Sunday, 12 February 2012

The lure of the chloroplast is too strong, we will not be defeated

Ok, as many may remember I gave up gardening, mainly due to location and due to gales. The requirement of extreme plant identification skills, to identify those 'allegedly Orkney hardy perennials and shrubs' I had planted 'out there' in my garden, are probably quite honed now! We teach our classes here about what might be hardy in Orkney and what might not. Elsewhere in Orkney many of the recommended do thrive, but, not so here in my garden. I think its a cruel joke. Most of the hardy Orkney stalwarts planted are long since demised in my garden, bit like this poppy flower, the cruel victim of the wind which blows all year round and combined with mild winter temperatures and ample rainfall ensures alot of them drown alive in winter.
Being a gardener in my heart though, giving up gardening is not really an option. I try and try, and try again, to garden, not give up! I've been 'out there' again today......I tried hard to plant a garden of 'Orkney hardy perennials and shrubs' I hunted out the local 'Dirty Dozen' (like the Elder) and even sourced them locally, and fit and healthy plants only found their way in. However, as I said previously they proved to be only 'allegedly hardy' for my Orkney garden.
The local guru of gardening, is always saying in Orkney 'hardiness' and your ability to grow plants here, 'depends ENTIRELY on your location' as to what you can or can't grow here, never a true'r word said Sir. He's absolutely spot on, elsewhere in the land of Orkney, most of these hardy beasts appear to thrive and shower their gardens with colour and love. But, it depends on where you are, we are very exposed........
And, due to this fact or some cruel joke, they've all (those pesky Orkney hardy plants) ganged up and decided that they like growing everywhere in Orkney, EXCEPT my garden. I should have known last year this was the case when I lost 8/10 hardy Orkney grown fushias as they blasted their way out of the garden by the roots and onwards to be lodged in the fence. And, that wasn't even the start of it.

Even the Carex pendula, the hardiest of sedgy thugs, parked in a quiet part of the garden (behind the netting and the fence and the walls etc) is looking like a burnt tropical wimp of a plant, left in the freezer during a force 10.  A lot of plants in my garden have this appearance at the moment, if you half squint you can tell what they 'use to be'. However, the sun is shining the lure of the choloroplasts is upon me, singing in my ears and my urge to garden is too strong. We need to reach a compromise, me and this garden. And the Carex, one of a few hardy souls still alive like the Hellebore, needs to be moved before it passes away.
They say it takes a season or two to get to know your garden, how very true. 
Thus far I have been informed by my garden the following.
1 Hardy shrubs aside willow do not grow in my garden even with wind break features. Willow suffered die back of 1/2 m this winter, having been already cut back to 3m in Sept to avoid being blown over - although its not over yet. 
I think it will live but like this author will always be vertically challenged in this garden. Whilst many of the Orkney hardy shrubs are available and I've tried them, they grow in Orkney, they do not grow here in this garden. The hens now have free range as the plants are mangled. They don't appear to be bothered!
 Neither do raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries or brambles, which all end up as sticks and in bucket. Fact.
 2 Hardy perennials, even evergreen one like Ajuga repens in this garden appear to like having their heads cut off at every opportunity. But they do let you look at how they manage to carpet cover by means of runners, when they get this bare!
Those plants which are not blasted by the wind, contaminated by salt, are fortunate enough to be decapitated by the ample harling which throws itself off the walls and festoons the garden like a mulch. Or they are soaked and drowned by the constant waterlogging of the garden, they require scuba gear to live here. Chickens also require wellingtons to gad about in the garden
 3 Heads upwards plants are killed by debris, salt and wind. Fact.
  Or, roots down they are waterlogged, suffer root rock and learn to fly once nicely loose. Fact.
 4 Wind break features appear to be non-permanent landscaping and require constant cossetting to remain in the garden. I am bored talking with fences, fencing material and re-attaching errant green netting, this is coming down, aside its lovely billowy effect as it unhooks itself from the fence, its pointless. Annoying fact.
5 Vegetable gardens, raised and sheltered by a raised wooden border, surrounded by hedges, fences, windbreaking, netting and more hedges and the wall of the house, are not sheltered. Kale, cabbages, leeks and alike are too soft for my garden.
Even the very hardy kale is but a stick of previous plant like glory. There is no eating out there, even for a slug. The veggie garden nestled by the house, merely allow you to view hurricane force winds from the comfort of the adjacent window as they destroy your garden. Cruel, taunting fact.

However, while death and destruction abound, the hardier native plant are clinging on for dear life, like the ox-eye daisy bed I put in when I arrived - hooray for daisies to the rescue
 That little plant whilst sparsely forming a nice matt, is clinging on for dear life, much respect to the daisy!

Hence the move to give up gardening, which whilst this pleases the dog, he is not a fan of gardening, this is a crazy and unsustainable fact.  
I can't give up gardening, not on your life Peedie Pup! That put him in a crazy rage!
Like every gardener the lure of the cholorplast is too strong, therefore I've come to the following compromise............which the dog won't like. Hey ho.

1 The garden will return entirely to grass (my least favourite plant), aside the hedge which will stay that will make the chickens happy but not the dog, he doesn't like the mower

Most of the other plants will NOT be tortured in the outdoor garden, we will move them to the polytunnel where they will flourish and grow into fine plants like the little Primula denticulata here. (This I promise)
2 The veggie garden needs better netting inside the netting to try and have a 'summer' veggie garden - or I can grow tatties and roots in it. (More likely to work)

3 I'll put up more bird tables and enjoy watching birds rather than plants flying passed the window. (Less cruel to the cholorplasted ones in my care)

4 I'll continue to enjoy helping a few folk out and gardening elsewhere in Orkney, to get a feel of what you can achieve in Orkney, when you don't pick a house, based purely on the views it has, and attempt to garden on what feels like on the top of the worst side of the Eiger, in a gale.

5 I'll visit other gardens and satisfy my need for cholorplasts and awe in their wonder in other folks gardens. And, sing their praises.

6 I'll get the cover on the polytunnel as soon as possible rather than looking at it when I have a cuppa!
I need to do something about the garden as I've even taken to wearing 'non' gardening attire, like skirts and boots and brushing my hair (!). I've taken to involving my self in other very lovely and worthwhile local projects which are very 'non-gardening', although brillaint and food based in nature. More about adventures with 'Slow Food' and great tasting local food another day. I can barely recognise myself without the mud, the woolly hat and the spade in hand (I'm the peedie one in the middle!)!
And drinking whisky, very lovely whisky - a tale for another time. This behaviour needs to stop or people will stop recognising my characteristic mud splattered haystack appearance and I won't be able to go out more in my pj's, fleece  and wellies. Like today returning indoor to find a lovely Banana cake baked, the kitchen, life aint that bad!


  1. What a shame! Sounds like a constant battle with the weather.

    1. Thank you for popping by, a bit of a battle to be had, right enough, but worthwhile to live here! And, you find cunning new way to beat the wind when you can! :)

  2. Wow that sounds utterly demoralising - though the way you write about it made me laugh :) I have visions of Fuchsias stuck in fences now. Good luck with the polytunnel - are you going to grow the veggies in there or just ornamentals?

    1. Hi there - what's the phrase - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? :)

      The tunnel will be a mix of ornamentals, plants for selling online (veggie plants mainly) and mainly vegetable garden.

      The fushia didn't get stuck in the fence for long - I think most of them ended up in Iceland.............

  3. As they say in Ireland, (and maybe other placers too),"that would try the patience of a saint".

  4. Aw Bridget ta, I'm not renound for my patience. I'm stubborn though, very stubborn. And, a bit daft. My grannie was of Irish decent :) I take after her I think. Nice to see you!

  5. Maybe when your willow fedge has settled ... you will be able to claim little corners to try again. You're a braver woman than I am! Tis a wonder the hens aren't holidaying in Iceland with the fuchsias.

    1. Hey up Elephants eye - I hope so. Until then, I'll do battle in the tunnel. I've heard mutterings from the hens in Icelandic dialet - I think they might be practising before they go..........

  6. Your garden looks like ours :) but ours looks like that because of the goats! Never give in, never surrender! We got an agoraphobic goat, the mentalist who creates the most damage is soon to be ingredients, soon we will be overun with vegetables and salad. And squadrons of pigs are preparing for takeoff!

  7. Surrender is not an option. No goats here only squadron filled pigs of optimism.

    I to will be overrun with vegetables and fruit. Under wind, chickens or goats lull allowed.

  8. sorry to hear that your heart for gardening is being sat upon by your crazy weather. i like the new view of taking to bird-watching and living vicariously through other people's gardening. i'm also excited to hear more about your poly tunnel as it gets up and running. i think it's a fabulous idea. i wish you all the best with it. i always get a laugh when i see your chickens. they seem to have such personality.

    1. The chickens of course send on their regards! I'll work at plans for indoor gardening, but that will also be a challenge!

  9. Hello Fay - just been catching up.

    I do worry about your polytunnel.Even in the central belt, a good blow will rip them apart - and no one will insure them. The snowfall last year bent all the struts on my neighbour's lambing shed - complete rebuild necessary. They are fragile things...

    Have you thought about a dry stane dyke as a windbreak? Or going underground? (I've never believed Scara Brae was buried - it was always down there, away from the wind)

    1. Dear kininvie, you're right of course. Whilst the frames up, I'm terrified of covering it.

      Under ground a far better prospect. Dykings not an issue, landlords not keen. The joys of renting.......

  10. Yikes Fay, those are hard truths. At least you will get to ride the big red machine a lot, giving it all back to grass, and it must be exhausting, physically and mentally, fighting the elements all the time. My fingers are crossed for your polytunnel garden. And hey, you scrub up well, and the whisky drinking is some consolation...

    1. Yikes indeed lady! Riding the mower will be a consolation....... Thank u for your support, I even brushed my hair.......

  11. Don't give up Fay.Have you tried a bit of dry stane dyking just to filter the wind? But it does take an huge pile of stone.Your garden sounds much more exposed than ours was. Having said that Gunnie Moberg's garden was very exposed and she persevered and managed an amazing amount. Hate green netting windbreak...

    1. Not allowed a's the most exposed garden I've ever lived in. The key you're right like gunnies garden is a dyke, without one my goose is cooked.

      Oh well, a mere two years to go here, maybe the polytunnel will last that long? Hope so.

      There's always bird watching :)