Tuesday, 29 September 2020


                                                          PLANTS FOR SPRING 

As the summer flowers begin to fade we look ahead to next year for the spring flower displays. This is the time to organise the planting of wallflower, pansies, polyanthus, myosotis and bulbs of numerous kinds including daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus, snowdrops and aconites. Hanging baskets are perfect for pansies and polyanthus.

Tulip Red Emperor

I make mine up then keep them over the winter in a cold greenhouse. This protection helps to bring them into flower a few weeks earlier than if left outside, but keep a lookout for greenfly and black spot fungal disease and spray with a combined insecticide and fungicide recommended for roses. Baskets can go back outside in March as the greenhouse starts to fill with other plants. Flower pots, tubs and borders can have any spring bedding plants but only use wallflower where height is not a problem. The flower displays benefit from under planting with tulips.

Use the taller Darwin Hybrid tulips such as the red Apeldoorn and Golden Apeldoorn with wallflower, but with other low growing bedding such as pansies it is better to choose a dwarf tulip such as the dwarf double, Red Riding Hood, Abba, Negrita, Sun Lover and Peach Blossom. If you want to start the show early try Scarlet Baby which will flower in March same time as many saxifrages so try grouping these together. Good tulips to follow these are the Fosteriana Red Emperor and the white Purissima, both quite early and the latter claimed to be scented, but I have never detected any scent on mine. However for a good scent use some hyacinths such as the red Jan Bos, Pink Pearl or Delf Blue,especially in tubs around doorways and on the patio where the scent will be noticed and appreciated. Both daffodils and narcissus come with scent and several are quite strong.

Tulip Showcase

The Jonquills and Cheerfulness are well scented as are large trumpet white flowered Mount Hood. These bulbs can all be retained next year after flowering as it is easy to find a spot for them in flower borders and amongst deciduous shrubs and trees. However it is the snowdrops that start the show in early February, but in these recent times of mild winters they are often in flower in December in sheltered spots. Plant these in decent sized drifts spacing the bulbs about four inches apart. In time they soon reseed themselves and the drifts intensify and get bigger. Snowdrops are followed by the yellow aconites, Eranthus hyemalis, which are quick to spread and develop large intense drifts as they produce ample seeds which germinate readily.


 However watch them carefully as in the first year they only produce seed leaves and in the second year produce one single leaf. However patience is rewarded as they flower in the third year. Crocus planted in large drifts make the next garden display. I can find a space somewhere every year for planting more crocus. I often use them amongst tubs of pansies then after flowering they get replanted in borders. Another three favourite dwarf bulbs to add to the show are the blue flowered Chionodoxa, Anemone blanda and Grape Hyacinths. All of these bulbs lend themselves to companion planting. I also buy in some Oriental Lilies every autumn and these have their own border, but as they flower in summer I like to plant them amongst grape hyacinths and tulips and gladioli. They are all happy together each planted at different depths and give us a display from spring with the grape hyacinths and tulips then in summer with the lilies and gladioli.

Other excellent companion planting is dwarf tulips in the rose bed and dwarf red tulips amongst drifts of yellow Doronicums. 

Wee jobs to do this week 

Geranium cutting

 Lift End of September is a good time to take some geranium cuttings from strong stocky plants in beds, tubs and hanging baskets. Break off the top three inches of shoots and insert into cellular trays with potting compost with added grit for good drainage. Keep in a cool greenhouse but protected from sun, then in November transfer to a windowsill for over wintering. Once rooted they will continue to grow so remove flowers and the growing point to encourage branching and use the removed shoot as another cutting. They will all make sturdy plants for planting out next year. END

Monday, 21 September 2020



There has been a very remarkable change in the gardeners weather pattern. Climate change has not only given us mild wetter winters and more summer rainfall, but there has also been a lot more gales to live with. This year raspberry canes got flattened, roses got the flowers blown off and pears and blueberry leaves and young fruit got shrivelled up in the spring and summer gales. Where ever possible garden design can help to mitigate these problems by planting up the perimeters with tall trees and shrubs to give the garden some shelter, especially on the south west side where most prevailing winds come from. During the long periods in lockdown we had more time, to relax in the sun on the patio. However some planting may be required to give us a bit of privacy.

Picking apples and pears

There are any amount of plants that can be used for shelter and privacy, but garden size may well determine what we can use. Trees and shrubs should also have merit of flowers, autumn colour, coloured bark or even edible fruit, and where trespassers may be a problem, go for plants with thorns such as pyracantha, the Firethorn. For the very large gardens mature trees of beech, oak, maple and hornbeam may be fine and if evergreens are preferred use, pine, spruce or cedars.

Eucryphia Rostrevor

My favourite has always been Cedrus atlantica glauca, but I soon realised my wee garden could not contain it once it started to put on a bit of growth. I have never been a lover of hedges, as they are not attractive and need a lot of maintenance, and the one very popular hedging conifer at the top of the hate list is the Leyland cypress, unfortunately still a favourite for those without a clue. A few other on my hate list is holly and Berberis darwinii with spiky leaves a nightmare when hand weeding close by, and Cotoneaster simonsii which seeds profusely all over the garden.

Japanese maple Acer Sango Kaku

However many tall shrubs will both give shelter as well as fantastic flower displays such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Escallonia, Philadelphus and Fuchsia Mrs Popple.

The Japanese maple Acer Sango-kaku has brilliant autumn colours as well as bright red stems and the hardy palm Cordyline australis is always a touch of the exotic.

Cordyline australis

Lonicera Baggesons Gold is an attractive evergreen golden shrub about six feet tall, and is so dense it is a favourite for nesting birds. Three small trees excellent for perimeter planting is the white flowered Eucryphia Rostrevor, the upright columnar pink cherry, Prunus Amanogawa, and the golden leaved Robinia frisia.

Most gardens now come with walls and fences around the perimeter and these can support a range of flowering climbers and edible plants. I have been experimenting with hardy grape vines to see what will ripen in Scotland. The variety Brant is tops and although the bunches are not big, they are black, sweet and juicy and the pips are so small they are easy to swallow. Regent and Rondo are fine but need a good autumn to ripen up the grapes. Another very successful exotic is the fig Brown Turkey giving about a hundred fruits each year from a ten year old bush. Other edible fruits can include apples, pears, plums to grow a few metres high, and some come on dwarfing rootstocks to keep size down and some apples come as narrow columnar trees.

Grape vine Brant on wall

For something smaller try

saskatoons, brambles or even a row of raspberries very much at home in Scotland. Our local James Hutton Institute has breeders working on raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and honey berries. Although plants are bred for commercial markets there is always a spin off for gardeners. Breeder Nikki Jennings latest raspberry to be released is Glen Mor with large sweet berries in early summer, then Lewis and Skye for an autumn crop. Nikki has bred a very promising blackberry with large sweet fruit and is a heavy cropper. It is still being assessed so is not yet named, but make a note of selection number 11. Could make a perfect edible boundary hedge.

Wee jobs to do this week

Apple Starline Firedance

This year apple, plum and pear crops are ripening up a fortnight earlier than last year so keep checking them and harvest any that have ripened up. Cut an apple open and if the seeds are dark brown the fruit will be fine. Apple Oslin ripens at end of August followed by Discovery in mid September. Pears are usually best left about a week in store after picking to let them ripen up.


Monday, 14 September 2020


                                                      LATE SUMMER HARVEST

As summer draws to a close, fruit and vegetables all start to ripen up and harvesting gets into full swing. These are very busy times as it is not just the picking, but also the sorting, cleaning, grading, boxing, bagging, blanching as food is prepared for storing and freezing.

Anna picks a few beetroot

Sweet corn Incredible had put on good growth and was a few days away from harvest, when the gales arrived at the end of August and flattened the crop, so the cobs got picked and bagged up. The old plants were then pulled out, soil shook off then carried up to the compost heap for chopping up with a shade to help them rot down. Back home the cobs had to be stripped of leaves then graded for immediate use for fridge storage and the rest blanched and bagged for the free

Cabbage Kilaton

Dwarf French beans had also been blown over so Anna picked a good crop, but then once home they had to be topped, tailed, sorted and washed, then bagged up for fridge and freezer.

Cabbage Kilaton, Cauliflower Clapton and kale have all excelled this year so a lot of crop had to be given away as Anna may have found plenty excellent recipes, but two wee Scots folk can only eat so much. Pumpkins are having their best year ever. I have four absolutely massive pumpkins still growing, but as harvesting is still traditionally a week before Halloween they could be a lot bigger. Some pruning was carried out with

Potato Bambino

one side shoot fifteen feet long heading towards the gate trying to escape. It got chopped as did the shoots clambering through my gladioli and chrysanthemums, beans and strawberries. Courgettes continue to offer plenty fruit, but as Anna has perfected a great soup recipe and also a brilliant courgette cake, we now only need to give away the occasional fruit.

This growth year has been fantastic for salads. Lettuce, radish, spring onions, beetroot and rocket have all grown very fast. I am now on my fourth row of lettuce, sown on land recently cleared of broad beans, and land getting cleared of potatoes will either get sown with winter hardy lettuce and spring onions, or a green manure crop. Beetroot have all grown a good size this year and the thinnings taken earlier as baby beet were very welcome.

Under glass the tomatoes have all cropped heavily, but large bowls of fresh cherry tomatoes in the house are very easy to consume at every opportunity, and surplus large Alicante tomatoes make a delicious soup.

Muscat and Aronia wine brewing

Most fruit crops have also joined in the growth bonanza, with loads of strawberries, raspberries and brambles and now the autumn fruiting raspberry, Polka, although flattened earlier by the gales has now recovered and cropping well with exceptionally large and sweet berries. Then the fig bush, now a small tree, joined in the party and it is quite easy to pick a dozen ripe figs twice a week. All of this excess keeps us in good form as we snack a few fresh fruits in between meals. No need to reach for the biscuit tin, although Anna’s courgette cake is hard to resist.

Earlier red currants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and Aronias, the chokeberry were all picked, sorted, cleaned up and either went into the freezer or cooked in batches of jam as long as I got my ten pounds of each for wine brewing to give me three demijohns of each to put down for a few years. Greenhouse grapes and the Aronias are all quietly bleeping along in demijohns in the background as the yeast convert the sugars into a wee bit of tasty alcohol.

Apple Discovery is now ripe and ready for picking, but this year my pear crop has failed as earlier gales tore off all the young fruits. Reckon we could get about three pears each in autumn.

Wee jobs to do this week

Tomatoes in the greenhouse will now be in full cropping with the occasional glut following any period

Removing old leaves

of warm sunny weather. This can continue till well into autumn provided you look after them. Once the cordons reach the roof after about five to seven trusses the tops will have been removed, but the plants will still try to keep growing so look out for sideshoots hiding amongst the foliage and remove them and any leaves showing signs of botrytis rot as it can spread. Keep giving them a weekly feed and keep ventilators open as well as the door on all sunny days.


Monday, 7 September 2020



Rose Congraulations

 As we reluctantly head towards the end of summer the harvesting season for fruit and vegetables picks up and it is difficult to keep on top of the garden. Peas, broad beans, onions and early potatoes have all been lifted, but then they have to be prepared for storing, freezing and giving any surplus to friends or up at City Road Allotments we have our surplus basket of produce attached to the entrance gate for passers by.

The wet August brought on a lot of blight so potato harvesting has become necessary for all varieties. Courgettes continue to provide a bumper crop and growing so fast that if left for a couple of days we have young marrows, but still there is so many ways to cook them, they all get used, with still a few left over for the public outside our allotment gate. Pumpkins are also enjoying this excessive growth weather and I’ve spotted five massive whoppers hiding amongst my gladioli, chrysanthemums and swamping my dwarf French beans.
Cauliflower Clapton
Figs, autumn strawberries and raspberries, brambles, dwarf French beans, cabbage, cauliflowers, kale, turnips, beetroots and all kinds of salads are all waiting to get harvested. Weeds are also demanding attention, and bare ground left over after lifting crops has been prepared and sown with autumn salads. When the rains, gales and thunderstorms have a rest, and the sun appears it is great to take a break and sit out on the patio with a glass of gooseberry wine to wind down for a few moments before it all starts again. Weird weather seems to have given flowers a massive boost, so we enjoy a meander around the garden amongst crops and flower borders discussing how things have been and making plans for the months ahead.
Hydrangea Charme
Hydrangea Charme

The spring highlights were both the tulips, rhododendrons and azaleas with displays lasting a long time assisted by many weeks of dry sunny days. This ended abruptly when the thunderstorms arrived. Roses did their best to put on a good show, but then the gales arrived and all hell broke out. Rose flowers all got broken off, pear trees shed all their fruits, Autumn raspberries got blown over and my blueberries got shredded. A few weeks of calmer weather allowed some recovery. Geraniums, begonias, bedding plants, oriental poppies and lilies, and annuals such as poppies made up for lost time and went into a supersonic flowering phase Hybrid tea roses Arthur bell and Congratulations both thought they were climbers as they reached six to eight feet up into the sky. 

For the biggest impact this year it must be my Delosperma cooperi, the Ice Plant and Hydrangea Charme with pink flowers, then gladioli mixed amongst Oriental lilies. Its been a great year for rhubarb as growth has been luxuriant with plenty for stews, pies, crumble, giving some to friends with plenty left over for the freezer. Cabbage, cauliflowers and kale are all just loving this growth year, but just a pity my whole row of cauliflowers were ready at the same time. However my biggest surprise was my Amaryllis which I had planned to flower next Christmas. After its spring growth period and long summer dormancy kept dry it decided to flower in mid summer, so no choice but to water and feed while it put on two great stems of flowers. We got an early Christmas. 

Wee jobs to do this week

Poppy Ladybird

Annual poppy Ladybird and Californian poppy have both naturalized on my allotment and given a great
display in the flower border all summer. They will self seed and appear next year without any help from me, but if you wish to save the seed to sow next year on other areas or give some to a friend now is the time to collect the seed pods before they open up and disperse the seeds. Keep them dry over winter in a shed ready for sowing next spring.