Sunday, 30 September 2018

A Visit to Priorwood and Harmony Garden in Melrose

Alliums and box

As I sit here at the end of September with the rain going horizontally past the window and the wind blowing again, it's nice to look back on some of our trips we did during that lovely summer. It all seems so long ago and I was searching in my June photograph folder for these photos and in fact we visited in May! It's many years since I visited Priorwood Garden, easily in the earlier 90's if not before that, it was certainly when they were doing great things with dried flowers, which I was into at the time. Melrose isn't too far from us now, and a lovely drive through the borders to get there, and so it was we decided to head there on our day off.

Box and Euphorbias make a great early summer combination

Like many National Trust for Scotland gardens, cut backs especially in staffing are all too evident. The attention to detail when a garden has enough gardeners sadly is not there any more. There was plenty colour and interesting plants when we visited and the orchard with all the apples trees was lovely to wander through. No flower shop though despite the title! Plus point is the garden is free so it is nice to pop in and have a look around when you are visiting Melrose. As someone who started their horticultural career with the NTS is it so sad to see their gardens in decline, both in maintenance and planting. 

Melrose Abbey makes a lovely backdrop to the gardens

Set in two acres and sitting in the shadow within the precincts of medieval Melrose Abbey, the gardens are mainly contained by high, old stone walls and the orchard area may have been originally part of a kitchen garden for the monks of the Abbey. As you enter the gate from the road, you walk through some lovely matures shrubs, including tree paeonias. From here a seiries of beds are planted along the front of the building where plants are grown for flower cutting. Linked by winding paths the beds become perennial borders dotted with Box. These provided an excellent backdrop for lime yellow Euphorbias, pink Persicaria bitstorta 'Superba', Alliums and other early summer flowering perennials. 

Euphorbias and Persicaria bitstorta 'Superba'

Tree Paeonia flowers

A great specimen Rheum in full flower

By far the largest area of Priorwood is the orchard which contains many historic apple trees and includes over seven varieties of heritage apples. With the Abbey in view and paths cut through the long medow grasses, this area is lovely to wander through, especially when the apple trees are in full blossom as they were when we visited. The meadow and blossom provides plenty food and shelter for bugs and beasties and keeps safe old varieties of apples that could easily be lost. 

From the top end of the orchard you walk back through the woodland garden, created under a mature planting of trees at the edge of the property, here an abundance of wodland plants grow in careless abandon, making it feel a much more relaxed area than the more formal beds at the garden entrance. A lot of online entries about the gardens still list a dried flower shop on the property, sadly there isn't anymore.

Grasses in the orchard at Priorwood

While in Melrose it is worth walking a few hundred yards down the road to visit Harmony Gardens. Behind tall stone walls opposite the abbey, this hidden garden is wrapped around Harmony House, now owned by the NTS. The house itself was built in 1807 by Robert Waugh who made his fortune in Jamaica. A native of Melrose he eventually returned to his house and settled there. The house changed hands a number of times before being bequeathed to the National Trust in 1996. The grounds comprise of 3.5 acres of lawn, borders, fruit and vegetable beds and greenhouses.

When we visited in May the gardens were ablaze with deciduous Azaleas and early summer perennials. The path to the right of the entrance takes you between the high stone walls on the right and tall azaleas on your left. Behind box hedging there was a lovely colourful mix of Trollius, Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica), wall flowers and bluebells.

Meconopsis cambrica

Blue and pink bells!

Deciduous Azaleas

Walking up towards the house, you get glimpses of it through the tall Rhododendrons, eventually emerging onto the gravel in front of the house, here the views open up over the lawns towards the veg garden and over the wall to Melrose Abbey. To the west of the house is a sunken lawn that was once an area for bowls, tennis and badminton.

Heading to the east side of the garden through some mixed borders you come to the fruit and vegetable garden, sheltered by the boundery walls. Sadly visitors aren't allowed access tot he glasshouses.

Tulips and wall flowers giving a real splash of colour

Continuing around the gardens, heading from the veg garden to the house is a lovely area under some copper beach, carpetted with bluebells and wild flowers in the dappled shade. 

We finished off our visit to Melrose with lunch (there are plenty good places to eat in the town) and a wander around some lovely shops before heading home. 

If you are looking for other interesting places to visit, have a look at our page of places we've visited and enjoyed exploring

Walks and Places of Interest

#gardenvisits #placesto visit #scottishborders #melrose #scottishgardens #priorwoodgarden #harmonygarden

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

All Too Soon Autumn Rushes In

September has gone so quickly, like most months this year, and the autumn colour has been stunning here in the nursery so far. Trees and shrubs such as Cornus, Nyssa, Cercidiphyllum, Acers, Euonymus and Prunus are all a glow in shades of reds, oranges and yellows, brightening up the sales area even on the dullest of days. Late flowering perennials and grasses are adding their own colourful hues with Heleniums, Rudbeckias and Solidago in oranges and yellows. 

Prunus 'Koji no Mai' and Berberis
Cornus 'Midwinter Fire'

Crab Apples

Tagetes 'Honeycomb'
Rosa rugosa 

Helenium 'Chelsea'

Not to be undone by their hot showy cousins, the pale pinks and blues of Asters and reds and pinks of Persicaria are equally worth growing. Most will flower right through autumn until the first frosts.

Aster in the entrance borders
Butterflies love Sedums

Echinacea and Delphiniums

Sedums, Lythrum and Persicaria give good late summer colour in the gardens

I was excited to pick my first runner beans earlier in the month from the plants I've grown in the garden in the nursery. Its a while since I've grown these and quite often we get frost up here before the beans have grown to a useful size. I'm growing them in the border that will eventually be the bee border in the wildlife garden. Did you know bumblebees love runner bean flower nectar, indeed most flowers from the fabacaea (legume) family. This variety is Scarlet Emperor, I love it's bright showy flowers and is worth growing even if they don't get to bean stage.

Flowers of Runner bean 'Scarlet Emperor'

Speaking of frost, we had our first of the season this weekend, brrrrrrrr. It didn’t last long once the sun was up but its left it’s mark on the Heliotrope and runner beans. We were lucky not to get too much damage from storm Ali, just a lot of tree debris down, which didn’t take too long to pick up.

I always like to think this time of year in the nursery becomes a bit more relaxed, but there is always many tasks that need done to keep everything going. I do try to get on with or start a new garden project at this time of year. At the moment I am still working on the pink border which will be like a full stop at the end of the stock beds, dividing it from the last area of nursery on the top terrace. I've finished stripping off the grass and weeds and digging it over. Next is the exciting bit, planting new hedging to fill in the gaps and the rest of the plants.

Spring bulbs are now available to buy in the nursery, we are doing our pick and mix range again, with bulbs priced individually, so you can buy as many or as little as you like. No need to be stuck buying a bag of twenty when you only wanted ten. Why not plant them with some of our own grown polyanthus, wall flowers and winter pansies for winter and spring interest.

Plant some of our winter pansies with bulbs
for colour through winter into spring

I’ve been adding a few planters for inspiration in the sales area, one is mound forming alpines in an old meatal drawer. The other is a collection of pots all containing plants for shade. It’s in front of the new fence where it is very shady, so perfect to fill in a space and give customers ideas if they have a shady patio or area in their garden where they want to have some containers.

Adiantum aleuticum 'Imbricatum'
Dryopteris wallichiana
Dryopteris affinis 'Pinderi'
Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Bob's Best'
Hosta 'Devon Green'
Skimmia × confusa 'Kew Green'
Leucojum vernum
Polygonatum hybridum
Viola odorata 'Alba'

We held out first workshop in the nursery a couple of weeks ago where we talked about designing a border. It went very well and our four attendees all enjoyed it. It was a lovely way to spend a colder afternoon.

In other news I've been out and about helping David with various bat surveys and things, or just tagging along to spend time together. This is him doing some of the radio tracking at Whitmuir, which is part of a project he is running about the bats and what they do here on the farm.

We've not gone far on our days off as we're pretty tired and run down after a very full on spring and summer. I've been catching up on things at home which has been good, a lot of clear outs and trips to the charity shops too. A couple of Tuesdays ago we visited Laureston Castle grounds which gave Bracken a good walk. We explored the Chinese garden and enjoyed views of the River Forth and beyond, finishing up with lunch in the wee cafe at the side of the castle.

Laureston Castle
Part of the Chinese garden

Beautiful acers

Views of the Chinese Garden

The building next to the cafe is clothed in a beautiful Parthenocissus

Carrot cake cupcakes using more of our Winchester mill flour

If you are stuck for something to do, there's always the lovely walk up the side of Flotterston in the middle of the Pentland hills, again another local relaxing day off last Tuesday.

Sloes almost ready for picking

So there we are, a very autumnal catch up both in the nursery and out and about. With the storms, rain, colouring foliage and lots of hedgerow berries, autumn is well and truly here. It won't be long until the nursery closes for winter (I can't believe I'm saying that already!) Where has 2018 gone?

Catch you soon, have a great week.

#autumn #autumnharvest #autumncolour #seasonal

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