Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Planning a new garden


We all face this situation each time we move house, whether just married, moving up the property ladder or moving to a new location following the sun.
It may be a new house where the builders have just left, it may be flat but turfed, or it might be an existing home where the previous owner has left behind his neglected, overgrown or fantastically landscaped garden. However, you are likely to want to develop your own ideas for your garden, but just where do you start!
I have always loved gardening and my horticultural career has taken me all around the UK, so every time I found a new house it had to be landscaped to my needs at that time. I always had a notion of the plants I wanted to grow if room and funds permitted. In the early years the house and garden were quite modest and there was always a garden problem to solve. Nothing much has changed except that my garden is a wee bit bigger and I have now grown many of those special must have plants.
The experience of creating new gardens has developed into a pattern that can now be followed breaking it down into logical stages.
Let us start at the beginning.

Site analysis

I always start here, walking over the site and noting if there are any worthwhile features, e.g. specimen trees or shrubs, or good views to preserve, eyesores to remove or problems, e.g. steep slope to solve. Now look over the fence and see if any screening is needed for neighbours washing line, adjacent busy roads, building next door with windows looking onto your private patio.
Have a look at the topsoil, dig a few pits a foot deep. Is it good, does it need amelioration, assess the drainage to see if this is a problem. Look at local weeds. Nettles indicate good soil, buttercups, wild orchids and reeds wet soil.
You will now be getting an idea of the site's potential, so you can incorporate your own needs. Give every idea an airing. Will the garden be totally ornamental or will you want a vegetable patch, and what about some healthy fruit crops. Will you plan for a compost heap. This was always an essential with me where I recycle all plant waste material including tree and shrub pruning after shredding them, plus all household waste paper that goes through a paper shredder first. However don't compost any diseased material.
What about a greenhouse and shed for pots, canes, tools, wheelbarrow and wood shredder.
Getting friends around for the barbecue on those long warm summer evenings and a patio in a sunny sheltered location is needed to relax on after all this garden planning. Very mentally exhausting work.
Then of course there is the lawn, for some an absolute essential, and for others nothing but a problem area that is always full of moss and weeds and never stops growing.

The other major task is the hard landscaping of paths, walls if required, rock garden for some, fences, and services (water and electricity) to the greenhouse and shed.

Finally what about all those plants you want to grow for year round interest and colour.
Now the work can begin!

Structure, shelter and privacy

A garden will take on a very professional look if it has a good structure within which specific features are incorporated. Start with selection of trees. Is the garden big enough for one, two or more? Trees come in all shapes and sizes so nearly every garden can take at least one of a modest size. I will tackle this subject in a later article showing a wide range of trees suited to the small to medium sized garden.. The small garden can consider some slow growing conifers, an upright cherry, Prunus amanogawa, or hornbeam, Carpinus betulus pyrimidalis and if your drainage is good what about the golden Robinia frisia.
Keep trees, especially willow and poplar, well away from house walls and check where the services are before you drive in any supporting tree stakes.
Shrubs are the next item to be planned, usually to define boundaries or give shelter and privacy. However the planning of these will depend on the location and route of paths, greenhouse, sheds, vegetable patch and patio. Many shrubs flower and some such as the Philadelphus are scented.
I like to blend buildings into the garden landscape by using climbers on any bare wall around the house and on surrounding perimeter fences. Choose plants known to do well on the appropriate wall face, as some need the warmth of a south wall and others prefer a north wall, (more information in a later article).

Entertainment and Relaxation

The patio and barbecue should be big enough to accommodate several people. It should be sheltered, have privacy and will be hard surfaced. Outdoor tables and chairs will be needed and it is a good idea to have some colourful bedding plants in tubs, hanging baskets and borders to brighten up the area. Scented plants located nearby add to the tranquillity.

The lawn

Decide whether the lawn is to be attractive but functional with daisies and buttercups cut with a rotary mower or whether it is to be a feature of admiration with level surface, close mown weed free fine grass which the cylinder mower leaves in pretty stripes after its weekly cut. Of course, the edges will need to be kept cut regularly. The height of the lawn must relate to any surrounding manholes and path edges so the blades do not get chipped and make sure there is free access to get onto the lawn. Plan the lawn shape with flowing perimeter curves so mowing is easy. Select an appropriate grass seed mixture depending on what type of lawn you wish. Do not use a fine grass mixture if the kids will be playing ball games or riding bikes over it.
The greenhouse

If you like to eat very fresh salads, home grown sweet cherry and the larger Alicante tomatoes cannot be beaten when picked totally ripe off your own plants.
Then you can also grow a grape vine and any amount of bedding plants.
Site your greenhouse in a sunny but sheltered spot and put in power and water before you dig foundations. I have always put in a brick base about a foot high to give extra height for my grape vine and giving added drainage with a large pit dug out and filled with old crushed bricks. Top up with 6 to 9 inches of good topsoil. Grapes want decent soil to get them started, but then good drainage. Don't feed or over water them much once established.

Colour all year round

There is a huge selection of excellent flowering plants to brighten up every month from early spring to summer bulbs, spring and summer bedding plants, herbaceous and border plants, flowering trees and shrubs, lilies, gladioli, carnations, bush and shrub roses and annuals for a quick display. The effects will change continuously as every time you visit a nursery or garden centre you will always find something new to try.


Friday, 24 September 2010

Low maintenance friendly hedges


All my gardening life I have never understood the concept of having a privet hedge, but its popularity tells a different story.
I had the benefit of a five year gardening apprenticeship, (most likely quite rare today) combined with being transferred to different squads all round Dundee to give us a wide range of experiences. Our training instructor, Walter Gilmour, still fondly remembered by many Dundee gardeners was very keen on visiting other gardens, horticultural research stations, nurseries and botanical gardens all over Scotland. This increased our knowledge of plants and how others use them. Hedges were created from numerous plants both dwarf and tall, evergreen and deciduous and with both low and high maintenance.
Many examples were seen of fantastic skills with the hand shears where straight lines, angles, curves and other shapes were meticulously maintained. No leaf was allowed to step out of its allotted space. This was old fashioned horticultural discipline at its best.
Today we have mechanical hedge trimmers with staff on bonus and often the tasks are put out to contract so hedges become functional, cheaper to look after but seldom a work of art to look at.
Hedge cutting in the Parks Dept. in the sixties was a huge task to keep labour employed during the winter as many ornamental open spaces were filled with a wide variety of shrubs all of which received the bog standard haircut of flat tops, square sides or maybe cut into a round ball. It did not matter if it was a flowering shrub, evergreen or conifer.
My lesson for life was that in my garden, I would never ever plant a hedge that needed pruning.

The need for a hedge

It is quite normal to want to define your property garden boundary with a hedge, or separate the ornamental areas from the vegetable patch, or maybe hide the compost heap somewhere.
Hedges can also be used to give shelter from winds, to create an impenetrable barrier to keep animals in or for privacy in the garden or around the patio and barbecue areas.
The height of a hedge should be governed by your own personal need as well as others if they are likely to be affected. Hedges can be very tall, the beech hedge at Meikleour or quite dwarf where box edging is often used around herb gardens, and the range of plants used can be enormous. Some require constant clipping to keep them in shape and control their size whereas others will do the same function without the need for continual pruning as long as it is acceptable to have a more ornamental appearance.

High maintenance hedges

Privet is still the most widely used but more likely because people don't know what else to use and it is very cheap. Golden privet has a better colour and the lack of chlorophyll holds back its growth. Lonicera nitida is very popular, easy to prune and shape and not too vigorous. Beech is deciduous, but often retains its leaves into winter. It can be kept at any height. Leyland cypress is cheap, fast, evergreen and can make a good solid hedge if kept under control, but has lost its credibility through abuse from those who plant it and let it run wild in urban areas to the extreme anxiety of neighbours. More on this one later.
It is quite possible to create an environmentally and neighbour friendly hedge that is both functional and ornamental and requires little pruning.

Low maintenance hedges

Berberis comes in many forms and sizes and being spiky makes an attractive barrier, many of which are evergreen and Berberis darwinnii has brilliant orange flowers in spring.
Shrub roses come in all sizes are can have scented flowers all summer. Philadelphus is quite tall but is very majestic in spring with white scented blossoms. Lonicera Baggesons Gold grows up to five feet and is quite spectacular all year round. Its dense foliage gives great shelter to small birds and it does not need to be pruned.
Saskatoons, can make a perfect hedge and give a show of white flowers in spring followed by a crop of edible berries in summer for picking or as food for local birds. It can be grown to any height up to twelve feet with minimalistic pruning.
For a low hedge Fuchsia Mrs Popple will grow to four feet and although deciduous it is a mass of flowers all summer. However every so often when we get a very cold winter it gets cut down to ground level, but nearly always grows again the following year.
Lavender is quite popular for a really low hedge with scented foliage and purple summer flowers.
For a conifer hedge the dwarf pine, Pinus mugo, or slightly taller Pinus strobus nana both look natural if left to grow unpruned.
Many other shrubs including Escallonia, rhododendrons and camelias, etc. can be used for hedging. Select according to height needs and plant closer together to establish a close nit hedge or line of ornamental shrubs.

Problem hedges

Where shelter or privacy needs require a tall boundary screen always give thought to adjacent neighbours who may be affected. Your paradise could be their nightmare.
My first experience was with a friendly neighbour in Darlington, knowing I had a fair bit of knowledge asked me if I could help him to identify this plant growing in the middle of his new greenhouse. It was a shoot of my very vigorous ornamental bamboo hedge Arundinaria anceps that can grow immense and I had planted a fair distance from his garden not realising it liked space to grow. It promptly got the chop, and I lost my supply of garden canes, but kept my friendly neighbour.
Problems arise when hedges are allowed to grow without any thoughts on their nuisance effect. Are they blocking some-ones view, or obstructing paths, visual access along footpaths and highways, growing over another's property, blocking light to windows, blocking drains, (poplars and willow can do this) or shedding leaves into another garden or roof gutters.
Encroaching roots can also do considerable damage interfering with underground service pipes and cables, competing with garden plants for moisture and nutrients and in times of drought add to the moisture loss levels causing clay and peaty soils to shrink. When rain follows the resultant heave can damage walls and older buildings which may not have adequate foundations.
Leyland cypress can also drop limbs in heavy winds endangering people and property.
People trying to sell property next to a hedge problem can suffer a significant loss in value.
In England there are positive signs that legislation is helping to end the misery caused by overgrown hedges, but at present in Scotland the law provides no protection to sufferers.
A campaign run by Scothedge is behind a proposal for legislation in Scotland to develop guidelines on hedges backed with last resort enforceable arbitration. The problem is currently under consideration and meanwhile anyone in need of support can get advice from Pamala by email at


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Border Plants


Modern gardens can be an extension of a home's living space. The indoor living space is subject to fashion as replacement furniture is modernised and moved around to maintain interest and keep up to date with new technologies and the latest fashions.
This suits comfort, taste, appearance and socialising.

The garden, (the outdoor living space) is just the same as ideas change with healthy living through fresh foods and exercise, relaxing on the patio after a stressful days work and socialising around a barbecue being just as important as choice of that special must have plant.

The garden has developed over the years from the narrow cottage garden border where a few choice plants would grow, often from cuttings or suckers obtained from a friend's garden. These often had scented flowers such as border pinks, iris and herbs such as thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary and mint to be used in the kitchen. Borders often had honeysuckle growing up border fences.
Cyclamen hederifolium
Garden space got bigger after the last war when there was a steady demand for fresh vegetables and some fruit was necessary as there was no supermarkets, and people wanted to grow colourful flowers to raise spirits. There was a continuous flow of new vegetable varieties, fruit, flowers and other garden plants.

The garden enthusiast could indulge in a massive extension in the range of plants available to fill their borders. Slowly garden centres and specialist nurseries have grown to meet this need to try something new, different or just the latest fashion.

The Modern Garden

The pace of change has been huge as gardens are now smaller to meet housing needs where space for building gets priority over garden space. However, the pace of life is faster, more demanding and stressful and the need for a place to relax in all the more relevant. The garden may be smaller but can still be designed as a place to chill out, and be visually attractive and easy to look after.
Today's popular plants are those that are easy to grow, pest and disease free, have long lasting colour from flowers or foliage, give good ground cover and are not invasive or grow too tall. People want colour but without too much effort.

The herbaceous border would be fine if the plants did not need staking and climbers are great if they are self clinging. If only it were that easy.

It is possible to create that attractive garden border with colour all year round and easy to maintain, but most often there is a fair bit of graft to perform before we reach for the sun lounger on our sunny patio.

Choosing Border Plants

Anemone Honorine Jobert
Choice of plants is always a personal matter, but garden centres have such a wide choice that plants can be tried for a few years then dug up to be replaced by the next garden fashion accessory if they have any failings. My own garden goes through major transformations as many of my previous plant favourites especially roses, succumb to diseases in clean air devoid of sulphur. Global warming will also affect the choice of plant as warmer summers and winters are not to every plants liking and we also take the opportunity to try those more exotic plants that we might manage in a better climate. I'm assuming that our Scottish climate will get warmer and hoping that we wont just get warmer summer rain and a lot more of it. What's the point of a warm wet summer and a dry winter and spring!
Spray chrysanthemums

A larger garden has scope to have colour all year round with a wide choice of plants, but many smaller gardens can be an absolute treasure with just one well grown plant giving a burst of colour for a couple of weeks that will be remembered for a long time. I have noted several Dundee gardens with one brilliant azalea, one Rhododendron praecox, one philadelphus, or oriental poppies.
Wherever there is only room for a very limited number of plants it is better to select good plant combinations where they will all be at their best at the same time. If you have a garden where there is a wee bit of colour over many months but scattered around here and there, the impact is lost. Try a red quince under-planted with daffodils, or a Forsythia under-planted with Fosteriana tulip Red Emperor. A later early summer combination is flag iris, oriental poppies and pyrethrum. Another good spring combination is the lemon yellow broom Cytisus praecox amongst a drift of dwarf early red tulips and blue grape hyacinths all flowering together.

It is important to make the most from the space available, so plants can be very accommodating growing happily together, but at different depths. My winter border of coloured stemmed shrubs are attractive from October to the end of February. Then they get pruned to ground level as the snowdrops take pride of place to be replaced by the crocus two weeks later. Another couple of weeks later then the tulips take over and in July my lilies get the border to themselves being supported by the young shoots of my cornus and other coloured stemmed shrubs. Lilies are also useful companions to dwarf Japanese azaleas where they both grow happily together.

All Year Round Colour

Fuchsia Mrs Popple
Where there is scope for a range of border plantings consider trying to get year round colour. I have borders around all sides of my house so those that need a warm south border will be different from those in the northern shady border. No point putting crocus here as they need sun to open up the flowers, but snowdrops are perfect as they are happy in the shade.
My borders start the flowering season in winter with Jasmine climbing over a fence under-planted with snowdrops. Aconites are nearby in a drift surrounding a pure white Christmas Rose, the Hellebore.
My first herbaceous plants are the yellow Doronicum next to the blue Pulmonaria, then a drift of hyacinths pushes through the bed of flag iris, extending the flowering season.

The garden bursts with colour in spring and early summer but by August other garden areas have their moment. Fuchsia Mrs Popple, having just survived last winter is now in full flower and combines well with the white Anemone Honorine Jubert.
A spring drift of another Anemone called blanda dies down for a summer rest to be replaced with Cyclamen hederifolium.
As autumn approaches the michaelmas daisies have their display and this year I am also trying a drift of spray chrysanthemums, usually grown for cut flower but with tops removed to encourage them to branch into a wide plant which will be self supporting. I've no wish to stake them.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Winds of Change


Childhood memories of sunny summers getting burnt on Broughty Ferry beach followed by hard winters when we could ice skate on the roads, (very few cars around) and have plenty of snow for sledging, snowmen and igloos, all belong to my generation. I was not able to offer my young family the same fun as they grew up with a lot less snow visible and although the summers seemed fine there was a lot more wet days if your holiday was at home.
However there was always the extreme conditions of a very cold winter, six foot snow drifts, local floods you will not forget, and every ten to fifteen years a very hot summer.

My gardening career started during the 1959 summer heatwave as an apprentice gardener in Dundee Parks Dept. working in the Howff cemetery. A glorious three months ended when the rains came in September and flooded the Howff and many other places.
Gardening activities force you to work with the weather so you become aware of weather patterns and how they change over your lifetime.
Date Palm
I was working in Darlington Parks Dept during the 1976 heatwave. Our main bedding displays relied on geraniums and petunias which could not have been better. We won the Regional Britain in Bloom Award. However the heatwave had other effects, especially on the greenfly pests. Farmers in east Anglia were applying high levels of nitrogen fertiliser to increase grain yields. This also gave a lot more leaf content which combined with the hot summer caused breeding greenfly to reach plague proportions. Once they had devastated East Anglia they took to the air to find new pastures. A drift extended from Kent to Newcastle and scientists estimated the weight to be in excess of 200,000 tons of greenfly.
That summer I was on Scarborough beach when the sky darkened from the sea and expecting a thunderstorm got quite a shock when the plague of greenfly arrived.
Hitchcock could not have done it better!! The sea and sand turned green and everyone ran for cover. The following year there was a mini plague of ladybirds which had been feasting on the greenfly.
Gardens, farm crops and the outdoor natural landscape will all be affected as global warming changes our climate. Future generations will need to adapt to climate change as this generation embraces the changes, assesses the impact and takes steps to alleviate the problems.

Changing weather patterns

The UK has always had a different local climate for different areas, being affected by proximity to the sea, and the gulf stream, hills and mountains, built up urban areas, winds and geography. The south is generally warmer than the north, the west wetter than the east, but extreme weather conditions can affect any area with tornadoes in the Midlands, hurricanes in the south and flooding just about anywhere. Counting 2010 we have had four very wet years following the record breaking heatwave of 2006. June was truly flaming, but then the rains came in July and hopefully when you read this it will have stopped. However the south of the country has been basking in a glorious heatwave with gardens desperate for water. My garden hose has not been used for four years.
Mild winters have seen the snowdrops flower a month earlier than normal followed by other spring bulbs all early. Grass cutting always started first week in April, but now it is more likely to be mid March and the season finishes, not when the grass stops growing but when it is too wet to put the mower over the ground.

The Good

Fig Brown Turkey
Gardeners love to try out new plants and now with a warmer climate the time is right to experiment with those exotics we admire from holidays abroad.
There is a whole range of palm trees worthy of planting from the cabbage palm, Cordyline australis to the date palm, Phoenix canariensis and those colourful Bougainvillea's might one day become common in UK.
It may be normal to grow our tomatoes outdoors rather than under glass and sweet corn could become a major crop.
Already I am having success with peaches and figs and some types of outdoor grape vines and as warming continues it is quite possible that Scotland could have numerous vineyards especially as it may become too hot for their success in France.
Pete Gottgens is prepared to be a leader in this field by establishing a vineyard on the banks of Loch Tay with his experience of growing grapes in South Africa. He hopes for success by choosing an early variety, Solaris suited for a northern location. We may no longer have very cold winters, (last winter being an extreme one off), and our summers may be getting warmer, but that is tempered with the prospect of a wetter summer and less sunshine hours. Scotland's first vineyard will be a barometer for the future. Gardeners will be encouraged to experiment with a range of grape varieties grown in more favourable locations with less incidence of rainfall and more sunshine hours.
In time, cherries, nectarines, apricots, citrus fruits and dare I say bananas and olives could well be grown on our Carse of Gowrie.
The woodland landscape could see more sweet chestnuts, walnuts, and eucalyptus.

The Bad

A climate that progressively gets warmer will affect many of our trees e.g. beech does not like dry soils. Herbaceous borders, rhododendrons, azaleas and lawns require moist soils so could suffer from too dry conditions. Soft fruit including raspberries, strawberries and blueberries would struggle, but saskatoons can tolerate drier conditions.
Many fruit plants require a period of winter chill to set fruit buds without which the following years crop is greatly reduced, e.g. blackcurrants.
Sweet Corn
It was always good gardening practice on allotments to complete winter digging before Christmas leaving the surface rough to allow frosts to break down the soil surface, but with mild and wet winters good digging opportunities are few and far between. In spring a poor soil surface restricts the germination of seeds.
Plum trees flower so early that there is often not enough insects around to pollinate the flowers thus reducing the crop. I do not mind hand pollinating my smaller peach tree every day with a fine sable brush in March, but the plum is twenty feet tall. Forget it !!

The Ugly

The changing climate not only affects plants, but also animals, insects and diseases.
Mild wet winters and wetter summers up north give rise to the spread of damping off, blight, root rots, scab and mildew. Potato blight can be problematic so make sure the variety has some tolerance or resistance to it. Similarly roses are suffering badly from black spot, rust and mildew so only grow those varieties strong enough to withstand an attack.
However the root rot, phytophthora has many types that affect many different plants and could become a major problem in gardens as well as raspberry fields.

Two generations from now could see a massive change in the horticultural and agricultural landscape.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Healthy Food in Abundance


August is a crucial month for harvesting in the gardeners calendar. There are so many edible vegetables and fruit available that it is impossible to eat your way through the crops, so friends and relatives all benefit and the freezer starts to get used in earnest.
Salad crops of lettuce, radish, tomato and spring onion have to be eaten fresh, but courgettes can be used either for immediate cooking or used for soup which can then be stored frozen.
Other crops of vegetables and fruit can have a very short shelf life so need to be prepared for freezing.


My summer cabbage Golden Acre may be an old variety, but it is very reliable and has been cropping for nearly two months with large, very tender, delicious heads. Caterpillar attacks were kept down by inspecting and picking off as soon as seen. Although they will soon be finished my winter cabbage Traviata, is heading up very well so I will try them out long before winter arrives.

Onions are now ready to ease up a wee bit with the garden fork to help them ripen in the late summer sunshine, if only it comes. They will get dried off and stored in a frost proof garage on wire trays. However they do lend themselves to roping up for storing in the garage.

Dwarf French Beans are now getting picked in abundance, then topped and tailed before blanching for the freezer. Those cooked immediately are extremely tender and delicious with a wee bit of butter melted over them.

My early salad potato Charlotte suffered from blight due to yet another wet year, (four in a row) so I am lifting all of them, and so far the crop has been excellent. Brilliant in salads, but they can boil away very quickly so keep an eye on them.


My first early apple the Oslin, also known as the Arbroath Pippin is now ready. I do not grow too many of them as they do not keep and only last about two to three weeks on the tree, but they are delicious with a unique flavour. The growth is quite healthy and disease resisting, but there has been some brown rot on the fruit not helped by the wet weather. The Oslin was brought over to Arbroath Abbey by the cistercian monks in the 12th century and although they established extensive orchards as a food source and for cider production they have mostly all disappeared.
Scotland was once a major centre for top fruit production growing apples, pears and plums from Melrose in the borders, Clydebank in the west and Carse of Gowrie in the east. These served local markets for years with excellent tasty fruit, but major supermarkets required cheap produce with perfect unblemished skins and evenly sized fruit that can withstand bruising during the picking and cleaning processes and have a long shelve life within the store. Older varieties did not posses all these qualities so they have been passed by for other modern varieties, mainly from abroad that travel well and may look good on the shelf, but do not have the distinctive flavours of older varieties.
Other pressures on land for housing, roads, railway and other agricultural crops together with orchards getting older and little replanting of young trees resulted in the demise of the Carse of Gowrie as a top fruit growing area.
However there is an interest in going back to these older varieties to ensure they are not lost forever as they are perfect for Scottish gardens and smaller estates who may be well capable of picking them carefully and selling them locally in farmers shops and markets. If the price may not compete with the supermarket the flavours, aromas and taste will be well beyond anything they are currently stocking. In time as the price of oil increases, affecting transport costs, it may be economic to establish commercial top fruit orchards with varieties known to do well here but grown as a commercial undertaking.

My young Peregrine peach tree grown on a south facing fence has now ripened the first of seven large fruits. The cold prolonged winter and late spring held back flowering so that frost was not a problem, but even so there was very few insects around to pollinate the flowers so hand pollination with my sable watercolour brush did the trick. Peach leaf curl disease has not appeared this year so the tree has excellent vigour.
It may not be a huge crop, but they will ripen on the tree with an intense flavour, and in Scotland it is quite a challenge to ripen them outdoors.

My saskatoon bushes have now all been picked. I cannot understand how last year I picked all the crop in one week, yet this year I have been picking for over four weeks. I will have enough in the freezer to last till next years crop.

Brown Turkey fig tree has started to yield a few ripe fruits which will continue for several weeks. A return to some summer weather would not go amiss to dry and sweeten them up, but the continual rain may tend to favour botrytis as they need to be left to ripen till they are quite dark and soft.

Raspberry Autumn Bliss has also started to crop. This mild wet weather is in their favour as the fruit is huge and sweet, but the canes are very tall at over six feet, and bramble Helen also favours the climate, but may do even better if the rain went off. We are not short of moisture in the ground this year, just a bit like the last three years.

The three year old goji plant continues to grow but there was no sign of any flower or fruit this year. As this is very new there are numerous gardeners all over the UK awaiting the first fruits. Sounds a bit like my new saskatoons, but hopefully 2011 will be the year.


Gladioli and sweet peas are providing ample cut flower for the house and soon my spray chrysanthemums will be in full bloom as they are already showing a lot of colour.


Tomato Alicante fully ripened on the plant is pure pleasure to eat in a salad and my Sweet One Million cherry toms just melt in your mouth. Alicante is a bit late, but now has very heavy crops that end up in the freezer to be used for tomato soup in winter.
The damp air has resulted in a fair bit of blight rotting the foliage. This must be picked off before it spreads to other leaves and fruit, but to compensate for loss of leaves, very relevant as the lower leaves are removed as the cordon grows upwards, I allow some of the top sideshoots to grow. This ensures there is always enough green leaves to draw up the sap and feed the developing tomatoes.

Grape vine Flame is colouring up well so hopefully I will have a fully ripe bunch to display on my stand at the Dundee Flower and Food Festival in Camperdown Park which runs from Friday 3rd September to Sunday 5th September. As well as my Scottish grown saskatoon fruit bushes I will also be showing some outdoor grape vines suited to this location, now we have a wee bit of global warming in Scotland.