Fifty shades of green


Skimmia ‘Kew Green’, with evergreen fern


Portuguese Laurel, young foliage


Holly, variety unknown

I’ve recently discovered the excellent 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


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).


Evergreen fern, close-up


Evergreen fern with Golden Fishing Pole Bamboo in the background


Aucuba, spotted laurel

One of the most popular websites on is MySecretGarden ( 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!)


Holly, variety unknown


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.


Rhodo bud – colour remains a mystery, for now!


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!


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



View from the top


Walled Garden from the south wall looking north-east


from on top of the south wall looking left into the walled garden (south-east corner) and right into the Secret Garden

Aided by the birds, a nursery of baby beech, rowan, blackcurrants, gooseberries, ivy and cotoneasters not to mention willow-herb, nettles, grass and other weeds has been quietly establishing itself 10 feet up on the top of the walls, so I spent a recent few hours up there chopping them back. They have managed to get a toe-hold in the loose mortar between the coping stones on the top of the wall, rooting into the rubble that lies between the two skins of the wall. I may have to do a repeat performance in the spring probably armed with a pot of Roundup (glyphosate) and a paintbrush to finish off any re-growth for good. Some of the mortar between the stones is a bit ‘iffy’ so we may need to call in the ‘Wall Man’ to give us his opinion.


Walled Garden, north-west corner


the not-so-newly-discovered holly!


the walled garden from the north-east corner


the walled garden from the south-east corner

Anyhow, while I was up there, atop a decidedly wobbly 12 foot ladder, balancing with my knees while I leaned into the wind, I pulled out the trusty smartphone and took one or two pictures which I thought you might like to see; it’s not a view which we see very often. Unfortunately, this being January, there is little colour in the pictures so rather more bare earth (and earth which should be bare!) features than I would like. I’ll get the ladders out again when spring calls!

I also discovered, just over the wall in the old pleasure grounds, an ancient variegated holly which I didn’t know was there (although the Good Lady assured me she did!) – one of the original trees, I would imagine, (along with the Yews, the Sequioa, the Monkey Puzzle and the species rhododendrons) that were planted in the Pleasure Grounds of the Big House. Hollies were popular trees in Victorian times and we have one or two fine specimens.

Happy Holly-days!


The Secret Garden – uncovered

The Good Lady, with her penchant for all things recycling, has done it again! In the last few weeks, Herself, accompanied by a chainsaw-wielding Grandpa, has been reducing the beech hedge in the Secret Garden to more manageable proportions. Over the past thirty years or so this part of the garden has been “forgotten”, therefore the hedge had become a riot of adolescent beech trees  which have gradually been shading out the espalier wall-trained fruits.  In amongst the tangle of beech was a self-sown holly.Christmas Tree

Driven by a desire to save the poor soul from the impending clutches of the bonfire pile, the Good Lady’s eyes settled upon a pleasingly triangular shaped offcut and this was formally adopted as our 2012 Christmas tree. I was tasked with wrestling it into its improbably small and inherently unstable stand and once I’d forced it through the door simultaneously pulling the prickles out of my head, we proceeded to decorate with the assorted collection of well-loved, vintage treasures from years past (perhaps more  plain shabby than shabby-chic).  Granted, it was a bit of a challenge threading the baubles over the prickly leaves (there’s not an imageElastoplast left in the house) and it doesn’t have the usual pine aroma of a normal tree but it hasn’t dropped its leaves yet, and has the added credentials of being locally sourced and – yes – free!

From all of us at the Scottish Country Garden, may we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

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…