Preparing for spring

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A calm, dry weekend allowed us to finish off the herbaceous border work for the winter. All stems have now been cut down to ground level, allowing the new growth to come through unimpeded. Some plants are already starting to make some good progress and I think that the colour and form of some of the new herbaceous shoots as they come through equal the flowers that come later on.

wpid-20121103_092640-1.jpgWe’ve also given the hybrid tea roses a good prune back this year, having found that the harder we prune them, the more blooms we get. In the cuttings bed, meanwhile, all of the hardwood cuttings we took from the self-same roses last autumn seem to have come through the winter, with some promising buds and new shoots appearing. It won’t be until later in the spring or early summer when we’ll be able to see for sure which ones have struck root.

In the greenhouse, I had a look at last year’s seedlings which are now starting to show signs of life. The baby Hostas and Rudbeckia Goldsturm are now pushing out new leaves, as is the Acanthus (Bears Breeches) and the Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker). As the grass, Pennisetum ‘Tall Feathers’ has remained evergreen in the greenhouse unlike the ones we planted in the autumn outside, they were in need of potting on from their 2”x 1” modules, as were the Eupatorium ‘Joe- Pye Weed’, although these have been dormant over the winter. Significant root growth suggests, though, that these are about to burst into life!

I took a wander round to the old pleasure grounds to see if the carpets of snowdrops were out yet. Walking through the woods, the calm air was filled with the heady scent of the Viburnumwpid-20130303_114250.jpg

bodnantense which are the best I’ve seen them for years. Some of the snowdrops are out, but by no means all. I was rewarded, though, by the sight of a pair of beautiful Roe Deer at close range.

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Dust of dreams

Just placed my next year’s seed order with Thompson and Morgan (http://www.thompson-morgan.com/). Seed catalogues are the gardener’s equivalent of the holiday brochures – they seem to radiate the warmth of a summer day and help to transport us through the cold and darkness of winter.

Here at the Scottish Country Garden, we try to grow as much as we can from seed (annuals, perennials, veg and herbs), and T&M have an excellent selection of perennials to choose from. They also have some wonderful discount offers from time to time too if you order online. Worth joining their email list just for this!

imageSeeds are always a leap of faith and it can be hard to reconcile the seductively colourful pictures on the outside of the packet with the little pinch of brown dust within, but most times the latter does indeed transform into the former! This past spring was rather cooimagel, damp and dark in Scotland with the result that while our seed germinated quite well, some succumbed to damping off disease. Our greenhouse is not heated so we are reliant on solar power, which wasn’t much in evidence during 2012!

Despite this, though, we now have a nice little brood of Hostas, Acanthus (Bears’ Breeches), Kniphofia (red hot pokers), Morina, Thalictrum, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and Candelabra Primulas ready to plant out next year, with a batch of Joe- Pye Weed (Eupatorium) and Pennisetum ‘Tall Feathers’ grasses already planted in situ.

I think more patience is needed with perennial seedlings than annuals (don’t throw out the trays for at least a year they say, and in some cases two, in case they are slow germinators!) and I think you just have to accept that germination may be variable, or in a couple of cases with us last year, non-existent! (I rather ambitiously thought I’d have a go at growing acers from seed; as per instructions, they’ve been in the greenhouse, in the fridge (to simulate winter) and are now back in the greenhouse again.   Now we’re going into proper winter, so if that doesn’t leave them totally confused, I don’t know what will! That said, I’m still kind of hopeful they may appear next spring!) Perennials don’t have the same rate of growth as annuals but it’s image

hugely more satisfying to grow your own than buying a ready-grown plant from a garden centre. If you’ve got a bit of space to fill, growing from seed protects the bank account too (that’s the Scot in me), allowing you to plant drifts of the same species to eye-catching effect!

So what have I ordered for next year? Ah, well, we’ll leave that for a future post!