Christo’s influence


Scottish sunflowers!

Now, I do like my hardy annuals! I know they’re a bit of work with all that pricking out, watering and whatever, but at this time of the year, up until the first frosts, these little fellows flower their heads off while much of the rest of the garden can go into ‘snooze mode’!

The youngest’s sunflowers have been a great success; all now in flower, they’re not too tall and make a grand statement in the rear part of the garden. We’ve given them a large flower bed all to themselves; I think we’ll do the same next year although I might inter-plant them with cosmos – another large bedding favourite which will extend the season a bit on either side.

Our summer’s gone a bit, well, ‘mixed’ as is so often the case at Edinburgh Festival time so it’s nice to have the bright Dahlias and Mesembryanthemums out now, although of course the latter only show their faces on sunny days! The dahlias are real class acts; we have a dwarf bedding variety between the Yew ‘tea-cups’ which are very cheery, although I do prefer the longer-stemmed and dark-leaved Bishops Children; they have even brighter- coloured flowers but are not  too big to require staking.

Some find all this brightness a little gaudy, but I like it, and the late Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter relished it; one of these days I’ll get to visit this marvellous, trail-blazing garden!


Mesembryanthemums or ‘Livingstone Daisies’




Dahlia ‘Dwarf Mixed’ (T&M) in the ‘Tea-Cup’ Border

The recent rain has unleashed a new flush of weeds and brought the grass back from its suspended animation, so hoeing and mowing is the order of the day until the end of August, when we’ll start the annual hedge-cutting.

I did make some time though to paddle in the pond recently to chop back the Yellow-flag irises which were starting to make their presence felt in the pond. I know I was recently raving about them, but everything in moderation so I set to with my pruning saw as these monsters have rhizomes 2-3″ thick and they need a firm hand!

I’ve mentioned the fruit from time to time this year and the family have been furiously picking the blackcurrants in the walled garden and the wild raspberries down the Glen. Both are giving excellent crops this year and the jam-making season has started! The plums will be next, with apples and pears to follow, not to mention the medlar fruits from our new tree.


Yucca filimentosa Adam’s Needle


Yucca again, with young Nepeta (catmint) plants, with Yew hedge behind


Eryngium alpinum


Echinacea ‘Magic Box’


Potentilla Monarch’s Velvet


Astilbe Strassenfeder

And finally, if you are visiting the Edinburgh Festival, and are missing your garden, I’d strongly recommend a visit to the walled garden at Floors Castle, just outside Kelso; its herbaceous borders are quite spectacular and well worth seeing, and at this time of the year, with the harvest now underway, the Scottish Borders are a picture. The range of colour, and variety of herbaceous, at Floors is staggering. What is more, the Walled Garden is free, there is an excellent potting shed tea room, a ‘more difficult than it looks’ adventure trail for the young gardeners, and a very comprehensive plant centre, selling quite a number of plants grown in the castle nursery, all in distinguished blue pots with the Roxburgh crest on them!


Late summer herbaceous: mystery perennial, not unlike Willowherb, with Malva in the foreground and Japanese anemones in the rear


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.


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


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.


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!



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…


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.



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.





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!