House of Dun, near Montrose

One beautiful day a couple of weeks ago we decided to grab the good weather and drive up to the House of Dun close to Montrose. It’s a Scottish National Trust property that we had never visited before. It’s just over 50 miles away from us. Below are some photographs of the outside from various angles.

House of Dun

The house was originally owned by the Erskine family.

House of Dun, Montrose

House of Dun, Montrose

House of Dun, Montrose

The gardens are meticullously maintained, I hate to think how many hours it all must take.
Garden

Garden , House of Dun, Montrose

As you can see from the plaque below, it was laid by the Queen Mother to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the house’s architect William Adam. He was the father of three famous architects, the most famous being Robert Adam.

Box hedging dedication

The pergola below looks lovely now but it will look even better when the plants have covered all of the metal support. It is of course in the shape of a crown. The owners of the House of Dun were closet Jacobites and there are various not very well hidden decorations in the house featuring the Scottish crown.
Garden pergola

The photo below of the box hedging was taken from the top of the house steps, the back door really. The setting is fantastic with beautiful views from the house.
box hedging pano

You can actually rent holiday cottages and I think apartments in the actual house. It would be great – if the weather behaved itself. Crucially there is a good tea room!

Hurrah! the National Trust now allow people to take photographs of the inside of their properties, but I’ll keep those ones for the next blogpost.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees cover

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben is a fascinating read, an absolute must read for anyone interested in natural history/trees/gardening. The author has worked in Germany as a forester for decades and his observations are supplemented by lots of research from scientists around the world.

I must admit that I’ve always been squeamish when it comes to pruning and cutting back trees and plants as I’ve long thought that it can’t be a nice experience for these living entities, and it turns out that I was correct. But there’s a lot more going on than even I suspected. Apparently trees can communicate with each other via their roots, and they even support each other when any trees in the vicinity are in need of extra care. They can send extra nutrients via their roots to those in need, even to different species, they sound more generous spirited than many humans. It has been discovered that the ends of roots have tiny brain-like nodules, it sounds to me like there’s an awful lot about trees still to be discovered. When they are under attack from pests they can signal a warning to nearby trees and that makes them deploy a chemical that makes their leaves unpalatable to the pests.

He goes on to explain why trees planted by humans often end up struggling to survive, compared with the natural plantations that have developed over hundreds of years. Without the vital nutrients that build up in the soil naturally over the years it’s difficult for the trees to survive and grow as they should. Trees like to be in communities, most of them thrive in family groups and it seems they have personalities of their own just as people do. Some give up the ghost in adversity whilst others are more determined and fight off attacks.

It was a surprise to me that beech trees are thuggish, often planting themselves close to other species and then overtaking them in growth causing their eventual death by shading them out and grabbing most of the water. I think this might happen in Germany where the author is a forester and beech forests seem to be common. In Britain they are more commonly used as specimen trees I think, often not too close to other trees – unless they killed them all a hundred years or so ago!

Inevitably beasties, fungi and viruses are wreaking havoc on trees all over the world, in fact when you realise how many dangers there are for trees it seems quite amazing that any of them survive to a great age at all.

Trees scream apparently, which unnerves me, especially as the local council here seems to be determined to cut down any tree which isn’t in perfect condition, ignoring the fact that they often overcome their problems.

Surprise surprise – it seems that many of the processes carried out by the forestry/logging companies in forests do much more harm than good. But I was absolutely shocked when the author mentioned that even he might be causing harm as he visits multiple forests on a daily basis – without even changing his footwear between visits!!

I know that botanic gardens in the UK have thick disinfectant mats that visitors have to walk through before getting into the gardens, in an effort to keep viruses at bay. It might seem pointless when spores are just as likely to be wind blown or delivered via birds’ feathers, but you have to try to do anything you can to keep them out.

I know I first read about this one in the Guardian Review but I decided I had to read it after Stefanie at So Many Books had so enjoyed reading it, you can read her thoughts here.

I borrowed this book from the library, I’ve had to wait seven months to get it although I was only the third person to borrow it, so someone must have hung on to it for months. But what enraged me was that one of those previous readers had turned down the page corners – often every three pages or so, I reckon that over a third of the pages have been disfigured in this way, and not just a teeny fold, often with the corner being folded right into the inner edge of the book!

Honestly, I don’t believe in capital punishment – but if I ever discover who did that ….. they’re for it!

Garden update – late July

garden path

Not long after I took the above photo of the back garden path I had to give the geraniums a right good chop back as they were in danger of engulfing the path. I do hate cutting back but it means I’ll get another flush of flowers and they’ll still be going strong in October.

You can just see the left hand side of the metal archway and although I’ve planted a supposedly climbing rose there, it remains bare, that rose seems to have no intention of climbing. The other side of the archway has far too many things covering it, including a lathyrus/everlasting sweet pea which is an absolute thug and is climbing everywhere.

Below there is that disappointing (so far) red rose, pieris, foxglove, lychnis, geraniums, physigelia and various others.
back garden flowers

In the photo below you can see my recent garden purchase – a Belfast sink! I had to laugh when I heard someone on a gardening programme saying recently that in his childhood every garden seemed to have a Belfast sink in it! Mine still has and I had a hard time tracking this one down, I had one in the old garden but had to leave it behind as the house purchasers wanted everything in the garden – grr!
back garden flowers

The cherry tree in the photo below is growing like crazy, but I only had a few flowers on it in the spring. It has been in for three years now so I hope it gives a better account of itself next year.
back back garden flowers V garden flowers
Below is a Philadelphus which isn’t giving off as much scent as I had hoped it would. I think a different variety might have been better, it’s my own fault for not waiting and buying one when it was already in flower.
Philadelphus

The Christmas tree in the photo below was one that was left in a pot by the front door when we moved in here, it was looking very sorry for itself, but as you can see, setting him free in the soil has really cheered him up. There is also a cotinus, cotton lavender and astrantia in the photo.
back garden flowers

There’s a dwarf Japanese maple, euphorbia Fireglow, primula Viallii and a lot more in the photo below.
back garden flowers

The so called rockery in the photo below has gone a wee bit crazy this year and most of the rocks in it have been hidden by the plant growth, I blame all the rain we’ve had. I have to do some serious weeding soon, that ajuga I planted there is on a bid to take over the whole area. I don’t think you can actually see it in the photo although it’s hard to avoid as it is taking up half of the rockery I could shoot myself for planting it!
back garden flowers

That was the back garden at the back end of July. I’m quite pleased with it considering this is only its third year and there was only one teeny tree in it and a sea of grass when we moved in.

My garden update

A few friends have asked me how my garden is getting on, and I have been taking photos of it over the past couple of months, but just haven’t got around to blogging about it. It has been a weird year weather wise. The spring weather was quite late in getting here, then we had a very dry period, particularly while we were away in Belgium and Holland in early May. My garden was gasping when we got back home.

But since then we’ve had a lot of rain and wind to contend with. In Scotland we didn’t get the really hot weather that they had in England and Wales earlier in July, we’ve been getting one good day of weather followed by three or four bad days, sometimes feeling more like November.

The plants are coping though.

red broom

physocarpus and forget-me-nots

clematis

fir tree

acer and euphorbia

rosemary and geraniums

turk's cap lily

aquilegias

aquilegia

Most of those photos were taken in May so the garden looks quite different now, but I’ll leave those photos for another post!

My Garden in May

For most of May I was wondering what had happened to the weather as it seemed very reluctant to warm up and the swifts/swallows were nowhere to be seen. They were obviously hanging back and not flying to the UK until it heated up a bit. They arrived at last but I’m sure that they were up to two months later than in previous years. We happened to be in Holland when they arrived there and by the time we got back home they were here too, although not in great numbers.
physocarpus and forget-me-nots
When we got back – the garden had exploded into growth! and this week the first rose appeared. It’s a climber called Golden Showers – can you believe? and I’m growing it in a large pot. I had it growing up the front of the old house that we moved from three years ago and when I saw one for sale at the Scottish Garden Show in Edinburgh last summer I decided to buy it again as it has a lovely scent too, something that seems to be difficult to come by nowadays.
yellow rose 1

This dwarf acer dissectum atropurpurea is a great colour and I like it even better combined with this Euphorbia Fireglow. I never worry about colours clashing in the garden as in general the various shades of green always save the day and tone it all down.
acer and euphorbia fireglow

Yet more red in the shape of planta genista or in other words broom, as they used to tie bits of it to a stick and use it for sweeping purposes back in the year dot. It’s the plant that was the emblem of the Plantagenets.
red broom

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Yes it’s that time of the year again RHS Chelsea Flower Show and I’ve been watching it all on TV, a bit disappointed that this year it seems to be much smaller than previous years with only eight of the huge and wildly expensive commercially sponsored show gardens this year instead of the more usual number, such as the twenty seven there were last year. Yet another down-side of Brexit according to the organisers. If you want to see what has been going on this year have a look here.

The smaller gardens are always my favourites though as so often the big show gardens sponsored by insurers/newspapers/banks are too cold looking for my liking with massive chunks of hard landscaping and not a lot in the way of planting.

Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley garden only got a silver gilt medal, apparently because it is too densely planted!! Is that even possible? It’s definitely my favourite of the large show gardens. You can see more of it here.

Chris Beardshaw

The World Horse Welfare garden is a lovely overgrown natural looking wild space, but it’s the horse made from old horseshoes that I love.

horse welfare

Mr Ishihara has done it again and got another gold medal for his Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War garden, based on a Japanese temple. His wee waterfall is beautiful and as usual the planting is gorgeous.

Mr Ishihara

I really dislike the garden which won the ‘best in show award’. As far as I’m concerned it isn’t a garden, apparently it was inspired by an abandoned Maltese quarry. What do you think of it?

M&G garden

Our summer weather has turned up and according to the weather forecast it’s to be good for at least the next few days, this might be the whole length of our summer – you just never know, so I’m staying at home and I’ll be enjoying life in my own garden and having the odd potter around in it, tweaking plants. It’s supposed to be 25 celsius, that’s 77 F in the east of Scotland tomorrow. Just as well I bought ice lollies at the weekend!

More of my spring garden in Fife, Scotland

<clematis alpina

I had clematis alpina in my old garden, the one I worked in and planned for 26 years, and since moving to the new and at first very empty garden I’ve been planting a lot of my old favourites again, this one was a must have. I love everything about it, the shape, size, colour and the fluffy seedheads when the flowers have finished.

Amelanchier canadenis

Amelanchier canadensis (above) is one of the several trees I’ve planted, in fact I probably have too many trees, if that’s ever a possibilty. The flowers don’t last very long but they’re worth having, very delicate looking and pretty, I’ve planted another specimen by the back fence but I think I might grow that one as a large shrub, hoping it’ll become nice and bushy.

apple blossom

I’m fairly sure that the blossom in the photo above is apple, but then again it might be plum. Whatever, I’m just chuffed that several of my fruit trees are flowering for the first time since I planted them three years ago.

quince flowers

The photo of the ornamental quince above is a bit blurry, sadly this one doesn’t have the fab scent that the apricot coloured one in the old garden had. I’m still trying to track down a specimen of that one.

Below is a wee anemone, it survived the winter well and I’ve bought some more of them for the front garden.
anemone

Fritillaries, I love them, but quite a few of the flowers have got holes right in the middle of the petals, it looks like something has chomped its way out of the buds. These ones are fine though.

fritillary

The auriculas below are plants that I’ve never grown before, I had always thought they wre too delicate and tender to be left out over winter in Scotland but these ones are thriving and will need to be split up when they stop flowering, which won’t be for ages. There was quite a craze for these plants, especially amongst the French Protestant Huguenots who fled to Britain to avoid persecution from the Catholics in France.
auricula

If you want to know a bit more about the plants and the Huguenots have a look here.

My spring garden

Although I say it myself, my garden is looking very colourful at the moment. I especially love the pansies in the photo below, but in reality they look more purple than they are here.
pansies

My so-called rockery, which isn’t very rocky – is full of primulas and the aubretia is just beginning to bloom too. There’s always work going on so buckets and tools are likely to be lurking in the background as you can see.

rockery

rockery

I wasn’t going to bother planting any daffodil bulbs as there are so many wild ones growing around where I live but I couldn’t resist planting some miniature ones.

miniature  daffodils

Below are some of the wild daffodils just outside my back gate.

daffodils

Or are these ones narcissi, I’m never quite sure? As you can see – some of the trees have really started to green up now, it seemed along time a-coming!

daffodils

daffodils

The Pursuit of Paradise by Jane Brown

The Pursuit of Paradise cover

I think it must be a few years since I bought The Pursuit of Paradise – A Social History of Gardens and Gardening by Jane Brown. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect of it. Sometimes gardening books are a bit like ‘teaching granny to suck eggs’, not that I think I know everything about the subject, but as I’ve been gardening since I was a wee girl, over fifty years!! – it’s inevitable that you pick up a lot of information one way and another.

But this book was informative, it has eleven chapters:
1. The Purest of Human Pleasure
2. The Secret Garden
3. The Military Garden
4. Emancipated Gardeners
5. The Rise of the Small Garden
6. Acquiring Eden
7. Science Lends a Hand
8. It’s Clever, but is it Art?
9. Labour of Love
10. The Formative Garden
11. Future Gardens

I found The Military Garden most interesting as it hadn’t dawned on me that so many gardening terms come from the arts of warfare – cordon, earthing-up, trench, bastion, palisade, covered way and more. It seems that when generals were at a loose end after wars were won, they went home and started to plan gardens where they could keep everything under control, just as they had commanded their men. All that topiary stood in for regiments of men!

This one is definitely worth reading if you enjoy social history and gardening.

Spring garden in Fife, Scotland

It seemed like Spring arrived early this year with everything beginning to bloom sooner than expected. Well it has mainly been a very mild winter with very little in the way of snow, and what we did get melted very quickly.

crocuses

The crocuses above are multiplying each year, but they only look their best when the sun is shining on them. Typically we got the heaviest of snow after everything began to flower and I thought that the delicate snowdrops, aconites and primulas would be flattened, but they’re not as fragile as they look.
snowdrops

When warmish weather appeared after that I had intended to get stuck into the garden and clear away the winter debris, but suddenly the wind seemed to be coming from Siberia again and it was just too cold to brave it. I can’t wait to start gardening again though.

The winter aconites below are already seeding themslves around the garden, I always feel so lucky when that happens, flowers for free, just because they’re happy.

aconite
The clump of primulas below really needs to be split up, I must remember to do it when they stop flowering, which probably won’t be for another month or two. They’re such good value.

primula

I’m never sure if my hellebores below are Christmas roses or Lenten roses as they always flower in between the two festivals.
hellebores

Isn’t the snowdrop below a beauty? They’re clumping up nicely but this one below seems to be a bit of a loner, splendid in its isolation. It reminds me of a wind turbine, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, as I happen to think that wind turbines look elegant.

snowdrop

Last week I received my free tree and dog rose seeds from The Woodland Trust in the post, and they’re germinating already. Exciting times! I’ll keep you posted on their development.