June has brought in some warmer sunshine, and all the plants have finally got going. Even the young shrubs that were badly frosted in April just as they started into growth, have now started growing again and new leaves are just beginning to emerge from dead looking stems. The weeds are shooting up like rockets and I shall be fighting with Cleavers, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Ground Elder and Creeping Buttercup from now on as well as lots of less persistent weeds. I’ll also be looking closely for Aphid infestations after realising too late that my Viburnum trilobum ‘Wentworth’ has been badly damaged by Blackfly when I thought it just had a bit of frost burn. Aaaargh! I really should have remembered that trilobum does tend to be attractive to Blackfly. I had one in my first garden and the same thing happened. Hopefully now it has had a good wash with a weak solution of dish detergent, it should recover.
Anyway, the garden is really coming to life at last, and on the last evening of May I took these shots just for the sheer fun of it.
This week we will have our second Covid Jag. It will be a huge relief to be fully protected, although it takes five weeks after the second dose to achieve this. Nevertheless, a huge step forwards. I shudder to think where we would be now without the brilliant scientists who made these vaccines. I hope they all get the rewards they deserve. I am so grateful for my home and garden. Staying at home has never been a problem for me except it means I can’t see my daughter who lives at the opposite end of the UK. But my heart goes out to all the people who have had no outdoor space and have had to cope with being locked down without the luxury of a garden to tend. We are so very, very blessed.
Can we now finally believe that winter is over? I really hope so. It’s been a horrible time for everyone and we gardeners are perhaps more weather-aware than most, along with the Agriculture Industry of course. But this afternoon the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was even nicely warm-ish. Of course the sun went behind a cloud from time to time and it was cold again. But this is the story of life in Scotland. We don’t get warmth without sunshine. Ever. Get used to it Karen.
We are so lucky here to enjoy beautiful views at the back and front of the house. Quite different views, but both absolutely beautiful. In front of the house we have the ‘Laws’ (Scottish word for Hills) and the Cows are grazing them at this time of year. We love to go up there and chat with our bovine friends every day. They are great listeners.
At the back of the house, the view is flatter and more expansive. We have fields with gently rolling slopes and we can see from the Sidlaw Hills in the West to the old Panmure Estate above the village of Newbigging in the East with it’s woodlands. To the North, Monikie Reservoir and village is at the top of the hill. This makes the very restricted area of ground we have at the back of the house so much more enjoyable and we never tire of these lovely big views which are constantly changing and are beautiful in all weathers, except perhaps the thick coastal fog that sometimes creeps up from the sea a couple of miles away and obscures everything.
The shady garden area is coming along well although the new baby Hostas have been badly damaged by the April frosts and are only just now beginning to recover. But they will recover.
The Crab Apples are in full bloom…this one is called ‘Indian Magic’. Some are almost finished now, but ‘Comptesse De Paris’, which has lovely yellow fruits, is still holding her buds closed. The next few days will see that change.
There are still lots of species and a few hybrid tulips to enjoy. The bearded Iris that are starring in southern counties at the moment are nowhere near flowering here. I don’t know if they will even make buds in the month of June this year. The same with the Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppies) which are only just swelling their buds, and the Alliums are not yet ready to open their globes either. Even the Geums are only just showing their first few blooms. But a couple of days of sunshine will bring everything on, I’m certain of that.
The rockery at the pond, which was newly created last year (2020) is maturing really nicely. It looked a bit too rocky in the winter, but I am reassured now that the plants have started growing again. The peach coloured Lewisia is absolutely covered with blooms this year.
I am most pleased with the Patio pots at the moment. I am loving the view of them from the house, and also sitting on the new bench and enjoying the plants close-up. I’m so glad I bought Bamboos. I really missed them and they are great in pots.
The new Cutting Garden, which replaces the vegetable patch for this year, is all planted up. The plants have been in for some weeks now and have suffered greatly from excess of cold, wind and wet. I don’t know how they will do, but I think they will be alright in a few weeks if the weather plays ball. But that’s a big ‘If’ in Scotland of course. Time will tell.
The Acers have all opened up beautifully and it’s lovely to see them growing stronger and bigger every year. I keep them all in the partly shaded area in the shelter of the Hedge to the West side of the garden in what I call ‘Contemplation Corner’
I’m hopeful now that the temperatures will warm up a little very soon. The forecast supports that expectation and I’m sure we will be having full on ‘weeding expeditions’ out there very soon. I pulled out a handful or two today that seem to have sprung up since yesterday! Happy Gardening 🙂
I’ve always been affected by weather. I have two big sunlight lamps which I use in the winter to help with Sunlight Affective Disorder (SAD). This ‘disorder’ (I don’t think it is a disorder, I think it is perfectly normal to suffer when you don’t see any sun for weeks!) affects many people and all we can do about it is take our Vitamin D and meditate. It does help to visualise myself in a tranquil sunny place, really. Try it if you don’t believe me.
Today I became ‘full up’ of ‘fed-up’ with the weather. May is my ‘favourite’ month of the year. I ‘expect’ to see sunshine, fresh green foliage everywhere and lots of late spring flowers. At the end of May I normally enjoy the scent of my first Roses. Our wedding (S and me) was in late May – 27th to be precise, in a hotel in Invergowrie at the West End of Dundee. The weather was glorious (as it often is in the last weekend of the month) with a temperature of about 70F nearly all day long. We had our photos taken outside. I remember there were still the remnants of daffodils in the garden and they featured in our wedding photos. So the Spring was perhaps cool in 1989. But not on our special day.
Yesterday the weather presenter on the telly said that the warmest temperature recorded this meteorological spring (March to May) was 70C and it was on 30th March if I remember rightly. I don’t remember any warmth here in Angus at the end of March. We had glorious weather during the first week of that month, and since then absolutely nothing but cold. Frosts came almost every morning in April and although there was plenty of sunshine it was absolutely ‘baltic’. Then May came and the frosts stopped and it started howling with wind and pelting hail and rain and hasn’t stopped now for over 3 weeks. Anyway, the telly lady said if that late March temperature is the best this spring, it will be the first time for 67 years. I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t be surprised it it turns out to be the coldest spring since records began!
This morning it had got to the stage that I felt I couldn’t bear it any more. The rain seems interminable and the skies are painting an apocalyptic scene. It is as cold as midwinter and I am worried about the baby birds. May is NOT meeting my expectations! Walking Willow the Labrador today I tried singing silly songs and talking to the cows (to be honest I talk to them whatever the weather is like). Then I moaned to my family because surely they wanted to hear about how miserable I am! And after that I listened to the inner voice and it was saying……be kind to yourself. This is dreadful weather, don’t punish yourself with misery. And so I lit the Log burner and accepted that this is truly the weather I expect in November. So I spent my day doing the things I love to do in the inclement autumn weeks. I enjoyed the log fire, I crocheted and I spent some time in communion with Spirit. And I feel so much better for it. And if today is like November, and there’s no end in sight to this dire spell….well, perhaps December will be nicer. I’ll tell you one thing…it’s the prettiest November I’ve ever seen. Cheer up, it will soon be Christmas!
It’s not unusual for me to have a few late Narcissi blooms at the start of May, long after those in more southerly gardens have gone to seed. But this Spring has been pretty extreme and the cold has preserved the daffodils and kept them going. The North-Facing White-Themed back garden is still billowing with N. Thalia, Misty Glen, Pacific Coast, Tresamble, W.P.Milner and Sailboat.
The daffodils are not alone. They have been joined by the pretty fringed Tulip ‘Honeymoon’, Amelanchier blossoms and the lovely Rhododendron ‘Cunningham’s White’.
There are still some white Tulips to open up fully…
…and the Silvery young foliage of Sorbus aria brings extra sparkle to the scene…
The next white blooms will be of Lilac ‘Madame Lemoine’ and Clematis ‘Broughton Bride’. They will be joined by the very delayed blooms of Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ which was badly set back by April frosts.
At the moment, the ground level blooms of the smaller Dicentra ‘Aurora’ are holding their own alongside Euphorbia chariacas ‘Silver Swan’ and the variegated foliage of Euonymus ‘Kathy’. The narcissus here is ‘Misty Glen’, one of my favourites.
So, that’s some of what we have in the White Garden at the moment and the effect is lovely I must say. The ground is hugged by Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’ which is losing its flowers now, and the pretty white perennial forget-me-not or Brunnera ‘Mr Morse’. And there’s also a bit of Tiarella or foamflower. The daffodils may not last much longer now as we have had some sunshine at last, but it is still cool, so we may have a couple more weeks to enjoy. I must admit, I will be happy if they succumb to a little more heat, but I remember a May – not too long ago – when my daughter and I visited Amsterdam and the Tulip gardens of Keukenhof and we wore fake fur coats to keep warm it was so cold. So nothing unusual about cold in May. It’s only the length and persistence of this cold spell that is so strange. But it is Spring! Enjoy it while it lasts.
May is the month of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas. For the rest of the year they give us evergreen structure in the garden with their shiny deep green leaves, some tiny, some huge. They have been unfashionable for a long time now and are due for a revival. Sometimes the leaves look dull and they get problems with spots and rusts and what not. Here in Scotland they never seem to go out of vogue because we have the lovely neutral to acidic (ericaceous) soil that they require. Rhododendron ‘headquarters’ in Scotland is Glendoick (https://shop.glendoick.com/plantShop) in Perthshire. A visit to their garden (https://www.glendoick.com/Visit-Glendoick-Gardens-2021) on the south-facing hillside of the Carse of Gowrie is a rare treat. The first time I went there I found myself nestling among bright exotic blooms looking out across the low ground of the Carse of Gowrie and it really felt like a different place – I imagined myself to be somewhere in the Himalayas or the mountains of China. Many of the Rhododendron plants in Glendoick Gardens are the size of small trees and the scent of some of them is breathtaking. And I have no words for the effect of being in amongst that much intensity of colour. For me, its a bit emotional. Glendoick is a celebration of the Rhododendron genus (with a supporting cast of beautiful woodlanders) with many plants collected in the Far East by the Cox family themselves who built and own Glendoick. When we lived in the West of Dundee it was a quick 20min. drive down the Perth Road to visit the garden centre and my first garden was full of their plants. We had some beautiful Rhododendrons, but also a big Hoheria Sextylosa in the corner of the garden which enjoyed the shelter of its urban situation and was a glorious sight in mid summer every year covered with pretty white blossoms. It’s an evergreen large shrub that really does deserve to be grown a lot more. Anyway, that’s the place to go for a Rhododendron (and an excellent restuarant for lunch too with loads of lovely shopping).
When we arrived here in Kingennie there were already four or five good dwarf Rhododendrons in the shady corner. Using Glendoick’s catalogue I was able to identify them, and we added some of our own that we brought in pots from our last garden and I have also added some bought on line from Millais – https://www.rhododendrons.co.uk – another Rhododendron specialist.
Here is my Dwarf Rhododendron corner on 12th may 2021….everything is late this year and four or five of them haven’t even started flowering yet.
The first one of my Rhododendrons to flower begins its display at the end of April and it is especially welcome because it has a lovely fragrance. I am confident that it is ‘Tinker-Bird’ which is in the Glendoick catalogue and was planted by a previous owner. It flowers profusely over a compact rounded mound of a shrub, currently about 2 feet high at it’s tallest point. I moved it underneath a Greengage tree in the hope that it would get protection from late frosts and heavy rains and that seems to have worked well. Even this year (the ‘everlasting’ winter of 2021) it is undamaged by frost, wind or heavy hail showers. The colour is pale pink in bud and white in flower and it will reach 3 feet.
Not far behind the Tinker-Bird is the beautiful deep purply-blue diminutive Rhododendron russatum. It also had a tight mounding habit with tiny foliage. You wouldn’t give it a second glance during the rest of the year, but in flower, this little beauty is a real eye-catcher. Eventually it will make 3 feet in height.
Also flowering in early May are the yellow-flowered Dwarf Rhododendrons ‘Wren’ which grows to about 1&1/2 feet, ‘Patty Bee’, about 2&1/2 feet, and ‘Shamrock’ which will also reach about 2&1/2 feet. They have a more spreading, looser form and tend to flower slightly less profusely. Their yellow is not garish, but a subtle greenish creamy shade. Delicate I’d say. They don’t seem to be as strong in my garden and at least one has been lost for some reason that I was never able to fathom. None of them is a prize specimen and they seem to suffer from leaf problems. But by moving the remaining ones around, I seem to have found more favourable spots for them to grow in. Drainage is an issue in my heavy clay soil. Hopefully they will now do better as they are a valuable late spring element of my Golden Border. Being honest, I cannot tell the difference between the three of them, and I’m not sure which one is which in my garden.
Another early bloomer is the delicate lilac-pink ‘Snipe’. For some reason, this one, which was here when I moved in here, is not doing so well this year. It might be just because it has got older, or perhaps the drainage is not good around it. But I’ll be keeping an eye on this one and giving it a good feed soon. I think perhaps it has struggled because of this very prolonged cold and windy spell right as it was beginning to flower. We have had 8 weeks of extremely cold, sunny, windy and mostly dry conditions that would test most emerging flower buds. But looking at these photos, I can see some rusty leaves.
There are two dwarf Rhododendrons in the shady corner however, that never seem to struggle. Every year they are clothed with so many blooms you cannot see the foliage at all for the blooms. These two are equal in size…roughly 2 feet high. And they were the other ones that were already in the garden and not chosen by me. They are ‘Ginny Gee’ and ‘Wee Bee’. Here they are in all their glory. First is ‘Ginny Gee’ with her pale pink and cream flowers. She is near to her maximum height of about 2 feet. Her foliage is dark with bronze hints which sets the flowers off perfectly.
‘Wee Bee’ is less of a favourite with me. From a distance the colour looks salmon-pink and slightly garish for my taste, but I it is a great performer. As with ‘Ginny Gee’ above, the flowers are two tone; darker pink and white in this case and the maximum height is slightly less at just over a foot tall. The buds are a very reddish pink.
In the raised beds I have included together half a dozen of the Dwarf Red-Flowering Rhododendron ‘Scarlet Wonder’ to give me some spring colour in the Hot Border which doesn’t really get going until July otherwise. I love Rhododendrons with red flowers. They are the most sumptuous. But Scarlet Wonder is not doing particularly well here. I fear it is getting too much sun and not good enough drainage. The flowers are sparse and the plants themselves are not growing much at all. This is the best shot I can offer you of a shrub that will eventually reach over five feet high. It’s early yet though, and these have only just started to open their first blooms and they are very immature plants which I hope will grow in vigour.
The smaller-leaved rhododendrons do seem to be much harder to keep healthy than the ones with bigger leaves. But generally they are pretty healthy and easy plants to care for given the required acidic soil. Just give them a feed with specialist Ericaceous plant feed twice every year in March and again after flowering is finished. I tend to use Seaweed extract on everything in the late spring because it gets everything growing after it’s long dormancy.
‘Graziella’ is a dwarf Rhododendron that looks fantastic all year around because she has unusually beautiful elongated dark green leaves that grow in lovely ‘hand-like’ clusters. But in flower, wow, what a sight she is with her deep lilac-pink flowers. I took this photograph in 2019 which was a very gloomy May indeed, but she shines out, and you can see the effect of those gorgeous leaves.
By the time Graziella blooms, the Rhododendrons are really now in full flight, and making a huge colour impact at a time of year when Rhododendron-free gardens can sometimes be suffering from something of a colour-gap before the Perennials, bedding plants and Roses get going. And that’s another great reason to grow these plants which really are the stars of the mid to late Spring garden.
This gorgeous little lilac-pink beauty is called ‘Wigeon’. A very healthy plant with flowers that are a good size for the scale of the foliage.
And this tiny one called ‘Oban’ spreads out just a few inches above the ground. What it lacks in stature it certainly makes up for in brightness of colour.
Last year I added this diminutive beauty that reminds me of a Daphne. Rhododendron ferruguineum is also known as ‘Alpenrose’ in central Europe where it is native. The Second photo shows the whole plant in flower in it’s first year in my garden.
Moving on to the larger specimens, and starting with ‘Nancy Evans’ which is still a compact plant, reaching only about 3 feet high. This is one of my favourites. A much better shade of yellow than the ones mentioned above, Nancy also has shades of orange in bud and in bloom. A reliable and healthy shrub with larger leaves. She is the star of my Golden Border in mid May, and being compact she will not outgrow her position.
This last photo of Nancy shows her colours when she first opens her buds in early May. Lots of Rhododendrons have buds of one colour which fade in bloom to another shade as they mature.
Rhododendrons can be successfully pruned though, so you don’t need to allow them to reach their full height. They can be kept at the size you prefer to some extent. Late winter is the best time to cut them back, and you can be quite brutal. Simply cut about an inch above the lowest set of leaves that you wish to keep on each stem. Sadly that will mean losing at least some of the flowers for at least that season. Tidy them up annually after flowering by removing just the dead flower clusters carefully without destroying the top of the emerging shoots of the new growth which appear right under the spent flowers. If you don’t do this, it’s not a problem at all…you get to enjoy the seed heads at the same time as the flowers.
Following a little while after Nancy is ‘Percy Wiseman’ a very popular plant and understandably so because this one has such beautiful shades of pink flushed with cream and again, is compact, although it will eventually rise to about 6 feet. As you can see here in this photo from the gloomy May of 2019, Percy is a bright star whatever the weather is like in May.
Meanwhile in the back garden Rhododendron ‘Cunningham’s White’, which can reach over 8 feet in height, is in full flower. I planted this one at the back because it is white, but in bud it is pale lilac fading to white as the blooms open. A lovely plant and another very healthy and reliable performer.
There are deciduous Azaleas (which are also part of the Rhododendron family) in full bloom now, and some of them have really powerful sweet perfume. I grow the Ghent Azalea ‘Rhododendron Daviesii’, ‘Klondyke’ and Rhododendron luteum. All three give stunning autumn colours with foliage turning burgundy, red and orange. Below you can see Rh. Daviesii in the foreground with it’s creamy peach and yellow blooms which fade to creamy white. The scent is heavenly. On the other side of the pond you see the orange blooms and bronze foliage of another deciduous Azalea called ‘Klondyke’. Now, all Azaleas are Rhododendrons, and in the RHS catalogue, they are all listed under Rhododendron. But not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas and please don’t ask me why some of them are called Azalea. I used to think Azaleas were deciduous Rhododendrons, but no, there are lots of evergreen Azaleas. No idea.
And here’s a better look at ‘Klondyke’. Have flowers and foliage ever been better together? The leaves turn green in summer and then in autumn they go burgundy red. What a plant!
Rhododendron luteum blooms on the end of long naked stems so looks quite different from the two Azaleas above. It has a very powerful and beautiful scent. It’s ultimate height is between 2.5 and 4 metres. More of a tree than a shrub!
I have been waiting to tell you about a very special Rhododendron that I have. This is a sport of the very popular and beautiful ‘Pink Pearl’ which I grew in my first garden, a spectacular big pink blowsy one. But this one is quite different to it’s parent. Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ has darker pink flowers, but it’s the foliage that makes it so precious. The foliage is bronze all year around. The new growth is a bright rusty red after the flowers, and the rest of the year the leaves darken to this lovely browny green colour. It’s ever so special!
The leaves and buds of Ebony Pearl in Mid May…
The Flowers of Ebony Pearl….
And the new foliage….
It’s a special one!
Rhododendron ponticum variegatum is a pretty variety. Rh. ponticum is a pest and is illegal to grow in the UK because of it’s invasiveness. However, you can still grow this hybrid form of Rh. ponticum and it is available from nurseries. It is the variegation of the foliage and the beautiful mauve flowers that make it desirable. I have one that is grown as a Standard (a lollipop form) which is very useful for winter interest in my rose border where I grow quite a few Standard Roses. The Standard Rhododendron blends in well with the Roses and gives me bright colour through the winter months. It’s also the last one of my Rhododendrons to flower, usually in June.
A couple of years ago, I decided to add a deep purple Rhododendron and bought this lovely one from a Garden Centre. It didn’t come with a name on it’s label and I’m not sure, but I think it might be Purple Splendour with the black splodge and the white pollen anthers. Here is a closer look at the flower…
And here is my ‘Purple Splendour’ at the very back of the raised bed behind Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. It’s only small, but it’s growing really fast and will soon fill up the space where it sits right at the back of this raised bed between Sambucus ‘Serenade’ and Betula pendula.
There are a few more in my collection….in the shady corner I have three or four that are not yet flowering and with the weather as cold as it is, and without any sunshine in the forecast, I don’t think they will flower for some time. So I will add them on as they come into flower and update this blog later. But for now, that’s all I have to write on Rhododendrons in my garden. Thank you for looking in and enjoy your Rhododendrons!
Or more accurately, Tasmannia lanceolata as it has been renamed by the RHS. Anyway, it’s an evergreen shrub, originating in South East Australia and Malasia, which can eventually reach 5 metres in height in the right conditions. The bark has a strong aroma of Cinnamon apparently, but I have never investigated so cannot confirm or deny. It’s common name is Mountain Pepper, presumeably because of the dark little berries which have yet to appear on mine. The weather is probably the reason for this. I expect it fruits much more reliably in warmer areas.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the catalogues tell me this shrub is not fully hardy. Well, it may not be, but this beauty has survived this very long, cold winter (and the previous seven) without any damage. They say it requires shelter from the wind and yet mine is fully exposed from every direction except North, and it has suffered no wind damage in this very exposed moorland garden. Comparing it with Pittosporum which I just cannot overwinter in my garden at all, I think it is tougher than ‘they’ think.
The effect of this beautiful evergreen shrub is something similar to an Olive. it has long green leaves (not as silvery as an Olea but the same shape). It’s form is light and airy and it catches the evening sun beautifully. In Spring it flowers profusely and reliably and the fragrance of the flowers is lovely. As if this were not enough, the stems and flower calyxes are a lovely shade of deep rich red.
I only have one Drimys and I’m wondering why that is. I have an ailing, struggling Olive in a pot on my patio, and although I love the ‘idea’ of having an Olive tree in North East Scotland, I wonder if I might have a potted Drimys as well. So, there’s an idea. 🙂
So, as I was saying before, I have three new projects for 2021. Firstly I have my first attempt at a cut flower patch, then there’s the transformation of the Patio into a proper patio garden (that just means getting a lot more sun-loving plants that will grow in pots and covering as much of the patio with them as possible). And thirdly there’s the new potted shade garden on the north-facing wall of the back garden. When we first moved here, I did have plans for a shade garden border but this didn’t work out because of the windy exposed position and then the acquisition of the Garden Pod which changed our plans for the back area. So until now, this has just been a bare North Facing wall in pretty much full shade. Then last year I started to miss my shady gardens of the past and all the lovely plants that I used to enjoy growing in them. I’ve always loved Hostas, but we have such a lot of slugs and snails here and so I had removed most of my good Hostas in defeat and disgust. But then I thought if I could grow them in pots and raise them up, they would be lovely on that North Wall. So more have been bought and are starting to grow. I chose ones that would have white scented flowers to grow on the big shelving unit which used to sit on the Patio at the front of the house. The recent very cold windy weather has battered my new plants, but they will recover in time. I also have some lovely scented white trailing Begonias and some white Impatiens to add to this display later on. The pot on the floor in front of the trellis has an Akebia quinata which did start growing but was cut back by the Arctic blast. It will recover.
Last week I had an idea to convert a useless mirror which we had in our home gym (it was useless because it gave me a fat half and a thin half which was more than I could bear!). So out it came and I googled for some ideas of how to use it. I do love a garden mirror on a gloomy wall or fence, they make a huge difference to the light levels and atmosphere. I decided on a trellis on the front of the mirror to give a ‘window’ effect and hopefully dissuade the birds from flying into it or fighting their own reflections (both of which were problems in our last garden with the tall mirror we had there). Scott also made me a bench from a Scaffold Board to raise it up and sit some plants on to add to the effect. Both are now attached to the wall because we are sure to suffer more high winds. That’s one change in our climate that is not going to get any better. Anyway, it is finished for now.
There are two large Hostas in the gravel area which are marked with the flame stakes and a plant stand to prevent us treading on the new buds when they emerge, which will probably be towards the end of May in this cold shady spot. There are also two big pots of Hosta ‘June’ which is probably my favourite Hosta of all and I would never give up growing it. Besides, it’s not a favourite on the sluggy menu, so it’s a great choice if you only have room for one and it has the most beautiful palette of blue green and chartreuse foliage. The two big pots if evergreen shrubs are both white Camellias but they tend to flower very late in the season so no blooms yet.
And that’s it. We have a shady garden at last and all that’s left to do is to add to the plant collection and enjoy looking after them. One project complete. Well almost, I still have to change the corner of the gravel area, but that’s a job for a warmer day.
And I bet I’m not alone. After a truly miserable year for all citizens of this little Planet, I’m sure there are Millions of people thanking God that winter is now over in the Northern Hemisphere. Even if we can’t get out for lunch, or even have our families over for supper, at least we can at last begin our enjoyment of nature in our Gardens, on our balconies and at our Community Allotments. And somehow, just the fact that we can see life, new growth and colour outdoors makes everything seem better for most people I think.
Without planning to, I seem to have started three new projects in my garden. None of them require landscapers or big bucks, thank goodness. They are simple projects that will keep me interested, creative and motivated during the months to come. So, here’s a little bit about my new garden projects for 2021.
The first project was the most consciously planned. I decided to have a go at a Cutting Patch. I don’t have space in the soil for such a thing, so I’ve given over my raised beds outside the greenhouse where I usually grow edibles. I’m keeping my Blueberry Bushes, but instead of lettuce, carrots, potatoes, peas and cabbages, this year there will be Dwarf Dahlias, Dutch Iris, Cosmos, Amaranthus, Nicotiana, Stocks, Asters, Grasses, Ipomoea, Sunflowers, Marigolds, Larkspurs, Snapdragons, and other lovely annuals. Sadly, no Sweetpeas because they give my hubby a headache. I started sowing seeds in the heated propagator in February with the aid of two big sunlight lamps (The ones I use in December to keep the edge off the SAD). First it was all indoors on a window ledge, and then in March the whole production line was moved out to the greenhouse minus the lamps. I think after last years miserable vegetable harvest and given the year we’ve suffered, a patch of colour and loveliness is more appealing than the annual fight with Cabbage Whites and Aphids.
Here is my Greenhouse, chock full of seedlings growing nicely and in about 6 weeks I can start to plant these outdoors, weather permitting, after hardening them off for a couple of weeks by sticking them outdoors during the day and getting them used to the real weather out there. Each night I will pop them back in the greenhouse to protect them from Spring frosts. I don’t have a cold-frame.
All this after throwing out a lot of propagation stuff last year with the grumpy-faced vow of “I’m growing nothing from seed next year”. Yeah, that turned out to be right then (Karen rolls eyes skyward)!
The second project is a new Shady planting area. This corner of my house is North and West Facing and enjoys deep shade all winter and also in summer until about 2pm when the sun reaches it and after that for a few hours it is the warmest spot in the garden. So the plants that will go in there need to be able to cope with both full sun for a few hours and deep shade for most of the day. Not the easiest spot and that’s why it’s taken me so long to get around to really doing something with it. There’s a gravelled bed into which I have planted two very large Hostas which used to be elsewhere in the garden. One is called ‘Big Daddy’ and is giant glaucous blue form. Very Handsome if you can keep the slugs off. The other is a seedling of Francee which has a nice white variegation. Hopefully the gravel will reduce the slimy dinners in the dark, but my Hubby loves to go out after dark and cut them in half with scissors (Karen grimaces, how can anyone do this? Bleugh!).
I really need to alter the curve of that gravel border and extend it into the grass a bit, but since we now have an automatic mower operating to a a cable running around the edge of the grass, that’s a bigger job for later in the year I think.
The other plants already there are two white-flowering Camellias called ‘Silver Anniversary’ and ‘E.T.R.Carlyon’ They both have beautiful pure white double blooms, and both are planted in Ericaceous compost in big wooden planters. There’s also a potted Akebia Quinata with it’s lovely Vanilla-scented flowers in Spring.
The big staging was formerly sited on the front patio and used for pot staging, mostly for Tulips in Spring and then for other seasonal displays. I’ve decided to move it for now and use it to grow some shade-lovers. This gives me a nice opportunity to grow plants that I can’t grow anywhere else in the garden because we have such a sunny plot. Even the North Facing Back garden gets loads of sun in the spring and summertime, so the staging allows me to grow potted Hostas (which I love and will be more protected from sluggies here), Scented begonias, Ferns and Ivies. And I’m sure I shall find some other lovely friends to join with them in time. But for now, they are barely occupied at all, and they need a bit of cleaning and touching up. The new Hostas I have chosen for here have big white flowers and are noted for their good scent. They are ‘So Sweet’, ‘Snowcap’ and ‘Honey Bells’. There are also two big potted Hosta ‘June’ which are still dormant but will soon add some really lovely lush colour and texture to this area. June is one of my very favourite Hostas.
I am looking forward to developing this spot with things that I maybe haven’t grown before, it’s a challenge in this exposed garden and that challenge is something I very much relish. There won’t be any large-leaved lovelies to be shredded by the winds. Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’ might come out for a brief holiday from the Greenhouse, but that won’t be a huge success…it will just curl up it’s toes. Maybe best keep it indoors.
Finally, I have been mulling over what to do about the front Patio which I have never enjoyed much. It is very long and the patio slabs themselves are fine, but the grouting never lasts. Ants get under and mine it all out. First I considered getting down on hands and knees and concreting in the gaps by hand. A tough, miserable, messy and tedious job, and hard on the knees and back. Then I thought I might buy hundreds of Creeping Thyme plugs and try to establish that in the gaps, but that would take time and might not be very practical when it comes to cleaning the slabs in our very algae rich climate. So I’ve settled on a third idea, which is basically to cover as much of the patio as I possibly can with potted plants leaving only a footpath through all the lovely foliage and flowers. I removed a couple of Evergreen standards (Holly and Pinus) from the borders and potted them up last autumn. I bought a small Birch Tree with very feathery foliage (Betula pendula ‘Karaca’) and I’ve also bought two ‘Minarette’ Greengages from Ken Muir (excellent fruit specialist nursery online). There were already two Pear Trees in planters and a nice compact Arbutus unedo too, and I shall build on this as the year progresses with new Red-Stemmed Bamboos (Fargesia robusta ‘Asian Wonder’ and Fargesia nitida ‘Jiuzhaigou’) and Nandina ‘Brightlight’ that will keep the evergreen interest going well during winter. We invested in a new bench, better than the previous cheap supermarket one. But I’ve kept the old broken one for staging my Aeoniums later on. I have a water-feature on the Patio which moves about a bit but stays against the house wall because of the electricity wire. This project will take a few years to mature as I will have to wait for shrubs and small containerised trees to grow. Fast-growing large-leaved lovelies (e.g. Ricinus) just won’t survive the winds here.
Elsewhere in the garden, there is much more growth happening now. The Prunus ‘Kojo-No-Mai’ will start flowering very soon and the species Tulips are already started. One of my favourite plants for March is the lovely pink Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’. I am so grateful to a friend who advised me to mark it with a label as it goes dormant in summer and you don’t want to disturb the corms once they are in. This year I’ve added six more to the three existing (I have a ‘try it first and then buy more if it works’ policy) and all six tiny ones are flowering. They are easy to grow given decent drainage which they have on the edge of the Patio Border. And of course the Hellebores are all in full flower now and some are clumping up beautifully after 6 or 7 years in their homes.
Phew! Thank goodness for that……Winter is over again, at last! It’s time to come out of Hiding. Stay safe everyone and keep gardening 🙂
On a miserable February day when planting in the garden was difficult because it was almost too dark outside to see what I was doing, and the mud was clinging to my boots, I have spent this evening editing my photos from the snowy weather we had earlier this month. It was the best kind of snow…the kind that comes down fast and heavy and crispy underfoot, and then is completely gone within a week.
Day one of the snow and we knew from the forecast that there was more to come….
Same view the following day….(taken from behind the window..it was still snowing).
Willow enjoyed the snow. She loved pushing her nose deep down to get the scent of little creatures that had scurried underneath during the night. She also loved making Angels with me and going for long walks across the fields together…
I enjoyed making my Snowlady. She didn’t last very long. Two days before her head fell off.
The Cottage always looks so pretty in the snow and I love being the first one on to the virgin drifts as I go about the daily birdfeeder refilling….
And then as the sun went down, the fairy lights gave us a magical atmosphere…
Some views of the area around our home…
And some views of the garden….
It was beautiful and for a day or two it was a lot of fun too. I hope it doesn’t come back though! I think we are all ready for Spring now…..
I’ve just been re-reading my recent blog about Garden Trees (see below) and specifically the ones I have planted here. When I was finishing up the blog I started reflecting on how poorly some of my trees have grown so far (just painfully slow and some suffering from wind rock in spite of being well staked). They haven’t grown as much as I expected in seven years. And I remembered that when we buried our little Molly the Jack Russell Terrier in October, we discovered that we only have two feet of good topsoil, and underneath is pure sand and masses of round river pebbles. Pure sand, just like a beach! Imagine our surprise. Especially as we are 122m above sea level and the hill in front of our house has quite extensive plantations of large forest trees across it. But at the time we buried little Molly, we were only focused on saying goodbye and grieving our friend of 14 years during a deluge when the garden was already flooded and it was still raining. But since then I have had time to allow the ‘penny to drop’ and now I am thinking that this ‘beach discovery’ explains a lot. Also, to underline the truth of our situation, recently our Farmer neighbour dug a big hole in the field behind our house for a new field drain…and exactly the same situation appeared. It was a couple of feet of good soil over pure golden sand. The sandy hole filled up with water very fast and I was reminded of our grave-digging discovery. Aha!
Now I am remembering that when we arrived, seven years ago, we realised that although the two biggest Apple Trees had a lot of blossom in Spring, they produced no fruit and both had Canker and Scab issues. We eventually decided to pollard them and use them as hosts for rambling Roses etc. But the Rambling Roses seem reluctant to grow tall. They flower well and are growing, but so much less vigorously that I expected them to. After about five years in the soil they are still less than 5 feet high, and seem to want to produce tons of new stems from soil level rather than grow up the trees. Even the large Bramley’s Seedling has never really produced a decent crop of apples. Whereas the Plum up at the very highest point of the garden, beside the road, was always very prolific and very healthy. Secondly, there was a dead tree in the garden when we moved in and we had that removed. It was I Hawthorn I think. Alarm bells should have been ringing right then. But as it was in a raised bed, the bottom of the trunk had been buried below the soil level of the raised bed which we presumed was built around the pre-existing tree. But perhaps this was not actually the case. There was also a sizeable Rowan tree which seemed healthy enough in stature, but didn’t produce any fruit and that came out too, mainly because it was right in the middle of the garden in the raised border. I didn’t think that was a good situation for a medium sized tree and it wasn’t a good example of Rowan which is usually a beautiful garden tree. Its foliage was sparse and just looked sad.
A year or so later and I was planting new trees of my own. I started with Birches and quickly moved on to Crab Apples. I planted all the Crabs I have now, but also a fairly good sized ‘Red Sentinel’. The first year it was absolutely gorgeous, and then in its second year it started to look really unwell. It was as though it suddenly collapsed (just like my Arbutus Unedo did in the back garden) I couldn’t find anything wrong on the leaves, trunk, branches or roots, but after reading it was susceptible to Scab I decided to remove it. I thought it a little odd but didn’t really dwell on it and I didn’t want a tree that was going to be unhealthy. Since then i’ve been thinking about my other Crab apples which seem to be growing very slowly and although they are healthy enough, they don’t seem to want to thrive and grow tall. Hmmm
So, I’ve done a little bit of research into sandy soil and it seems that the best trees at coping with these conditions are Birches (and yes, mine are all doing really well) and Scots Pine, of which I have one dwarf one which is doing very well and is now about 7 feet tall. So…..I shall have to feed my trees a lot more regularly from now on as there is so little in Sand to give them strength. And as I’ve probably finished planting trees now, it’s not going to make too much difference at this stage, but at least I now have a clue as to what my challenges are. I know that Dundee’s pre-historic landscape was Volcanic, and there is a burn behind our house that must at one time have been a much bigger water course, possible a major river. Maybe I’ll now develop an interest in Geology. I would love to know more about why I have a beach under my topsoil!