Friday, 22 April 2011

Where to visit this weekend... The Botanics & Parks

If you’re looking for somewhere to visit over the next few days I’d definitely recommend your nearest Botanical Garden. They are always great for a ‘nice day’ wander for people of all ages and with the weather expected to be warm here in the UK there are plenty of trees for shade too. Generally there will be cafes and a gift shop too if a break/rest is required. Look out for special events just now too.

Naturally, I’d be recommending my local one… The Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh (or Edinburgh Botanics as we know it). Earlier this week my (teenage) daughter requested we visit and armed with my camera, we can share some highlights with you. Perhaps we might put you in the mood to mosey on down to your local garden or park.

We entered the garden by the new entrance (The John Hope Gateway) at the West Gate. After a drive to the garden we usually begin our visit with a coffee stop. Although there is the nice new Gateway Restaurant my daughter favours the Terrace Café inside the Garden as this is where we have always gone. I'm fine with that :-)

Refreshed, we usually head down the hill to my fav area which is the Chinese Hillside where some wonderful yellow flowers greeted us at the entrance. I love the trees in this compact area and there was a wealth of new leaves in a variety of colours too.

Lol… my bee(dy) eye spotted some movement on the ground at the edge of the winding paths. I’ve bee(n) noticing, in my own garden, that the bees spend a lot of time on the ground in between feeding on plants. Butterflies do the same although they tend to favour dry dusty earth, gravel or paving.

With Spring being a great time for alpine flowers the plan on this visit was to head next to the Rock Garden. However between the Peat Garden and Woodland Garden I was to stop in my tracks!

I swooned over a single delicate pink Trillium on one side of the path. If this was Botanical Painting worthy then the mass planting of white Trillium grandiflorum on the other side was Photographer’s dream. Being very much an amateur there... I tried to get arty.

Every Spring I so admire Trilliums in garden blogs and here they were again! I really have to add this plant to my garden - perhaps to the area I am clearing at the moment :-)

Walking through the Woodland garden a beautiful pink Rhododendron with dark freckles caught my eye. The Rhododendron is listed as one of the Garden highlights in April. There are many in flower around the garden at the moment.

However… once again I was stopped in my tracks with a stunning Trillium... this time chloropetalum. This was one of my April highlights. Isn’t it a beauty?

My plan was to view the Rock Garden and Stream from the top down for a change. We walked along the top path and chose a short set of back steps to the summit.

Although much colour could be seen in the many pockets and slopes it was the small delicate flowering alpines that always catch my eye as they bob about in this area of the garden. For me, they give the rock garden sparkle and magic.

A few steps up and with the thin soles on my daughter's shoes and visitors stopped on the paths causing some congestion we opted for making a detour to the right. Looking down the Rock Garden it was looking well and it was great to see some many people enjoying it. Cameras and notebooks/pens were out in force :-)

Collecting links for this post I discovered that the red sandstones seen in this rock garden are from Dumfries. Now, that’s interesting timing as just a few days before that’s another trip we had. Another post to come there… not a garden visit this time :-)

On the edges of the Rock Garden the plantings were bigger and bolder and here the vibrant acid green of the Euphorbia flowers caught my eye with wonderful rich pink flowers in the background and tiny yellow flowers scrambling over rocks. We followed the gravel path round to quite a different area.

The Scottish Heath Garden in the corner was where we headed next. I do love this area and suspect many people miss it. I guess that’s the value of buying a guidebook or picking up/ printing off a map so you don’t miss anything. Here’s a link for a map for Edinburgh Botanics.

It was wildflowers, especially wood anemones, I was hoping to see in this part of the garden and I wasn’t disappointed. However, another plant with delicate lilac-veined flowers and wonderful clover type leaves caught my eye too.

Wildflower ID’s are still new to me and looking at my book now I see it was Wood Sorrel I had spotted. Although I should point out that my photo was taken with a flash so the colour isn’t as true.

Widespread, locally common and an indicator of ancient woodlands and hedgerows - it has my attention! It has a creeping perennial with trefoil leaves which fold down at night and it flowers from April-June. ..Mm… think it’s time to check out the internet seed sites :-)

Coming out of the Heathland we pass some flowering Gorse which is a very familiar sight on road and hillsides just now. Pre blog I saw this plant, with its strong prickly habit, as being a pretty inhospitable plant. Now… I see it as a safe place for the wonderful long-tailed tit to choose to nest in! As the RSPB says… aren’t birds brilliant :-)

Next, it was the pond area that I was interested in and after just removing the winter protection from my Gunnera, I wondered how the large planting was looking here. Especially at this time of year, this plant looks so prehistoric! Stunning white blossom on trees to the right caught my eye first though. What a dreamy sight.

Walking towards viewing area at the pond the sight of a pair of waders now caught my eye and made me smile. With gloves, rope and a few other things on the ground I found myself looking for a sign saying gone to lunch ;-)

I love to see gardeners tending a garden on my visits and there was quite a few about at the beginning of the week as you might imagine with many visitors expected over the next few days. The garden was looking good here with pink blooms from the Bergenia, the prehistoric mass planting and fresh new growth of perennials and ferns.

Fern fronds also look wonderfully prehistoric to me and I have a few unfurling in my garden just now too. I loved the mossy rocks… water passes over them in the summer and under the path/bridge where it flows into a pool then into the main pond. I’ve spotted Moorhens here in the past.

Continuing round the edge of the pond I followed a winding path through more plantings of perennials and grasses fresh with new growth. However, my daughter deserted me on this leg. Lol… actually she was quite literally thinking of the safety of her legs!

Two Swans were preening towards the end of this path. I decided, as I had my camera and could get photos, I’d continue. However, it was clear when I got close to them that one was keeping an eye on me and stopped and stared. Quietly, keeping the same step pace as I had approached them, I walked past not daring to stop and take snaps. I’m confident that was the right move on this occasion.

Walking round to the pond viewing area at the opposite end from where we started I could see how low the water level was. Lol… it doesn’t always rain in Edinburgh ;-) I’m guessing the gardeners were taking advantage of the lower water levels to do some pond clearing work.

My tour guide work is almost done now. Having an appointment to get back to our steps quickened.

Keeping to the paths we past the main Glasshouses on the right, the Azalea Lawn on the left and walking round end of the Glasshouses we past the Fossil Garden on the right.

Up a few steps we quickly walked through the Alpine House and Courtyard then quicken our steps some more… up the hill, through the tall evergreen hedging and up to the Herbaceous Border and Beech Hedge. Phew… I’ll let you catch your breath now ;-)

What a spot to catch your breath too… that border is a wonderful sight fully in flower but I do love it at this time of year. Wheelbarrows, tools, trucks and gardener’s jackets are just out of shot on the left :-)

For those interested in this wonderful Beech hedge it is 8 metres (23ft) high and over 100yrs old. Clipping is done in September via a mobile scaffolding tower. The hedge is south-facing and provides the perfect suntrap for a herbaceous border. As for the wonderful, natural plant support frames you can see… they are woven birch branches. Don’t they look great?

Searching through the website of the garden there are so many other things I could tell you about but I’m hoping a nice day beckons and you are about to step away from your PC/Laptop and get out to enjoy it.

I’ll leave you with one final thought from Edinburgh Botancial Gardens… Be prepared to be delighted and disgusted in equal measure! From aphrodisiacs to zest, explore a multitude of hidden chemicals used by plants to attract and repel, seduce or poison their neighbours.

Has this got your interest? If so, the Scents and Sensitivity Glasshouse Trail is running until Mon 25th April. Just pick up your self-guided trail at the Palm House. No extra cost to the Glasshouse admission charge (Adult £4.00, Concession £3.00, Child £1.00, Family £8.00, Members free). No booking required. Have fun with a chemical quiz through the magnificent glasshouses of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Enjoy your weekend, wherever you go, and if you’d like to pop back and tell us all about it we’d love to hear about it. However, if you’ve already made plans and would recommend a visit please do share it in the comments :-)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

GBBD, Updates & RHS advice/warning on holiday cuttings

Garden captures were made from my garden on the 15th of the month to join others celebrating blooms that day. Perhaps it was fortunate I was late with my posting as yesterday a Press Release came in from the RHS which I’d like to pass on.

The RHS are concerned about
the risk of holiday makers travelling overseas bringing back cuttings (with potentially new diseases) and suggest seeds are a much safer option. You can read the full Press Release further down this post.

Back garden, Pieris & Rhododendron

Briefly going back to my garden on April 15th shows everything was just alive with new growth. I do love this time of year. Following on from my previous posting about the Cuckoo flower we’ve also been enjoying Wood anemones, Fritillaries and native Primroses flowering in my garden which are blending wonderfully with other plants. They have been with us for a few years now.

Back garden, Wood Anemone, Fritillary & Primrose

Red Campion has successfully seeded itself around two areas of my garden including the area below. No probs for germination with this plant then. A tidy up in this area at the weekend had some temporary lifted and potted up. I’ll come back to this area in a future posting but just to say a few cuckoo flowers and some primroses have a new home here. I’m loving the transformation :-)

Back garden, behind gate, area under tidy-up

Coming back to garden wildlife, sadly we’ve still had no signs of passing hedgehogs. Although, the camera in my feeding station (Hedgehog Manor) isn’t showing images just now as I cut through the cable during a pruning session nearby. Oops… making enquiries about getting a replacement cable.

Back garden, green/yellow buds on dwarf rhododendron

Re nestbox activity in the garden, not much to report there either. We still have a rooster Blue tit in the nestbox with a B&W camera which is pretty untidy with droppings after it being used throughout winter. Some moss has appeared in it though. In contrast we have a brand new clean and colour cam nestbox that I have agreed to trial for someone ready and waiting for tenants. :-)

Back garden, grass mound, cuckoo flowers open

Previously, Blackbirds were spotted collecting nesting material from around my plants but now an egg shell has been spotted at the bottom of my hedge so I guess there are chicks hatched somewhere nearby. Last week it was the turn of Starlings to collect nesting material. Two Starlings were spotted collecting material alongside each other. I wonder if it was a pair.

Looking up my book I see that nest material is largely collecting by the male Starling. I didn’t know that. He also builds the nest too which is a rough nest of grass and stems. I love this… it seems the male Starling likes to decorate his nest too with green leaves and flower petals!

Nice… although there is a good reason behind this nest decoration. He picks his decorative plants that have Insecticidal properties which probably protects the nest by killing parasites. I have heard that a number of birds will do this with different plants. I wonder how they know which plants to collect.

Back garden, tiny white flowers brighten space under tree

Nature is fascinating isn't it? We can make just a few changes in planting and can help things along too. I’m thinking now about the plight of the Bumble bee in particular.

Just as I did with bird feeders (scattering them around my garden so birds passing through on different flight paths find them) I am now doing the same with plants in the hope that more bees and butterflies will find my garden as a stopover instead of a fly through.

Back garden, Christmas rose hellebore gone to seed

I’m thrilled to say that it seems to be working in my partially shaded back garden. I’ve seen a few bumble bees feeding and appearing to be looking out for a new home. There seems to be one particular spot in a rock cave around my small pond that is getting regular visits.

Back garden, Geum showing flower buds

Also, the area getting the tidy up (mentioned above) is seeing a lot of interest too. I fear that perhaps one particular bee visiting there was interested in the hay protection over my Gunnera and I have just removed it so the plant can grow. I am finding it visiting all the time here especially in the evening when I am trying to continue clearing.

The ceramic Bumble bee nester was moved over to this area to help this bee out which seems very flighty in this area. I know nothing about bees behaviour but I might guess this is a queen in a panic trying to find a place to lay her eggs and it looks like I wrecked her plans. Oops.

Back garden, around pond, early Meconopsis flower

However on the flip side of my interference in this area bees can now get better access to the hellebore flowers that bob about furiously as this buff tail bumble feeds on them. I’m hoping these plants have enough clear ground now to self-seed and spread along with the primroses, cuckoo flowers and other wildflowers I could add here.

As the saying goes “You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette” and I’m pretty confident this area will be an oasis for passing bees in a short time. The other side of the fence is open and sunny with catmint and other plants that are very popular with bees over the summer months too. Time will tell. This will be an interesting area to watch.

Front garden, Narcissi Ice Follies, dried up in the sunshine.
Gravel covered area awash with alliums seeding around.
Can’t wait for flower buds to open :-)

So that’s the garden watching update over for the moment. Let’s come back again to RHS advice/warning for gardeners travelling overseas over the coming holidays. It does make a lot of sense to me being someone that has had the New Zealand Flatworm in my garden for many years. I find very few earthworms when I'm gardening :-(

Just one last thing, if you are going away for a few days, I'd like to wish you a safe journey and a good time :-D

PRESS RELEASE BY RHS, 19 April 2011:

Don’t Risk It

"The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Advisory Service is asking anyone travelling overseas for their spring break not to bring back plant cuttings, even if the plant looks healthy.

The UK’s foremost gardening charity is concerned that if UK holiday-makers take cuttings from plants that catch their eye they may run the risk of bringing in a new pest or disease. In most years the RHS detects two or three new plant diseases and pests from samples submitted to its science department for analysis. Some, like the Fuchsia Gall Mite and Horse Chestnut Leaf Mining Moth, have become established and have the potential to spoil millions of plants.

“We don’t want to be kill-joys,” says Guy Barter, Head of the RHS Advisory Service. “But we do know of some gardeners who, on seeing a plant that is new to them, take cuttings and bring them home. Unfortunately this increases the risk of new diseases or pests being imported. Seeds are, on the other hand, much safer.”

The advice from the RHS is that holiday-makers should buy seeds instead of taking cuttings. In general UK citizens are allowed to bring back up to five packets of seeds from recognised commercial growers.

“There are a number of different ways that new pests and diseases could potentially reach our shores,” says Guy. “They can, for example, arrive on aircraft, on timber with its bark still on and perhaps through commercial imports of plant stocks, although stringent precautions are in place to make sure this does not happen. It is feasible that holiday-makers, bringing fresh plant material home, could inadvertently import a new pest or disease or even weeds. So with everyone getting ready for their holidays we thought we should remind people of the risk they take when bringing that innocent looking cutting back.”"

This post was written by Shirley for

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Starting with the Cuckoo flower

Blogs like gardens evolve. Some mature, while others go off in different directions with new ideas. I’m gardener that is always moving plants around and changing things in my garden.

The Cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis

When it comes to my blog the story is not much different. After 4½ years of garden watch blogging I don’t want to become too repetitive with seasonal stuff and bore the socks of regular visitors. I’ve been pondering on a different approach for this season.

Past gardening years has seen propagation/seed sowing of one plant/colour and have this trickle all through my garden. It is fun to do and the effect in a small garden is very pleasing – to me anyway ;-)

Trickling a theme through my blog for this season might be a fun way to go too. For 2011, I am looking at adding more wild flowers to my garden. This in turn will bring a trickle of bees, butterflies and insects which is good news for everyone :-)

Cuckoo flower introduced to my lawn planting first

Cuckoo flower recently planted in pockets down grass slope

Cuckoo flower strip begins. Native primroses nearby too.

A year ago before the grass was sown

The strong curved shaping beneath the grass.
No plants growing on this face.

So, just ahead of Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day tomorrow I’d like to celebrate the modest Cuckoo flower/Ladys Smock. As a child growing up in a small village I remember collecting bunches of this flower for my Mum. Wild flowers are protected now so no posies of the cuckoo flowers for Mums anymore.

The cuckoo plants shown above were bought in pots from a garden centre and I’m hoping I’ll be able to collect seed from them this year to spread them around my garden. With a lovely twist to this story… my daughter bought me these plants for Mother’s Day :-)

The big question now is... did you pick flowers for your Mum as a child and which ones do you remember fondly of now?

This post was written by Shirley for