Sunday, 16 February 2014

Garden Update 2014 !!

Apologies for letting this blog slide since last summer but I found I had so much on that other things sort of took over. Anyways, I'm back and shall endeavour to update this blog at least once a fortnight if not weekly.
So, what's been happening in the garden ?

The herbaceous borders are undergoing a mini revamp, with certain plants being either removed altogether or transplanted from one border to the other. The white geraniums that were growing in a row alongside the box hedge of the top border have all been removed and are now planted in front of the Lupin wall below the lower border.
The pink geraniums that were in the lower border have also been removed and are currently in residence in the west facing border until we decide where to put them.
All the Achillea are now in front of the white Buddleia in the lower border. Whilst moving these, I took the opportunity to remove as much of the couch grass from the Achillea root systems as I possibly could. I have also done the same with some of the original Iris in the top border but with limited success.
Both Buddleia bushes have been taken down even further with the chainsaw to try and bring them back to a nice shape and manageable size for this season.
All the clumps of Kniphofia have been cleaned up too, with a lot of dead vegetation removed.
In the fruit bed, I have planted a row of Autumn fruiting raspberries along with more gooseberry and currant bushes, including one whitecurrant..
Elsewhere on the fruit side of the garden, all the apple trees have been given a further prune and been brought down to a manageable size, that size being defined as being able to pick all the fruit by hand from the tripod ladder. The pear trees have also been given a further prune.
The middle section of the garden has all been turned over and this will be filled this year with flowers for cutting. The cordon grown sweet peas will be grown in the bottom section of this area and this year the varieties being grown are as follows - Gwendoline, Percy Thrower, Raspberry Flake, April in Paris, Royal Wedding, Lovejoy and Madison. There are 145 seeds sown so all being well we should have enough plants for the cordon growing and also to put a couple of wigwams in the herbaceous borders again - assuming all hares are now dead !!
And finally, the veg garden is underway - the layout of the beds has been decided and the posts for the beds (all 82 of them) are in situ and the 8" x 2" timbers should be arriving any day now to form the beds - the sooner the better as the beds will all need to be dug over, manured etc before April.
The dahlia tubers are being overwintered in the greenhouse and those we wish to take cuttings from are all marked up, the gladioli corms are in there too, along with some strawberry runners, the sweet peas, leeks and swiss chard.
So to finish here are a couple of pics to illustrate some of the above. This first photo shows one end of the middle section  of the garden. The lupin wall is immediately below the box hedge and immediately below are the recently transplanted white geraniums. This is the section that will house a lot of cut flowers including Ammi, Orlaya and Verbascums as well as the cordon sweet peas.

 
This second photo is of the area of the new vegetable garden, with all the posts in situ, though not very clear to the eye!
 
 
So that's what has been happening in an abbreviated form. Will add more soon.
 


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Garden Update July 2013

Sorry it's been a wee while since my last update but things have been a bit hectic recently. Anyway, quite a lot to get through so on with the show - and talking of shows, I'll start wih the first show we entered this year - the Sutherland County Show which was held at Dornoch Links on 20th July. Now the previous long term convenor had retired and the show was organised this year by some growers from Alness - David Munro, George Pirie and his wife Christine who agreed to organise the show this year until the Show Committee found a willing volunteer to take on the task annually. Anyway due to various political and social factors, entries were down this year but there were still some quality exhibits. Scotsburn Garden entered Sweet peas and a vase (alright a bucket same as last year!) of perennials, as well as a set of the anemone flowered dahlias. And bettering our outing last year when we came away with two seconds, this year we came a way with two firsts and a second. We won the sweet pea class with a vase of 12 "Gwendoline" - I had picked all the Gwendoline that were ready the day before the show and had 14 to choose from, but two had lost petals overnight so my choice for twelve blooms was made for me, but they were all good and proved their worth.
The perennials bucket was filled with Campanula, Peruvian lilies, Valerian (red and white varieties), Echinops, Sea Holly, Alchemilla, Astrantia (three varieties), Achillea (mixture of Summer Pastel), Shasta Daisy and Scabious.
Here are a couple of pics of our entries




 
Another highlight came last week when the Kiftsgate rose started to flower it's not insubstantial socks off yet again. This year, the Climbing Iceberg rose that is adjacent to it is also putting on a magnificent display and there follow three photos that cannot hope to do justice to just how magnificent the display is in real life. The noise of the bees visiting this rose surpasses the constant drone of those v=bees feeding on the huge lime trees that overhang the garden by the potting shed, and that takes some doing, believe me!
 





 
The raspberries and strawberries are now being picked with the former in particular having a huge crop. The first early potatoes are also producing a heavy crop - the variety is Foremost (aka Suttons Foremost). I have grown this variety before and have found it to be both very reliable and a very heavy cropper.
Now on to the hare saga - despite having James rid us of 5 so far, it would appear there is still at least one more in the garden - I had planted out all the brassicas but the following week they were all gone - and I know it was the hare because I could see footprints and droppings amongst what was left of the young plants. So another night with the gun is called for.
The lupins, both in the herbaceous borders and those of the Lupin Wall have been deadheaded religiously and we await a second flush - there were a group of four plants in the lupin wall that were absolutely smothered in aphids  but these were cut right down to the ground and the area given a generous spray of Provado.. Other than these four plants, I have not seen aphids anywhere else in the garden this year
I also managed to procure 5 largish clumps of white Campanula from another garden I look after over in Shieldaig - the words "there is too much white" were uttered and I thought to myself, I know just where this "too much white" is going
The Cordon Sweet Peas are looking good, though it is doubtful any of those bought in as replacements will ever make a show bench/ However, with the exception of Jilly (the sole white variety we grow) the others are up and away and flowering well. I think that the initial hare attack was harder on Jilly as these plants were at the end of the row and would have been eaten first, and therefore probably took a bigger hit than those further down the rows.
The old rose-bed, now home to Gladioli, Dahlias and Canterbury Bells looks full of promise with plenty of flower buds on all the plants and the Glads look to be coming on well for a bit later in the summer.
In the small bed to the left of the summerhouse (under the Garrya elliptica tree) we have planted up and other 9 Hellebores which will hopefully grow well and bush out to join the existing heelebores and give us a fairly large clump in years to come. In the opposite corner of the same bed, we have planted up 3 Anemone "H Jobert" as these will allegedly tolerate the dry shade caused by the Garrya - though if they look to be struggling, we now have a water supply about three feet away.
Richard has a painting in the house of this bed as it used to be and we are going to try and recreate this. It shows a tap (done), a Belfast Sink (located but not yet in place) which is surrounded by black Iris. Now I have seen many irises advertised as black but when you see them in the flesh they are not even close to it -but I have now been successful and have located a black iris at a nursery in Rogart and Sarah (the owner) assures me that it is black (not a dark purple) and I have been invited to go have a look for myself but I have known Sarah for a number of years now and if she says it is what I am after, I believe her.
In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are doing well having now all set about 4 trusses, the scallions are ready for a first picking and I have sown some mixed salad leaf for summer eating. The greenhouse does look a bit bare with only odds and sods on the staging now, so I might suggest that Sally has a go at growing some pot plant flowers next year - possibly Begonias.
Anyway, that's about it for now so I'll leave you with a photo of the borders looking pretty full and lush.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Hare today, Gone tomorrow ! :-)


There is a Bugs Bunny Cartoon where Elmer Fudd sings "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit". Having failed to trap the hare and watching the devastation it was causing grow weekly, we called in Rusty and his rifle.
Not only did he shoot the hare we had seen in the garden, he shot another three hares within the confines of the garden. No wonder the devastation was on such a scale.
So, if you have a problem with hares, the answer to your problem is in the photo below.


The only downer was that all four hares were buried below various fruit trees in the garden - good for the fruit trees but, as a lover of all things "game", I would have liked to have taken one home for supper!
On the garden front, the oriental poppies having been removed (6 wheelbarrows full) after going over and turning what I optimistically call "scabby" I planted out the last of the border filler plants and did some more weeding.
The fruit is looking good with the strawberries forming lots of fruit, the rasps are dripping with immature berries and at least two of the redcurrant bushes have decent crops on them. We also have lots of young apples and pears forming.
The dahlias in the old rose-bed are starting to produce flower buds, as are many more of the perennials in the herbaceous borders - and the Kiftsgate looks like it will be putting up another fantastic display this year.
The cordon sweet peas are picking up and in fact a fair few of the originals which were reduced to bare stalks by the first hare attack have put up new growth in the form of side-shoots , which is what you want anyway as the main shoot or "leader" on sweet peas has a tendency to go blind (produce no flowers) so all is not lost though we may struggle to get sufficient show quality blooms for the earlier shows.
No camera this week so you'll have to believe me when I say that the borders are looking good, and will continue to improve over the next month or two.
Back next week.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hare today, gone soon (I Hope)

Well, the ongoing hare problem continues - so far the score is hare - lots, plants - nil. Not content with chowing down on the phlox, sea holly and heliopsis last week, this week he has nipped the tops off most of the onion sets, the chives, a lot of the cosmos, a couple of young hemerocallis - he has even had a nibble at rhe gladioli leaves.




Double spring trap is mow in position, baited with runner beans and lettuce - kindly donated by Sally, and if we succeed in catching the little beggar, he can be released in the forest I also work in, with the permission of Lesley. Just gotta catch him first !
So anyway, on with what was accomplished today.
I began by giving everything in the greenhouse a good soak, and side-shooting and tying in the tomato plants. Then it was onto the cordon sweet peas, weeding as I went along the rows placing rings on those plants that needed them. Some of the original exhibition varities have put up side shoots so all may not be lost but they will be considerably later in producing blooms so we might have to rethink entering at least the Sutherland Show. This was the first show the garden ever entered sweet peas in last year and we got a second place, so it would have ben nice to go and try and get a red card but it's not looking too promising as the show is in 4 weeks time.
After this I weeded the strawberry patch and placed some straw round the plants to keep the berries clean and act as a barrier against annual weeds.



Then it was back to weeding - weeded the rosebed (Dahlias, Gladioli and Canterbury Bells) then moved onto the small slope above the steps down to the greenhouse.
Finished the day by hoeing off the path from the top of the garden to the greenhouse and barrowing in scalpings to tidy it up and stop it becoming a mudslide after it rains.




The garden has this week also seen two local garden clubs have evening visits - Edderton Garden Club came to see the garden on Monday Evening, and this evening I showed Alness Horticultural Society around. There is on more group to visit, and next Thursday afternoon will see East Sutherland Gardening Club come to pay us a visit. The borders are looking good, with the irises, hemerocallis and paeonies joining the lupins ,assorted geraniums and  poppies, and the red hot pokers are about to burst onto the scene too, so here are a few pics to finish with



Thursday, 13 June 2013

B*****d Hare is back !!

Well it would appear that the young hare has found it's way back into the garden - this time it has left the cordon sweet peas alone and concentrated on the two herbaceous borders - it has eaten all the sweet peas at the base of both wigwams, all the newly planted heliopsis, one group of three newly planted sea hollies and has nipped the tops off all the phlox planted last week - am picking up a trap on Monday and I swear if I see it in the garden at any time, I will smack it over the head with a spade!
Cute and fluffy no more !
The border looked really good in the sun today - the oriental poppies, which are not my favourite border perennial,  do look great in the sun, and there are a  smattering of lupin spikes open, the geum has started flowering as has the hemerocallis and the iris and kniphofia will join the party next week.  The roses against the SF wall are starting to bloom and have lots of buds forming so they should put up a good display this year. Here are a couple of pics of the borders taken this morning............


 
The lupin "wall" is beginning to put on a bit of a show too............
 
 

Hare or not, plants have to go out and today I planted over 100 Cosmos "Purity", and about 60 Alyssum "Carpet of Snow", I also planted out three gooseberry bushes and 7 blackcurrant bushes.
In the greenhouse, I flooded both beds, then planted out some lettuce and spring onions in front of the tomatoes , which are just beginning to show their first flowers.
We now have three long hoses running from the greenhouse so I also managed to water the rosebed where the dahlias are doing well, the gladioli are just sticking their heads out the ground and the Canterbury Bells looked like they needed a good drink!
I cleaned a couple of areas in the west facing border to take the limited amount of veg we have this year and also prepped an area for Sally to plant out the 50 or so Statice plants for her mum's flower arranging,
I also did some weeding and tidying up as we have our first of three Garden Club visits on Monday evening when Edderton Gardening Club are coming to have a look at what we have done and see what we are planning to do.
Back next week....................

Friday, 7 June 2013

We're getting there, slowly, but we're getting there.

After last weeks devastation caused by the baby b*****d hare, I finished erecting a net round the cordon sweet peas and set about replacing all those that were beyond new growth - and there were a lot of them. The most annoying thing was that the hare seemed to take a particular liking to a variety called Gwendoline which was by far and away our best performing sweet pea last year. Anyway, all the canes now have a sweet pea planted at the base, all had a good watering, and the bed was weded as I went so it looks pretty good, though it has to be said that the replacement sweet peas (bought in garden centre) are nowhere near as strong as those we grew from seed.

 
I also planted out 17 x assorted Phlox, 5 x Heliopsis, 6 x Sea Hollies and 4 x Echinops - so any spaces left on the borders will be filled with the white Cosmos "Purity" ( there are about 140 of these) and  the remaining 36 Canterbury Bells, and possibly some white Alyssum "Carpet of Snow, (94 of these) though these are mostly for the side of the rosebed walls and the walls of the beds either side of the summerhouse.
The border is beginning to fill up nicely with only a few plants (most notably the Scabious and the Phlox), not performing as well as expected. 
The oriental poppies are opening and there are quite literally hundreds of flower buds on them this year, so if the weather stays good, it should be a fantastic display - if it rains, they'll fall to bits and look like sh** ! The lupins should start to put on a proper show over the nect couple of weeks, the white geranium alomg the top border hedge is flowering it's socks off, and so much more to come. The Peony Sara Bernhardt is still in flower though the "garden originals" are still just in bud.
The lupin wall below the top borders is just beginning to show a flush of colour so should also look good in a couple of weeks time.
Add to that loads of blossom on the apple trees, campanulas already surpassing the height they reached last year, cherries forming on the two trees against the wall (and no sign of blackfly as yet)
and thigs are definitely moving - and about time too - it is June after all.
So here are a couple of pics to finish, firstly the Lupin Wall and then this weeks shot of the borders,



 
Back next week  -will be planting out veg and fruit plants from the greenhouse.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Devastation

Two weeks ago, Sally and I came across a leveret (a baby hare) in the top herbaceous border. I like hares - both on and off the dinner plate so no further action was taken against this young 'un. Well, on Friday did I live to regret not giving it a knock on the head. On my arrival in the garden, after a week of brilliant sunshine I was expecting to see a big jump in growth in the garden, In the two herbaceous borders this was obvious, but I couldn't see much down at the cordon sweet peas and I soon discovered why - every single plant bar two or three was eaten to the ground. Now my first thought was wood pigeons, then mice / voles but having made a mad rush into Tain and buying all the sweet pea plants left in the town, I returned to the garden and what did I see upon opening the gate - the b*****d leveret sitting finishing off the plants that he / she / it hadn't got round too at it's last sitting. Rex was dutifully called upon and after some initial confusion, he got onto the hare and it fled the garden, hopefully with enough of a scare to not want to return. Anyway, another trip home produced a long, long. long length of green windbreak netting and a barrier fence is now being erected round the sweet pea bed and the replacements will be planted out next week - by then I should be able to spot any of the originals that may recover.
So there we go, the sweet pea saga - watch this space!
In between the above events, I did some sorting out in the greenhouse, and Sally and I have now placed all the phlox, sea hollies and Heliopsis in their final planting places ready for next week.
The borders are beginning to fill out now and we have the first real splashes of colour appearing in the shape of oriental poppies, geraniums, knapweed and the peony "Sara Bernhardt". Peonies do seem to like this garden, and in fact we found another one hidden in the wilderness that is the botton third of the garden, which will be dug up and transplanted to the borders next week. I know that conventional wisdom says that peonies will throw a strop when dug up and transplanted and will not flower for up to a couple of years, but all the ones transplanted from the bottom of the garden so far have positively thrived and flowered straight away. They do not get any special treatment - dug up the I spend uip to 10 minutes sitting extracting couch grass and ground elder root systems from their root balls, placed in their planting hole, firmed in and watered and that is it - no feed, no compost, just an option to live or to die.
I also planted the larger greenhouse border with six tomato plants - a mix of Shirley, Gardeners Delight and Sweet Millions - this leaves room for a cucumber plant, a couple of chillies and some salad crops too.
After this I planted out the remaining three dahlia plants in the rosebed and then filled the centre of this bed with quite a few of the Canterbury Bells that were sown last year. So that is the rosebed planted up for the year, Gladioli to the left, Bells in the centre and Dahlias down the right,
 
 
As I mentioned earlier the borders are beginning to bulk up and we have the odd splash of colour as you can see.......
 
 
However, I w3as comparing it to last year's photo (see below) for same time and given that the plants are a year older and therefore larger, we are still well behind where we were last year.
 
 
 
 

 
So anyway, that's where we are just now. I also weeded the strawberries which have their first flowers, the tatties are through and look healthy, I have also tidied up the edge of the lupin wall after the digger had done it's work, and pricked out 108 Alyssum "Carpet of Snow". Onwards and Upwards!!