September Scents

After May, September is my favourite month. So many reasons…the warmth of the sunlight, ripening fruits, a feeling of ‘winding down’ and the return of the Roses. Here in Eastern Scotland I find that my Roses flower in June and then very sporadically until September when they flower again, often even better than in June. Then they seem to go on for longer and sometimes right into early winter.

These photos were all taken during the last few Mid-September days….

When we moved here almost 7 years ago now, the South-Facing Patio border (full of weeds and elderly shrubs) seemed to me to be crying out for scented Roses. I’ve always fancied growing Standard Roses, and I’ve also collected some shrub Roses and quite a lot of Patio Roses too. I’ve chosen them carefully for colour and scent. Stepping outside on a warm day and breathing in the scent is magical.

I’ve had my fair share of Blackspot, and it is so ugly. I’ve realised that it is inevitable. It seems to be much worse when the plants get stressed, so I try to keep them as happy as I possibly can with lots of liquid seaweed to drink, slow release fertiliser sprinkled once a year and lots of water too. I hadn’t realised just how thirsty Roses are. I sprayed them once with an anti-fungal chemical in the spring, and since then I haven’t sprayed them with anything. But I do water the foliage with the liquid seaweed when I am feeding them, so the leaves get a feed as well as the roots. I love them, and plants respond well to love, as does every thing that lives.

This year has been good for my roses. Not too many aphids, not too much blackspot and loads of lovely blooms.

Even so, I have reduced my Rose collection over the past two years. They need a lot of attention, and there are only so many hours in the day. A few have become too big, and a couple have not performed well. I find the French ‘Delbard’ roses tend not to do well for me. I suspect they prefer a warmer climate. Sadly today I dug out my favourite rose for scent ‘Chartreuse De Parme’ which I love very much. Unfortunately it has been stripped and ripped apart by the winds yet again. It happens every year, every time it starts to flower well, the gales come. And a battered Rose is just so sad. Better to be without than be so upset every year when it gets shredded and stripped of it’s leaves. I still have about 50 different varieties of Rose to enjoy.

‘Rambling Rosie’ on the wall, ‘Lady of Shallot’ on the left with ‘Boscobel’ at the lower level in the centre and behind her ‘Scented Garden’ a floribunda shrub rose with beautiful perfume and an open centre for the bees.
David Austin Rose ‘Lady Of Shallot’ As A Standard

Scented Patio Rose ‘Dream Lover’ from Style Roses of Spalding
Also from Style Roses of Spalding, another frangrant Patio Rose ‘Rebecca’ – Here mingling with geraniums and Diascia personata

David Austin’s Beautiful Standard Rose ‘Princess Ann’ – Lovely Perfume.

‘Rhapsody In Blue’ – Good Perfume and a More Informal Habit
Aptly Named ‘Flower Power’ A Patio Rose. No scent to speak of, but what a performer!
Another Scented Patio Standard Rose ‘The Queen’s London Child’

Along the other side of the house is where I have a handful of Red-Flowering Roses, mostly Patio sized ones. Hardly any scent, but they are very pretty. I bought them with the intention of growing them in pots, but they weren’t very happy. I think Roses need to be in the ground if at all possible.

Having been moved into this new border, some are taking a while to recover, and being West-Facing, they don’t get as much sun as the others, so not so many flowers. But very sweet non the less.

Today I was working hard all day outside again (started the annual clear-out and clipping of the hedge), but I made myself stop twice just to go along the border and smell every rose that I could reach. I shall miss that pleasure so much and there’s not much time left for enjoying it now. Soon the air will be too cold to carry the scents and all that will be left is a pile of dead leaves on the ground. Until next June.

Lots of people ask me where I get my Roses. I have picked up a couple of great ones in the local Garden Centre (Dobbies), but most of my roses have come from Style Roses of Spalding, bare root, by mail order in the winter. I have never been disappointed with any rose I have bought there, and they specialise in scent! And a few have also come from David Austin who stocks a great range of Standard Roses, and of course, their breeding is just unbeatable.

September Songs

A friend recently commented on the increased melancholy that she could hear in the Robin’s song at this time of year. I noticed it this morning. We have enjoyed a break in the windy weather that hung on through the whole of August, and today there was sunshine and stillness. The birds came out to feast on the Sunflower Hearts and to sing their September songs. It felt like I could breathe again. I really don’t care for windy weather….it makes me feel like I am being beaten about the head.

This is my favourite time of year after May. I love the mellow golden light of September and the return of my Roses. The warmth of the autumn hues and the chance to ease off on the dead-heading and lawn edging as growth slows gradually in the cooler days. I also love the fact that the Insects stop biting me!

Patio Standard Rose ‘Queen’s London Child’
David Austin Standard Rose ‘Princess Anne’

Patio Rose ‘Dream Lover’

Patio Rose ‘Peter Pan’

The Hylotelephiums (Sedums) are in full bloom and they seem to draw more insects in than any other flower in the garden (except perhaps the Borage which is always covered in Bees).

White Tailed Bumble Bee on Hylotelephium ‘Munstead Wood’

Also drawing in the bees is the Rose Germander – Teucrium chamaedrys, which is a very useful evergreen sub-shrub with beautiful rosy coloured flowers.

Teucrium chamaedrys with Hylotelephium ‘Carl’ and Ajuga ‘Dixie Chip’

Crocosmia and Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii are the stars of the Golden Border during this month (although the Rudbeckia has hardly got started yet), before giving way to the Conifers that will cheer us through the winter months.

Golden Border in September Sunshine

One of my favourite conifers is a Hinoki Cypress called Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Lucas’ which always attracts compliments. It’s slow-growing, but so worth the wait.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Lucas’

I’ve recently added a couple more Golden coloured heathers called ‘Beoley Gold’. They have pretty white flowers which I prefer the to the pink flowers of some of the golden heathers. I have resisted heathers for many years, mainly because they remind me of those Island beds from the 1970s. But the fact is Heathers and Conifers grow really well in Scotland, and give colour all year around. So I have succumbed. The golden coloured Heathers are particularly beautiful and only get brighter as the cold descends on them.

Heather ‘Beoley Gold’

The Plums are hanging heavy on the trees, and I really need to get them harvested, but that will have to wait until I have bought the vinegar and Brown Sugar to make the Chutney. Plums and Apples this year I think. Possibly with the addition of some dried Figs. Willow the Labrador is taking every opportunity to retrieve all the fallen fruits of both varieties….with unfortunate consequences for all of us!

Molly at the rear and Willow the Scrumper looking so innocent!

This morning I wandered out and suddenly noticed that a large Cornus shrub (one of the red-stemmed varieties for winter interest) was looking absolutely terrible and sticking out like a sore thumb in my hot colours bed. It has a white variegation on the leaf which looks very out of place in amongst red and bronzy hues. I wondered how on earth it had taken me all summer to notice this. Bizarre. Anyway, out it came and was consigned to the compost bin (I just couldn’t think of anywhere else to plant it). And then in its place I moved a small Hypericum ‘Magical Universe’ which had hardly any breathing space, and my Crocosmia ‘Okavango’ which used to be in there, but got removed a few years ago during my ‘ I hate Crocosmias’ moment. Thankfully I didn’t bin it because it has a beautiful big tangerine flower. So that has gone back in. Suddenly eveything looks totally different there now and so much more harmonious!

Hypericum berries, rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ left centre, Crocosmia ‘Okavango’ in the foreground. Acer palmatum top right.

I had to get the hose out and give the whole area a soak because it is raised and the wind dries it all out really quickly. Thank goodness we live in Scotland and suffer no shortage of water. But I do sometimes wish we hadn’t inherited these huge raised beds. They are full of clay subsoil and I find it a real challenge to get much to grow in there. Full sunshine is also proving a challenge in my South Facing garden. But this year I think they are finally coming good. There has been a lot of trial and error in there, and I’m discovering that Hydrangeas, Astrantias, some Geraniums and of course Roses are very happy in the heavy wet clay that turns to rock hard so quickly. This week I planted six good Callunas in there that have blue-gray foliage which should improve the winter character of this area. I’m hoping that the Monardas will survive, but I’m not confident as I lost one last year. The Primula denticulatas do very well indeed.

Rusty plant stakes marking a vacant spot in the tricky border. Newly added Hydrangea ‘Ruby Annabelle’ behind. Amongst the evergreen Leucanthemums

Monarda ‘Westacre Purple’..will it return next year?

Astrantia ‘Roma’ A great plant for most soils and situations.

Patio rose ‘Lovely Bride’ amongst trailing Hylotelephiums and the lime green foliage of Primula denticulata.

The raised borders looking lovely in August.

It really has been the biggest challenge of my gardening life, this area. Loads of plants have perished in there. But I keep on trying and adding more and more organic matter and it is working.

The new ‘birdbath’ ponds above the main wildlife pond have been a huge success so far. The birds weren’t too sure about using them to begin with, so I placed hanging bird feeders nearby and that has worked a treat. I can now see the Sparrows bathing en masse from my living room window.

Around the garden we are enjoying the seasonal labours of our neighbouring Farmers. I particularly enjoy seeing Wheat ripen in the fields and the harvested Barley Straw lying in bales waiting to be stored for the winter cattle feed. It’s always sad when the Cows go indoors into their sheds, but that’s part of the seasonality of living in a rural location.

And in the back garden, signs of the changing season are evident with Amelanchier ‘Northline’ turning to buttery yellow as the white Phlox shines out behind.

Amelanchier ‘Northline’ is one of the first shrubs to come in to leaf in the spring and one of the first to lose its leaves in the autumn.

Autumn is here and so we will grab as much late sunshine as we can in preparation for the long winter ahead. And let’s hope, as we retreat to our firesides, that we all have better days ahead. And maybe next summer we will be able to visit our favourite gardens again – maybe even in far flung places. Until then, put on your cardigans, take a seat and ……breathe…….:)

Contemplation Corner

Tired of Growing Veg.

I just noticed that the last time I edited this page, I was trialling yet more tomatoes. Well, this year – 2020 I decided it really wasn’t worth the bother with the toms and didn’t grow any at all. I don’t regret it, I eat tomatoes every morning, cherry ones, on the vine from the supermarket, and they are delicious! This summer, the only thing growing in my Greenhouse apart from a few Echeverrias are my mini Cucumbers called ‘Iznik’. And they are a different story to the dreaded watery tomatoes. Cucumbers fresh from the Greenhouse are very much better than the watery cucumbers from the Supermarket shelves. They are firmer, crunchier and much tastier. I only grow mini ones. They have far less seed in the middle and a better taste in my opinion.

Outside in the raised veg. planters I’ve grown some Radish with mixed success. The traditional round ones were great. The slugs had a few, but we enjoyed them in our lunch-time salad. I tried one that grew more like a Carrot as well, but that was a total waste. The roots didn’t swell at all and I just got loads of very healthy foliage. So they came out and went in the Compost Bin. The annual Rocket was a disaster, it bolted immediately and we never had any for our salad. Lettuce, similar, although I do still have a handful growing out there.

My Carrots are still growing. They were sown in May and germinated well. But then they just sat, and sat and sat for about 8 weeks. And even now, they aren’t growing very fast at all. Hopefully we will eventually have a few for our dinner. We have already pulled a handful of red ones that were quite nice.

In June I bought some plugs of dwarf French Beans and planted them in spaces left by the eaten Radishes. Well, they too just sat….in fact they shrank! So after about 8 weeks they have now been pulled out and composted like the long radishes.

Slightly more successful were the peas….a sugarsnap variety. They grew well initially, but as they got to about a foot high, they started to produce masses of huge tendrils, the like of which I’d never seen. Undeterred I snipped as many off as I could to redirect growth into the flowers. But no flowers appeared. Now this variety has a beautiful pink and purple flower. And eventually, when the plants had reached about 5 feet in height, we started to get a few and they did develop into tasty pods. But the yield has been poor and the plants far too big for my planters. So today they were removed and we had the last of the peas for dinner with some Pasta.

My Purple Potatoes were much more exciting. They grew well, stayed very healthy and produced some beautiful purple tubers. From 6 seed potatoes I think we had about the same amount of dinners for three greedy adults. So that was a fairly good result, and I think the reason why the Potatoes did so much better than everything else is the temperature in the raised planters. One sunny day when I was poking my finger in to the soil to check the moisture levels, I noticed that the soil was really quite warm…I mean too warm. I think my veg. have been struggling because their roots were getting ‘cooked’. My garden faces South and there is no shade for the Veg. planters at all. They are exposed to the strong winds and also the sun when it shines, and I think the soil is just too hot for most things. This also means it dries out fast and watering has been quite a chore. But Potatoes originate in South America, and I think they coped much better with the heat.

So I will keep my Blueberries (I have 11 of them, all in the raised planters and large pots) which are doing well enough, and in future I think I will turn my veg. planters over to growing some flowers for cutting. I have a few Zinnias in there that I grew from seed and they have done well, even in the shade of the giant Peas. So I’ll try a few other heat loving flowers next year. It feels a bit sad to give up on growing my own food, but it has been hard slog for very little success. Battles with birds, butterflies, slugs and even Mice…I can live without! Perhaps I will take out a subscription to a local veg. box supplier instead 🙂

The Greenhouse will become home for some lovely tender potted plants to enjoy on rainy days as well as the winter home of my Aeonium collection. And of course a few mini cucumber plants in the summer 🙂

The Edibles garden that promised so much in Spring but delivered so little….

Strawberries that fruited too late to ripen 😦

Tasteless Tomatoes

Oh, I can’t leave without mentioning Cabbages…..I’ve grown some beautiful cabbages, green Sweetheart ones and Big Purple Ones for Winter. They were a great success. I should have stuck to growing cabbages! 🙂

Fairies and Flowers at Trentham Estate

Occasionally we get away from home. Not very often because we have two dogs. One is elderly and considers all other dogs her mortal enemy (not a good candidate for a boarding kennel) and the other is soppy and very emotional and gets very distressed when we start packing suitcases (Yellow Labrador of course). So the fact that we have our Son living with us at the moment means we were able to escape.

Willow and Molly

You might be thinking….steady on…we are still in a Pandemic. Yes, we are. And the main purpose of our ‘staycation’ was to visit our daughter who lives in Dorset, and who hadn’t seen her Dad since her wedding day in December.

Our daughter Rachel’s wedding day, December 2019 with her Dad back left, brother back centre . Husband Richard in military uniform and his Mum hiding between the happy couple, his Dad back right.

We don’t consider driving from Angus in Scotland to Dorset in South West England to be a one-day journey, so we looked for somewhere to stay overnight. There is a Premier Inn near Stoke On Trent, right beside the Trentham Estate Gardens. We were lucky enough to secure a room for one night, and an evening entry ticket to the Gardens. The weather was super and we really enjoyed our stroll around the gardens.

Golden Fairy at the head of the Lake

The story of Trentham Estate is very interesting indeed. Mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, Trentham became an Augustinian Monastery and remained so from the 11th Century until the Vandalisation and theft wreaked by Henry VIII at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1540 it was sold to a Wool Merchant, and various stately houses were built on the site. The Country House of which some parts still stand dates from 1833 and was designed by Charles Barry. This house was commissioned by the 2nd Duke of Sutherland – the Victorian owner of the Estate. The Duke also commissioned a Landscape by Launcelot (Capability) Brown, and it is this expansive Garden and Park landscape that was refurbished starting in 2000. The House is now derelict and in ruins, but it has been listed, and there are still hopes and plans to rebuild it.

These photos show the best of what remains of the buildings, including the original Victorian Church which still serves the local community as their Parish Church.

The Estate was bought by St Modwen Properties, and this is where for me, this story starts to get really interesting. St Modwen Properties is a Property development and building company with a difference. The company specialises in regenerating brownfield sites and building excellent quality new homes. The business was founded by Sir Stanley William Clark 1933-2004. I had never heard of Sir Stanley, but having researched him a little online, I think his life would make a terrific film! His life story is truly rags-to-riches, and he was a man with tremendous energy, enthusiasm for life and great Philanthrophic endeavour. He went from an apprenticeship in plumbing, to great wealth and the purchase of a Country House at which his Mother had worked as a servant when he was a child. He owned racehorses and won the Grand National (1997 with Lord Gyllane) and he shared 12 million pounds with his employees when he sold his original housebuilding business to Balfour Beatty. Sadly he died of Cancer in 2004. But his lifestory – is absolutely inspiring and fascinating. I think he was a truly great character.

Back to Trentham Gardens. It has had a 120million pound development since 2000, under the ownership of Sir Stanley’s Company, St Modwen. They hope to rebuild the house when it is financially viable, but in the meantime they have built a hotel and a shopping village on the Estate with restaurants, a bowling club etc., and they hold events, both private and public on the Estate. What struck me on our visit was just how much has gone into the refurbishment of the gardens. Sculptures, Cafe, Playground, Fairy Trail (Sculptures by local Artist Robin Wight –, and Gardens by at least 3 world-class Designers. Piet Oudolf, Nigel Dunnet and Tom Stuart-Smith have all left their horticultural signatures in the gardens. And it seems to me that St Modwen have managed to combine Commercial Considerations with the provision of something truly inspiring, useful and beautiful for the people living in the area and visitors to it. It really is impressive. World Class I would say. You can read all about it here –

I hope these photos will give you some insight into the beauty of the gardens….

The River Trent rises near Trentham and babbles through the Estate. This same river, the third longest in the UK, is the same body of water as the energetic and dangerous one that passes through the Town I went to School in – Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. It’s amazing to think that it’s the same river as this gentle shallow brook. But there’s something else that ties them together. I could honestly hear no difference whatsoever in the local accent around Trentham than the one I hear from my Gainsborough relatives over 90 miles downstream. So there must be a ‘Trent Accent’…the Sound of the ‘People of the Trent’ 🙂

Thanks for looking in. I hope you get to enjoy Trentham Gardens one day!

Horticultural Rock and Roll

When we arrived here in 2013 the front garden was mostly laid to lawn and there were a couple of odd looking mounds beside the driveway.

They turned out not to be graves, but excess soil that had been dumped there and seeded over. A bit strange….but it gave me an idea to build a pond and create two turf seats using the soil dug out of the pond. So that’s what we did.

And that is what we have had since then. They were nice to sit on occasionally, but they were impractical really for three reasons. Firstly, they were hardly ever actually dry enough to sit on without getting a very wet bahoochie. Then there was the danger of falling in to the pond after a glass of wine and lastly, they were really really hard work to keep tidy. The mower could go up so far and then I’d scalp the tops. The hand shears did a good job, but it was a half a day’s work and very sore arms afterwards. And none of us are getting any younger are we?

So this weekend I set about altering the design in this area. I wanted to get more and more wildlife in to the garden and encourage the birds to come down for a bath (they hardly ever use the pond at all). We do have visiting frogs, toads and breeding Newts, but I love to see the birds taking a bath, so I decided to make two big birdbath pools at the top and create a rockery slope down to the pond.

So, after 16 bags of Rock and a lot of rolling of big rocks from other parts of the garden, this is what we have now instead of the turf seats. The whole project cost £80. That was all spent on the smaller rocks and pebbles. I used old bits of black plastic and extra pond liner saved from other projects, and every single plant was moved from elsewhere in the garden. A lot of the plants were being hidden under hardy geraniums etc. and were in far too much shade, so it was a win-win for them too.

From the Living Room Window
In the foreground…Cedrus deodara ‘Mr Blue’
From above, the top birdbathing pool
Rockery from the Pond with Solar cascades
Little Hylotelephium (Sedum) beside the top pond. Lavanders, Helleborus ‘Christmas Carol’ and Hakonechloea are also planted around here.
Entrance for fairies, frogs and gardeners, hidden behind the Azalea on the right is an upturned planter for me to perch on.
Fairy and golden pearlwort , wire birds behind, on stems.
Astilbe arendsii ‘Fanal’ beside the path. Ghent Azalea on the right.
The top birdbathing pool with two wire birds. The little tree on the left is Sollya ‘Pink Parasols’. It has a lovely weeping habit that suits this spot.
Water Lilies and Thai Princess
Primula florindae

One of the things I love about gardening is you can make a big transformation in a relatively short time. This project took me two and a half days work. Half a day on Friday, a full day on Saturday, half a day yesterday and a couple of hours today (Monday) to lay the pebbles.

There is no actual running water, just the two solar cascades to give the sound of running water, but they are self contained water features. But I have laid a liner under the pebbles where any surplus rainwater will run down in to the pond. This should prevent the water carrying silt down into the main pond. I will clean out the bird pools with the hose when they get too dirty or green with algae, rather than add any oxygenating plants. The water is very shallow, only a couple of inches deep.

Thanks for looking in at my latest project! Karen

Getting The ‘Cottagey’ Look Without Planting Against The House Walls.

Our house is over 150 years old. A Victorian farm cottage set back in a field and built from rough stones, old bricks and whatever else was available in 1857ish. Sadly, during renovations all the stone has been clothed in Pebble-dash render. I wouldn’t want to plant anything with big strong roots too close to it for fear of the mortar being damaged and whatever foundations there are under the ground. On the other hand, I do love to have planting right up against my house. I love being ‘in amongst’ the plants. So we have had to find a compromise. My husband has been a real help to me in this by constructing large wooden planters and some useful staging for me out of old and new deck boards which we painted and lined with whatever we could find (old compost bags, tarpauling etc. just stabbed holes in it for drainage. I also have a cascading water feature plugged in to an outdoor socket so we can enjoy the sound of running water. The planting has changed of course, and the added bonus of the planters means that things can be moved around if necessary, although one of them is so big it won’t be going anywhere!

I’ve always loved red flowers, but red is hard to combine with other colours…a bit like white. And it draws your eye, so if you plant it at the bottom of your garden, you will be drawn to look at it and that makes the garden seem smaller. So its a good idea, some say, to keep red flowers up against your house and enjoy them in close proximity. So that’s what I’ve done here. All the reds together on the patio house wall.

On the garden side of the Patio is a large border with loads of Roses, Geraniums, Peonies…that kind of thing. No colour theme, just a whole lot of lovely colours all together. I prefer scented roses, so stepping outdoors on a warm sunny morning is wonderful.

Access to the lawn is through a wooden arch clothed with climbing roses, a winter flowering clematis (Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’) and two of the best Clematis – ‘Niobe’ and ‘Cardinal Rouge’. The Roses are ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ and ‘Sunrise’.

I have managed to have Roses on the walls by selecting less vigorous climbers and Rambling varieties. These are ‘Rambling Rosie’, ‘Love Knot’ and ‘Summer Sweetheart’.

For evergreen interest I have a potted Arbutus unedo which has red berries in winter together with lovely little flowers similar to Lily of The Valley or Pieris.

There’s also a Bottle Brush plant, Callistemon, which as I write is about to flower, but is beautiful all year around. The new foliage is a beautiful bronzy colour and stays fresh looking right through the winter months.

And a couple of years ago I added a Chinese Lantern – Crinodendron Hookerianum which has lovely hanging lantern-like red flowers in late spring and dark glossy evergreen leaves. The wall faces South, so the Bottle Brush and the Chinese Lantern do benefit a lot from the extra warmth and protection that this offers.

I have two Pear Trees in large planters, which I keep here in the optimistic hope that they will one day produce fruit with the warmth of the South Facing aspect. Pear trees are worth growing though, even if they don’t provide Pears. The bark is colourful (one green, one reddish) and the blossom is so lovely and very early….just following the Plum Blossom in early springtime.

I have a thing about dwarf Pines. I’m not a conifer fanatic by any means, but I love the Bonsai-like effect of a good dwarf Pine tree in a nice pot. So these stay on the shelving all year around, and in the summer they are augmented with some of my larger Aeoniums. They aren’t all Pines though…there are also some other pretty little Conifers, like Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tilford Gold’, Abies koreana ‘Kohout’s Ice Breaker’ and Chamaecyparis ‘Blue Nantais’. This little collection gives me a lot of pleasure during the long winter months as I can see it from my chair in the Living Room.

This is my favourite of the containerised dwarf Pines. Pinus parviflora ‘Hobbit’

I’ve underplanted the bigger plants in the wooden containers with smaller Hylotelephiums etc, and under the Rambling Rose I have an unusual Alstroemeria called ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ which has variegated leaves very hosta-like and bright red flowers.

There are a few potted Begonias with dark leaves and red flowers which I keep in the greenhouse over the winter, and some of the Dark leaved ‘Bishop’ Dahlias which likewise can be kept in the greenhouse over the winter. And I’m growing two of Weigela ‘All Summer Red’ in a smaller wooden planter. It does have a very long flowering period (unlike most of its relatives).

An Olive Tree which I keep outside all year is managing to keep going in spite of the Scottish climate. It flowers profusely every year and hangs on to its tiny Olives as long as the weather allows.

The dining table has been taken over by a selection of my smaller Aeoniums for the summer. We never eat there anyway, so it was doing nothing else!

Finally, there are two Christmas Trees out there. Both of which survived our central heating and so I thought we should give them a chance to live a bit longer. One is the traditional Nordman Fir and the other is Abies procera – The Noble Fir. It’s on the left of this photo which shows the Patio as it continues on the West facing wall of the house.

They can stay as long as they are prepared to cope with being containerised. But eventually they will have to be chopped up for firewood as I certainly don’t have room for them in the ground! They both make large forest trees. But conifers respond well to being pruned in the winter time, so I might be able to hang on to them for a few years yet. They do need a lot of watering though. If they get dry they are very quick to give up the ghost. I’ve already nearly lost the Norway Spruce a couple of times when the weather has been very wet, and I’ve forgotten that almost none of that rain reaches the surface of the container, let alone the roots. So even in wet weather I go out and water everything except the Aeoniums which like to be dried out between waterings.

Another thing I’ve struggled with is Patio Roses in Pots. I bought several red flowering ones for the Patio, but found they weren’t happy in large pots, so now they are in the ground and doing much better.

The Patio is laid around three sides of the house and extends right up to the front door, so I’ve continued the red theme there as well and I have a Red-Berried Holly – J.C. Van Tol – in the corner where it hides a down-pipe. So far it seems happy enough and produces lots of berries that remain until they rot or I remove them.

And on the other side of the door, another miniature climbing rose called ‘Warm Welcome’ and a standard Holly.

There’s also a potted Japanese Quince – Chaenomeles x superba ‘Red Joy’ – which has a double red flower and has been flowering since March/April.

And I feed everything here…everything…roses included…with Liquid seaweed. It’s sustainable, organic and really seems to improve the health of my plants. So that’s it…my way to get the cottage garden feel close to your house, without root issues. Thanks for looking in. 🙂

Spring Into Summer

Early June can be a little bit tricky in the garden here. Spring is definitely over, but Summer isn’t really in full flow yet. Some areas of the garden are a little bit low in colour and growth even now. The Purple Alliums have finished, and the herbaceous perennials are yet to start. Nevertheless, if the air is still, the scent of the Roses is already filling it. ‘Jane Phillips’ also has a wonderful scent. It’s pretty much the only bearded Iris I have in the garden because much as I love them, they take up a lot of space and flower for a very short time.

Bearded Iris need a lot of sun on their rhizomes, so you can’t crowd them in or plant too much around them. Mine are right on the edge of a border with a Standard Rose called ‘Odyssey’ which has beautiful mauve pink petals that look just like they have been painted by hand. It also has a lovely, gentle, tea-like scent.

I may not have a Bearded Iris collection, but there are other Iris in the garden, and this is their moment too. I have this beautiful Iris sibirica ‘Lavandelwein’ which I split and moved a couple of years ago and has been sulking ever since. But this year we have flowers on one clump, so there is hope for the rest of them for next year. It’s a hard one to get a hold of, so I would hate to lose it.

Iris sibirica ‘Lavandelwein’

Then there is the bewitching Iris chrysographes…

Iris chrysographes beside the pond

And the Dutch Iris bulbs which are ever so reliable and I don’t know why we don’t grow more of them in more shades. I find they are quite difficult to get…perhaps they will be the next flower to enjoy the limelight with the Dutch breeders…time will tell.

I do love Paeonies and I have half a dozen or so in the garden, but this one is the most reliable…Paeonia ‘Cytherea’. The colour doesn’t ‘pop’ so much as ‘bang’. It’s almost like plastic pink, which I hate. But when young, it has a beautiful rich hue. The flowers are massive and not fully double so the Bees can get in there and feast.

Paeonia Cytherea with Rose ‘Scented Garden’ behind

Speaking of Bees…this Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’ is about six years old…just one plant. It sounds like a bee swarm which is a little alarming until you realise it is just a couple of dozen bumble-bees enjoying their breakfast.

I have a new one called ‘Crystal Rose’ which has a much deeper pink hue. I hope it will prove as popular.

Hostas are great in June aren’t they. Before the weather and the slugs get them. I used to have quite a big collection, but I grew so tired of trying to defend them, so I kept a small selection of favourites and ones that seem to resist damage. The rest of them were evicted last year.

Large-Leaved Hosta ‘Dream Weaver’
Hosta ‘Fire And Ice’

Small Hosta ‘Pineapple Upside-Down Cake’

Hosta tardiana ‘June’

‘June’ is my favourite Hosta, if not my favourite month of the year, which is probably May. But once the first half of June is past, then the Roses really start to take centre stage and the dead-heading becomes the main task of each day. Worth it though, don’t you think?

Rosa ‘Stardust’ (Scented Patio Rose)

And in the meantime…..there are the clematis….

Clematis ‘Bijou’ a ‘ground cover’ clematis meaning it sprawls rather than climbs.

Around The Garden In May

Its May 19th 2020 and I’m starting with a pair of late narcissus. I have had daffodils flowering since mid February (Tete A Tete are the first here) and these are the last. So that’s four months of daffodils flowering in my northern garden. I am always amazed by the length of the Scottish Spring! And as it is my favourite season of all….very happy.

The Back Garden is very short, only about five metres long. I would love it to be bigger of course, but as it is North Facing, it really isn’t a problem as in winter it is in full shade all day long. But in spring the sun comes back and from March until October, we have full sun on the back garden for most of the day. We’ve gravelled a lot of it, mostly because the gravel reflects light so brightens it up quite effectively. And the colour scheme is green and white, so in the evening the flowers really shine.


I’ve planted a few lovely tall shrubs as I really love a ‘woodland’ feel in a garden, but don’t want the destructive roots of trees so close to the house. There is one new tree, a Whitebeam, which was an incorrect mail order delivery (should have been a Sorbus Joseph Rock for the front). It’s silvery leaves look good with the white theme and I will prune it to keep it in check. But there is Sorbus eburnea, Viburnums, Escallonia ‘Iveyi’, Lavender ‘Madame Lemoine’ and several fruiting Amelanchiers. Evergreen interest is provided by Ferns, Euonymus ‘Kathy’ (white variegation), Viburnum tinus, and some smaller evergreen shrubs.IMG_9299

On this West-Facing corner of the house I have two white Camellias in planters and there is a Climbing ‘Iceberg’ Rose on the Arch on one side. The other side has a White Clematis (Marie Boisselot) and cream variegated climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris ‘Silver Lining’)IMG_9304

At the west end of the cottage, we have a Garden Pod in the corner (Silver Wedding Anniversary Celebration) and the start of the patio which was here when we moved in, and extends around two sides of the house. Here is a lovely Malus ‘Indian Magic’ which I planted about six years ago. It was tiny, but has grown beautifully with only one pruning to shape a little bit. The Conifer in the planter is a Noble Fir which I bought as my Christmas Tree last year. It survived the Central Heating and deserved a second chance!

The border here is newly widened and planted up with whatever I had in pots as the Garden Centres and Nurseries are still closed in Scotland because of Covid19. It’s a mixture of things…herbs, patio roses, alpines, sedums….


Under the hedge on this side I try to keep a wildflower strip and it has some lovely pink campion in it at the moment. and at this end of the border is a dessert apple which was here when we moved in. We are pretty sure is is M. ‘Discovery’ a lovely early harvesting fruit. Very sweet and crunchy, with pink in the flesh.IMG_9354

As you can see…lovely views at the back of the house toward Monikie and the Sidlaw Hills. It means we are very exposed to the strong winds, from every direction…but with expansive views come strong winds. You can’t have everything! Sadly it does mean that I can’t grow anything with large leaves very successfully. I have tried Canna Lilies and Ricinus amongst other things, and the wind just rips the leaves to shreds.

Another plant that doesn’t enjoy exposure to strong winds is the Japanese Maple. Acer palmatum and it’s relatives. This large one was here when we arrived. It does get damaged by winds every year, but it survives and the colour is a treat.


Taking my cue from previous owners, I have added a few more Acers here and called this my ‘Meditation Corner’, complete with table-top water cascade (solar powered), wind chimes and even a hanging chakra stone ornament under the dark Acer. It is really the only private part of our front garden.IMG_9264

So then we come to the open front garden, enjoyed by us and everyone who passes by. It faces South, so is very sunny. A large part of the space is taken up with parking space for our car, and I have ‘stolen’ a portion of that to create my ‘Edibles Area’ with Aluminium Greenhouse and Raised Vegetable Beds. I have 11 Blueberry Bushes there and this year I am also growing Carrots, Potatoes, Spring Onions, Rocket, Radishes and Sugar-Snap Peas. Inside the Greenhouse I have five baby Cucumber plants, but no tomatoes. I have tried to grow a tasty tomato for about 10 years now and finally given up. The ‘on-the-vine’ supermarket ones are always better than anything I’ve ever managed to grow and they are hard work! Cucumbers, on the other hand are absolutely delicious grown at home and heaps better than anything you can buy in a shop.


The rest of the Greenhouse space is used for growing tender plants, mostly Aeoniums. There is more about them in my ‘Succulents’ page.

I am trying to screen off the cars as much as I can using taller shrubs along the boundary planting and you can see here that the gate is gradually being hidden from view.  But this is a general view southwards to the hill in front of us where cattle graze during the summer months. And in the foreground is our Wildlife Pond, created 5 years ago. We used the spoil to make the two turf seats on the left of it. The Weeping Tree is Larix kaempferi – The Weeping Larch. A deciduous conifer with all year round beauty.


At the bottom of the garden I have planted a ‘Golden Border’ which is now maturing well. This morning I was removing the spent flowering stems of Euphorbia ‘Robbiae’ and a little bird flew out of one of the conifers. I carefully peeped inside and there is a nest with half a dozen perfect little blue eggs in there. After I finished I sat and watched until I was sure she had returned to her nest….phew!


In the shadiest corner I created a planting of mostly mixed Heucheras with a few dwarf rhododendrons that were already here when we came. But over the six years, the Heucheras have struggled to come through the winters, mainly because the soil is sticky clay and they just hate poor drainage. So this year I have started removing them and replacing with more dwarf rhododendrons etc. In front of the arbour is a weeping Crab Apple underplanted with Sempervivums which will eventually create a little House-Leek Carpet. They are planted into sand and grit for excellent drainage.


The raised borders were built by a previous owner who edged them with old Leylandii trunks. We have removed these and replaced them with local stones. They are my midsummer planting area really and don’t get started until the Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ flowers at the end of May. But here’s part of it earlier this month. This area is packed with Lilies for July, and red-stemmed cornus for winter.


But at the moment, its the Geums in there that are the star performers..Geum ‘Mai Tai’ and Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’


That just leaves the Patio really…..and here it is. Still a few Lily-Flowered Tulips on the Display Shelving, but no roses yet. So the colour is coming from the tulips and the Aquilegias.


I hope you enjoyed your stroll around with me….time to put my feet up now and enjoy the garden. I’ve been typing this while watching the ‘Not Chelsea’ coverage on the T.V. which is very enjoyable. The presenters and crew have made a real success of a bad situation. Stay well everyone.






It’s Apple Blossom Time at last, and this is looking like a super year for it. I do hope we don’t get a late frost like last year. I had a miserable crop of apples. Still, instead of worrying about it, I’ll choose to enjoy the blossom for what it is. One of the highlights of my gardening year.

I’ve planted six Crab Apple Trees in this garden . They are Evereste, John Downie, Indian Magic, Pink Glow, Comptesse De Paris and Royal Beauty. The Countess is the last to bloom and is still tight shut. The first to open was Pink Glow and it is nearly over now. The blossoms are large and the fruits are also a good size.


One of my favourite trees in the garden is Malus ‘Evereste’. The blossoms are pink in bud, opening to white and very prolific. The fruits are rounded and will stay on the tree right through the winter. I  remove them just before the new buds break in Spring.


Royal Beauty has much pinker blooms and its gorgeous fruits are large, round and deep pink turning to red before falling.


One of the best for cooking with is ‘John Downie’. It has lovely red, orange and yellow elongated fruits. IMG_9075

Cooking with the fruits of ‘Indian Magic’ however, would be ‘fruitless’. The Crabs are so tiny, about the size of a hawthorn berry. But this one is grown for its wonderful deep pink blossom and red foliage which keeps its colour well into the autumn.IMG_9082IMG_8991

The Countess (Comptesse De Paris) has lovely golden yellow fruits which add interest later in the season to my Golden Border. She has yet to open her blooms, but this photo from last year shows them to be small and perhaps the least showy of all of my Crab Apple Blooms. But this is her third year in the ground, so the display might be a lot better this year.

Comp de P.

There are also six fruiting apple trees in the garden. There were five when we came, but one had to be removed and two others have been pollarded because they were so badly affected with Scab and Canker that it made keeping the fruit a waste of time. They tasted horrible. But I planted two new ones, a Katie and a Scotch Bridget. There is also a nice Discovery and Bramley’s Seedling. The Bramley is very late to bloom. Katie is always the first, followed by Scotch Bridget which has a lot less blooms and consequently a much lighter yield. Here is Katy, taken today. The fruit are delicious but don’t store well.


Other blossoms doing really well right now…..

Amelanchier (Juneberry) ‘Northline’


Lingonberry (photo below) and Blueberry are also heavy with promising blooms


They are generally reliable croppers….unlike my three pear trees! One carried not a single bloom this year. The other two have been good but will we see a Pear?…..probably not. The flowers are almost finished. Here is the last of my Concorde blooms…


I love Pear Trees so much, I am perfectly willing to accept the inevitable fruit drop. We are just too far North to expect fruit to ripen on them. I have seen some beautiful Pears in Scotland, but unfortunately I don’t seem to have the right varieties. But you never can tell…..we live in hope.  Oh, now I really fancy a glass of Cider…..Cheers!


Gardening During Covid19 Pandemic

I am so grateful every day that I get up and go to bed still feeling healthy. And that’s the first thing I wanted to mention…gratitude. A lot of people (probably most people) are feeling anxious at this trying time. And one of the best counters to anxiety is gratitude I find. I’m not one for regular journal writing, but if you are, then writing down three things each day for which you feel grateful is one of the best ways to combat anxiety. If, like me, you are too ‘random’ of mind to do this, then just ‘say’ thank you, to the Creator, in your heart, for those blessings.


I’m not one for really giving gardening ‘advice’ or ‘jobs of the month’. I prefer people to do it their own way and just enjoy finding their own ways of gardening.  Right now, gardening is also a huge blessing to me, more than ever.  I am so lucky to have a rural home with plenty of space to enjoy myself outdoors (about 1/3 acre, so not a park!). And I have set to on all the jobs that I usually don’t have enough time to attend to. Pernicious weeds for one. But also cleaning water features, clearing algae from the pond, repotting succulents in the greenhouse, feeding with an early drench of  growth-promoting liquid seaweed. Spraying the hard surfaces with patio cleaner (I use Algon, its basically industrial strength Vinegar and works a treat) to kill off algae and moss. Clearing out the greenhouse or shed. Washing pots, cleaning and sharpening tools, enjoying the wild birds…the list can be as long as the days!


The Garden Centres have been closed…I’m not sure about that. I mean, gardening is one of the few occupations left open to those of us lucky enough to have a garden. And its pretty easy to be 2m from anyone else in my local Dobbies. But close they have. Undeterred, I have been ordering from online nurseries, most of which are still operational. My favourites are;;;;;;; (not just for lupins);;;; These have all taken orders from me in the recent past, and I’ve not been disappointed. There was one occasion I had to get a replacement from Sarah Raven, but it came promptly, with no quibble. If you do have a problem, always take a photo of the plant as it was when you received it and send it to the nursery. That usually helps a lot, and they usually ask for it anyway.


As you can see from the photos, my garden in Angus is very slow to wake up at the moment. It’s cold, and a lot of the plants are stuck for now. But that’s alright because it means I get to enjoy those beautiful Hellebores, earliest tulips and daffodils for a lot longer. Once it gets warm, they will be over in a flash. And that’s the thing about Spring in the garden. I have to remind myself to enjoy it and not always be wishing for things to move forward. As I write there are still a few snowdrops hanging on. Once they are fully over…well before you know it the season is in full flow and you’ll be so busy weeding, watering and planting, you won’t have time to even take snapshots.


So, if weather allows, get outside and look for signs of Spring, and dream up new planting schemes, dig a new pond and order the liner online, dig up some grass and make a new border (turn the unwanted turf upside down in a dark corner of your garden, pile it up and you’ll soon have some great composed turf to add to your pots and borders).  Get your children involved in sowing some easy seeds and watching them grow.  Plant some fruit trees, get your knee-pads on (the ones you ordered from the online store) and do some serious weed warfare. Honestly, you’ll feel so much the better for it! NB WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE GIFT OF TIME TO ENJOY…DON’T RUSH AND END UP IN A & E WITH AN INJURY stay well, use your protective gear….we will get through this…and you never know, it might not be as bad as we fear. Keep on being grateful and follow government advice and if the weather turns wicked… could do what I’m doing and learn Spanish or some other language. It will keep your brain young! Love and blessings, Karen