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!

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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…