Summer days

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20130601-180944.jpgSummer has arrived, with two beautiful June days so far – long may that continue!

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The bedding-out season has begun. Our youngest had a sunflower-planting frenzy a few weeks ago and these are now all large enough to be planted out, so we’ve given them a flower-bed all to themselves and this should make a great show in August.

The polyanthus, which we bedded out in the autumn near the house have gone back to their ‘resting’ beds near the compost heap, giving us a good space to plant out the Cosmos, probably this week.

Gradually over the next couple of weeks, the greenhouse will empty.

20130601-180208.jpgThis weekend, we’ve been focussing on the herbaceous borders, filling in one or two spaces with our young Thalictrum and Rudbeckia Goldsturm plants which we grew from seed last year. They’ve come on well, although not sure whether we’ll get any flowers from them this year.

There are more herbaceous plants coming on but I don’t want to put them out until they are big enough to hold their own against the more rampant occupants!

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The apple and pear blossom has been excellent this year, with all the trees now in blossom. Sadly the pictures don’t really do justice and they certainly don’t capture the wonderful scent that currently fills the air!

Under the apples, the first of the wild flowers are coming through, including the rather-fetching bluebells – interestingly we have a whitebell20130601-180338.jpg as well – presumably a sport, as it grows next to a larger clump of bluebells!

Meanwhile the garden is full of baby birds, including 8 pheasant chicks20130601-175930.jpg which emerged from their nest atop our compost heap early in the week!

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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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Signs of spring…

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Polyanthus buds breaking

Just a few pictures this weekend, as we have been spending all our time on drive-maintenance, filling the potholes after the ravages of winter! wpid-20130217_152855-1.jpg

Finally the woodland snowdrops are starting to appear – late this year, after quite a lot of snowfall these past few weeks. This might be one of those years where we get daffodils and snowdrops flowering at the same time as some of the daffs are well through.

The polyanthus too are starting to appear – a cheery show of yellow,  blue and dark red.

We’ve started to water the over-wintering seedlings in the greenhouse again as on sunny days, quite high temperatures are achieved. The baby wpid-20130217_143210.jpgHostas and Rudbeckias are starting to come through. As they will be too little to put out in the borders this year, we’ll pot them on from their modules to 3 inch pots which should get them to a nice size for planting out in the autumn.

Next week, back to the borders for some early-season weeding and pruning!

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The Woodland

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!