Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A snow Laden Week

This week has been all about snow. In the end we had 12 inches of snow, Daniel had two days off school and I managed to do an amazing amount of paperwork, planning, writing and prep for the coming year. I've ordered all th eseeds I need for this year, lots of exciting new introductions to the nursery plant list over the next two years hopefully, ordered items for the wee shop and planned more herbs to go in the herb garden. David and I managed to get over to the nursery to check everything and knock the snow off the tunnels a couple of times. We've got signs designed and off to the printer and lots more small signs written and printed off at home. It's also given me an opportunity to take some lovely photos of the snow and try out my new camera some more.

The front garden with an icing-like covering, half way through all the snow days
The front garden with an icing-like covering, half way through all the snow days

My favourite tree muse for photographs
My favourite tree muse for photographs

We ventured up the road towards the local village, it was hard going on the icy roads
We ventured up the road towards the local village, it was hard going on the icy roads

Poppy seed heads with snow hats
Poppy seed heads with snow hats

Although we haven't been able to get any work done at the nursery because of the snow, we've gone over every couple of days to check it all and knock the snow off the tunnels. Important to prolong the life of the tunnels,  stop the covers stretching or being ripped. It is frustrating as I was getting on really well the first week back.

Happy as pigs in snow at Whitmuir
Happy as pigs in snow at Whitmuir

Everything has ground to a halt
Everything has ground to a halt

Beautiful but inconvenient
Beautiful but inconvenient

Back home as well as doing nursery work at my desk I've been working through my book pile, sorry mountain, on my desk. At the beginning of December it was a teetering two feet high and dated back to books I got for christmas 2016! So I've made it my mission over winter to deal with them. They are mainly garden related and some have turned into book reviews on my blog and I am sure there will be more. Some are recipe books including two Ottolenghi books, one is now in use in the kitchen. So far there is only one I have given up on, which i dislike doing, so that's not bad.


Book Review - The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd

Gardening and history, two of my passions   in one book, perfect
Gardening and history, two of my passions
 in one book, perfect


Our chickens have finally worked out to what to do with their Christmas present
Our chickens have finally worked out to what to do with their Christmas present

Ottolenghi Surprise Tatin
Ottolenghi Surprise Tatin

Although the snow is inconvenient and at times dangerous, it is beautiful, it turns dull, dark and worn out winter into a silvery, shiny, sparkly, clean, monochrome, ethereal winter wonderland. The light is different, sounds softer and the sound of walking and moving is different with the crunching and creeking, sliding and slipping of our foot steps when we venture out.

Our road, snowy and slippy
Our road, snowy and slippy

Try the steep hill around the corner if you are brave enough
Try the steep hill around the corner if you are brave enough

I didn't get my wee car out for five days,  thank goodness for David's car
I didn't get my wee car out for five days,
thank goodness for David's car

Bracken usually loves the snow but this was too deep for him
Bracken usually loves the snow but this was too deep for him

David made a race track so Bracken could run about
David made a race track so Bracken could run about 

Monochrome woodland
Monochrome woodland

Sweet potato and leek pie with goats cheese
Sweet potato and leek pie with goats cheese


Snowy Whitmuir
Snowy Whitmuir

The snow has quickly thawed over two days with the temperatures going up to 9C! Now we have flooded roads and very wet ground, streams running down th eroads and the lovcal rivers have all burst their banks, it will be interesting to see what the stream in the nursery is doing. I will leave you with the last of my winter wonderland photographs. Have a great week, I'm looking forward to getting back to the nursery and pushing on with all the outdoor tasks, I have five lost days to make up!

Driving back from the nursery, a beautiful winter wonderland
Driving back from the nursery, a beautiful winter wonderland

Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination
Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination

Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination


Snow, fog and sun make a beautiful combination








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

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Plant profile - Snowdrops

This genus of well-known and often coveted bulbs is native to Europe from the Pyrenees in the west to Caucasus, Iran and Turkey in the East. Many people think the Snowdrop is a native of Britain, or brought to the British Isles by the Romans but it is more likely they were introduced in the 16th Century.


Galanthus nivalis
Galanthus nivalis

They do well in shady conditions, under trees or shrubs in moist but well-drained soil, with some leaf mould if available. Here they will naturalise and spread around giving a fabulous display in the depths of winter when we need some cheering up. Once planted Snowdrops are self-sufficient and happy to be left to their own devices. Some of the more unusual varieties are a bit choosier and because they are a bit more expensive to buy. I like to grow them in my alpine troughs, so I can keep an eye on them and they have fewer plants to compete with. Some cultivars need a bit more attention, cover and protection in winter or grown in pots, but that’s a whole other topic of conversation. For now, I’m going to concentrate on the ones I love and grow in the garden. I have fond they do very well on our exposed hill in the Scottish Borders at 850 feet above sea level in clay soil

Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone'
Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone'
Galanthus 'John Gray'
Galanthus 'John Gray'





Our hearts and minds lift at the first sight of these tiny, delicate yet extremely hardy little gems. I have several cultivars dotted about the garden along with the common Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. The species spreads itself around very well if it is happy. The cultivars take a bit longer to bulk up, apart from Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena' which spreads as readily as its species cousin. Plant Galanthus with other winter interest plants such as Bergenias, Hellebores, Winter Aconites, early daffodils, Crocus and evergreen ferns for a wealth of winter interest in the garden.

Snowdrops at Dryburgh Abbey
Dryburgh Abbey

In recent years Snowdrops have become a bit of a collectable genus in the horticultural world. Their collectors have even earned their own collective name: Galanthophiles. People will pay a small fortune for one tiny bulb of rarer varieties, with some going for over £300! I once bought 3 bulbs of Galanthus 'John Grey' for £8 a bulb and thought that was excessive. There are many books on the subject and several specialist nurseries selling them. Popular and very collectable are yellow snow drops such as G. 'Wendy's Gold'. Another yellow is G. 'Lady Elphinstone', a double and so very striking.

Snowdrops at Howick Hall
Howick Hall

Snowdrops at Threave Gardens
Threave Gardens

The flowers of Snowdrops are well worth looking at closely. Each flower is a drop of white with different markings and this is what makes them interesting to collectors. The nodding bell-shaped flower is held on a slender stalk amongst the leaves. The flower usually bears six tepals rather than petals arranged in two whorls of three, the outer being larger. The shorter inner tepals ate tapered and usually bear green markings at the base, occasionally the markings are yellow, green-yellow or absent depending on species.

Galanthus 'Desdamona'
Galanthus 'Desdamona'
Galanthus John Grey, Hill Poe, Magnet, Flore Plena and nivalis
Galanthus John Grey, Hill Poe,
Magnet, Flore Plena and nivalis



When buying snowdrops, it is always better to buy them in the green, i.e. when they are in leaf, not as dried bulbs. There are lots of nurseries advertising snowdrops in the green: be sure they come from a reputable source and are not being dug up in the wild! For some of the rarer gems have a look at the following nurseries:




Galanthus in shot glasses - perfect scale
Galanthus in shot glasses - perfect scale

Galanthus in shot glasses - perfect scale

A great way to see Snowdrops and spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon with the family is to visit one of the many gardens that open in February for the snowdrops. The easiest way to find out where there is one near you is to do an internet search for "where to see snowdrops". Here are some of my favourites and recommendations, including blog posts of Snowdrop visits we’ve done: 






Cambo gardens, Fife  www.camboestate.com

Howick Hall, Northumbria www.howickhallgardens.org



snowdrops in a drawer


Snowdrops are good for cut flowers, bees, long flowering, winter interest, clay soil and shade. 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 growing in an exposed garden on clay soil. The Quirky Bird recommends the following:

Galanthus nivalis
The common Snowdrop with its small white, bell flowers with a green smudge on the inner petals. Easy to naturalise. H 15cm.

Galanthus 'John grey'
Snowdrop with exceptionally large, heavy, pendant flowers with a large, spreading, single green mark on the inside petals. Early-flowering. H 15cm.

Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone'
Fabulous fully double yellow marked flowers, very sought after.

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'
A late flowering double whereby the solid looking flower is tightly packed with inner segments that form a neat rosette. Grows well with us in clay soil.

Galanthus 'Desdamona'
Relatively large flowered, irregular double, most strongly distinguished by the frequent appearance of a third leaf on a single shoot with occaisonal four perfect outer segments.

Galanthus 'Magnet'
White with green markings, the distinctive feature is the long pedicel (the spur connecting flower to stem) which allows the flower to dangle and sway with great grace in any breeze.

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'
The commonly found double with its broad flouncy green and white flowers, often found wild as commonly as its single cousin.


Galanthus 'Hill Poe'
Galanthus 'Hill Poe'


Galanthus nivalis
Galanthus nivalis


Galanthus 'John Grey'
Galanthus 'John Grey'


Galanthus 'Magnet'
Galanthus 'Magnet'


Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'
Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'






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

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

From Winter Garden Progress to Winter Wonderland

Back to the nursery this week, getting back into the working routine and getting up for the school bus was uncomfortable, it's still dark at 7am and feels way too early to be up after time off. Still I'm raring to go to get on in the nursery and start the winter tidy up ready for opening at the beginning of March. There is so much to do and I want to make the most of dry days in case the snow comes back.

Crocus beginning to pop up in the entrance borders of the farm
Crocus beginning to pop up in the entrance borders of the farm

I started the great garden tidy-up at the entrance of the farm where I created two new borders a year ago. These are stuffed full of tough perennials that will provide colour and interest all year. At the moment there is no sign of anything once cut back, but there were brave crocus popping up. These are some of the two thousand Val, Dee and I planted last autumn. You can read about creating those borders in this blog February in the Quirky Bird Gardens

Starting the willow weaving
Starting the willow weaving

The other big job at this time of year is weaving the willow that runs along both sides of the wildlife garden. This is woven into a hedge about three feet high giving us a boundary between the cafe and nursery. This year I am increasing the height by about six inches and filling in the gaps between plants with excess rods of willow cut from last years willow growth. Once done it looks lovely with all the different colours of willow woven together and I find the task therapeutic and relaxing. It also lets light into the cafe and opens up the gardens. It's also an easy and cheap way to create natural boundaries in the garden and can be woven into many patterns or heights.

Tidying stream garden


I also started to tidy the nursery gardens this week, starting with the stream garden. Here I have made use of one of the farm streams to make an interesting and colourful entrance to the nursery. By planting damp and water loving plants and some plants who's roots will knit the bankings together and stop the soil being washed away I have placed plants in the environment they will do best in. There are spring flowering Epimediums, summer Iris, Astrantia and Primula then grasses for autumn interest, to name but a few of the plants here. Once I've cut everything back and weeded the beds, they get a top dressing of our own compost, made in the nursery from all our organic waste and old compost. We do the traditional method of turning after 6 months into the next compost bin, leaving it for another 6 months before emptying it into bulk bags until it is required. So this compost is at least 12 months in the making. It makes a huge difference to our clay soil over time, being taken down by the worms and worked into the soil over the year when I hoe. I'm waiting on new mini hurdles being delivered to replace these tired ones which have done just about three years there.

You can read the Quirky Bird's top tips for tidying the gardens here
 
Tidying stream garden


 January plants in the stream garden, Pulmonaria rubra 'Ann', Juncus patens ‘Carman’s Gray’, Epimedium pinnatum ssp. Colchicum and Petasites japonicus var. giganteus 'Nishiki-buki'
 January plants in the stream garden, Pulmonaria rubra 'Ann', Juncus patens ‘Carman’s Gray’, Epimedium pinnatum ssp. Colchicum and Petasites japonicus var. giganteus 'Nishiki-buki'

I've created a new page on the nursery website to highlight the wild flowers and native plants we sell. We have an ever increasing ranger and you can see them growing in the wildflower bankings in the nursery through spring and summer. You can see the page here: Wild Flowers

I grabbed a sunny half hour between showers earlier in the week to tidy my alpine troughs. The didn't need much done, mainly all the fallen leaves from the trees picked off and a few plants cut back. It's all part of the garden tidy up for spring.







Just as I was beginning to make progress in both the gardens in the nursery and at home we've been snowed under, literally. As I write we have about six inches of snow, and it's still snowing on and off. School buses are cancelled and police are advising necessary travel only. From the office window at home I can see traffic moving along the main road, but much less of it and much slower. Our wee side road is still white. So that means more time to get paperwork, seed orders, newsletters and signage made, printed, designed and so on. 

Bracken thinks the snow is far too deep for nursery dogs
Bracken thinks the snow is far too deep for nursery dogs

We spent a lot of last year building new gardens, our wedding garden and getting married! This year it's back to basics. As well as updating the website over winter we've been designing lots of new signs and information boards for the nursery and gardens. This will help visitors and customers find their way round and find the plants they are looking for. We will have lots of information available on tricky areas of the garden, specific plant groups and of course I will be on hand to give advice about the best plants for your garden. 

Snow views from the back garden at home
Snow views from the back garden at home

Snow views from the back garden at home


Snow views from the back garden at home


So there we are, no school, no outdoor work, no day out for this week. If you have lots of snow or only a little, enjoy it but stay safe and warm. It's a time to nestle down, wrap up, read garden books and blogs and dream of spring and better weather.


Have a great week.



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