Midsummer makeover

20130728-193733.jpgThis past week has seen a change in the weather, still warm but thundery downpours have appeared on the scene. Good news for the garden as no need now for supplementary watering. I’m waiting for a barrage of previously dormant weed seedlings however!

This week  we’ve been giving the garden a mid-season makeover, hence a rather longer post than usual.


Making hay…with the sunflowers in the background and the giant thistle to their left


Giant Thistle (Onopordum acantheum

The new grass areas in the walled garden whose seed heads gave us that rippling velvet effect earlier in May have now been strimmed down and the hay cleared; the rain and wind had flattened it so it was time to clear it. From now on until the end of the growing season, we’ll mow it short like the rest of the grass in the walled garden. We’ve left two long drifts of long grass under the old apple trees though as the wild flowers we planted there are still flowering and we want to give them a chance of setting seed.  Some of the hay is now drying under the staging in the greenhouse; it will be appreciated by the hens and the elderly resident in the greenhouse when dry.


the first of the Dahlias

20130728-193836.jpgThe dahlias, cosmos, and mesembryanthemums underplanting the roses have  been enjoying the sun and this has started them into bloom so we’ve been keeping the hoe going around them to keep them tidy. The sweet peas too have been excellent, although shorter-stemmed this year- we can pretty much pick a vase-full a day at the moment and indeed we need to otherwise they will stop flowering!



The other annuals we’ve given their own bed to are the younger son’s giant sunflowers which at around 4 feet at present are not particularly giant but they are very stocky which means they won’t be subject to wind- blow. They’ve been lapping up the sun, they’ve starred to flower and I’m pretty sure they’ll put on a great show – one flower that can’t help make you smile! Not bad for a small bag of parrot seed…


The area I’m most pleased to have got under control is the shade border as that had become somewhat overrun with our old favourite- willow herb and creeping buttercup, I was a bit concerned that it might suffer during the dry spell – particularly the damp-loving Ferns ( including Shuttlecock and Royal ferns), the Candelabra primulas and the Ligularia, but this border lives in almost total shade of a high wall with no overhanging trees; it locks in whatever rain falls like a giant swampy sponge and all plants sailed through, although I did give a can- full to the Ligularia as it is in full bloom at the moment and did look a little stressed.



In the greenhouse, everything that doesn’t answer to the name of tomato has been moved outside for a break in the sun, including the perennials which we have still to plant in the  new west-facing bed; this area has now been sprayed with glyphosate to clean the ground of perennial weeds, ready for planting in 2-3 weeks’ time.

We’ve been selectively spraying glyphosate in the woodland too – just nettles this time. We started this spraying programme last spring as the whole area was overcome with nettles making it virtually impenetrable to humans as well as stifling the other plants that were attempting to grow. Most of the wood is now clear and we’ll only need to spray occasionally, just to get rid of nettle seedlings. So far we’ve only planted new rhododendrons into this area but I’m keen to plant it with some woodland perennials too if we can get the ground clean enough.





Nymphea Colonel AJ Welch

 And finally, proof that plants can  pick up the internet! In a recent post, I was bemoaning the fact that my yellow waterlily never flowered and that I would probably be replacing it. No sooner had I written this this that not only the original plant but also it’s rather annoying and similarly useless progeny,replanted at the other end of the pond courtesy of one of the gardening ducks, decided to revolt by each producing not one but two splendid canary yellow blooms! The compost heap grim-reaper no longer beckons!

P.s while on pond matters, large blue 3 inch dragonfly spotted hovering over the pond this past week. These almost prehistoric insects fill me with awe; we have nothing else like them in Scotland, closely resembling a mini helicopter. Sheer magic!







The Glen, from the start of the grass path

Recorded as a Voice Memo (with one or two subsequent edits) on Thursday, 12.40pm, after a morning of rain:

“It’s 12.40, it’s rained all morning and I’ve been strimming. Strimming the Glen, or rather the sinuous path that winds down to the foot of the hill and winds back again. Behind me, the housemartins and swallows traverse the short grass leading up to the pond, screeching as they go and searching for newly hatched flies presumably to feed their young – criss-crossing like an aerobatic display team.

The Glen sits just east of the house, just over from the pond and I walk past a series of unlit bonfire piles which we have never got around to setting alight and which now may never be. They have become natural sculptures, wildlife havens, constructs of branches, twigs, old bits of wood, secured firmly by grasses which have softened their edges. I suspect they are inhabited by frogs, toads, hedgehogs as well as some of the smaller birds as well, maybe.



I’m walking further down the strimmed pathway, past a pallet of different shades – the white umbrels of the cow parsley, the mauves of the knapweed, a mini thistle with shiny prickly leaves, all shades and heights of grasses, and willow herb, the only place in the garden where we allow it to grow – large statuesque clumps with their bright, bright, pink-purple plumes. And yes, some yellow ragwort, not the farmer’s friend, it has to be said, but very popular with the hoverflies and bees.


Cow parsley in the foreground, willow herb at the rear

And this year has got to be one of the best for wild flowers. They seem to have benefitted from the dry summer; they are shorter this year but they appear to have more flower.

It’s peaceful but it’s not quiet – sounds of sheep baa-ing in the distance, birds of the field with their constant chorus, the occasional unworldly mew of the buzzards, soaring through the steam wreathed the tree tops down at the foot of the glen, steam caused by the heat of the sun on the wet branches presumably, like a tropical rainforest; still the sounds of the rain, still falling through the canopies of the huge broadleaved trees adjacent to the Glen, rain which stopped falling from the sky half an hour ago, maybe longer.


Willow herb

I’m surrounded by insects: by bees -honey and bumble, by hoverflies with their incredible ability to hold their position in the air like miniature Harriet Jump Jets, and by little white moths, and yes, one or two butterflies starting to emerge now that the rain has gone.


Cow parsley

I walk past the big clump of wild raspberries – these would never grace Tesco’s shelves but they will provide a welcome food-source for the birds,  Finally, I come to the old seat at the foot of the hill.



The Glen is our wildlife area, where apart from an occasional strim to carve out some paths, it receives no attention from the gardener. It’s an area which has been allowed to return to nature, an area which we haven’t improved, and which I don’t think we can. Nature seems to do it so much better than me with my plethora of hoes, mowers, hedgecutters and strimmers. She is The Master Gardener. Nowhere else in the garden do I feel more inspired.”


one of the detritus heaps which started life as a bonfire but now serves a far more useful purpose