Its always been important to me to have something beautiful to enjoy in the garden all year. I have something in flower every month of the year, but more importantly, I have all year ‘interest’ in the borders. None of my borders is particularly seasonal because cold, black, wet earth is not pretty in my book. I have always followed the rule of 1/3 evergreens in the garden so that it is never bare and there is always height and structure. Scottish winters are long. Here in Southern Angus with our South-Facing Coast line and sheltering Hills to the North and West, we don’t get hard winters. In fact we get less snow here than in Lincolnshire where I grew up. But they are long. Winter begins in October and goes on until late April, sometimes longer. In fact, some say we have all year winter. As I write it is Midsummer’s Day (21st June) and you wouldn’t want to be outside without a jacket, even though the sun is shining bright and strong. The wind is cold. Enough! Enough moaning about the weather. The point is, in our climate, it helps to keep my spirits up if I have a garden that I can appreciate all year around.
This month is when we expect to get some real wintry frosts and the onset of true winter. The ‘Golden Border’ is planted with Yellow-leaved Conifers and other evergreens and yellow flowering perennials. This photo shows it in its fifth winter 2018, and it gets fuller with each year. Most of the colour here is provided by various Euonymus varieties, Eleagnus ebbingei ‘Limelight’, Golden Grasses and Conifers.
Even in the depth of winter, the back ‘White Garden’ has plenty of brightness, here with the lovely Carex oshimensis ‘Evereste’, snowdrops and white crocus. There’s also a lovely bright white variegated Euonymus called ‘Kathy’ with good sized leaves.
Narcissus ‘Tete A Tete’ are now in full bloom and Hellebores too. This is my ‘Heuchera Corner’. A shady North-Facing spot sloping up toward the road which is hedged with Hawthorn. In an average winter, Heucheras will keep some of their colour and this last winter of 2018-19 was pretty average. In March, they will need a dose of liquid seaweed to help get them off and growing again.
By early April, the sun will have moved back in to the North Facing back garden and the two lollipop Viburnum tinus shrubs at the back door will be studded with starry white flowers. White flowered Camellias won’t be out quite yet though, nor will the Rhododendron ‘Cunnningham’s White’. But The Climbing Rose ‘Iceberg’ will have retained enough of its leaves to be pretty, even after a good prune.
Suddenly, the garden has lost it’s sharp, clean edges and crisp look and now growth is fast and lush. The first of the perennials start to flower. Geums, Lupins, Alliums and Armeria are the stars of the show, while the Golden Border fills out beautifully in the background. We always love the day this month that the Cattle are allowed back out on to the hillside and they spend the day calling to one-another and rushing about in joyfulness.
June speaks for itself really. But I particularly enjoyed this combination of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Lupin ‘Masterpiece’ this year.
July is often very wet here. But last year we enjoyed the best summer month I can remember during my entire 30+ years in Scotland! Warm sunshine bathed the garden, and there really is nowhere I’d rather be on a day like this! The large boulders that edge this raised border were brought in, two or three at a time, in our car boot and placed by hand over a couple of winters. Hard graft, but worth it!
This little apple tree is ‘Discovery’. A reliable cropper in Eastern Scotland and sharing its name with Captain Scott’s Ship which is moored in Dundee’s new Waterfront Harbour. The fruit don’t keep well but are sweet and crunchy. I eat what I can, share some and cook the rest for the freezer. This year 2019 it looks like this will be the only Eating apple of my five to bear any fruit at all. Cold weather came at just the wrong time in May and ruined the blossoms. August brings the first cold chill of autumn to our garden whereas in the Southern Counties of England it is often the warmest month of the year. I am still bitter!
On the far left you can see the shiny red fruits of Malus ‘Evereste’ which is possibly the best garden tree you could grow. Soon it’s leaves will be turning golden and amber. The Euonymus alata compacta in the bottom left corner is my favourite autumn shrub. It starts to change colour from bright lime green in summer during July and August, and by September it is this wonderful claret red. The tiny bi-coloured (Orange and Pink) berries will be seen only after the leaves have fallen during October. During this month, the blue tones of the Conifers start to intensify. We often have nice weather in September, and I would say it is the best month in Scotland for colour.
October and we now have true autumn. The deciduous foliage is at its height of colour and the tree heath (Erica arborea) is bright and golden. Some of my best shrubs for autumn colour are the Witch Hazels (Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’ and the Cornus alba varieties that will give me winter stem colour soon. But there is also a little-known fruiting shrub called Aronia pruneifolia which produces lovely blossoms, edible fruits (shiny black berries suitable for Jam making) and then gorgeous red and purple leaves in autumn. It deserves to be more widely grown, particularly as a hedgerow plant or in permaculture situations. If you don’t want to make the jam, let the blackbirds gorge themselves. They won’t complain about the rather bitter flavour and they will benefit from the extreme amounts of vitamin C etc. contained in them.
November is the month when everything just gives up and goes to sleep. The leaves all drop off seemingly overnight and slush and mush lies everywhere. But after a tidy up and a layer of mulch, I can enjoy the red stems of the Cornus alba sibirica, ‘Baton Rouge’ and ‘Elegantissima’. And the grasses will still be looking great too.
And this is the month when I really do appreciate my lawns. Can you visualise this garden without lawn? A lot of my friends have given up on the infuriating green sward that takes up so much time and effort. But I think I would miss it so much during the winter. We have such a mild climate that it remains green all winter and that has to make it worth keeping doesn’t it? And of course there’ll be no mowing from now on until spring time. So I enjoy the long shadows and remind myself that this is the lowest the Sun will get….from now on…it can only go upwards!