Thursday, 28 July 2011

Finally a bit of garden action, albeit slow progress, in the frozen north!

You'd be hard pressed to find any gardening in this blog, tut, tut. Anyhow, for my bad behaviour of adventuring everywhere, I've been put to hard labour, I got 3 1/2 tonnes of gravel to shovel about the place to try and tidy up the gravel outside the house. No rest for the wicked I guess, should be a bit of free exercise!
 I'll get it all done before the kids come home, was supposed to be done before the visitors arrived, but, hmm, too busy having adventures and freezing to death weather to be out there spreading gravel, so I've half of it to do still!
What have I been upto eh? Well, I've put a fence up at either side of the house and planted another, yup anothe mixed willow hedge (this time mixed with salix  viminalis (basket), hookerania (hookers) and alexanensis (not sure I've spelt that right, but alaskan willow). They were planted last march and cut back so they're getting bushier but not too big yet. I've recycled stobs (fencing posts) and used chicken wire to keep the pesky chickens out. A tub with calendula, thyme and a clematis (which isn't doing too well) by the gate for a bit of colour. My brother also made me a recycled gate from an old set of bunkbeds, but unfortunately on sunday it blew off in the wind (!), whoops, need to put it up better next time!
Through the gate is a pathway of Alchemilla mollis, ladies mantle (a true love or hate plant), I love it, it does well here so just as well! I've used it to soften the concrete path by the house, there was a small gravel channel by the path so I thought putting a plant along the edge of the house would soften the path and make it a bit more inviting. I think it works, I called this my ladies mantle walk, when finished, like the path, the ladies walk will take you all around the house. I love the foliage in cut flowers too, my dear sister-in-law gave me a bunch of white roses when she was here, so we added the ladies mantle foliage to the vase, with a couple of ox-eye daisies which really set them off! Thank you Rach, meant to take a picture, whoops! Next time......x
 The blend between house and path softened nicely. I love the foliage of this plant and it does brilliantly in both the coastal air and in the wet it looks awesome, me thinks it works well here!
 A quick jaunt passed the veggie bed, not much happenning in there thanks to birds/rabbits/wind/small digging dog (!), did these beasts not listen when folk tell you raised beds are good at keeping pets OUT of the veggie garden, um my dog didn't listen, he likes to lie in there or dig in there, not funny!. Everything is quite small still, all put in late as the bed was only filled in properly at the end of June (after pesky PhD viva). Anyhow, this week, I've added a bit of netting to keep out the pesky dog and rabbits to see if that helps, must finish that, I've only got it on 3 sides at the moment!
Hooray, and now, don't hold your breath, but finally some flowers! Now to those of you in a more sheltered climate, seeing a few marigolds (Calendula officinalis) beginning to flower might seem a bit underwhelming at the end of july. I'll grant you, its not so very exciting for you maybe, but for me, the anticipation and waiting until the end of July neary for *something* to flower in this exposed clawed back from the field, almost a garden, it is worth the wait! After those terrible gales in June I thought we'd lost the lot of them but, hark, no, there they go beginning to flower. And, being a true mixatarian of a gardener (flowers and veggies planted in the same bed), they are interplanted with 'Potato onions' a new variety I've not grown before. I hope they get on well. After this year I'm hoping to develop this into a pond for all round interest, but for this year, annual flowers and veggies will be just grand for me. 
Right beside this marigold bed are the raspberries 'Autumn Bliss' - they are coming along, but by no means giants, these I think will go into the polytunnel when its up. I'll see how they are at the end of the summer, but so far with less than 1ft of growth, they aren't looking great. Me thinks its just too exposed outdoors in this garden for them, bear in mind they are in the shelter of a 5-6ft willow hedge.
 And theres the other bit of the hedge - now 7ft in places, not bad when you think only last march this was still a cutting ready to be planted! Its doing away fine, a few gaps in places (where we lost the hebe) but I'll move a bit of willow around to thicken it up where there are gaps. Finally after a year, the bench is built, not that we get to sit on it much (we've had tea out there once!) its pretty cold and windy mostly, but if we get an opportunity, we'll be glad of the table!
I've a few rabbits living in the garden, as if the weather wasn't enough to contend with, there are 2-3 of them dotting about the garden, I quite like them (when they AREN'T eating my veggies), so I've let them be. As an experiment, I've left the grass longer under the table to see if they will eat that, rather than boing about the garden, but so far, I think they've avoided my experiment, shame really.  I thought they might like the longer grass...........we'll see. Its a funny one, I quite like seeing them, but rather they stuck to eating the grass than the garden, not that there is MUCH garden anyway. It will be better next year with more shelter I think, well thats what I'm telling myself!
When living in the exposed coastal islands, shelter is a must for any hope of having a garden. I'm slowly learing now much I need in mine and where I will need more of it. The wind can come from any direction here, so I'm going to divide up the garden more to create smaller areas which might sustain a flower bed or two once they are nicely sheltered. And, if that fails, I'll give up outside and only garden in the polytunnel! But, I'll try very hard first! However, whilst I know that willow can grow very quickly, I'm still astonished by how quickly it can get upto this height from a tiny cutting! Amazing! This part of the hedge is over 6-7ft high.
I'd be lying of course if I told you it was ALL willow, there is a fair amount of 'wild flowers' or um weeds some folks might say too in there. My favourite of these is the thistles, so big and regal. The seed heads will benefit the birds later on and I quite like the bulk they give the hedge - well thats my story, nothing to do with being a lazy gardener, allergic to weeding willow hedges honest!

 And, now sir, time for your close up, very lovely and regal and VERY scottish, you'd almost thing I'd planted them there to enhance the hedge wouldn't you? Not quite what I'd planned, but the foliage of the spear thistle works really well in the hedge and I love the flowers too. I'll leave them be for now!
And, what of the pesky chickens you might ask? Well, they are settled into their summer accomodation quite nicely. They go out for a while most days wrecking havoc when my back is turned. But, on the whole they have *touch wood* stayed out of the main garden which is now fenced off for them. They are a bit of a menace at digging the gravel up (and newly planted ladies mantle) at the sides of the house, but I'm doing that in stages, so I'll eventually get enough in with a good enough hold before they try and pull it up. A bit of compromising means they can be free range for a while each day and then into their enclosure, with lots of lovely grub too. We're learning to live together in harmony, well, no heinous chicken crimes to report this month! Um, so far anyway!
They occasionally dig into the daisy bed, my first bit of gardening here, but so far, aside a bit sparse looking, its coming along fine isn't it? I asked the daisy to come to the rescue last year when I developed this bed, the link to making it is here. I wanted something natural by the byre, to be a bit cheerful and welcoming that could stand our windy climate. Ox-eye daisies are my favourite, so cheerful and welcoming. I'd say its a bit patchy still, but certainly doing what I wanted it to do. I hope it will fill out nicely by the end of the summer if the pesky chickens stop dust bathing in it! The aim was to look as if the bed has always been there, part of the old building, more natural than designed, its settled in well I think. OK, there are weeds, but it adds to the charm of the bed, right?
A few extras came in with the daisies, from where I don't know, Mimulus gutatus (yellow monkey flower), Achellia milliefolium (yarrow) and a bit of fern which I hope will take too! Nice to have a few unexpected bits pop up too.  Another little bed I'd done (originally for the raspberries, but when the hens kept digging them up I moved them......) has rhubarb in it, not looking very happy is it? I'd put in plenty of dung and soil, not sure why its not happy, but I'll leave it and see how it gets on. The hens don't seem to bother it. I might plant mint in here - I want something to rampage through this bed, something chicken proof, mint might do it? Or any other suggestions for a perennial tough enough for wind/salt and pesky chicken feet???
Oh and a nice bonus at the back of that bed, from somewhere a random poppy grew and grew, the chickens didn't eat it, so it was left to bloom! How pretty is that, I've no idea how it got there and while its been windy, its even managed to survive that quite well and has loads of flowers on it. Brilliant!
The chickens dig around it, but don't do any harm at all. Perfect, so there you go, a few things flowering (well two or three), a bit of a hedge coming along, veggies slow but with more protection hope they will come along too and chickens out for good behaviour! Progress is slow, I'll grant you, a bit frustrating, but nevertheless, progress there is. I'll get there, a lot to do, often hampered by the wind, but I'll have fun doing it! I think they call it 'Dunkirk spririt'? I call it gardening in the wind, maybe its island spirit (?!) you just get up, dust yourself off again, plant more shelter and get on with it, despite the wind!


  1. Thanks for a great update Beautiful poppies. Do they last long against the wind?
    We have oxeye daises all over our land. We love them! But ours stopped flowering a while ago.

    Sft x

  2. Oooh, garden's looking ace! Can't wait to see it! (will even help you shift a bit of gravel if it still needs doing!) Am impressed at all your flowers xx

  3. I think you've got gardening in Orkney sussed. Windbreak, windbreak and more windbreak. Tons of gravel and alchemilla mollis!
    It is looking good and I love the ox-eye daisies against the old stonework.

  4. I too love Lady's Mantle, I even have it in a hanging basket. I love how it sets off other plants too. Would'nt fancy shifting all that gravel!

  5. Blimey you have been busy! The garden looks great - love the lady's mantle. We've had an explosion of poppies too this year. - I don't know where they've all come from but I hope we get them next year too!

  6. Lol - yellow monkey flowers ? - how ironic!


  7. The garden is coming along nicely. Well done on all that backbreaking work. Lovely daisies too.

  8. Gorgeous! The poppies are quite a pop of color.

  9. Love the poppies too - and fantastic that they're double headed. I can't believe how much you've done in such a short time, especially while, you know, having a life!

  10. Sorry about the cold weather you are having over there. Your garden looks lovely. You do such a great job with everything. I was wondering if perhaps you left a few lettuce leaves under the picnic table if the bunnies might decide to visit under there. Good luck with spreading the gravel. Your arms are going to look great when you finish.

  11. I can't believe how much you've done Fay! The daisy bed and the Lady's Mantle walk are wonderful, I particularly love the latter. The willow is looking really good too, and the circle bed - all those plans come to be. I like the gravel too, really finishes the area off well. Given the weather you have been having, I think having something that so obviously looks like a garden, with flowers and everything, is a miracle. Hope you get to enjoy it all sat at the bench soon!

  12. I too love Achemilla Mollis, but give it a very stern haircut every year to keep it in check - it is so great used in victorian dried flower arrangements, I used to sell tussie mussies at all the local markets, but it has dropped out of fashion recently.
    I have just compiled a small ( But hopefully set to expand) list of great Scottish gardening blogs, and have included you in the list - I hope this is okay.
    If you know of any more I have not yet included, please do drop me a comment. Thank you, best wishes, Cat @ Abriachan

  13. It's looking great and I love those poppies. I've followed suit with the willow and my cuttings all seem to have rooted successfully, after being dragged back out of the ground earlier this year for the house move. (Tough little cookies that they are!) I'll be back to ask for more advice about making them grow into an arch, soon. :)

  14. How funny, I've got the very same poppy here on Bere Island this summer and have no idea from whence it came! Your garden's looking really good, love the alchemilla along the path. Something pretty rampant next to the rhubarb? I've had great success with marjoram here. It spreads fast, doesn't seem to mind wind, salt etc. and bees love the flowers. And have you tried escallonia for a different bomb proof windbreak?

  15. Harriet how funny indeed! The rampant plant by the rhubarb is the monster poppy! I've just put in a bit of marjoram - great hearing it oes well! I've not put in escalonia yet, plants I found were too expensive, might try some cuttings later in the year, thanks for the reminder!

    Frugaldom great stuff, an arch you say, how exciting! Must get back into frugaldom, easing back into everyday life here :)

  16. Cat, how lovely to see you, great info there thanks, very happy to be included in a garden blog list, thanks, will pop over to you and have a look......sorry to hear tussiemussies have gone out of favour, I love them!

    Janet, you are very kind! Given the weather, those late June gales, I'm surprised we've anything! I'm excited by the fact it's beginning to have 'areas', slowly slowly, and thank goodness for ladies mantle indeed!

  17. FBMKW - what a great idea re the bunnies! My arms are aching, no improvement yet!! Nice to see you :)

    Jan, thanks progress is slow, but I'm not the most patient person on th planet!

    Sue, you got it in one, quite a pop of colour!

    Db, monkey flowers are very at home here!

    Cheri, thanks sweetie :) I just love daisies, if the hens would stop trying to dig in-between them I'd be even happier!!

    Freerangegirl, glad you've got poppies too ;) I might dry some heads for next year, just in case! Well reminded......

    Bridget, in a basket, now that's a great idea! Gravel shifting is free exercise! But, I'm doing it in stages......hard work!

  18. Janet (planticru) you are so right shelter, shelter, shelter! Loved your angelica post - must get some! The daisies work well with the byre wall, if I could hoodwink a foxglove or two in there too, it would be very Orkney indeed, maybe next year.

    Jenni, I'm sure there will be gravel to move when you are here! X

    Sft, thank you :) th poppies seem to last ok in the wind, I'm surprised how substantial they are! The daisies locally are going over, I'm deadheading min to keep them flowering longer.....

  19. I clicked back to the post where you created the daisy bed... What a successful effort, works beautifully. And against the wonder of that rock wall. (Honestly what I would give for a rock wall!) I really like that you made the bed round, it softens the whole area and with its rock edges, just looks like it's totally belongs, and the daisies belong in it. NICE. Watching for a picture of your garden dog...

  20. Oooh, garden's looking ace! Can't wait to see it! (will even help you shift a bit of gravel if it still needs doing!) Am impressed at all your flowers xx