Sunday, 27 May 2018

A walk up to Callander Crags

This is a lovely walk, although strenuous to start it is worth it for the views at the top. We parked in the car park in the centre of Callander next to the river and walking up to the high street turned left until we came to Tulliepan Crescent on the north side of the road. Here we turned in and followed the sign on the left for The Crags. The path immediately starts climbing through forestry, winding back and forwards up the hill with brief glimpses through the trees over Callander. 

Taking  a breather

The path continues ever upwards, over a bridge and at last out of the forestry plantation and onto a narrower path. Here the path climbs up past and amongst boulders, with stunted and gnarly silver birch trees in amongst them, providing shelter for many other native plants. We saw Blaeberry, primroses, many mosses and ferns and lichens, gorse and heather. 

Primula vulgaris, the common primrose

Bracken had great fun scrambling over the boulders and through the muddy puddles, stopping every so often to look back and question why we humans were so slow. Higher up we got lovely views of the surrounding mountains and lochs. Ben Ledi stil had snow in it's gullys and Loch Venacher looked bleak in the cloudy overcast distance, but striking views all the same. To the north were Stuc a Chroin and the Glen Artney hills.

Bed Ledi with snow in the gullys

Loch Venacher in the distance

Bracken wondering why us humans are so slow

Eventually we reached the top, acknowledging just how unfit we'd got over a winter where the weather stopped us getting out so much. The views, even on an overcasrt day were fantastic, with hills and lochs in every direction and great views towards Stirling, the castle and Wallace monument. The crag flattens out crowned with a monument built in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Silver jubilee. We sat in the lee of the monument out of the wind to have out picnic, what better place to eat with views, fresh air and a ridiculous dog for company.

Reaching the top at last

Wallace monument in the distance

Once we'd had our lunch, we packed up and headed downhill, over the other side. This was much muddier and slippy in places, so if you walk after rain be aware, it's a bit tricky in parts. Hence the muddy knee I came back with! The path eventually disappears into woodland and from here its a quick downhill scramble to the road. 

Lone Hawthorn

Bright and cheery gorse covered in flowers and bees

Once on the road it's an easy walk back downhill into Callander and back along the high street to the car park. We decided to drive up to Loch Lubnaig and have a coffee and cake at the wee cafe in one of the parking areas. It was lovely to sit at the side of the loch and enjoy the peace and quiet, mountains and lochs before heading home to our usual busy chaos. 

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Friday, 25 May 2018

Sunny days are here again

I'd like to think this on going gloriously hot and sunny weather is our compensation for a very long, snowy and cold winter. No matter why I am loving it, no matter how much watering I have to do. The nursery and gardens are really coming into their own now with lots of lovely fresh, lush colourful foliage, the last of the spring flowers and hints of summer flowers to come. The herb garden is really filling out as it comes into it's second year. The herbs have done surprisingly well through the winter we've had and I'm delighted at how few losses there were. I always knew it was a bit of an experiment growing a herb garden on a north facing slope on cold clay soil at 850 feet above sea level. But we gardeners love a challenge. 

Allium fistulosum, the Welsh onion,
budding up nicely in the herb garden

Is it just me or does any one else think the blossom and flowers are bigger and better this year, or are we just desperate for colour after that winter? The apple trees in the nursery stock beds are laden with huge blossom, and if we don't get a late frost, hopefully plenty fruit come autumn. In the tunnel propagation continues apace. I'm potting up last years cuttings as quickly as I am creating new ones. Seedlings are still being potted as they get big enough and annuals and veg plants are now coming out into the sales area. So far there are runner beans, lettuce, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and parsley available. We may still get a late frost so be prepared to cover them if the temperature does drop, though with temperatures in the 20's every day at the moment that seems unlikely, but it is Scotland. 

Veg seedlings in the sales area

Salad seedlings ready to pot up in the tunnel

Veg seedlings almost ready to come over to the sales area

If you've been to the nursery you'll know we also sell pots and garden decor, with a new range this year to tempt you. Succulents are also back in stock, grown at home over the winter we have a range of succulents and cacti, perfect for kids or as easy to care for houseplants for indoor gardeners. They look great in our terracotta and zinc pots.

This is Aquilegia 'Clementine Rose', one of 23 varieties of Aquilegia I am growing here in the nursery with my great friend Sarah Fiona. We are in danger of getting columbine fever. So far there are 6 varieties available for sale. Watch this space for more as they become available

Aquilegia 'Clementine Rose'

One from a mixed batch of seed

The range of tasks in the nursery is much the same as any gardener, weeding, potting, propagating, watering. The annual stock bed tidy continues with lots of plants potted and propagated along the way. It is looking much better and with new signs and labels much easier for our customers to browse. 

When I was weeding the two beds at the roadside I took some photos of the daffodils in bloom that we planted up either side of the drive into Whitmuir last autumn. I bought a 25 kg sack of mixed varieties from Parkers bulbs, and they have proved to be a great buy and have brightened up spring this year, flowering for about 2 months. They have produced a lovely range of colours and types; singles, doubles, multi flower heads, scented, yellow, white, cream and everything in between. I would recommend (and not sponsored) getting them from J Parker Bulbs and I'd also recommend getting some one else to plant them as it was back breaking work lol. 

There are new piglets on the farm which are always entertaining and calves are due anytime now

We were delighted to be asked to supply plants for a stand at Gardening Scotland this year. We wish Robyn of Planticrub Garden Design lots of luck with her stand and I'm looking forward to seeing our plants in her display at the show.

Good weather is quite often accompanied by stunning sunsets, this one last week was stunning, taken from the top of the field behind the house. 

Which brings us neatly to the garden at home. I've been enjoying half an hour out in the garden in the mornings while I'm waiting for David to get up for breakfast. I've got all the plants that come out the two greenhouses for summer onto the patio and both greenhouses, swept out and tidied for summer. On Thursday night I spent a couple of hours in the big greenhouse cutting back, feeding, potting and top dressing everything that was left and spacing out my Pelargoniums for summer. 

Acer 'Bloodgood' against that blue sky

Astilboides tabularis, a great plant for damp shade with it's dinner pate sized leaves

There are still some late flowering auricula primulas in my collection, this is 'Black jack' on the left and 'Stubbs Tartan' on the right

This is Pittisporum 'Silver Queen' which is evergreen and has these tiny burgandy flowers in spring. The flowers might be small but they have huge scent. This plant goes in the cold greenhouse over winter up here

Enjoying some early morning sun in
 the greenhouse

There are a lot of Aquilegia at home too, this is the stunning A. 'Chocolate Soldier' which I'm hoping to get seed from this year. 

After a last minute change of plan on Tuesday on our day off, we decided to head off to the borders and Melrose where we visited Priorwood and Harmony gardens, enjoyed lunch and a wander around the shops, including bumping in to friends and unexpectedly visiting them for coffee on the way home. I will write about our garden visits in another blog soon.

 If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden, thank you

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Book Review - The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don

I came across this book in a local second hand book shop and added it to my pile of purchases. It has lived since in the book mountain on my desk until at last it reached the bottom of the pile. Yes the bottom, for in true Rona style I have a system, sometimes back to front from the way any one else works. New books go on the top and every time I am ready to read another I take it from the bottom, the oldest ones in the pile and so at last it was the Jewel Garden's turn.

I love Monty's style of gardening, his relaxed, hands on often traditional approach but with an acceptance of the new and keeping that balance. It very much reflects my gardening style and way of working. What I hadn't realised before reading this book was his journey from the heady 80's and a successful business to crashing and coping and surviving that with his family and finally his journey into gardening as a career. 

The thing that resonated with me most in this book is Monty's depression, how he deals with it and how gardening and having his hands in the soil really helps him cope. The link between winter and this being the worst time of year for his depression is also very close my own depression and it's links to the seasons. I spent a lot of the book where he talks about those times going yes, yes, I know, yes and nodding when he describes how he feels.

The book has a wealth of lovely photos of the garden and the creation of the Jewel Garden and it's evolution over the years to what it is now. The story is told by both Monty and his wife Sarah and makes an interesting narrative and both tell the same story from different perspectives. Gardening books are often those that you dip in and out of, but this one I thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover and am off in search of more books by Monty to add to my gardening bookshelves.

The first half of the book titled "Getting Here" covers how Monty and Sarah got to Longmeadow, reclaiming and creating the gardens and in particular the Jewel garden. The second half "Being Here" is dedicated to following the jewel garden through the four seasons of the year. It illustrates that gardening is never still, that gardens are for ever changing or need tweaking and are never finished. Sometimes a planting scheme doesn't work, a chosen plant refuses to thrive or paths and hedges don't function as was hoped. 

I'd really recommend this book for many reasons, it's an enjoyable read, it's uplifting and inspiring and really made me think about my own life journey so far. From a disintigrated life and rock bottom and how I put my life back together and become a different, stronger and much better person in the end and how that journey has taken me somewhere completely different from where I thought I was going. 

The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don. Hodder and Stoughton, 2004.
ISBN - 0 340 826711

Previous book reviews:

Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

The Well Tempered Garden by Christoher Lloyd 

Hummelo by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

RHS Botany for Gardeners

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!

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Blue Skies and Blossom

New foliage on Astilbes in the nursery

Settle down with a coffee for another two week catch up post, it's silly season in the nursery when there's barely time to breath  never mind write blog posts. With all the warmer weather recently the nursery and gardens have really come to life, after what seems forever looking a brown and bare stems it so lovely to see all the shades of green, reds and greys of fresh new foliage filling the borders and stock beds. The past week or so has been gloriously sunny and warm and it really makes everyone feel much better, especially me. Customers spend longer wandering around the nursery and gardens and enjoying being out in the warmth. The birds are singing their wee hearts out and there are nest of blackbirds, swallows and wrens that we've seen so far.

Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys', Sesleria caerulea, Valeriana phu 'Aurea' and
 Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena' and Alchemilla vulgaris

Artemisia absinthium 'Lambrook Mist', Primula vulgaris, Pulmonaria 'Opal' and
Artemisia abrotanum

Work continues in the nursery, when does it not? In the tunnel I am nearly finished tidying up the herbs and propagating them, so it's all looking much tidier. We've lots of new and unusual herbs coming out into the sales area, propagated from the herb garden. Seedling potting up is well under way and I'm hoping to get the first of the veg seedlings out into the sales area at the weekend, starting with kale, beans and lettuce. Out doors in the nursery I am still working through the stock beds, weeding, cutting back, tidying and labelling. I've got a much better idea of what has come through winter and what needs propagated. In between I'm potting up last years propagation to go in to the stock beds.

The stock bed tidy up continues, I am now half way ..... yay!

Narcissus 'Thalia' in the wild life garden

On Friday two weeks ago the weather was lovely when I arrived first thing in the morning, so I took my camera and had a walk around the nursery and gardens. Sometimes we really need to make ourselves slow down and take stock, and see what we've actually achieved. 

The wildlife garden

The herb garden is coming to life after the long winter

Borders in the herb garden

The seating area in the scented garden

Looking back along the stock beds

Friday 4th May would have been my sister Mhairi's 46th birthday, a day for remember the wonderful person she was to so many people and to think of Graeme, Fiona, Katrina and Al and send them our love. We can't send a card, gift or birthday wishes anymore, but what I can do is my next challenge for charity. I am going to climb Ben Nevis in Mhairi's memory and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care at the same time. Sadly I can't make any of this years dates so have signed up for next year's charity walk in June (that should give me plenty time to get fit!) I'll be setting up a just giving page nearer the time for donations.

How amazing was that weather last weekend? Lovely to see people enjoying the nursery and gardens and sitting outside at the cafe enjoying the sun, the swallows are back and we got lots of work done too. Lovely to catch up with Ann on Saturday (we were at Threave, a long time ago) Its all go with bat surveying season for David too.

Bracken finds it all quite exhausting

A long long time ago when I was head gardener at The Murrel in Fife, one of the plants that we grew and I loved were double primroses. I haven't seen them in a lot of years and was reminded of them when I was reading an article about primula, so I treated myself to a few varieties, looking forward to seeing their vintage, double flowers in a range of colours as they grow and come into flower.

Beautiful cherry blossom on the trees in the
back garden at home, lovely against
that blue sky

Another of my auricula primulas,
this is 'Stubbs Tartan'

Doglet of the glen....... well the garden bench, Bracken doing what Bracken does best,
 tracking the sun round the house and garden and sunbathing

We had a mad Bank holiday Monday! It was great to see so many people at Whitmuir and visiting the nursery and gardens, Yay! The weather was stonking and it was a busy day helping customers. Even had a visit from Bill Hean who was in charge at Threave School of Gardening when I was a student there, a long long time ago.... great to have a chat and catch up with him. Home and lovely to sit out in the back garden with Batman before he went off for tonight's survey.

Driving down to Duns

On Tuesday, our day off, the weather was still lovely so we headed down to Duns for a walk with the doglet. We parked up in the town and headed out to the east to a local nature reserve where we stopped for our picnic beside a lovely pond in the woods. We had swans for company and it was lovely to sit in the dappled shade and have a leisurely lunch. 

We spotted a yellow hammer on the hedge

Bracken doing his best give me a corner of your sandwich look

Swans on the pond

Enjoying some time off on a sunny day

Quirky Bird on a day off

After lunch we walked through the woods towards Duns Castle and it's lake which is called Hen Poo! That gave us cause to laugh. There was plenty cherry blossom and masses of marsh marigolds by the side of the lake.

Cherry Blossom

Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris)

Wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum)

Walking back into Duns we stopped off for coffee and cake to finish off our day before heading home

Another week and the nursery is bursting with new growth. In the sales area dwarf Rhododendrons and Viburnums are in full flower with perennials catching up. Grasses are finally pushing up shoots and filling the table with their colourful leaves. Work wise in the nursery it's more of the same, potting and pricking out seedlings in the tunnel and keeping the sales area full and colourful and working through the stock beds.

I planted a medlar at the end of the nursery
near the crab apple I planted last month,
they will form a nice back drop
to the nursery and a screen

The weather has been glorious over the last week, warm and sunny every day with very little wind, it's been short sleeves, sun cream and enjoying working out in the sun. It also brings customers out, who have been enjoying walking around the nursery and gardens.

The herb garden in the sun

Picking some edible flowers and herbs for
dinner on Saturday night

After another sunny busy day at the nursery it was lovely to relax and catch up with friends when they came to visit for dinner on Saturday night. On the menu was morrocan meatballs, a yoghurt and mint dressing, heritage tomato salad, freshly baked bread from Whitmuir and for dessert a lemon thyme and orange cheesecake decorated with crystalised flowers accompanied by sliced oranges drizzled with honey. Its great to be back at the time of year when I can harvest fresh herbs and flowers from the garden for cooking.

Heritage tomato salad

Yoghurt and mint dressing
It's nice to know one of my sons has inhertied my cooking skills. Last night we came home from the nursery to find Dan had cut the grass (yay) paid job, but he had also picked all the rhubarb that was ready (a lot) and started cooking it! Tonight we came home from the nursery to find he'd made a very nice rhubarb crumble tart, even making the pastry himself! Running out of gold stars.

We now have succulents for sale in the nursery

I love this grey leaved succulent

On our day off this week I had a lovely relaxing morning at the hair dresser before heading home and then up to the Restoration Yard in Dalkieth Park to meet my Uncle and Aunt for lunch. We took Daniel along as he's on study leave doing his highers, oh and Bracken came too. After a lovely lunch sitting out in the sun we took the dogs for a walk along the river. There were lots of bluebells and wild garlic under the trees in the dappled shade.

My goats cheese and beetroot salad

Three generations, my Uncle Andy, Me and Daniel

Wild garlic in the woods

Walking by the river

I hope you are enjoying your gardens in this lovely early summer weather and lets hope it continues for a while longer. 

 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:

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