adventures in gardening

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Diary of a Gardener

Today the sun was shining and I took my jacket off!

I was gardening in a lovely large garden in Edinburgh today.  I have been working in the space for 8 months and I am looking forward to seeing in another summer and the changes that have taken place.

I am working closely with another garden designer and together we have planted a lot of new plants and there are big plans still to be put in place.

Today, however I was doing some maintenance and tidying.  I cut back the dead stems from a few Hydrangeas then I tackled the Viburnum tinus, which has taken over the flower beds, swamping anything that happens to get in its way.  It has finished flowering and the berries are starting to appear, which are a  stunning shade of blue, but it really needs to get done and allow the plants and trees to get some spring sun.

I am not one of these people who can merrily hack things back.  I find it distressing and let’s be honest damn ugly. So, always make sure to cut to just above a leaf node to prevent seeing nasty dead stems.

I always stand back from the plant as I am pruning to make sure I haven’t taken too much off one side or the other and the overall shape is good.  I suppose it’s a bit like a hairdresser making sure they haven’t given you a squint fringe.

I decided to give up when I had filled all my garden waste bags and trugs and couldn’t get anything else in the car.  I will continue the pruning next time I am there.




Snowy days

It’s winter and the cold weather has arrived with snow, wind and ice.  It looks very pretty, but we need to remember the wildlife and make sure there is food, shelter and water for them.

I cleaned the bird feeders just before Christmas, there was plenty food in them, but with the wet and cold weather, it had pretty much all turned solid or to mush.  Even birds have standards!

Keep your feeders clean, topped up and as dry as you can and then you can watch the birds visit your garden, which always brings a smile to my face.


Wonderful mulch!

I was never really a “mulcher” (I know I’ve just made up a new word) before I started working as a gardener, but now you might call me converted.

There’s all types of mulch you can use on your garden, either to reduce weeds and retain moisture, with gravel, or to feed and improve the structure of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients.   Last year I just went for simple bark chippings, they looked great and did the job brilliantly, however the thing against them is that to break down fully they have to take the nitrogen out of the soil, which in the whole scheme of things isn’t ideal.  So, this year  I have gone for the Winter Mulch from Garden Solutions in East Lothian.  I also bought a bag of the Rose Mulch, to give my roses an extra helping hand after I had moved them earlier in the summer, which they weren’t too impressed by.

The rose mulch has a great mix of ingredients to keep your roses happy, including horse manure, composted bark, calcified seaweed and bone meal.  It also appears it is very appealing to our dog, who has sampled it and gives it the thumbs up.

The winter mulch has added fertiliser but not nitrogen as this isn’t important during the winter, as there are no leaves to look after on most plants.  It feeds the soil to help the roots grow and strengthen.  With a couple of inches of this lovely mulch on the bed the soil temperature will be slightly higher, helping all the micro-organisms go about their business in the colder months.  It’s like putting a big woolly blanket on your flower bed.


Autumn tidy

This weekend I cut back a lot of the herbaceous perennials and also moved some that were in the wrong position.  They were either hidden behind something too bulky or they were just too big for the space, swamping anything that was trying to grow beside them.  It’s quite a satisfying task and I am looking forward to seeing the new planting next spring and summer.

The beds are now looking a bit empty and I can see soil, which I haven’t seen for at least 4 months.  I have kept anything that has winter interest or will provide shelter for wildlife over the cold winter months.

I also moved my grow house, as I call it, to the other side of the garden where the sun still gets to, to try and keep it a little warmer.  I’ve put the foxglove seedlings in there and also my sweet peas, which I am hoping will survive.  I have some wool packaging around the sides and will also be adding bubble wrap in the next few weeks.

Nearly all the bulbs I ordered have been planted, it’s just the snowdrops to add to the front lawn, which I better get a move on with.

What have you been doing in your garden to get it ready for the winter?

My next task is to get the pot in the front sorted and get it looking good for winter and spring.

Time to plan ahead

Although gardening is pretty much always about planning ahead, you do have to remember to enjoy the present!

This can be planting bulbs or seeds to bloom in months to come, planting a small plug in a big space to allow it to grow and flourish with plenty room.  Now is the time you can start to plant your spring flowering bulbs.  Heading into the winter months with the shorter days, thinking about spring is always a positive thing to do, you know that the winter won’t last forever and the colour and life will appear again above the soil.

This year I have selected just a few bulbs for my garden pots.  You could quite easily spend a fortune on bulbs, the choice you have is amazing, but you need to focus on the style, colour, form and look you want to create.

I have chosen quite a simple colour palette of pinks, yellow and white.  By doing this I hope that each plant form will be seen better, rather than the mix of colours take over.  I love tulips, but have been a bit disappointed in some of them in recent years, so I just went for two varieties Pretty Princes and Little Beauty.

I also went for the staple spring flower the Narcissi Segovia and the pretty Daffodil Actaea, which I will mix with some Allium unifolium,  Anemone blanda “White Splendour and Crocus chrysanthus “Ard Schenk”

So I am looking forward to spring, but making sure I also enjoy the autumn colours and enjoy the dormancy of the winter season, knowing that the garden will spring in to life again.


Blooming heck!

I dug yet more of the our back garden’s grass away earlier this year and have created a new large flower bed that is directly in front of our patio doors, so we can enjoy the full effect from the comfort of our dining chairs.

The original bed always seemed too shallow for anything to really make an impact, so it has definitely allowed me to do that this year.

I grew a lot of the plants that I put in to the bed from seed, which is always exciting and gives you a wee glow when you look at something that you have nurtured literally from seed.  The bed isn’t perfect and there are some plants that I will be moving come the spring to new positions to improve the height and structure of the planting.

I am ok with the bed being a work in progress as that’s what gardening is to me.

Things really do grow

It stills blows my mind that a tiny seed no bigger than a grain of rice can grow and flourish into a tall and colourful plant. With good compost, light, warmth and water, the little things can grow fast and big!

Earlier this year I cut back more of our back lawn (much to the delight of Mr Brown) to enlarge our flower bed.  With garden centres closed and plant stock being low even on-line, I took the opportunity to grow some plants from seed.

So from humble beginnings the new bed has flourished and is full of colour, with even more to appear in the coming weeks.


Cut back

During the lock-down I have perfected my hair cutting skills and also expanded my clientele by over 100%.  I am now doing the dogs hair, the husbands and my very own.  Stood in front of a mirror armed with a set of very sharp scissors and a glint in my eye I ended up with not a bad “do”.

With no one else’s hair to cut, I went outside to prune some of the spring flowering shrubs. It’s an ideal time to prune these as they flower on the previous year’s growth, so any new growth that occurs after the prune should flower next spring.  The shrubs that are in this group include Forsythia, Lilac, Azalea, Camellia and Kerria Japonica, to name a few.

You don’t need to go mad chopping away at them all.  Check their shape and height and if they are growing a bit wild, then tidy them up.  It also allows you to check for any Dead, Dying, Damaged or Diseased branches and any that are Crossing or Rubbing against each other.  It will allow more air and light into the plant helping prevent pests and diseases.

While you are in the garden, it’s also good practice to cut any dead flowers back to keep things looking neat.  I cut back the dying Lupinus flowers to help encourage new growth and also the spent flowers from the Primula denticulata.

Camellia flower


Take it slowly

During my first year of intensive seed sowing and using a heated propagator I have learned a great deal, including that I need to be more patient.

In the excitement of seed sowing, (yes I do find it exciting) I put three types of seed into one large tray.  I know, an amateur mistake that I should not have made.  You probably know exactly what is going to happen next…yep, once they had germinated they were all mixed up and pretty much looked identical.  In my defense, I had run out of seed trays, but again due to the sheer excitement and lack of patience, refused to wait for two more to come free.

I have planted them out into the garden this week, trying my very best to keep similar seedlings together to create clumps.

Looking forward to them growing more to see if I actually managed to clump the same ones together or if they are just one big mashup.


Meadow update

I planted my rectangular pot with 3 packets of seeds of wild flower meadow mix back at the beginning of April.  This may have been a bit much seed, I just can’t sow thinly!.  It doesn’t get a great deal of sun on our front step, but it is really starting to grow and I am so excited to see the flowers and colour appear.  I have thinned out some of the larger seedlings that have appeared at the front to allow the smaller ones to come through.

The plugs are also starting to establish themselves on the front lawn.  I have to keep pulling away grass around the plugs, to ensure they aren’t swamped, but they look quite content.


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