down, its gets folded into sacks and stored in the potting shed. Toasty warm plants. The two greenhouses are once again stuffed full of plants for winter. The heater has been switched on as the temperature is to fall significantly over the next few nights.



The wee greenhouse tidied and  ready for wrapping
The wee greenhouse tidied and
ready for wrapping



Sorting out the big bags of bubble wrap
Sorting out the big bags of bubble wrap

greenhouse Wrapped and ready for the  border line plants
Wrapped and ready for the
border line plants

The wee greenhouse is filling up
The wee greenhouse is filling up and still more plants to go in!

~ Check the heater works before it is needed
It's easy to forget about the heating system until it really turns cold and frosty and by then the damage to plants can be done, I know I've done it myself! If you use gas, make sure your cylinders are full and what ever source of power you use, turn the heater on and make sure it works. Then you know you just have to nip out and switch it on if the nights turn cold. The wee greenhouse doesn't get heated and is used to store plants that don't necessarily need heat over winter but more protection from cold and wet. In the big greenhouse I use an electric heater and all the tender plants and those that need a bit of warmth over winter go in there. My succulent, cacti and Pelargonium collections along with all sorts of other tender plants I've collected over the year are kept cosy over winter. I tend to keep the greenhouse just frost free as that's all these plants really need.

The big greenhouse, wrapped and filling up
The big greenhouse, wrapped and filling up

Bracken keeping an eye on proceedings
Bracken keeping an eye on proceedings

~ Move any tender plants into the greenhouse
Now the greenhouses are ready it makes it easier to move all the pots in from the patio and around the garden. Before I move them into the greenhouse they get a good tidy, dead headed and cut back if required. They then go into which ever greenhouse suits their winter needs, hot or cold. Fortunately there are enough hardy plants in pots on the patio that it doesn't look to bare through winter.

The trolley is for the big pots Bracken not you!
The trolley is for the big pots Bracken not you!

~ Lifting tender plants in borders
Sometimes I plant out Pelargoniums, Dahlias, Salvias in the borders to fill in spaces and add extra interest through the year. In a mild winter up here these plants may make it through (just) but it's better to lift and pot them and encourage new growth and be able to use them again next year. 


In the nursery winter preparation is slightly different. Plants that might be vulnerable to cold and wet (especially as we are at 850 feet above sea level) are put into either the big tunnel or the workshop tunnel (I get half of this in winter for plants, though inevitable I stray into David's workshop half, ooops). Because the plants are in pots this makes them more open to frost damage, so better safe than sorry for some of them. When planted because their roots are in the ground and surrounded by soil they are not at risk of damage.

The Gunnera
The Gunnera by the stream gets it's leaves cut off and
they are used to make a protective tent over the crown of the plant

We put away all the demonstration planters and pots that need winter protection and the seats, ornaments and benches that benefit from being undercover. This helps prolong their life and slows down damage from the wet conditions we inevitability get here in Scotland. Some of the more tender plants in the tunnel get a couple of layers of fleece over them to keep the worst of the frost off them.

mountain climbing quirky bird
Climb every mountain!

As for the Quirky Bird gardener in winter, she is either wrapped around the office heater doing paper work, stock takes, updating the website and catalogue or having extra days off, Yay! An opertunity to Rona stuff, relax, plan for next year and hopefully a hill walk or two.


Previous winter preparation blogs Wrapping up the garden for Winter


Hopefully where ever you are the frost is still a long way off. Keep warm!




~ 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
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants





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


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, thank you

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Autumn, Time to Slow down, Time to Reflect

Here we are at the end of October already and the end of our open season here in the nursery and gardens. We will be open by appointment only from 30th October until Saturday 3rd March 2018. If you wish to purchase plants or to ask advice please email rona@quercusgardenplants.co.uk and we can arrange to be open. This will allow David and I to have a well earned break after a very busy and successful season here at Quercus. We'd like to thank all our customers and visitors to the nursery for helping make it a great year, for your custom, great reviews and positive feedback, it's very much appreciated. We have lots of exciting plans for the nursery and gardens in 2018 and hope to see you back to enjoy the next part of the garden development and all the new plants we will have for sale.

Hellebore flowering in autumn in the nursery gardens
A Hellebore in the nursery gardens flowering amongst the autumn leaves,
it's certainly been a warm October

I haven't really been blogging consistently for a while, I've got lots of ideas and things to chat about but not much blogging mojo. We've been busy in the nursery wrapping up for winter and closing up and personally our heads and hearts are full of heart ache as my sister's health declines. Cancer for me is difficult to talk about without feeling angry and wanting to swear a lot. It took my Dad ages 62, a man in his prime and with so much to give life and his family and now it is taking my sister aged 45. With weeks left she is truly inspiring in her attitude and strength and I am so proud to have her as my sister. She has been making the most of time with her devoted husband and three children, making memories they will treasure for ever. More than ever I am so pleased she managed to make it to our wedding in August for a couple of hours. We've also been down to visit her in Birmingham where she lives in the past week, spending precious time together.



While we were visiting my sister managed out for a couple of hours and we went out to a local plant centre called Akamba which specialises in African plants. The cafe is like sitting inside a hut on the African plains with Ladysmith Black Mambazo playing in the background, outside under the palm trees are all sizes of animals built from metal. It's quite a place. We enjoyed coffee and cake, reminiscing and had a few laughs and tears too. Leaving to come home was painful.

Gibbs of Galston reclamation yard
A visit to a reclamation yard in Ayrshire

It was a busy week, we were down in Birmingham Wednesday Thursday and on the Monday and Tuesday we were also out and about. We went to visit eldest son and take him and youngest out for dinner. On the way we went to Gibbs of Galston, a reclamation yard and animal food supplier. There were lots of great items in the yard and very tempting to spend money for things for the nursery, but in the end we came away with a bag of bones for Bracken!

Gibbs of Galston reclamation yard
Great Victorian rope edging, I'd love these

Faces only a mother could love
Faces only a mother could love, serves me right for asking them to smile!

On Tuesday we took my youngest and Davids son down to Hadrians Wall. They've both developed an interest in history and especially roman history, which delights David and I as we both love history. We drove down on the tail of storm Ophelia and fortunately the weather improved as the day went on. We visited Vindolanda and Housesteads and had a short walk along the wall, this gave the boys a real feel for Roman Britain. I am going to write a separate blog about our trip back to Roman Britain shortly. 

The temple at Vindolanda
The temple at Vindolanda

Back at the nursery the gardens still have a lot of colour so if you feel your garden is lacking in colour into autumn and winter, now is a good time to come and see what is flowering here in the nursery gardens and purchase those plants for your own garden. Persiacaria are still going strong along with tall Asters and the Aster-like Boltonia. In the herb garden we're still picking nasturtium and Calendula flowers for use in the Whitmuir kitchen, though the sunflowers have toppled in the latest storm. This time o fyear is when grasses come into their own, With the golden stems of towering Molinias glowing in the Autumn sun, fluffy Miscanthus flowers work well with the pinks and purples of Asters and the glorious silver plumes of Cortaderia add height and interest right through winter.

Persicaria and Cortaderia in the  nursery gardens
Persicaria and Cortaderia in the
nursery gardens

We've had all sorts of weather recently, warm short sleeved days, very windy and wet days, over cast and dramatic cloud and sundays and the odd rainbow thrown in for good measure. It's no wonder some plants are confused and having a second flush of flowers.

Sun on the trees and dark clouds around the nursery
Sun on the trees and dark clouds around the nursery

Rainbow over the nursery
Rainbow over the nursery, I sent David and Bracken to find the gold, but Bracken was only interested in finding bones

I've been getting the nursery prepared for winter, putting away any plants that require protection over winter into the tunnels, putting away the seats and ornaments to prolong their life and protect them from the worst of the winter weather. I've potted up the last of the propagation and finished off lots of other tasks. Whilst I've been doing this David has been working hard on our new boundary fence. This has been a job we've talked about doing since we first bought the nursery and finally it's done. It didn't even take David as long as he thought is would and it looks fab. There are several reasons for putting up the fence, mainly to keep the farms Houdini sheep and pigs out and the new rabbit problem. We haven't had rabbits before now and this year they have eaten so many plants in the stock beds and garden so David has added in rabbit netting along the bottom of the fence. We also want to define our boundary and space with in the farm and mark ourselves out as a different area and business, the fence will help do this. We get a lot of people wandering through looking for a way to the farm walks so the fence (and new signage we have planned) will help guide them to where they want to go and also hopefully keep the unaccompanied children out that run up from the cafe and all over the gardens and nursery. Time will tell. 

You can read my rabbit blog here Run Rabbit Run Rabbit

new nursery fence
The fence along the top terrace

new nursery fence
Nearly there

new nursery fence
The last bit, should be finished by this weekend, yeh!

Over the past two weeks I also got a new border dug over and planted. This has also been on the cards for a while, I even had all the plants ready for ages. Having de-turfed the area its had a good dig over, with as much weed removed as possible. This is very clay soil, but I will add in our home made compost in spring which will help. This border will have all year interest with shrubs (Prunus and shrub roses), perennials (Hemerocallis, Persicaria, Sedum and Aconitum), Tulips and annuals. I'll put a planting list on the website page soon. You can see planting lists so far here Nursery Border Planting Lists

The new border at the end of the stock beds
The new border at the end of the stock beds

Sweet Rocket
Still flowering - Sweet Rocket


Sweet rocket or Hesperis matronalis has beautifully perfumed flowers in whites or shades of purple. I always think this plant is one of the traditional 'Cottage Garden' plants and well worth growing. Mixed with other summer blooms in a vase and it will scent an entire room. Although a perennial, it is best grown as a biennial when it will remain in flower from June to September. I use it to fill in spaces in the border until shrubs and perennial have matured and filled their spaces.

Bulb planting season!
Bulb planting season!

On Monday this week I went into the nursery to plant 50kg or Daffodils and 2000 crocus up both sides of the drive at Whitmuir. This will hopefully make a lovely display in Spring to welcome visitors into the farm and businesses there. Thankfully I had Val and Dee to help for a cople of hours each. Four hours later it was done. We still have lots of bulbs for sale in the nursery, so get your bulbs now and get planting this autumn for next spring.

Sometimes we choose cheeses  by their names!
Sometimes we choose cheeses
 by their names!

It's also porridge time of year
It's also porridge time of year

On Tuesday we didn't have a day out, but a long lie, then we went to Lanark to do some errands and had lunch at Hickety Pickety which we've been planning to go to for ages. We had a lovely lunch, the food was great and good service too. Home to get the last of the big pots into the greenhouses for winter and a few other garden chores done before some coffee and cake baking.

Bracken's idea of helping on the garden!
Bracken keeping warm in the greenhouse

Bracken's idea of helping on the garden!
Bracken's idea of helping on the garden!

Bracken is ready for halloween
Bracken is ready for halloween




I hope you are having a good week and enjoying autumn. See you soon.



~ 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
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants





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


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, thank you

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 
                                                      The quirky Bird Gardener 

~ If you to see whats new and looking good at the nursery like our Facebook page
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants





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


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, thank you