Category Archives: Gardening

Dwarf Ornamental Grasses set in slate chips

I always feel better after completing a gardening stint. I think because what happens involves so many parts of me. There’s the obvious physical exertion and movement side and I do love that. There’s the on-the-spot planning that often supersedes the more formal planning that I do before going outside.
The tools – get them all together – you know what you will need (sort of). Don’t forget the gloves, compost, sand, weed container and something to kneel on. There is a type of ritual that goes with a garden session and I enjoy that as well. I always forget something (of course) but the shed, summer house and tool storage box are in close proximity.

Modern looking finish

Modern looking finish

All this preamble preceded yesterday’s little excursion. It has been a dreich week; I had been waiting for some sun and the weather man wasn’t forthcoming soon enough for me. However yesterday dawned – bright, light, clear and sunny. It wasn’t chilly either – about 9ºC – and no wind. The sun, having gone with some geese down south doesn’t shine on the south side of my back garden so everything, being damp from the down-pourings this week or so, doesn’t get to dry out.
The developers, greedy little buggers that they often are, removed all the topsoil and sold it off (ha!) and over the years, although previous owners have added compost, sand and some topsoil, it is still clayey and, in its present damp state, claggy. There were conifers at the bottom of the garden that shaded far too much so I chopped them down. The soil is still pretty mucky with old lateral tree roots spreading out into the lawn – ahem – some grass and moss with weedy stuff – buttercups and daisies (the whole development was once fields), clover and smaller ground covering weeds. So removing the need to mow this ‘grass’ bit by bit has been the best solution.

My mate John and his son Jon have just finished the final construction in the garden for this year. Here is what it looks like – I think it finishes off the decking complex admirably.

Looking to the back fence and crocus bed

Looking to the back fence and crocus bed

The grasses are alternating Pennisetum setaceum Sky Rocket and Pennisetum x advena Fireworks. Poor things – I found them in Homebase as end-of-stock and have kept them watered and in their pots for about 6 weeks.

This is what they will look like in summer - nice!

This is what they will look like in summer – nice!

Mind you, they die back during the colder months anyway and won’t pick up until summer. And now they are in the ground in planting holes that have slate, gravel and sand at the base for drainage with compost to bed them in. I had 6 Senecio cineraria silver (I think). Ragworts are difficult to identify. Anyway I planted three at each end of the slate garden.

Looking east over the decks

Looking east from the Heuchera bed through to the decks

At the bottom of the grass garden and stretching across to the rhododendron is a narrowish strip that has been cleared of old tree roots, grass and dug over. This is the sticky, claggy and clayey bed. There was some sand left over from cementing the pavers in place and added to the clag! Still …
I had already planted all the bulbs at the beginning of September (pat on back!) and now had to fill this bed. I had some 40 mixed crocus and dwarf irises left over and finding bulbs at the end of November wasn’t all that easy. I found 300 crocuses finally at the Garden Centre in Kirkcaldy and spent yesterday dibbing in 340 wee bulbs that are shooting. Covering the holes was difficult because everything was so claggy and damp – took several goes with the backside of the rake.

Long & winding crocus bed - 340 of them

Long & winding crocus bed – 340 of them

The bulb planting in September has started to yield shoots. It has been a lovely summer and a mild autumn so far.

Hence the feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and weariness. And the joy of sitting down with some wine and Pâté on crackers. Aaah. Very nice too.

Potatoes at home 2014

Scotland has been in the forefront in the science of developing new varieties of potatoes that withstand common scab, black spot, various nematodes, blights and other problems traditionally associated with growing potatoes. The photograph below is from John Stoa’s blog.

John Stoa and his potatoes

John Stoa and his potatoes

I grew potatoes for market in the 1970s and I cannot for the life of me recall what variety I seeded. I went down to the local rural co-operative and worked out how much weight of seed potatoes I would need to plant an acre and that was it. Back breaking work followed even though my neighbour ploughed and furrowed the paddock for me. A profitable exercise, I recall and gave my family plenty of spuds to eat.

So here in Scotland, I wanted to grow potatoes – well, enough for us to consume and to try different varieties. When I went to the Bridgend Garden Centre in Freuchie, I was astounded at the different bags of seed potatoes – there must have been more than a hundred bags of first Earlies, second Earlies, Maincrop, early and late varieties. It was mind boggling. And I bought a potato book, of course!

In the meantime, I had come across a variety called Apache in supermarkets. It was developed just up the road from Cupar very recently and having gained market approval was in short supply. A smallish potato with a distinct pink parti-coloured blotches on the skin, waxy and good for roasting. So I bought a couple of bags and left one to chit.
I bought smallish quantities each of:
Harmony(6) – Caithness, Early Maincrop smooth tuber, white skin and flesh.
Picasso(6) – Agrico, Maincrop, medium tuber, red parti-coloured skin, light yellow flesh.
Mayan Gold(10) – James Hutton, Maincrop, smooth long tuber, blue parti-coloured skin, yellow flesh
Sarpo Axona(8) – Sarvari Research, Maincrop, smooth oval tuber, red skin, cream flesh
together with my 12 chitted Apache – Zella J. Doig, Early Maincrop, short oval tuber, red parti-coloured skin, yellow flesh.

I use The British Potato Variety Database for information and disease resistance ratings. An excellent reference tool.

The plantings would take up half a row each in one of the raised beds. I trenched the rows I would use and laid Growmore pelleted fertiliser drawing some soil over before putting the already chitted seed potatoes in the trenches. On 19th April the rows were planted and watered in well. There was an overflow so I planted the Axona in my overflow bed together with another 10 Apache about a week later. We had some good rain and I watered spasmodically when it was dry. Hilled up the sides to keep the developed tubers from turning green.

Apache (lt), Picasso (top), Harmony (rt)

Apache (lt), Picasso (top), Harmony (rt)

By the 10th September, the tops had dried up and I dug the Harmony and Apache potatoes. Satisfying yield from the Harmony but not so much from the Apache. The skins were crazed as well – I would guess my watering regime wasn’t consistent enough for them They are small potatoes. A bit of common scab on a few Harmony so I will plant a green manure crop of Caliente mustard to help sterilise the soil for next year.

Mayan Gold yield was also great - 1 metre row

Mayan Gold yield was also great – 1 metre row

This was a terrific yield from 1 metre of row

Picasso – This terrific yield from 1 metre of row

 

Yesterday the 12th I dug the Picasso and Mayan Gold. Terrific Picasso yield and highly satisfactory Mayan Gold yield. I threw away, at the most, 6 potatoes that wire worm had infiltrated. Not bad.
There will be more potatoes from the overflow bed but they aren’t ready yet. You can see from the photographs that there are more potatoes than two people can eat so I have started giving some to our neighbours – also a satisfying exercise.

 

Green Peas for Dinner

 

Very different types of peas

Very different types of peas

I grew three varieties of peas this year. The first row was made up of an Italian variety Rondo. The second row, planted the same day, was labelled Sugar Snap Delikett. Both varieties were bought from Bridgend Nursery at Freuchie as seedlings and planted on 2nd May. The third row was planted about 2 weeks later – there was no label with the seedlings so I don’t know the variety but wow! I have never seen pea pods like it! It must have been a Mange tout variety that just kept growing and filling with peas. The resultant peas were very large and juicy.

Looks okay at this stage but wasn't sufficient

Looks okay at this stage but wasn’t sufficient

The pea supports I made were pretty hopeless this year and I am making a space against the eastern fence for peas next year. Because I grew them in a raised bed this year, the plant height was too much for the supports I had and the poor plants eventually fell over themselves. The luscious pea-filled pods dangled every which way and were difficult to harvest.

Cleaning up and preparing east bed

Cleaning up and preparing east bed

I searched through descriptions and images for semi-permanent and permanent pea support structures (good for all climbers really) and found the one I want in a gardening blog from the US. There are so many different designs – some look as though they would fall over in a minute and some look really sturdy.

Jimmy's semi permanent support for climbers

Jimmy’s semi permanent support for climbers

This one of Jimmy’s looks easy to get to either side and won’t take up as much room as a sandwich board type design.

However the peas that I did harvest were gorgeous.
Podding peas is a dangerous exercise as the podding person pops peas all through the process.

Ended up with approx. 1 kilo

Ended up with approx. 1 kilo

I actually have never met anyone who doesn’t like peas – either freshly podded or cooked in a yummy paella; or a curry; or pea and prawn risotto; or egg and prawn fried rice. Ah – food. Lovely food.

Here’s a lemon linguine with peas and prawns from BBC Good Food.

350g linguine cooked al dente
200g fresh peas
300g cooked prawns
Zest & juice of one lemon
100ml double cream

Gently cook the peas, prawns, lemon for 3-4 mins. Season well, stir in cream, a little pasta water and bubble for a minute. Add the linguine and toss well. Easy peasy and tasty. I add a sprinkle of dill as well, because I love dill.

Pea and Prawn Linguine

Pea and Prawn Linguine

Flowers & Blossoms, shrubs & colour!

These 3 tulips added a good colour splash to the fpathway

These 3 tulips added a good colour splash to the pathway

What a gorgeous time of the year in this Northern Hemisphere. I have been waiting and waiting for stuff to happen in my garden so I can do more stuff! Everything has been about 4 to 5 weeks late because of the climate. Here we are at the end of May!! The apples and pear have finally put forth their blossoms for the first time and I am chuffed.

These four pome fruit trees are only 2 years old.

These four pome fruit trees are only 2 years old.

The aquilegias are starting to flower and I am overwhelmed by their elegant, subdued beauty.

Aquilegias are so beautiful

Aquilegias are so beautiful

The very delicate and very beautiful saxifrages are doing their thing. They are so easy to increase that I can see myself doing this each and every year that I can still bend down to pluck them out of the ground. This photograph is of my neighbour’s saxifrage plants around her cherry tree. They look great.

My neighbour's garden

My neighbour’s garden

The west garden Ajuga reptans in flower

The west garden Ajuga reptans in flower

The west garden is full of Ajuga reptans and the flowers arrived with the heat. Stunning.

AND! The Rhododendron on the back fence has finally opened its petals and is flowering. I can see this weirdly arranged bush from the conservatory window and thought it could do with a sort of underplanting. So I bought some Hebe heartbreaker and Ceanothus repens, some Lavendar and Pink Lavendula, Nemesia amelie and a Phlox candystripe. So thirteen plants in all were planted as a skirt to highlight the Rhododendron. It should feel pampered and on show. Well it is anyway!

This will look lovely in high summer!

This will look lovely in high summer!

It looks good. All the plantings will make about 50 to 60 cm by next year and the ‘skirt’ will look as though it has always been there. The pavers will be next.

I was in two minds about hanging baskets this year so did some anyway.

One of 4 similar hanging baskets

One of 4 similar hanging baskets

I love creating gardens. It is one of my best joys and brings me a sense of peace and achievement that nothing else can.

I find that gardening has always supplied a balance in my life that has delighted me and supplied the exercise I need to keep fit and flexible.

I am getting better at these

I am getting better at these

It also satisfies the need to be close to the earth that is a grounding force in an otherwise civilised and somewhat artificial and urban lifestyle.

The joy I experience as plants take root and thrive under my care and nurture, produce food and flowers in a garden that I have created is a feeling that only other gardeners seem to share. It is ineffable. And I love it.

On meeting Scottish w(W)eather

This post relates back to when I first arrived in Scotland and went to live in Fife. I had come from the sub tropics on the east coast of Australia (28.55ºS) and I thought it was normal that vegetables and ornamentals grew all year around with a bit of fertiliser, sun and water. Rake and add tilth every year – no probs! Here’s my wee kitchen garden (raised, of course!)

There were two of these - I made an error in width. Too wide.

There were two of these – I made an error in width. Too wide.

Well, Leslie (56ºN) was an eye opener, in more ways than one. I found that the name Leslie had been conferred in 1283. Good grief! Part of the town had been called Fettykill before that and the other part Prinlaws. Nothing in my country is called anything until British occupation in the late 1700s. The aboriginal names for historical areas didn’t count until a magnificent court case granted aboriginal rights to their own land, thus admitting, sub judice, that occupation had occurred.

I have to say the earth here is much softer than Mullumbimby and the weeds and grasses are softer making it harder to eradicate them. You leave bits in and they take off again. Grrr. Grasses in Australia tend to be a harsh couch and Kikuyu and they thrive because the climate is close to that of southern Africa.

First attempt at flowers in Leslie. I cut out a circle to try my hand at this

First attempt at flowers in Leslie. I cut out a circle to try my hand at this

I did some digging and made a small patch in the back lawn to take some plants. I am a fiend with plant buying. It must be an addiction, I think. I arrived in April and the bulbs were stunning. Everywhere, every roundabout, every grass verge, every public garden. What brilliant eye candy for an antipodean girl.

I had never seen anything like this!

I had never seen anything like this!

The first thing I did was plant pansies, primrose and lobelia around a beautifully composed pine stand of bushes. They all flowered at once. Extraordinary! It looked beautiful.

I cut out a circular piece of lawn to add to my idea of garden plots. There were a number of rocks that I would be able to reuse in my creation.

This was satisfying. I found it hard to leave my kindergarten gardens behind when we shifted.

This was satisfying. I found it hard to leave my kindergarten gardens behind when we shifted.

Quite a lot of work digging the centre garden but I was fresh from Aussie where I had worked in my hydroponic farm, so I was reasonably fit. So I thought. Here is a snapshot of part of that hydroponics farm.

Hydroponic tables planted out on the farm.

Hydroponic tables planted out on the farm.

Ahem! Then I slowed down and realised that I couldn’t keep going at that pace. My next garden was a no dig one. The back lawn was long and narrow and very boring. I sprayed the area I wanted to grow in and when the grass had died down I spread some weed mat fabric to cover and pinned it down with tent pegs. I had to buy in a lot of compost because there wasn’t anything on the grounds.

I had to do something because I had so many plants to put into the ground.

I had to do something because I had so many plants to put into the ground.

But it was certainly worth the effort.

I think this looked great after completion

I think this looked great after completion

The rocks were useful and I ended up edging the whole shape with edging bricks. It was a very satisfying garden to have made.

As far as I know the gardens are still there although we are not. I brought the hanging baskets with me but haven’t really done anything with them since. First flush of gardening I suppose.

They always look beautiful after planting. There is an art to this I have yet to work out.

They always look beautiful after planting. There is an art to this I have yet to work out.

It was my kindergarten period and I am now learning how to encourage and make my own mark on an established garden where we live now. There were mature pines on the back perimeter that have been cut down to let the summer sun in. The roots have unfortunately spread through the lawn and that is now mainly moss. So it is definitely no dig gardens and decks in the back.

No Dig bed preparation and Dianthus

Spring having sprung, this then becomes a first. Never before have I made two consecutive daily posts. I am seduced by the weather. I seem to have been waiting for such a long time to get into the gardens.

 

No Dig beds are the way to go when you are 70 years old!

No Dig beds are the way to go when you are 70 years old!

Yesterday, having sprayed the area in the front lawn I wanted to turn into a garden extension marrying up two separate areas, I had to wait several hours for the glyphosate  to dry and get taken down to the root system. I laid some weed mat fabric down over the sprayed grass and emptied 240 litres of commercial compost and added several barrow loads of some broken down soil and other material that had been sitting around when we came here a couple of years ago.

All together with some granulated fertiliser and after a good bashing and raking, I watered it all down until it looked ready to have 60 mixed dianthus seedlings planted. I used the front door mat as a kneeler (I thought I was being clever) and got the lot in plus a couple of Pernettya mucronata that I had been given.

They look good and healthy. Didn't take as long as I anticipated.

They look good and healthy. Didn’t take as long as I anticipated.

At least that’s what I had thought Pernettyas to be until the taxonomists decided that they really should be classed as Gaultheria. Humph. Gaultheria is a misspelling of Jean François Gaultier of Quebec, a naturalist amongst other things. In any case the plant (commonly known as prickly heath is not a heath at all except it belongs to the family of Ericaceae.

Having broken my back spreading compost, turning, raking and planting, I thought I would take today off. The forecast had been one of wind, rain and cloud – good, I thought. Just what newly transplanted seedlings need to settle down into their planting medium.

I used to work on a tomato farm when I was in my early thirties. I was clocked at planting 1,100 tomato seedlings an hour going up slopes in the heat of the sub tropics. That’s youth for you!!

But now today at 15:35 the sun is out, the wind has died down and I keep looking at the Pieris Passions – I will put them near the new Dianthus bed in front of the aged crab-apple tree. These Pieris grow to 60cm and spread to 50cm so should be an attractive feature able to be seen from the sitting room window. They should intertwine and form a small pink border. Three plants can’t really be called a mass planting but you get my drift!

One year further on and they should look great!

One year further on and they should look great!

 

Pink Heaths, Heathers & Pieris Passion

 

The colours of these Ericas & Callunas look gorgeous

The colours of these Ericas & Callunas look gorgeous

Although this post is about the back garden I have not been able to resist buying plants for my soon to be pink front garden. My eagle eye spotted a good deal on one year old heaths and heathers so  I bought a mixed dozen of Ericas and Callunas – some spring flowering which will get me moving and some that will flower in autumn.

I want to tackle the front garden soon and plant my pink Ericas that are flowering now and some pinky/red Callunas that will flower in autumn. I hadn’t realised that the species dubbed heather here in Scotland is the Calluna species while the heaths are Erica and Daboecia. You can get varieties of all three that flower at different times in the year giving colour throughout the seasons.

Learning this has allowed me to plan better. I plan to redo the front top border garden – I used it as used as a holding bed for some plants that I moved from the back when we first arrived at this house. Time to plant it out judiciously and remove unwanted and inappropriate plants to somewhere else. Then I happily bought three passionate pink Pieris from Gardening Express. One was damaged in transit unfortunately.

I am not sure how these Pieris will handle fierce winds.

I am not sure how these Pieris will handle fierce winds

I also found a Vinca minor that has pink flowers. Vincas are so hardy that dividing them is a piece of cake. You can see how well the purple Vincas have come on since last autumn when they had been untimely ripped from beside the garage!

The irises are finished – the vicious wind put paid to any remaining stragglers.  Now, of course, the hyacinths and daffodils have burst forth. 

The colour in this garden cheers me up no end

The colour in this garden cheers me up no end

I can see why hyacinths do better inside – the wind played havoc with the flowers and they don’t look their best. The muscari and crocus along the back fence and in the west garden are flowering still.

 

Planted out at last

Planted out at last

The indecisiveness of my last post has resolved into my planting the Cambridge Favourites strawberries in with the peas. The other neglected strawberries I trimmed and tied and potted up the strawberry planter I had bought last year. They have been in situ just over a week and look fine.

A first time use strawberry planter

A first time use strawberry planter

I have planted the Brodiaea triteleia corms near the western fence in front of the clematis and scattered a mix of purple annuals raked into the soil around the ajuga reptans. This west garden is going to end up a mass of different purples.

It is actually quite absorbing focussing on a single colour and its variants and types of plant. I haven’t ever tried to do this before but I find myself looking at everything that is purple and wondering whether I can squeeze in yet another few plants, bulbs, shrubs or seeds. The aquilegias that I transplanted from the front garden to the west garden last year look healthy enough. I would like masses of them all bunched together underneath the Pieris and Buddlejas bordering the south side. I know there are still some needing to be shifted from the front and will keep an eye on them for the purple ones. I discovered that because aquilegia self seed so readily the only way to isolate the bog standard purple one is by the dark stem that the new plants have. Paler stems indicate the lighter flowered varieties like white and yellow. The other thing I discovered is that you can shift aquilegias any time you like – they are extremely hardy.