Of shady characters and rabbits with idiosyncratic tastes

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Lime (Tilia) in winter with its textured bark and red twigs

A very Happy New Year to you from the Scottish Country Garden! I hope that 2015 presents an even better gardening year for you than 2014!

Continuing our review of how things have gone here…

This year, we put in a few plants near the gates, but outside the rabbit-free world of the Walled Garden. To the right of the gates before you enter the Garden is a smallish bed, which has always been a little, well, disappointing, with dusty soil attempting to support a few random daffodils. It is sheltered by a stone wall on the east side and the gable-end of the house on the south side. It is also shaded by one of our sentinel Lime (Tilia) trees, so it is a challenging space!

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The new Hosta and Fern bed – picture taken in August 2014

After several preparatory barrow-loads of home-made compost, saying farewell to the dust, we planted the area with several varieties of Hostas and ferns, decorating the area with one or two interesting pieces of wood foraged from the woods. Not quite a ‘stumpery’ in the Victorian sense, as recently brought back into fashion by HRH Prince Charles at his Highgrove garden but echoing the Woodland on the other side of the drive.

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Colchicum album in the Shade Border this year, successfully transplanted!

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Hosta – fleeting autumn tints

I knew that the Hostas were likely to be safe from the local rabbit population (they don’t like the sap) but was less sure about the ferns. We do have some native species (Polystichum) growing in the Woodland but they are of a different variety. I did though want some winter interest so decided to take a chance on four Dryopteris species (affinis, affinis ‘Cristata The King’, affinis ‘Pinderi’ and carthusiana) all species that can cope with drier shade, and which are evergreen. So far, they have remained free of the bunnies’ attention, as have the new hosta varieties: Aristocrat, Brim Cup, Fire and Ice, June, Liberty, Devon Blue and Orange Marmalade. While the Hostas won’t appear until April/May, the aforementioned random daffodils, boosted by the 4 inches of new compost, should get things of to a good start in March or so.

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Golden Fishing Rod bamboo in the Shade border

The Hostas and ferns were sourced from Long Acre Plants in Somerset, England. They specialise in plants for shade and supplied many of the plants for our north-facing shade border in the Walled Garden, which we planted up three years ago, all of which have thrived and are starting to knit together nicely.

Round the corner from this new bed and facing west is another border which was in some need of attention and which only had some rather scrubby Feverfew growing there. Again, there are no defences against rabbits here and I did want to try to avoid putting up wire mesh as this is an ugly option. By way of an experiment, I planted the area with varieties reputed to be unpopular with rabbits. I had to accept of course that the rabbits were unlikely to have done the same research as I had, and therefore there was a distinct possibility that local tastes might prevail.

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Anemone Hupehensis Praecox (in the Shade border)

Four months in, some of the plants, at least, are proving rabbit-resistant: Bergenia cordifolia ‘Winterglut’, Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’, Schizostylis ‘Pink Princess’ (possibly wrongly labled as it appears to be producing pure white blooms even now in December)  and Kniphofia ‘Flamenco’ have all remained largely untouched apart from the occasional chewed leaf! Iris ‘Blue Shimmer’ (a Dutch Iris) will also be fine although this looks a little bedraggled as Irises tend to do over winter.

Interestingly, the Japanese Anemones x hybrid ‘Queen Charlotte’ (pink, semi-double) and Whirlwind (white) have fared less well, having been chopped back to ground level, despite us having other Japanese anemones flourishing further along, again unprotected from rabbits; I’m hopeful, though, that they will come away alright in the spring as some leaves have returned since the initial attack! Two species of Geranium have received similar treatment – ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and ‘Samobor’(deep purple flowers with patterned foliage) as have Sedum ‘Gooseberry Fool’ and Verbascum ‘Pink Petticoats’. Sedums and geraniums we have growing elsewhere, also accessible to the rabbits, so I am hopeful that at least some of these new plants will re-emerge in the spring with sufficient vigour to out-do them! Time, aided perhaps by a handful or two of pelleted chicken manure, will tell!

 

Midsummer makeover

20130728-193733.jpgThis past week has seen a change in the weather, still warm but thundery downpours have appeared on the scene. Good news for the garden as no need now for supplementary watering. I’m waiting for a barrage of previously dormant weed seedlings however!

This week  we’ve been giving the garden a mid-season makeover, hence a rather longer post than usual.

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Making hay…with the sunflowers in the background and the giant thistle to their left

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Giant Thistle (Onopordum acantheum

The new grass areas in the walled garden whose seed heads gave us that rippling velvet effect earlier in May have now been strimmed down and the hay cleared; the rain and wind had flattened it so it was time to clear it. From now on until the end of the growing season, we’ll mow it short like the rest of the grass in the walled garden. We’ve left two long drifts of long grass under the old apple trees though as the wild flowers we planted there are still flowering and we want to give them a chance of setting seed.  Some of the hay is now drying under the staging in the greenhouse; it will be appreciated by the hens and the elderly resident in the greenhouse when dry.

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the first of the Dahlias

20130728-193836.jpgThe dahlias, cosmos, and mesembryanthemums underplanting the roses have  been enjoying the sun and this has started them into bloom so we’ve been keeping the hoe going around them to keep them tidy. The sweet peas too have been excellent, although shorter-stemmed this year- we can pretty much pick a vase-full a day at the moment and indeed we need to otherwise they will stop flowering!

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Cosmos

The other annuals we’ve given their own bed to are the younger son’s giant sunflowers which at around 4 feet at present are not particularly giant but they are very stocky which means they won’t be subject to wind- blow. They’ve been lapping up the sun, they’ve starred to flower and I’m pretty sure they’ll put on a great show – one flower that can’t help make you smile! Not bad for a small bag of parrot seed…

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The area I’m most pleased to have got under control is the shade border as that had become somewhat overrun with our old favourite- willow herb and creeping buttercup, I was a bit concerned that it might suffer during the dry spell – particularly the damp-loving Ferns ( including Shuttlecock and Royal ferns), the Candelabra primulas and the Ligularia, but this border lives in almost total shade of a high wall with no overhanging trees; it locks in whatever rain falls like a giant swampy sponge and all plants sailed through, although I did give a can- full to the Ligularia as it is in full bloom at the moment and did look a little stressed.

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In the greenhouse, everything that doesn’t answer to the name of tomato has been moved outside for a break in the sun, including the perennials which we have still to plant in the  new west-facing bed; this area has now been sprayed with glyphosate to clean the ground of perennial weeds, ready for planting in 2-3 weeks’ time.

We’ve been selectively spraying glyphosate in the woodland too – just nettles this time. We started this spraying programme last spring as the whole area was overcome with nettles making it virtually impenetrable to humans as well as stifling the other plants that were attempting to grow. Most of the wood is now clear and we’ll only need to spray occasionally, just to get rid of nettle seedlings. So far we’ve only planted new rhododendrons into this area but I’m keen to plant it with some woodland perennials too if we can get the ground clean enough.

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Hosta

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Nymphea Colonel AJ Welch

 And finally, proof that plants can  pick up the internet! In a recent post, I was bemoaning the fact that my yellow waterlily never flowered and that I would probably be replacing it. No sooner had I written this this that not only the original plant but also it’s rather annoying and similarly useless progeny,replanted at the other end of the pond courtesy of one of the gardening ducks, decided to revolt by each producing not one but two splendid canary yellow blooms! The compost heap grim-reaper no longer beckons!

P.s while on pond matters, large blue 3 inch dragonfly spotted hovering over the pond this past week. These almost prehistoric insects fill me with awe; we have nothing else like them in Scotland, closely resembling a mini helicopter. Sheer magic!

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Fifty shades of green

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Skimmia ‘Kew Green’, with evergreen fern

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Portuguese Laurel, young foliage

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Holly, variety unknown

I’ve recently discovered the excellent Blotanical.com website – a global repository of gardening blogs from around the world. Bloggers can register their site and there is a manual validation procedure to ensure that each blog

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Rhododendron ponticum variegatum, with the trainee gardeners

listed there is a bona fide website. wpid-20130104_132923.jpgYou can search for blogs by country and check out both the most popular and newest blogs. You can also ‘fave’ your favourite sites regardless of the blog platform/software they use – I think that’s a real plus-point, and send messages as well. Each blogger has a rather good ‘My Plot’ area which, as well as giving a thumbnail sketch of themselves, lists some of their garden ‘favourites’ (e.g. flower, time of year, garden etc).

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Evergreen fern, close-up

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Evergreen fern with Golden Fishing Pole Bamboo in the background

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Aucuba, spotted laurel

One of the most popular websites on Blotanical.com is MySecretGarden (http://tanyasgarden.blogspot.co.uk/) and very deserving it is too of this accolade. I know that quite a lot of you are registered on Blotanical but for those who aren’t, click on the logo at the foot of the right hand column to find out more. And no, there’s no commission for me, and no cost to you! (Hint for UK, northern Europe, maybe Oceania and US night-owl bloggers – the site is ‘faster’ earlier on in the day than later on, before our US green-fingered friends pull on their gardening gloves!)

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Holly, variety unknown

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Yucca filimentosa – hardy so far!

Anyhow, I digress. The MySecretGarden’s creator, Tatyana’s favourite colour is green. Being a bit of a ‘brighter the better’ kind of person from the late Christo Lloyd School (see Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners), green wouldn’t have been my first choice, I have to say, but as I was walking around the garden in the half-gloom of an early January afternoon, I did start to notice that the prevalent colour was indeed green, and I started to look at the evergreens in a new light as they shone out in the gloom. And very welcome they are at this monochrome time of year. Thank you Tatyana!

So, pictured are just a few (not 50, you’ll be pleased to hear) of my favourite shades of green taken recently.

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Rhodo bud – colour remains a mystery, for now!

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Aucuba, spotted laurel, different variety

In the spring, we’ll be ordering one or two new shrubs for the Secret Garden and the Woodland. Note to self: include some evergreens!

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for our veggie-growing friends, Leeks…(Musselburgh variety)

 

Hedging our bets

It all started with a visit to Greywalls Hotel, near the famous Muirfield Golf Course in East

imageLothian.  During a pre-luncheon amble around the Gertrude Jekyll-designed walled gardens, we discovered a series of ‘rooms’ enclosed by 6’ high dark green holly (Ilex) hedges. Simply planted with cherry trees in grass with a central feature of ferns and a small sculpture, taste and simplicity were the order of the day, giving us some ideas for our new grassed areas in the walled garden.

Filled with inspiration, we returned home and immediately looked up the price of young holly plants only to have our Jekyll-inspired hopes dashed by the eye-watering price tag for the large quantities required…

…until last weekend when the Good Lady (motivated by her last appearance in the ‘Compost Heap’ episode) stepped out armed with an elderly but razor-sharp pair of Felcos to herald the imminent arrival of the Festive Season, beating the birds to some berry-laden raw materials for her future  holly wreathes and garlands.

imageAt this point, as I recalled that November is the traditional month for hardwood cuttings, the ghostly form of Gertrude re-appeared! Time will tell whether the advanced guard of 40 holly cuttings, now lined out in our vegetable bed, strike. We’ll know this time next year…