In like a lamb and out like a lion, and that’s just the first week!

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P.denticulata

The battleship grey skies and cold temperatures have returned, with even a light covering of snow this morning, heralding (according to the long-range forecast) a rather more wintry March than we had last year.

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The new Lonicera hedge “Great Expectations”!

Still the Good Lady was able to take advantage of some better weather in the early part of the week with some frenzied hoeing, concluding the work we were doing last weekend on the rose beds. The herb bed too has been hoed over as have the two vegetable beds in the rear part of the walled garden. The GL too planted out some Lonicera (shrubby honeysuckle) cuttings that had rooted over the winter to make a low hedge around one of the vegetable beds. These rooted amazingly quickly in the late summer and over the winter and will very quickly establish, although they are likely to require 2 or 3 trims a year. The other vegetable bed has lavender round it. These plants we grew from seed last year and are still quite small although we should get some good flowering in the mid-late summer. The box cuttings we took in the autumn have come through the winter well and these should be showing signs of root as the spring advances. When large enough, these too will be used to edge some of the borders.

wpid-20130309_100517.jpgIn the greenhouse, the sweet pea seeds have been planted, together with some ‘All the Year Round’ lettuce, some mysterious ‘trial’ leeks and some assorted wild flowers. It’s pretty early for seed-sowing here, but none of these need much heat and I’m hopeful that we’ll get some bright weather over the next few weeks which will bring them through. We’ll probably leave the herbaceous seed for a few more weeks, though, until the overnight temperatures are more consistently above 0 degrees C.

wpid-20130309_095613.jpgTaking a wander-round this morning, it was good to see the Primula denticulata (the drumstick primulas) starting to emerge from their basal cluster of leaves; we grew quite a lot of these from seed a couple of years ago and their flowering season is quite long. The first little flower of our Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’ has also appeared in the shade border – a picture will follow in a few weeks’ time when a few more have emerged!

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A. palmatum ‘Sangokaku’

And finally for this week, I was very taken with the coral-pink stems of our new Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ which we put in a year ago – it’s certainly giving our red-stemmed Cornus a run for its money!

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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!

Good year for the hostas!

In between the rain showers, I’ve managed to take a walk around the garden and in our newish shade border, the hostas have turned a marvellous luminous shade of bright buttery yellow. In previous years, the hostas have run out of steam by late summer, but this year,

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they have been spectacular. One of them is called Big Daddy but so far hasn’t proved any bigger than the others! Maybe next year…

Talking of hostas, this year I thought I’d try to grow some from seed (Thompson and Morgan), not with any great expectation of  success, it has to be said. However, I now have around 18 baby hosta plants in the Greenhouse, ready for potting on next spring, and planting out maybe next autumn. T&M offer no warranty on how the plants will turn out as of course many of the variegated and unusual coloured ones are propagated by division and other vegetative means. However, unless it’s my imagination, some of them seem to have different leaf shapes and shades, and some are more vigorous than others, so maybe we’ll get some interesting variety after all…