Seeds of Discovery

In a month or two’s time or so, the seed-sowing season begins. Here at the Scottish Country Garden, we wait until the sun’s rays provide a decent heat in the greenhouse, which usually means getting going mid-March to early April.

This year’s seed-order comprises a mixture of the instant (hardy annuals, flowering this year) and the longer-term – hardy perennials. We try to grow all our perennials from seed, if we can. This year, some of the things we’re going to have a shot at include:

Aquilegia x hybrida ‘Firecracker’: we grew Aquilegias a couple of years ago from seed and they provided a long-lasting and very colourful show. A real cottage-garden favourite, I wouldn’t be without them. Even their early spring foliage emerging from the ground cheers me up!  This one should inject some oomph into the borders!

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Mixed’: the marvellous little autumn flowering Cyclamen File:Cyclamen hederifolium Flowers BotGardBln0906a.jpgwhich you can naturalise. We might try some of these at the foot of our free-standing apple trees.

File:Dierama pulcherrimum 1.JPGDierama pulcherrima ‘Slieve Donard Hybrids’, the “Angel’s Fishing Rods”, this variety originating from the marvellous Irish Garden of the same name. I’m not sure how easy these will be to grow, but even if we can germinate a few, that will be well worth it.

Echinops ritro subsp. RuthenicusEchinops_t&m use only : you might have worked out that we’re quite a fan of thistles here! This is the blue, spikey thistle, a herbaceous classic which I grew up with but which we don’t have here, yet!

File:Meconopsis grandis1.jpgMeconopsis grandis: the iconic Himalayan Blue Poppy which does very well in the wetter, milder west of Scotland. We’re going to see if we can grow this in our shade border but Meconopsis does have a reputation for being temperamental and short-lived! But it’s a real topper and we’re going to have a go!

We’re also going to try Astilbe arendsii ‘Showstar’with its wonderful ferny spring foliage, and more Candelabra primulasFile:Fairhaven Water Gardens 2 - geograph.org.uk - 251605.jpg in the shade border too. We tried to grow the latter last year but it had a poor germination rate, so I’m going to start them off sooner to see if this helps.

Phormium ‘Rainbow Striped Hybrids’: no, I didn’t know you could get seed for them either, but you can (Thompson and Morgan are our suppliers). I really like the tall strappy leaves which grow to 5 to 8 feet. They have a real jungley feel, augmented by the exotic-looking flowers come out on long poles in the spring.

I used to think that Agapanthus only grew in the warmer south of England but, perhaps helped by a combination of global warming and plant breeding, they can now be grown up here in Scotland, so we’re having a shot at ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ from seed. Fond memories of these growing in the Walled Garden at Alnwick, Northumberland, one of my favourite gardens, and by the side of the roads growing wild on the island of Madeira.

Talking of Madeira, and this is being a bit ambitious, we thought we’d have a go at the “Pride of Madeira”, Echium fastuosum.File:Close-up of a "Pride of Madeira".jpg This will be a challenge as the south east of Scotland has a slightly different climate from the garden island in the Atlantic! Echium is a half-hardy biennial so we will need to plant it in a warm, south-facing alcove and give it some frost protection in the winter. If we succeed, our prize will be towers of purple-blue flowers reaching 12 feet! Dust of dreams indeed…

(Special thanks to Thompson & Morgan Ltd. for their permission to use certain images in this post)

Advertisements

A November wander round the walled garden…

imageThe beginning of November heralds the onset of the quieter winter period. We’ve finished the strimming of the longer grass areas of the policies and very likely witnessed the last lawn-mowing in the walled garden. The leaf raking is in full swing and one might be forgiven for assuming that the garden is now ‘closed for the season’.

And yet, there are flowers to be found. While the tea roses are now a bit lanky, mild spells encourage buds to break and fine blooms to result.

imageOur David Austin roses are probably at their best now; while they have bloomed almost continously since June, many of their blooms have ‘balled up’ and been spoilt  in all the rain we had during the summer. As long as we don’t get it too severe, they could still be flowering at Christmas!

imageThe herbaceous border continues to present interest – we have pink mallows still flowering and the wonderful Rudbeckia shoots out its cheery flamboyant bright yellow daisies like the big finish in the Fireworks display.

Talking of fireworks, in the south facing border, our pink Nerines have put on an excellent show this autumn – such an exotic, tender looking thing and yet tough as anything,image as long as it gets some hot sun to toast its toes in during the summer – ah, well, maybe next year….

A few weeks ago, we cut back our Lupins and they are now putting out a new flush of smaller, but still very imageattractive blooms. Not to be outdone, a nearby Delphinium is giving them a run for their money with its sky blue and white spires.

image

With such a mild winter last year, our 2011 sowing of Verbena bonariensis has really delivered this summer and autumn with its spectacular explosions of lavender-coloured clusters. They’ve been really good this year round in the kitchen garden against a very late-flowering buddleia and providing a variation on a theme to the metallic blue of the Eryngium sea hollies, but if we get a hard winter we’ll need to repeat-sow next spring.

Lurking at the back of the west border I discovered the beautiful white goblets of a Colchicum spec. album; how it got there is somewhat of a mystery! In the spring, when its strappy leaves start to appear, I shall lift the clump, divide it, and give it a new home where we can appreciate it. Colchicums are one of a range of autumn flower corms and bulbs which really deliver value at this time of the year. Another are Cyclamen, and we got some recently from the garden centre which we’re trialling in a pot. imageThey are supposedly hardy, but we shall see; so far, they have coped well with a few frosty nights! Next year, I’m hoping to grow some C. hederifolium from seed, which is the autumn variety you usually see at this time of year, often naturalising under established trees.

Our new East facing border has done quite well this year, although we have used annuals to deliver the colour. We transplanted some Antirrhinums from another area of the garden and they have never stopped flowering. Same story with the African Marigolds and the Californian Poppies (Escholtzia) in their shockingly bright colours of yellow, red and orange, and you’d think that hailing from these countries, they’d have given up at the merest hint of autumn. While most of the herbaceous perennials in this border have been too young to flower this year, the Achillea ‘Summer Berries’ imagehave put on a great show – a nice contrast to ‘Gold Plate’ which we have elsewhere in the garden.

Finally in the shade border, which faces north and gets little sun, the Hellebore ‘Ballard Red’ imagehas thrown up its new clutch of flowers –  a real touch of the exotic at this time of year. We have other Hellebores in the garden, but none flower in the autumn.  The Japanese anemones – we have the white ‘Honerine Jobert’ and the imagepurple ‘Praecox’ –  too have been superb this year, relishing all the damp weather.

And yes, round in the kitchen garden, we are still getting modest pickings of sweet peas with their marvellous scent, evocative of those warm summer evenings we occasionally had a few months ago…image