Monday, 14 August 2017

LUXURIOUS LILIES



LUXURIOUS LILIES

I have had a fascination and love for lilies most of my gardening life. My earliest memory was in Kirkton in Dundee where my granny lived. She had a gravel path on the south side of the house and every summer up came a mass of tall white scented lilies straight through the gravel. At that time I was being trained as a gardener and since I was in my early teens I knew all about gardening!!!
I mean, I cut grannies grass, planted a rose border for her plus a flower border and some grew some vegetables for her. I knew that plants grow better if they get good soil, so I thought I would
Lily Chelsea
rejuvenate the lilies that grew underneath the gravel path. In the dormant season I dug up the lilies and was horrified to find there was no soil, just a heap of broken bricks left behind by the builders. Being young, keen and full of energy I soon excavated a deep trench of rubble and replaced it with good top soil before replanting grannies special lilies. I waited patiently for the massive display the following summer. The lilies never recovered, but grannies are very forgiving. Lessons learned at great expense. Good drainage is essential.
Lily Brasilia
Today my garden is just full of lilies, but with knowledge that to keep them happy good drainage is very important, and a warm sunny border is much preferred. They still get good soil, as well as a mulch as many varieties are stem rooting. Most are grown with other plants at their feet to shade the ground and retain moisture as well as giving them support. Azaleas are a good plant as they do not have deep roots so less competition and they will accommodate those that only grow a few feet tall. For taller varieties of lily I plant them in between peonies. Tall varieties may need canes to support them otherwise the large heavy flowers will arch down to the ground.
Lily Stargazer
In the early days I started off with the cheaper Lilium regale. It has large white flowers with a strong exotic scent and is easy to grow but needs staking. Then I had to try the very special Golden Ray of Japan, Lilium auratum. A real cracker, but quite tall so they needed good support. In the autumn I collected the seed pods and tried to germinate these after some winter chilling. The following spring I got about thirty young plants which are now all over my garden.
When the scent is important you must go for the oriental types, so bulbs were purchased in autumn of Casa Blanca, Muscadet, Brasilia and Stargazer.
Hemmerocallis Patricia
Another brilliant white lily is Lilium candidum the Madonna lily, but take care with this one as the stems are not surface rooting so do not plant it deep, otherwise it can be prone to botrytis.
Asiatic lilies come in a wide range of colours and only grow a couple of feet tall but unfortunately have no scent.
Many plants are termed lilies, but are not really in the lily family though they can still be very attractive. Water lilies are a must if you have a pond, and the day lily, Hemmerocallis is very popular. I am trying out the yellow Patricia with double flowers. These only last for one or two days, but they are quite prolific so put on a good show.
Calla Lily
Calla lily, also known as the Arum lily, is also very popular both in white form as well as many other colours. The Arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica is quite hardy but likes moisture and fertile soil as well as a warm aspect. The Callas come from South Africa so warm conditions improve growth and flowering. Some species of Calla are not hardy and may need winter protection with a mulch or may need lifting up and overwintering in a frost proof shed.

Wee jobs to do this week
Tidying up borders

Mid summer has the garden looking at its best for our enjoyment as well as visitors, so we must keep it tidy. Wet weather following on from warm days has encouraged weeds to grow rapidly so hoe or pull these out before they get established. Many shrubs and roses have completed their first flush of flowers and these plus older leaves fall down to the ground encouraging slugs and snails and looking very untidy. This debris plus the summer flush of weeds can all go on the compost heap, which will be building up with rhubarb leaves and grass cuttings.

END

Sunday, 6 August 2017

PLANT A TREE FOR FOOD



PLANT A TREE FOR FOOD

Growing fruit trees like apples, pears and plums today is quite normal in gardens, as there is a huge range of varieties available as well as different forms to suit restricted spaces. Wide open spaces take our standard trees, and walls take the cordons and fans but then for those with very limited space we can grow either stepover trees growing a few feet tall or the narrow columnar styles like the Starline Firedance apple. As our Scottish weather could be taking a turn for the better temperature wise now could be the time to extend our range with other fruiting trees once considered too exotic for the north.
Ripening figs
Figs may only form a very small tree or large bush, but with some shelter and a south facing wall or fence fruiting can be very successful outdoors.
Sweet cherries, like Cherokee is also a winner outdoors now it can be grown on the dwarfing rootstock Gisela 5. This rootstock plus some summer pruning keeps the height down to six feet and allows netting the tree otherwise the birds would very quickly get the lot.
Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are now quite popular as part of the woodland fringe mix for shelterbelts and windbreaks. Hazelnuts have been grown all over UK for centuries as a source of food as well as for the wood for fencing. The nuts are harvested in autumn and can store for many months. The nuts are very high in protein, numerous vitamins and minerals and much of the production which is a main crop in Turkey goes into Nutella and Ferrero Rocher
Mulberry trees make great specimen trees for the small garden and look brilliant in late summer when covered in black to red fruits looking
Mulberry fruit
like a raspberries. However they take up to ten years to fruit from planting so patience is required. Mulberry fruit can be white red or black, but the best flavoured is the black variety of Morus nigra. They are often planted in a lawn to aid fruit collection when plastic sheeting is laid down and the fruit collected daily as it ripens and falls to the floor. It is very soft and juicy which can be quite staining so wear gloves when collecting the fruit. The fruit is sweet but tart and is eaten fresh with cream and honey or yoghurt, or it can be used in pies, tarts or brewed into a delicious wine. The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.
In its natural habitat growing in southern Europe, Asia, India and North Africa the dark anthocyanin pigment can be extracted quite easily leaving behind the juice to be used in cordials, wine and sauces. Scientists are now evaluating the anthocyanins for use in biotechnology and pharmacology.
Walnut in autumn
Walnut trees are coming up in scale so need plenty of room to grow, but make a very majestic tree on maturity. They prefer warmer climates coming from China and Southern Europe but grow very well all over UK having been brought here as a food source by the Romans. In UK we grow the English walnut, Juglans regia but needs a good summer and autumn to ripen up the seeds. However most of the walnuts we buy in the supermarkets come from China, USA and other warmer countries. Research on the health benefits of eating walnuts just about puts them into the superfood category. They are packed with proteins, minerals and numerous vitamins and also high in the omega 3 oils. I use them almost daily in my morning muesli and always added to salads, but they are used in very many other dishes including cake, soups and the oil is used in salad dressings.
Sweet chestnut
Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, is native to Europe and Asia Minor but now grown widely. Introduced by the Romans, who made porridge from the ground down nuts. It makes a huge tree that can live up to 2000 years, and if you want the chestnut harvest soon, plant a grafted tree otherwise those raised from seed take about 20 years to mature. They have been widely used in parkland landscaping and found in monasteries as a source of food. The chestnuts are usually roasted to remove the outer skin. They have similar health benefits to walnuts.
Botrytis on tomatoes

Wee jobs to do this week
Tomatoes are now cropping quite well and growth will have reached the top of the glasshouse, so remove the growing point and keep an eye out for any signs of botrytis on leaves. Remove any of these immediately before it spreads and keep removing the lower leaves once they start to go yellow.
END

Monday, 31 July 2017

JUNE BERRIES



JUNE BERRIES

June berries are another name for the Saskatoon berry which is slowly becoming popular with gardeners all over UK. At present there is only one commercial grower down in Worcestershire called Pershore Juneberries and this is a relatively new undertaking producing fresh berries in season and frozen fruit as well as numerous Saskatoon products.
Saskatoon berries
June berries grow naturally along the north west of Canada right up to Alaska so in their natural habitat they enjoy warm summers and very cold winters. My best ever crop was in 2011 after the severe winter of 2010 when my bushes just loved the cold weather. Although they seem to need a good winter chill I got a massive crop last year when the previous winter was relatively mild. This year following a very mild winter my crop is lighter than usual but picking date still the same from mid to the end of July.
Saskatoon pie
Native Americans have been using the fruit for hundreds of years, eating it fresh, using it in soups and cakes, and mixing it with dried grated buffalo meat and fat to make pemmican. This is dried and stored for use throughout winter.
June berries were growing prolifically along the banks of the Saskatchewan River and when the town grew up at this location it was named Saskatoon after the anglicized version of the Cree name.
Harvesting over on the Canadian prairies is done by machine, hand pickers and nearly half the crop by pick your own, as people love a day in the country picking native fruit.
The fruit is high in iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and very high in antioxidants.
Saskatoom bloom
The berries can be eaten fresh during the picking season of nearly one month and used in jams, compote, pie fillings, yoghurt, and makes a brilliant wine and liqueur. The berries freeze well for future use. Combine them with rhubarb which adds some acidity to balance the sweetness of the fruit for jams and compote.
The bushes are quite dense with a strong root system, making them perfect for landscape planting in shelterbelts, hedges, urban and edible landscapes and on slopes viable to soil erosion. The bushes sucker quite freely so chop these out annually otherwise the rows would get too wide to manage.
Growers started selecting the best varieties and propagated these to produce the superior varieties Smoky and Pembina many years ago. Smoky was the main variety used in the first orchards established about forty years ago. Later as demand for this new fruit exploded micropropagation techniques were used to bulk up other varieties including Thiessen (this one has the largest fruit size), Northline, Martin and Honeywood.
Saskatoons or Juneberries tolerate a wide range of soils from acidic to those with a high pH, clay, sandy, loams and are very easy to grow.
Saskatoon wine
For garden cultivations plant single bushes about 6 to 8 feet apart, or 3 feet apart for hedgerows.
Left without pruning they would grow into small trees but in gardens they need pruning to keep the height down for picking and netting as birds just love these fruits. Cut out a one or two tall shoots every year right down to ground level in winter. These will regenerate with fresh new shoots which keeps the bush young and wont need pruning for another five years.
They will produce 6 to 10 lbs fruit per bush and crop for over twenty years

Wee jobs to do this week

City Road Allotments Open Day Sunday 30th July 2017
Visit the City Road Allotment Gardens Open Day (entrance at junction with Pitfour Street) and see  allotment life, enjoy a coffee or tea with fresh baking and select from our fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, chutneys and garden plants, including saskatoon bushes, grape vines, geraniums and fuchsias. There is plenty entertainment for the kids, so bring them along and cultivate their interest in plants and the land.
Free parking along City Road, free entry to our Open Day starting at 11am and open till 3pm.

END

Saturday, 22 July 2017

BERRY PICKING TIME



BERRY PICKING TIME

The berry picking season is now well underway. Early strawberries ripened up at the end of May with the help of some polythene tunnel protection, and then mid season Elsanta kept us in strawberries till July when the later Symphony showed a very heavy crop. However the wet weather in June and July caused a fair bit of botrytis rots, though there was always more berries than we could use so there was plenty for the freezer. The perpetual Albion (an autumn variety) started fruiting in June and hopefully will continue till autumn, but it lacks a true strawberry softness.
Strawberry Symphony
My new Colossus strawberry variety put on a poor show as the expected huge berries described in the catalogue just did not live up to expectations. Not nearly as big as Symphony.
Raspberry Glen Fyne and Glen Dee have been outstanding but we could do with more sunshine to sweeten up the berries. Autumn fruiting varieties are all growing very strongly but cropping is still a few weeks away.
Currants red, black and white are all having a great year. Again Ben Conan is the star performer, but Big Ben in its third year gave us 6 pounds from one bush with very large and sweet berries. They
Redcurrants
were perfect mixed into a yoghurt dessert, as well as eaten fresh off the bush.
Gooseberries have all got branches almost broken with the weight of crop, so straw had to be placed under the bushes to keep them off the soil, and last winter I had pruned off all the lower branches.
Cherry Cherokee is now a few years old but still not too tall, so it was not difficult to cover the tree with netting to keep the blackbirds off them. The dwarfing rootstock Gisela 5 keeps the size down but so does some summer spur pruning. This has been a good year for my cherry and so far no sign of blackfly which often infest the young growing shoots.
Saskatoons, aronias and blueberries ripen up towards the end of July but are best picked in August once they have fully ripened as this increases the sugar content. Birds will eat the saskatoons and blueberries so it is necessary to cover them with netting, but usually the aronias are safe as the fruit is somewhat astringent and less attractive to eat.
Nikki Jennings with new raspberry selections
The James Hutton Institute is currently working on improving the qualities of blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries through plant breeding. Varieties of blueberries are being assessed to find those suited to Scottish soils and climate as well as size of fruit, flavour, colour and texture.
Blackcurrant breeding looks at varieties that can flower and fruit following mild winters as they normally require a period of winter chilling to initiate fruit buds. Berry size, sweetness, evenness of ripening is also important as commercially they will be picked in one operation by machine. As much of the commercial crop goes into Ribena production flavour is very important as well as a high level of anthocyanins to keep us all very healthy.
Raspberries have different needs as today raspberry root rot is widespread so tolerance to this disease is important. Commercially raspberries are grown under the protection of polythene tunnels and a lot is hand picked so berry size is important making picking easier and breeders also include  flavour and colour. Having the fruit available over a long season is assisted by using autumn fruiting (primocane) varieties, but leaving the old canes on to get two crops. Many primocane selections had fruit ready to pick in June almost a fortnight ahead of the normal summer fruiting (floricane) varieties. Although Glen Ample is well established as the industry favourite, Glen Dee with large sweet fruit is becoming very popular, but soon others will be released.
Lettuce Lollo Rosso

Wee jobs to do this week

There is still time to sow some lettuce such as Lollo Rosso for autumn use as with general crop harvesting from mid summer onwards there is always some spare land needing utilised before the end of the growing season. A sowing of winter lettuce such as Hilde can be made at the end of July to grow outdoors in a sheltered spot and will provide the first lettuce next spring.

END

NO TIME TO RELAX



NO TIME TO RELAX

Gardening activities are very much determined by our weather and after a long dry and warm spring, the heat wave which predominantly affected areas south of the border, did assist our Scottish climate to reach seasonal highs for about a fortnight. It was very enjoyable and just as we were getting ready to complain of the drought, the heavens opened up and the honeymoon was over. June and early July were somewhat damp to put it mildly. Down at ground level crops and weeds had a field day with anything green reaching rapidly up to heaven. While this is brilliant for cabbages, kale, lettuce, courgettes and turnips, other crops took a different view as continual damp weather took its toll.
Onion white rot
Gardening jobs may be numerous but small at this time of year as we are supposed to be on top of tasks which gives us more time to relax in the sun on the patio, occasionally getting up to dead head a geranium or spent rose. However gardening opportunities have been few and far between as we dodged rainy days to catch up with lots of very wee but essential tasks.
Slugs just thrive in the moist undergrowth and strawberries, impatiens and French marigolds are under severe attack so pellets were essential. Then mice invaded the strawberry patch. They are getting very clever. They manage to spring the mouse traps, gobble up my best cheese, then tuck into a few more strawberries before heading home. Strawberry Colossus is proving to be a hit, but I wish they would leave one for me to sample. The strawberry patch is well netted so no bird problem, but now I need to put nets on my saskatoons and redcurrants to keep the blackbirds away.
Cherry Cherokee
Nets were also necessary on a recent planting of cabbages and cauliflower for autumn harvesting. I had just got them planted when the rains came so thought I would net them next day hoping the sun would be shining. Pigeons had an early morning start on my fresh young green leaves, but I think they will survive and grow now the nets are in place.
I am keeping an eye open on my gooseberries absolutely laden down with a heavy crop of berries, as in previous years it attracted the attention of our allotment site resident fox.
Cherry Cherokee also had to be netted otherwise our resident blackbird family would take the lot.
Potato Casa Blanca
Weeds just love the wet weather and have to be picked off as there is not enough sun to shrivel them up after hoeing. They germinate and grow very fast just now.
White rot on onions and root rot on raspberries is becoming a menace with the wet weather. Onions like it warm and dry and this wet spell has taken its toll. Root rot on raspberries is also spread by soil moisture and infected soil can easily be transported on boots, in compost and tools. Remove any infection as soon as it is found. Clubroot on a row of rocket salad leaves virtually wiped them out as it spread easily in the moist soil.
Summer harvesting is well under way for many crops. Pick peas, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, turnip and the first early potatoes. They may still be small but only lift enough for a few days needs.
Spray chrysanthemums
Sowings of turnips, parsnips, beetroot and salads for late summer use will now be germinated so thin out to give seedlings plenty of room to grow. I usually thin twice, initially to a couple of inches apart and then later select the strongest and thin out the rest to allow full growth.
Chrysanthemums grown for cut flower always need support as they will grow about four feet tall depending on variety. Those grown as sprays are just left to grow and flower, but the decorative, incurve and reflex types grown for single large heads will need disbudding. Once the top flower bud is obvious, start to remove all other buds and sideshoots from each main stem so the plant can put all its energy into developing a large head. Extra feeding helps to increase flower size and maintain a healthy vigorous plant. Always disbud from the top down just in case of any accidents.

Wee jobs to do this week
Poppy Ladybird

Dead head annual flowers, perennials, roses and keep some of the seed heads from favourites like Poppy Ladybird as these will come up again next year from the fresh seed.

END

Sunday, 9 July 2017

SUMMER COLOUR



SUMMER COLOUR

Dublin Bay in June
The recent heat wave enjoyed (or endured) in the south of the UK, may not have quite reached us up north, but this year our Scottish climate has still been outstanding for warmth, sunshine and dry weather. This followed a mild winter and a very pleasant spring so it is no surprise that our gardens have been a riot of colour month after month. I thought colour had peaked with a massive show from the tulips, but that was followed by the show of dazzling azaleas, then the bearded iris, and now the summer roses climbing up my walls continue the show. Every time we walk around the garden there is another plant having its moment in the spotlight. Two weeks ago I wrote about all this colour in the garden, only to find that a fortnight later the colour has not diminished but there is a whole new group of plants seeking attention.
Just where do you begin and just hope it continues through summer and into the autumn.
At the moment it is the climbing roses that catch the eye as well as my two shrub roses Ispahan and Rosa mundi.
Rosa Mundi
 Over the years I have grown numerous bush and shrub roses only to dig them out after a few years due to the ravishes of mildew, rust and blackspot. I am now down to about twenty which all have reasonably strong foliage able to withstand rose diseases. My red climbing rose Dublin Bay grown on a south wall is spectacular and every year never fails to impress, though I am fussy with the winter pruning even tackling those shoots beyond the top of my twelve foot ladder.
Another very tall shrub having its moment is my Philadelphus virginal. Catching those long arching sprays of pure white flowers against a deep blue sky make a brilliant picture and the scent is unforgettable.
Delosperma and Senecio
Coming down in scale to my dry border I have a few shrubs well adapted to a south facing bank with good soil but with a four foot retaining wall to hold it back it has always suffered from lack of moisture. A selection of those plants adapted to maritime conditions seems to work well. At this moment my large Senecio greyii is a mass of yellow flowers and growing alongside it clambering over the wall is a Delosperma cooperi with purple flowers. A perfect match and adding to the display is my pink Erigeron ground cover and taller evergreen shrub Cistus purpureus with
deep pink flowers. This group was never planned, but over the years I found a plant to fill a gap to suit the dry conditions and just so happen they all decide to flower at the same time. Sometimes you just get lucky. Another piece of luck was the visit to RHS gardens at Wisley last year when Anna picked up a packet of Sweet William seed which we had never grown before but Anna recalled them from childhood days and wanted to try them out. We didn’t have a special place for them so they went into every spare piece of soil in rose borders, herbaceous borders and our allotment flower border. They have been fantastic and added colour to other plants all around them.
Peonia Doreen
Over on the herbaceous border the latest star performer has been Peonia Doreen, one of Anna’s prize purchases from Gardening Scotland a few years ago. Every year it gets bigger with more flowers and now really catches the eye. Then again our massive group of deep blue delphiniums continue to perform every year, but need serious staking due to their size and strength.
Tubs and hanging baskets are growing well and are quite colourful, but this is not their time yet as they still have to come into full flower probably from end of July onwards. However the pink and red geraniums have been outstanding. I kept pinching off all the flowers from winter till the end of spring to build up strong growth. This has paid off as now they just can’t wait to get their flowers up into the sunshine. Petunias alongside them are also enjoying the warmth putting on plenty colour.

Wee jobs to do this week
Salad catch crops

Harvest vegetable crops as they ripen such as turnip, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, peas and early salad potatoes. This releases land for another quick growing crop of salads, beetroot, autumn and winter cabbages and cauliflower. There might also be time for another pea crop using a dwarf early variety such as Feltham First, Meteor, Kelvedon Wonder, or sugar snap peas.

END

Sunday, 2 July 2017

SUMMER FRUITS



SUMMER FRUITS

We are now beginning to reap the benefits from this warm summer, as the first strawberries ripened up at the end of May. My main crop Elsanta has come to the end of its useful life so will be replaced in the autumn. Colossus my new strawberry with huge fruit is living up to its name, but then the first berries from Symphony and Florence were also huge. Large fruit seems to be in fashion as my perpetual strawberry Albion which I rely on to fruit well into autumn also has massive berries. Just a pity they are so hard and lack sweetness. If they don’t improve they are destined for the compost heap to be replaced with some other autumn fruiting variety. Now that fruit picking has started it is a good time to review the crops and make notes for future action.
Picking fresh rhubarb
Raspberries are now starting to colour up so if you are troubled with the raspberry maggot now is the time for the first insecticide spray, then give another spray a week later. Both summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee are heavy with berries ready to turn red. Looks like a good year for raspberries. Autumn fruiting Polka, Autumn Bliss as well as Autumn Treasure are all growing strongly so an autumn crop of berries looks assured.
Blackcurrant Ben Conan and Big Ben both have many branches weighed down with berries and should start to colour up soon. Most of the tops of vigorous branches were plagued by greenfly as growth has been soft with the warm wet weather, but rather than spray I just cut back the shoots to healthy leaves. This got rid of the pests and let more sunshine in to sweeten up the fruit.
Gooseberries also suffered a severe attack of sawfly maggots when I wasn’t looking, so they needed a spray which quickly wiped out the pests and allowed the bushes to grow fresh leaves. This is another crop that is just loaded with berries waiting to ripen up.
Fig Brown Turkey
Rhubarb may officially not be a fruit, but it is used as a dessert in stews, compote and is brilliant mixed with saskatoons for jam, as they add some acidity. The Saskatoon crop may be a bit lighter than last year as the winter was so mild that shoot ripening to initiate fruit buds was a bit lacking.
However I should get bigger berries and harvesting at the end of July is on target. It was interesting to see that the Saskatoon crop grown down south at Pershore Juneberries commenced in mid June.  They needed a mechanical harvester to pick the berries.
Great to see success with the first commercial Saskatoon plantation in the UK.
Bramble Helen has finished flowering and now we just wait for this early variety to ripen up for picking in August. However the new bramble Reuben is flowering on the shoots grown last year. This primocane type flowers and fruits on canes grown in the same year, so last years canes should have been removed after fruiting, but with flowers appearing in November they had no chance. New shoots growing this year are three feet tall and looks like they will flower this month. Can’t wait to see if Reuben will fruit this year and live up to its terrific catalogue description.
Thinning apples
Apples are ready for thinning but I will wait till after the June drop before the final thinning.
Cherries are turning colour but the tree needs netting otherwise the blackbird will take the lot.
My Peach Avalon Pride lost a third of its leaves to peach leaf curl, so the diseased foliage had to be removed. The tree was none too happy so it dropped my twelve potential peaches and has left me with just one. I give it one more year to acclimatise to Scotland or it gets the chop.
Grapes and figs are having a great year with much needed warmth and sunshine so good to see the fruit swelling up and we should soon get our first fig.
Peas and beans

Wee jobs to do this week

Peas can grow very fast in this warm damp summer climate so make sure they are all well supported. Even the dwarf varieties can grow two feet tall and are better for something to cling on to. I use both shrub prunings if tall enough and weldmesh wire held on posts driven into the ground.
Plastic pea and bean netting is quite cheap and very easy to use but make sure it is held up with a strong framework of posts and wires.

END

Sunday, 25 June 2017

EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN



EARLY SUMMER FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN

Flowers in the garden all have their own season, so provided you grow a wide variety of plants the garden can be full of colour all year round. The spring bulbs are now a distant memory followed on by the oriental poppies and bearded iris. Some azaleas and rhododendrons are still in flower but it is the roses that steal the show in June. The long dry spell brought on some mildew then the rain gave the greenfly a boost, so a combined insecticide and fungicide was sprayed to clean them up. To keep the plants flowering remove all spent flowers to prevent them wasting energy producing rose hips. Oriental poppies also need seed pods removed and even old foliage as in a good year they can regrow with fresh leaves and produce a second burst of flowers.
Delosperma nubigenum
Peonies have given a good display but now the show is over cut back old flower heads.
Garden pinks are becoming very popular and are hard to beat for a wonderful clove scent. They do not need rich soil but it must be well drained and they flower best in a sunny position. Mine all
Delosperma cooperii
suffered a plague of minute black aphids which just about destroyed all foliage so a quick spray of insecticide sorted them out and are now well on the road to recovery.
Greenfly on my oriental lilies also got a spray well ahead of flowering so now we just await the first huge scented blooms to come into flower.
Dahlias, chrysanthemums and gladioli grown both for display and cut flower are all growing strongly but it will be a few weeks before they make an impact. Chrysanthemums are all supported with stakes and wires and the plants have had the tops pinched out to encourage branching, except with the spray types which branch naturally. Some of the dahlias have started to flower, but need more sunshine after this wet spell of several weeks.
Erigeron
Hardy fuchsia Mrs Popple survived well over winter as it was quite mild, but for some unknown reason most of the top woody growth all died back. However the old stems soon produced masses of new shoots, though the old dead wood needed removing for appearance sake. Once they burst into growth they can move fast so now there are plenty of flowers and these hardy fuchsias will continue to bloom till late autumn.
Senecio greyii has started to produce its yellow flowers which can be quite striking against the silvery gray foliage, and enhanced by a drift of pink Erigerons also in flower around the bush. This planting arrangement was a happy accident which just worked when
Fuchsia Mrs Popple
I needed a bush, the senecio for a spare patch of land on a dry sunny bank.
Coming back to ground level my succulent Delosperma nubigenum may only grow an inch tall but is a great ground cover plant which smothers all weeds and in May is a mass of yellow scented daisy flowers. The other Delosperma cooperi has purple flowers and grows two inches high. They are both perfect for growing in the cracks of walls. Push a few shoots in a crevice and just leave them. They will soon root and grow quite happily without any soil.
Rose Mme Alfred Carriere
Bare soil patches remaining after removal of spent tulip leaves have been sown with calendula, candyfuft, larkspur and other fast growing annuals to give a bit of colour later in the season.
Tubs and hanging baskets have done well with the warm but wet May/June period covering the pots and baskets with foliage and beginning to flower, but as they have a limited amount of soil feeding will be carried out at least once a month.

Wee jobs to do this week
Five month old compost

My allotment compost heap was all used up last year so a new one was started in January. There always seems to be plenty of material to use so it soon bulked up. I turned the heap twice to help rotting down so now I have compost ready to use after just six months. This will be used for mulching fruit bushes and trees, and courgettes and pumpkins. Any left over will be used to get the next heap started as there is plenty of spent rhubarb leaves, old tulip and other bulb leaves and now I have potatoes to start lifting so the shaws (no sign of blight) can be added to the heap.

END

Monday, 19 June 2017

AN EARLY HARVEST BEGINS



AN EARLY HARVEST BEGINS

The 2017 weather has been unbelievable for gardeners so far. The long dry spring with plenty sun warmed up the soil, then just when we needed some moisture for planting, down came the rain. This was followed by a few dry sunny days. Perfect for planting and sowing, but moisture had just gone down a few inches with dry soil underneath, but worry not, along came another couple of days of torrential rain to make up the deficit. You could not wish for better weather.
Thinning beetroot
So every dry sunny day let us catch up with numerous gardening tasks.
This has been perfect growing weather, so salads such as lettuce, radish, rocket and spring onions matured early and harvesting started at the end of May. Fresh salads picked twenty minutes before they are on the plate could not be more tasty and healthy.
However salads do not last long as they all mature together and after about three weeks they are gone, so successional sowings are made to cover the summer and autumn periods. Fast maturing salads can be intercropped between slower growing crops with wide spacings such as sweet corn and brussels sprouts. Other space becomes available when existing salads are cleared and early potatoes start to get lifted.
Casablanca first early potatoes had the first sample shaws dug up at the end of May. Although this is a salad potato, size was still on the small side but hopefully will improve after another week. The small spuds were delicious and although the crops harvested early lacked in size, the freshness and flavour made it well worth while.
Lettuce Lollo Rosso
Other young seedlings such as carrots, turnip, Swedes, beetroot, mizuna and all the salad successional sowings are in need of thinning, but the warm sunny days made this quite a pleasant task. I usually perform thinning over two operations to allow for any pest damage taking out a few more plants.
Pea Kelvedon Wonder is now three feet tall and full of flowers and a later sowing of Hurst Green Shaft is well through the ground and looking strong. These will soon need stakes, netting or other means to support them.
Currant leaf blister aphid
There is always a feeling of summer has arrived once the first strawberries are ripe for picking. Last year I started towards the end of May, but this year with different varieties my first berries had to wait till the first week in June. Albion my autumn fruiting variety was the first to fruit. Weird !!!
Redcurrants have put on a lot of summer growth so some spur pruning will be done to let the light into the ripening bunches. The tops of most shoots have been infected by the leaf blister aphid, but as these will all get cut back with the summer pruning it will not be a problem.
Tall bearded flag iris are stealing the show for early summer, but some varieties that fail to impress or have weak stems causing them to fall over when it rains, will be discarded and new varieties purchased in autumn.
Iris Dusky Challenger

Iris Jean Price
As well as the iris both bush, shrub and climbing roses are at their best, and it is difficult to decide where our favourite spot is. The large shrub Ispahan, and the climbers Mme Alfred Carriere, Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll are all performing to script. They are very reliable and never let us down.
A small infestation of greenfly and some rose mildew and rust made an appearance so the sprayer came out to keep the bushes healthy.
A new compost heap was started in January and after turning it over twice it is now ready for use for mulching fruit trees and bushes and our courgettes and pumpkins.

Wee jobs to do this week
Planting leeks

If young leeks have put on enough growth and are now about nine inches tall and a fair thickness they can be lifted for transplanting to their permanent positions. I take out a shallow furrow then put deep dibble holes about four to six inches apart along the row. Lift the young leeks and give them a top and tail and drop them into the dibbled holes. Water them in and let them get on with it.

END

Monday, 12 June 2017

A LADY GARDENER



A LADY GARDENER

A mature garden that has been well designed with a lot of interest all year round gives a great deal of pleasure and has plenty of plant stories to write about. Although these gardening articles go under my name, the reality is that I am only one half of the team that creates and maintains the garden and allotment. Anna Anderson, the other team member has a huge garden and together we create an ever changing horticultural world that we like to share.
Anna relaxing on the patio
It was through art that we met many years ago when Anna visited my art exhibition in Roseangle Gallery looking for a painting of her home town Alyth. As I had no paintings of her home town I was commissioned to paint the Old Packbridge over the Alyth Burn. I was very impressed by this small town so another twenty paintings covering all seasons were completed for my next exhibition. We soon found that we both had an interest not only in art but also gardening. At that time I needed a
Anna in the summer garden
studio and Anna needed a hand with her large garden so a team was formed. The garden is built on a steep facing south slope. In the early days the garden had been planted with a lot of evergreen ground cover surrounded with tall conifers to help smother weeds. There was a lot of plants we would love to grow if only we had room, so it was sleeves rolled up as we started to dig out all the ground cover plants, but we had to call in professional foresters to remove a dozen huge conifer trees complete with roots. Most of the wood went through their shredder so it ended up on our allotment paths as well as the compost heap.
Garden construction continued with new fences, paths, two patios and terracing, and then areas identified for shady borders, dry borders, sun traps, herbaceous borders and a rose garden. We also
Anna harvesting the pumpkins
allocated space for fruit trees and some vegetables.
Then the interesting phase began as we both sorted out our favourite plants. We both had thoughts on those must have plants, so numerous trips took place to garden centres, nurseries, flower shows at Camperdown and Ingliston as well as further afield to RHS Wisley and Hampton Court Palace. We always took home some new plants or seeds. I started my rose collection of bushes, climbers and shrubs and Anna took a shine to Heucheras. Every time we visited the Dundee Flower Show at Camperdown Park she came away with ever more Heucheras. I was sure she was aiming for status as a national collection.
Luck was on our side when we won the lottery. We got £90 between us, so were able to indulge in a few special plants. I got Rhododendron Horizon Monarch and Anna got the coral barked maple Acer Sango Kaku, but it needed a partner so we also got the white stemmed birch and a golden Robinia frisia. Soon the autumn catalogues came in and Anna went for a flag iris collection and I started our affair with spring bulbs from aconites and snowdrops through daffodils and tulips and now into the summer with oriental lilies. We both fell in love with azaleas after a trip around Glendoick Gardens, so now they are our latest passion.
Anna with rose Gertrude Jekyll
It was our holidays abroad that introduced us to the exotics of figs, grapes, cherries and saskatoons. The latter discovery was a day trip to a pick your own Saskatoon farm in Canada while visiting Anna’s sister. When I realised they were a species of Amelanchier I knew they had every chance of success in Scotland. I later discovered that James Hutton had them growing in a field for forty years. As the garden and allotment provide us with ample produce we have just about become self sufficient in fruit and vegetables and now excellent wine from home grown grapes and other fruit.

Wee jobs to do this week
Spraying the roses
The moist warm weather has been perfect for pests and diseases on numerous plants. Roses have been troubled by mildew, blackspot, rust and greenfly and evergreen rhododendrons and camellias are plagued by scale insects. Up on the allotment the cabbage white butterflies are seeking out the cabbages and cauliflowers and the gooseberry sawfly has been chomping its way through the gooseberry bushes. Slugs and snails attack anything green at ground level so keep vigilant and take preventive action as soon as possible with practical as well as sprays with insecticide and pesticides.

END