The gardens we create are very much an extension of our personality, and if you have been around for a year or two you will see massive changes in what we grow. Gone are the days when the ornamental border was mainly geraniums, antirrhinums, marigolds and asters with an edge of alyssum and lobelia and vegetables were mainly potatoes, turnips, swedes, peas, cabbages, lettuce and radish. Exposure to foreign holidays and the influx of immigrants of all nationalities bringing over their own variety of food has widened our gardening horizons, and as we all love to experiment with something new, the range of plants grown continues to expand.
When my horticultural career moves took me to the south of England I discovered
runner beans, leeks, courgettes and pumpkins, and thought I was really
innovative, but life (and gardening) moves on so now the range continues to
grow. We have heard so much about climate change and global warming that we in
Scotland tend to think of it more as an opportunity than a disaster. We have
always had our share of rain, but now we get warm rain and often into winter
instead of snow so plants previously considered too tender for our climate are
being given a trial. Provided the weather behaves itself these tender plants can
give us many years of service, but however there is always that one off rogue
year like 2010 when winter returned with a vengeance, temperatures plummeted
and the deep snow lasted for months. The following spring most gardens had lost
a lot of tender plants, such as outdoor fuchsias, Cordyline palms, date palms,
Agapanthus, and my special Leptospermum Red Damask. Plants have a very strong
will to survive so I never give up on them. The Cordyline palm died down to
ground level but then new shoots emerged two years later. It is now ten foot
tall with five main stems. Agapanthus and some Canna crowns all died out so
they got chopped up and added to the compost heap. The Cannas came back into
life a year later and the Agapanthus three years later. Bad winters seem a
distant memory so we continue to try out a few exotics and keep our fingers
crossed. Next spring I may even have another go at growing the date palm as it
makes a great specimen plant.
Up at City Road allotments our plot holders are quite keen to try their hand at a few exotics, so sweet potatoes, Oca, sweet corn, Cape Gooseberries, Goji berry, Honey berry and Kiwis can all be seen somewhere. Success of these new crops often depends on getting a decent summer with sunshine and warmth, a wee bit less rainfall and then a good warm dry autumn like we always got way back in tattie picking days.
My own garden experiments continue with figs, peaches, cherries and grapes.
Figs are my success story as one bush will give me well over a hundred figs ripened over several weeks so there is never any glut of crop. Picked as soon as the fruit droops and given one or two days to ripen indoors they are just perfect. So far I have picked 35 in August.
Cherry Cherokee is now cropping with enough fruit for both me and the blackbird, though the main pest of blackfly on the shoots requires an insecticide spray in early summer to control it.
Peaches can ripen up outdoors in Scotland if grown on a warm south facing wall or fence, but the peach leaf curl disease can be devastating so I am now trying partially tolerant Avalon Pride.
Grapes outdoors and in the greenhouse still depend on good weather. My Seigerrebe grape was ready in mid August, so I have one demijohn brewing away quietly. This variety has loads of bunches which require thinning, but the grapes are small, though they are very sweet with a strong Muscat flavour. Outdoors only Regent and Rondo have a good crop and Rondo is ripening up now, but my Brant still gives over a hundred small bunches of black sweet juicy ripe grapes in October.
Lift onions that should now be ready for drying off before getting cleaned up prior to storing. They are best laid out on a hard surface above ground level in full sun so the foliage can dry off and let the bulbs ripen up. It can take about two to three weeks before they are ready for roping or removing all the dried leaves and storing them in nets.