Sunday, 28 April 2013

New trough planting

Now that the weather is warming up it has been time to get to work on the numerous plants I have sitting around the garden and in the cold frame waiting to be planted either in the garden or in their assigned containers.

I have put together a trough to show of my collection of Sempervivums, hens and chicks to most of us.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was very kindly given a small collection by a gardening friend and along with a few I have purchased over winter I finally got round to finding a home for some of them.

Crocks were added to the base of the pot and a growing medium of John Innes No2 and Horticultural Grit to a ratio of 50/50.  After planting and watering a mulch of Alpine Grit was used over the whole surface.  This will reduce water splash and help prevent rot.

A couple of pieces of slate and an old clay pot was used as decoration.  Along with the Sempervivums, Sedum hakone Chocolate Ball, Sedum pachyclados and Sedum Purpurteppich have been added for varying colour and texture.  It will be interesting to see this fill out as the summer progresses - watch this space!
Offsets and cuttings will be taken to over winter in a cold frame to ensure I have replacement plants should I need them.

The second container getting a make over is my attempt at creating a mini garden through the use of alpine plants.  You may remember some of the beautiful display in a previous blog about my visit to the SRGC Show at the beginning of April.    

For this container, I used a 50/50 mix of John Innes No 2 and Horticultural Grit.  An appropriate amount of  garden lime was added to the mixture.  All the plants require or are tolerant of alkaline/lime conditions or at least they should be if I've done my homework correctly!  Prior to planting, tufa rocks were added for effect.  Experienced mini garden growers will use tufa rock with holes drilled out so that the plant can colonise the rocks.  Something I intend to give a go once I get a bit more experience but lets not run before I can walk.

Plants I used in this container:
Erysimum kotschyanum, Globularia repens, Raoulia australis, Saxifraga iranica cumulus, Saxifraga x boydilacina Pink Star, Saxifraga burseriana Gloria, Saxifraga biasolettio, Sedum pachyclados, Sempervivum Kelly Jo, Sempervivum arachnoid.
Some of the plants I have used

Apparently the more you cram in the smaller the plants will remain.  As the seasons move forward I will source other plants which will flower at different times, therefore extending the interest to year round.

After planting, the whole pot is treated to a gravel mulch - again as a preventative measure against water damage as well as making conditions similar to how these plants would grow naturally.  The temperatures some of these plants experience in the wild is way colder than we experience in Scotland - therefore are hardy enough.  Winter wet issues will be addressed by means of a cloche.  

Both of these containers require a full sun situation - they are taking pride of place in a sunny corner on the deck, where I can admire them....should I ever find time to sit still long enough!!  In the likely hood that Scotland should experience a heatwave (I say that with tongue in cheek!) shade will need to be provided for the Saxifragas in particular.    

Have you ever tried growing a mini garden?  What were your experiences? I'd love to hear about them.
Alpine plants, are I suppose, considered specialist by many but having admired these beauties from afar for a very long time, I admit that I'm really looking foward to this learning curve.  Who knows, one day I may even progress to an dedicated Alpine House.....I'm allowed to dream, aren't I?

Thank you for joining me on the first rung of the Alpine Grower's ladder!

If you are interested in finding out more about alpine plant growing, there are quite literally thousands of websites out there.  A few useful ones are Scottish Rock Garden ClubAlpine Garden Society or North American Rock Garden Society.  They are good place to start as a point of reference - other countries will no doubt have their own societies.  If you know of such, please let me know and I'll be happy to add a link.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Is April the new March?

It's been a long winter and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is now sick fed up of it!  Is there any one out there who disagrees?  I yearn to spend days out in the garden without the need of a thick fleece.  Despite the rise in temperatures the last couple of days - strong winds remain, only their direction and speed have changed.  They are now gusting quite a bit!  I just want a bit of heat on my back!  Is it too much to ask?
Is there anyone out there with the capabilities of getting through to Mother Nature - she's just not listening to me!

Buds on the Camellias and the Magnolia are just beginning to fatten up, exactly as I would be expecting back in March!  The deciduous shrubs have the minutest of buds, stuck in the limbo of a seemingly extended March!  The lawns remain untouched, they would have usually had their first cut some time in March!  Therefore I declare that April is the new March!

Here's some photographic evidence:

The extended winter has meant that the Hellebores are still looking good - all things considered the Hellebores have certainly been the stand out plant this winter!  That said - this will be the last Hellebore picture I intend to post in 2013!
A selection of blooms from Oriental Hellebores

My garden really would have been a rather dull place had it not been for the blossoming Crocus bulbs - a good 3 or 4 weeks later than last year!

Crocus Collage

Suffering after a heavy shower this morning.  Crocus vernus Jeanne D'arc are collapsing before my very eyes this afternoon!

Crocus Jeanne D'arc 
This group of pot grown Crocus are destined to be planted in one of the borders this year - flowering a good 3 or 4 weeks later than last year!

Rhododendron Shamrock - so called as it flowers around St. Patrick's Day - that's March right?  It usually flowers in my garden nearer the end of March - still tight in bud mid April!  Some of the foliage changed colour winter 2011 and has thus far refused to revert back to green.  If I'm honest - I prefer it reddish!

Rhododendron Shamrock
March flowerer? Not this year!
Who knew?  Who could have predicted?  Who would have expected......

Snowdrops to look this good mid April! Not me, that's for sure!  

Snowdrops April 2013
Pulmonaria should be in full flower by mid/end March - providing much needed nourishment for bees!  This is the only one flowering at the moment - the Blue and White are miles behind, we might be luck if we see a flower this side of May!

unnamed pink Pulmonaria
Good old reliable Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' is not doing it's March thing yet!  The tiniest of flower buds are just now appearing!  In all the years I've had this plant this has been the first year it has died back completely!
Frost bitten foliage!

Primula denticulata (drumstick Primulas) are usually swaying away in the March beeze - instead they are just beginning to reach skyward and  will now be battered by the April gales!  

Primula denticulata 'Cashmerian'
Beneath the Enkianthus

Primula denticulata var. Alba
just getting started!

The early flowering Corydalis are usually just about dormant come April - not this month!  Still looking March like!

Cordydalis malkensis, Crocus and a rogue Squil April 2013
Skimmia, Viburnum and Mahoberberis are still in bud and as for the Mahonia - I've given up wishing it to flower this year!  Fritillaria, Chionodoxa and Scilla are just about there!

So there you have it, the case for 'April is the new March!' - how far behind is your garden?

Of course, there are other things flowering.  This next selection are all first time bloomers in the garden this year.
Narcissus Rip van Winkle

Narcissus Jetfire - I thought the trumpet was supposed to be orange?

Anemone blanda Pink....Pink??
Muscar latifolium Blue Angels
in a container by the back door
This blog is part of a series hosted by Carol over at May Dream Gardens.  If you would like to join in or take a look at what is flowering in all corners of the globe - please do pop over there are lots of great blogs to read. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Scottish Rock Garden Club

I had the pleasure of attending my first ever plant show at the weekend.  What a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon I had.

The Edinburgh and Lothians branch of the SRGC hold a show here in Edinburgh annually.  Being that it is very local for me, a ten minute drive round the city bypass, made it an ideal candidate in which I could dip my toe into the water so too speak.  Alpine plants have always fascinated me and have admired them more often than not, from afar!  As my confidence in gardening is growing - I am hoping that I can turn my hand to growing some of these special little plants.  The main purpose was to get some inspiration and talk to the people who grow them.

I met some lovely people on the day.  They were very willing to discuss their plants and more importantly answer some of the questions I put their way.  I did feel like a bit of a duck out of water - the show format was sort of baffling for a first timer!  I've since found that the show rules are available on their website - now that I've read them, I can look back with a bit more understanding.

As I walked into the hall - I was taken aback by the riot of colour that greeted me.  Members, visitors et al formed an orderly queue - I stood patiently in line until it was my turn.  There was plenty of oohing and aahing.  Heads were nodding, grins were beaming and appreciation was apparent.  The dedication and commitment could not be ignored.

The most coveted award in the show is the George Forrest Memorial Medal.  Named after George Forrest the Scottish plant collector and explorer.


"the winner is........Hepatica Transylvanica - exhibitied by David Boyd"

A few more shots of these fascinating little woodlanders

Hepatica auctiloba

Hepatica Ashwood strain

On the opposite side of the hall - pans of Primulas were lined up - their exhibitors, no doubt, waiting with anxiety just a few minutes before the doors were opened and results revealed.  Here are a few,    
Left to Right
Primula Gold Lace, Primula Jackie Richards and Primula Blindsee
Various prize winning Primula

Perfect white blooms
Another group of plants which were exhibited in their droves were Saxifraga.  Saxifraga are a fascinating group of plants - such a diverse group that have really taken my fancy.  There were many beautiful specimens on display - here is a group of prize winners.

By far the largest exhibitor on the day was the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh their display was astounding and had I more room and a proper camera (not my phone) with me - I could have show cased this panoramic scene better.  Here are a couple of shots from the display

Various bulbs inc. Muscari, Narcissus and Fritillaria

Fritillaria towering above

More spring bulbs


The vast amount of spring bulbs on display was to say the least, impressive - I wondered if the extended winter that we have seen this year has anything to do with the selection displayed at the show.  Having looked back at previous show reports it seems so!  Not that it hampered my enjoyment of the show, far from it!

My favourites of the day.....

Crocus 'Prins Claus'
Techophilaea cyanocrocus

Saxifraga Georgei
I had agreed to meet up with a friend at the show and as she is a member of the SRGC - she needs to take her turn at manning the entrance table - collecting money and selling tombola tickets.  Her stint was to last 1 hour - this gave me the perfect opportunity to go have a look through at the Plant Sales room before we had lunch!

There was a few nurseries displaying their wares along with an SRGC members plant sales table.  I was speaking to the owner of the local nursery I frequently use - he told me that despite the hall only being open for a short time - sales were good and plants were just flying off the tables!  I cheekily told him that I would not be buying from him, I could do that any time and if I'm being completely honest - I already had most of the plants he was selling that interests me!  He just laughed and with a little wink said 'See you next weekend!' - he knows me well!

As I wandered from seller to seller - I felt it only fair that I should not show favouritism and purchased a little something from each of them.  That will be a topic for another blog of course but as I already had a little project in my mind before going - I'm going to have an attempt at something like this

or this

or this


These miniature gardens are fascinating - I'm hoping that I can recreate something similar.  Now that I've bought the plants - I'm excited to get started.  I have finally managed to find a local source of Tufa rock so will try to get there at the weekend.          
I hope you have enjoyed my novice look around the Scottish Rock Garden show but if you would like to learn or read more, the 2013 report has just been published and you can read it here.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A look back at March

Snowdrops or  Snowdroops   
Glad to see the back of March? - I know I am!  The month began the exact same as November, December, January and February - Cold and Frosty!  It's been a very long winter - even by Scottish standards!
Sedum telephium 'Purple Emperor' 

Much to my relief the snow didn't last long but it did not take the bitter cold easterly wind with it. Even now at the end of the month the frosty mornings are a constant.  Up here in Scotland we can suffer frosts right up until May but I can't ever remember it being frosty every day!

I took a risk a bit of a risk earlier in the month - too much time on my hands!  Idle hands and all that! Most of the containers had their winter protection removed, namely the layers of bubble wrap I use to give extra insulation for the roots. I mostly grow Sedums and Bulbs in containers as I find my soil a bit too moist for them to survive more than a season otherwise.  Other pots (non decorative) with various bits and bobs growing were left tucked up against the house walls.  So far so good - especially the sedums  - all seemed to have survived!

Here in the UK we celebrate Mother's Day in March.  As usual my preferred gift of a voucher for my favourite nursery was waiting for me on Mothering Sunday!  My purchases were a single bulb of Trillium kurabayashi, 3 Primula aurantiaca, pots of Crocus Jeanne D'arc and 3 bargain pots of Cyclamen Coum.  All except the Crocus are now planted in the borders.  The Trillium however does not look great.  At the cost of £13 for 1 bulb, I'm glad I didn't buy more!  As you can see from the picture - the flowers on the Cyclamen were finished but a friend told me to leave the flowers in the hope they will seed.  The fact that is now throwing up more flowers is pleasing.  Looking a bit messy but you can see the new flowers.

It was also time to give my Xmas gifts a little belated attention - I had been waiting until the weather gets a bit better but was fed up waiting.  I planted up one of my recycled polystyrene troughs with Saxifraga.  It has been hold up in the cold frame ever since but they seemed to have settled in.
Recycling old fish/meat boxes to make them look like stone troughs is a trick many alpine growers do.  For tips on how I make these - please take a look at this old post.  You can generally pick up these boxes in fishmongers or butchery departments in supermarkets.  A very cost effective way to grow alpines - especially if you don't have an alpine bed!

A friend was down visiting family on the south coast and was popping in to meet up with a virtual gardening friend.  During a conversation last autumn, we spoke about his love of alpines and his alpine houses - which are stunning BTW!  I mentioned that I had already made an effort in starting off my Sempervivum collection - he said that he would have a couple he could share with me.  I had completely forgotten about the conversation until Sheila phone to say she had a wee box for me.  She agreed to keep them tucked up in her greenhouse for a few weeks for me.  We finally managed to co-ordinate last week for a get together.  I was utterly delighted with the selection he sent up for me.  Along with the semps is a rather lovely Sedum Chocolate Ball and a very special little mound forming clematis Clematis 'Filigree'.

Don't you just love garden gifts, she says with a big grin on her face!

Most of the plants that are flowering were on display for  GBBD on the 15th - the only difference is that a couple of more Hellebores have picked up.  Crocus are 'springing' up in more places than I remember planting them - but that's good thing, isn't it?

Corydalis Malkensis and Crocus

Galanthus nivalis and Fritillaria meleagris

A Crocus Smile!
I am very sad to say that I have yet to see a single bee but am tremendously pleased to say that I have yet to see any signs of slugs.  I have found a few empty snail shells but nothing more.  I wonder if it's just too cold or all those birds that are visiting the garden have developed a taste for them!

Are there any Solomon Seal (Polygonatum) growers out there?  I am wondering when I should expect to see growth?  They were new last year and I expected to see the new growth the same time as the Dicentra and Hostas - but so far nothing!!

This weekend will see my first ever visit to a SRGC show here in Edinburgh - if you are interested in growing bulbs of any sort you could do worse than visit the SRGC Bulb Log.  It's full of useful hints, tips and advice - as well as gorgeous pictures!

Thank you for joining me at my look back at March.