Sunday, 20 May 2018

Book Review - The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don

I came across this book in a local second hand book shop and added it to my pile of purchases. It has lived since in the book mountain on my desk until at last it reached the bottom of the pile. Yes the bottom, for in true Rona style I have a system, sometimes back to front from the way any one else works. New books go on the top and every time I am ready to read another I take it from the bottom, the oldest ones in the pile and so at last it was the Jewel Garden's turn.

I love Monty's style of gardening, his relaxed, hands on often traditional approach but with an acceptance of the new and keeping that balance. It very much reflects my gardening style and way of working. What I hadn't realised before reading this book was his journey from the heady 80's and a successful business to crashing and coping and surviving that with his family and finally his journey into gardening as a career. 

The thing that resonated with me most in this book is Monty's depression, how he deals with it and how gardening and having his hands in the soil really helps him cope. The link between winter and this being the worst time of year for his depression is also very close my own depression and it's links to the seasons. I spent a lot of the book where he talks about those times going yes, yes, I know, yes and nodding when he describes how he feels.

The book has a wealth of lovely photos of the garden and the creation of the Jewel Garden and it's evolution over the years to what it is now. The story is told by both Monty and his wife Sarah and makes an interesting narrative and both tell the same story from different perspectives. Gardening books are often those that you dip in and out of, but this one I thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover and am off in search of more books by Monty to add to my gardening bookshelves.

The first half of the book titled "Getting Here" covers how Monty and Sarah got to Longmeadow, reclaiming and creating the gardens and in particular the Jewel garden. The second half "Being Here" is dedicated to following the jewel garden through the four seasons of the year. It illustrates that gardening is never still, that gardens are for ever changing or need tweaking and are never finished. Sometimes a planting scheme doesn't work, a chosen plant refuses to thrive or paths and hedges don't function as was hoped. 

I'd really recommend this book for many reasons, it's an enjoyable read, it's uplifting and inspiring and really made me think about my own life journey so far. From a disintigrated life and rock bottom and how I put my life back together and become a different, stronger and much better person in the end and how that journey has taken me somewhere completely different from where I thought I was going. 

The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don. Hodder and Stoughton, 2004.
ISBN - 0 340 826711

Previous book reviews:

Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

The Well Tempered Garden by Christoher Lloyd 

Hummelo by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

RHS Botany for Gardeners

If you are interested to see what else is on my garden book shelves have a look at this blog

My Gardening book shelves. Happy reading!

 If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Blue Skies and Blossom

New foliage on Astilbes in the nursery

Settle down with a coffee for another two week catch up post, it's silly season in the nursery when there's barely time to breath  never mind write blog posts. With all the warmer weather recently the nursery and gardens have really come to life, after what seems forever looking a brown and bare stems it so lovely to see all the shades of green, reds and greys of fresh new foliage filling the borders and stock beds. The past week or so has been gloriously sunny and warm and it really makes everyone feel much better, especially me. Customers spend longer wandering around the nursery and gardens and enjoying being out in the warmth. The birds are singing their wee hearts out and there are nest of blackbirds, swallows and wrens that we've seen so far.

Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys', Sesleria caerulea, Valeriana phu 'Aurea' and
 Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena' and Alchemilla vulgaris

Artemisia absinthium 'Lambrook Mist', Primula vulgaris, Pulmonaria 'Opal' and
Artemisia abrotanum

Work continues in the nursery, when does it not? In the tunnel I am nearly finished tidying up the herbs and propagating them, so it's all looking much tidier. We've lots of new and unusual herbs coming out into the sales area, propagated from the herb garden. Seedling potting up is well under way and I'm hoping to get the first of the veg seedlings out into the sales area at the weekend, starting with kale, beans and lettuce. Out doors in the nursery I am still working through the stock beds, weeding, cutting back, tidying and labelling. I've got a much better idea of what has come through winter and what needs propagated. In between I'm potting up last years propagation to go in to the stock beds.

The stock bed tidy up continues, I am now half way ..... yay!

Narcissus 'Thalia' in the wild life garden

On Friday two weeks ago the weather was lovely when I arrived first thing in the morning, so I took my camera and had a walk around the nursery and gardens. Sometimes we really need to make ourselves slow down and take stock, and see what we've actually achieved. 

The wildlife garden

The herb garden is coming to life after the long winter

Borders in the herb garden

The seating area in the scented garden

Looking back along the stock beds

Friday 4th May would have been my sister Mhairi's 46th birthday, a day for remember the wonderful person she was to so many people and to think of Graeme, Fiona, Katrina and Al and send them our love. We can't send a card, gift or birthday wishes anymore, but what I can do is my next challenge for charity. I am going to climb Ben Nevis in Mhairi's memory and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care at the same time. Sadly I can't make any of this years dates so have signed up for next year's charity walk in June (that should give me plenty time to get fit!) I'll be setting up a just giving page nearer the time for donations.

How amazing was that weather last weekend? Lovely to see people enjoying the nursery and gardens and sitting outside at the cafe enjoying the sun, the swallows are back and we got lots of work done too. Lovely to catch up with Ann on Saturday (we were at Threave, a long time ago) Its all go with bat surveying season for David too.

Bracken finds it all quite exhausting

A long long time ago when I was head gardener at The Murrel in Fife, one of the plants that we grew and I loved were double primroses. I haven't seen them in a lot of years and was reminded of them when I was reading an article about primula, so I treated myself to a few varieties, looking forward to seeing their vintage, double flowers in a range of colours as they grow and come into flower.

Beautiful cherry blossom on the trees in the
back garden at home, lovely against
that blue sky

Another of my auricula primulas,
this is 'Stubbs Tartan'

Doglet of the glen....... well the garden bench, Bracken doing what Bracken does best,
 tracking the sun round the house and garden and sunbathing

We had a mad Bank holiday Monday! It was great to see so many people at Whitmuir and visiting the nursery and gardens, Yay! The weather was stonking and it was a busy day helping customers. Even had a visit from Bill Hean who was in charge at Threave School of Gardening when I was a student there, a long long time ago.... great to have a chat and catch up with him. Home and lovely to sit out in the back garden with Batman before he went off for tonight's survey.

Driving down to Duns

On Tuesday, our day off, the weather was still lovely so we headed down to Duns for a walk with the doglet. We parked up in the town and headed out to the east to a local nature reserve where we stopped for our picnic beside a lovely pond in the woods. We had swans for company and it was lovely to sit in the dappled shade and have a leisurely lunch. 

We spotted a yellow hammer on the hedge

Bracken doing his best give me a corner of your sandwich look

Swans on the pond

Enjoying some time off on a sunny day

Quirky Bird on a day off

After lunch we walked through the woods towards Duns Castle and it's lake which is called Hen Poo! That gave us cause to laugh. There was plenty cherry blossom and masses of marsh marigolds by the side of the lake.

Cherry Blossom

Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris)

Wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum)

Walking back into Duns we stopped off for coffee and cake to finish off our day before heading home

Another week and the nursery is bursting with new growth. In the sales area dwarf Rhododendrons and Viburnums are in full flower with perennials catching up. Grasses are finally pushing up shoots and filling the table with their colourful leaves. Work wise in the nursery it's more of the same, potting and pricking out seedlings in the tunnel and keeping the sales area full and colourful and working through the stock beds.

I planted a medlar at the end of the nursery
near the crab apple I planted last month,
they will form a nice back drop
to the nursery and a screen

The weather has been glorious over the last week, warm and sunny every day with very little wind, it's been short sleeves, sun cream and enjoying working out in the sun. It also brings customers out, who have been enjoying walking around the nursery and gardens.

The herb garden in the sun

Picking some edible flowers and herbs for
dinner on Saturday night

After another sunny busy day at the nursery it was lovely to relax and catch up with friends when they came to visit for dinner on Saturday night. On the menu was morrocan meatballs, a yoghurt and mint dressing, heritage tomato salad, freshly baked bread from Whitmuir and for dessert a lemon thyme and orange cheesecake decorated with crystalised flowers accompanied by sliced oranges drizzled with honey. Its great to be back at the time of year when I can harvest fresh herbs and flowers from the garden for cooking.

Heritage tomato salad

Yoghurt and mint dressing
It's nice to know one of my sons has inhertied my cooking skills. Last night we came home from the nursery to find Dan had cut the grass (yay) paid job, but he had also picked all the rhubarb that was ready (a lot) and started cooking it! Tonight we came home from the nursery to find he'd made a very nice rhubarb crumble tart, even making the pastry himself! Running out of gold stars.

We now have succulents for sale in the nursery

I love this grey leaved succulent

On our day off this week I had a lovely relaxing morning at the hair dresser before heading home and then up to the Restoration Yard in Dalkieth Park to meet my Uncle and Aunt for lunch. We took Daniel along as he's on study leave doing his highers, oh and Bracken came too. After a lovely lunch sitting out in the sun we took the dogs for a walk along the river. There were lots of bluebells and wild garlic under the trees in the dappled shade.

My goats cheese and beetroot salad

Three generations, my Uncle Andy, Me and Daniel

Wild garlic in the woods

Walking by the river

I hope you are enjoying your gardens in this lovely early summer weather and lets hope it continues for a while longer. 

 If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
                                                      The quirky Bird Gardener 

 If you to see whats new and looking good at the nursery like our Facebook page
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants

Find out more about the nursery here - our web site:

Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list

All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden, thank you