Monday, 23 April 2018

Springing Forward at Last


Primula marginata 'Linda Pope'

Another busy week for the Quirky Bird gardener, spring is in full swing even if the weather doesn't know what it's doing. In the nursery I'm still working through the alpines in the tunnel, tidying them, re-potting, propagating, scraping and brushing the landscape fabric, it looks so much better already. The seeds are all sown and now germinating, after 30 years of gardening I still get a kick seeing them emerging and sprouting away. Everytime I come back from the tunnel I bring a trolley load of plants to go into the sales area or the stock beds, it's good exercise if nothing else.

Seedlings growing in the tunnel

A good choice of alpines in the sales area now

My big task in the nursery at the moment is working through the stock beds, weeding, tidying, top dressing, sweeping, lining up and labelling the plants. This also gives me a chance to see what plants have (or haven't) come through winter, what needs propagated or potted up and dealing with all those things as I work though each batch of plants. Working back from Z, I'm at S so far. With better weather recently this has been a pleasant task working in the sun and some warmth at last.

Making the most of warmer weather I cleaned out the water feature in the sales area
in preparation for the delivery of water plants due to arrive in a few days


Fragrant Friday - Primula vulgaris or the common primrose, might be small but it packs a punch with it's masses of pretty yellow flowers and subtle honey scent. The name derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning 'first rose' of the year, although it does not belong to the rose family. Coming into flower now they can be seen in often abundant patches in woodland clearings, hedge banks, waysides, railway banks and open grassland preferring damp, clayey soils.

And in the wood, where often you and I,
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie...

William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Some cheery spring colour in the nursery

Spotted this hairy character in the nursery at the weekend

David got the sign for the scented
garden written at the weekend

In other news we went through to Kilmarnock on Thursday evening to take eldest son out for his birthday. 24, where does the time go? He's now the age I was when he was born, seems like yesterday. 

Sometimes I buy old gardening books just for their
decorative and colourful covers


My plant collection at home is now beginning to emerge from it's prolonged winter slumber. New leaves and spring flowers are unfurling, opening and growing. The heater is off in the greenhouse at last and the bubble wrap is off and packed away until autumn.


Figs are appearing!

Rain drops on new Aquilegia foliage

Cardamine heptaphylla

Cardamine pentaphyllum

Muscari latifolium
Scilla sibirica 'Bright Blue'



It's been a week of threes, the tumble drier and dishwasher stopped working (we're still waiting on our landlord letting us know what he's going to do about them) and then on Tuesday we were out for the day on our day off and a stone smacked my windscreen and left an impressive crack right up the middle! 

Because of weather, being ill, David's dad dying and all sorts of other things we've not had a proper day out on a Tuesday this year. The last two years we were out and about exploring every Tuesday, so it was great to go out for the day and explore a new walk this week. We drove up to Callander and walked up to Callander Crags where there were great views towards Stirling, Ben Ledi and to the north. You can read about our walk in another blog coming soon. 

Reaching the cairn at the top of Callander Crags


Have a great week, spring has spring, see you soon and happy gardening.




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Friday, 13 April 2018

There's snow time for snow, its April, we want Spring!

Winter wasn't done with us last week, with snow falling all day on Wednesday, getting heavier as the day went on. I spent the morning doing paper work in the office until lunchtime. By 1pm the snow was starting to lie thickly and I called it a day, closing the nursery. After all who is going to want to come and find plants in the snow!

By lunch time the snow was
much thicker than this

Venturing into the nursery on Thursday I was met with four inches of snow! Fortunately the roads were clear but where it had drifted in the nursery it was up to six inches deep! Meh. I spent a couple of hours in the tunnel potting, weeding, tidying and moving plants to make space for seed trays. There is one thing with all this winter weather, the tunnel looks even tidier and organised this year. I've also started stocking the sales area with alpines and herbs, it's all go despite the weather.

A very snowy Thursday

At least there was blue sky!

Looking along the stock beds

Luckily the temperature over the next few days climbed dramatically to 9C by Saturday, what a difference in a few days. This also meant I could get back to tidying the stock beds and potting new plants to go where I've created space. Half way through S now, progress is slow but looks great once done. It is good to get the new plants out of the tunnel and potted, ready for selling later in the year. These plants have been grown from seed here in the nursery or propagated by cuttings from plants in the nursery gardens. This keeps the stock strong, hardy and organic.

At home there is signs of life too, with spring bulbs finally emerging and the rhubarb putting in an appearance. I always love seeing the Cardamines emerging as they uncurl their flower stems next to the Hellebores.


Rhubarb leaves unfolding at home


Cardamine kitabillii

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Eranthus hymalis, the winter aconite

Hellebores are opening now 

Enjoying much more spring-like weather and temperatures at the weekend, David and I made the most of it, getting on with lots of outdoor tasks. I finished top dressing the nursery borders with our own compost and used more to top up the big planters that mark the end of the herb garden. These have purple beech planted in them to create a screen but over time have settled. So a few barrows of compost have rectified the problem and brought the soil level back to where it should be. Because the beech were only planted last summer they were easily removed to allow the soil level to be increased. David did more work on the fence at the nursery entrance and all sorts of wee jobs that help the nursery tick along and look good. I spent most of Sunday in the stock beds, enjoying working in some sun and warmth. I also got the first bed finished, always good to end a week at a defining point. 

Getting there with the stock beds

Now I really feel I am catching up and I hope that if the weather behaves through the rest of April I will be caught up and where I should be in the gardens and nursery after our extra long winter. Monday was sunny and warm so after spending a couple of hours working in the tunnel I grabbed a bulk back and lifted all the willow off-cuts from the wild life garden. These were all the bits I removed when I wove the willow in winter. HEaving them up to the top terrace in a big bulk bag has to be good excersise lol. I swept the path bottle edges, removing leaves and winter debris, raking the path and removing the worst of the grass tops and old plant growth from last year. This gave the wild life gardens a quick tidy up for spring. We are hoping to spend time this year finally finishing off this garden. No big grand wedding gardens this year will give us time to finish off some projects already underway for some time. Watch this space as they say for a bee border, butterfly border, wild life pond and a bird border.


Before tidying! The bottle edges have proved a real hit with customers and are a great way of recycling and creating a novel and quirky path edge and of course was free

After dinner on Monday we headed south to York to visit David's mum and help her sort out more things in the house, ready for moving. It was a bit of a whirl wind 24 hour visit but we achieved a lot and it was good to spend time with Sylvia. Trips to the tip and charity shop helped clear our feet too. With a car full of things we were back home late on Tuesday night with no problems and ready to start another working week, whew!

Great light on the hills as we drove past Abington on the way south on Monday evening



Love the light and dark of this photo

Reflected sunset on the A66


A sunset photo seems a fitting place to finish this post, I hope you are all getting on in your gardens and enjoying some spring weather at last.





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Friday, 6 April 2018

Wishing for Warmth

Crocus coming into flower in the nursery

Lest start with a lovely photograph of crocus coming into flower in the nursery and lets also ignore the snow they are surrounded by! I'm beginning to feel this is more a weather blog than a gardening blog, but the two are so closely bound together, it's difficult not to, especially when it is still so depressingly wintry. It is so changeable too, one day we have dry weather with some sun and a hint of warmth and the next it is snowing and bitterly cold. It's very much about working to the weather at the moment, outside on dry days and indoors when its all turned white! I have managed to start spring tidying the stock beds which is always a big job but very satisfying to do. I'm potting plants that need to go into the stock beds from the tunnel as I make space, and labelling, so as each section is done it's looking tidy, full and organised.


Always good to start spring cleaning the stock beds

Thursday was the day of my father in law's funeral and we travelled down to York in the morning, then back at night. A sad day and a long day, we go to York via the M74, M6, across the A66 and down the A1 but the A66 was closed due to an accident jut before we got there. So a long detour through beautiful Cumbria, at least the sun was shining, and then the same back at night as the road was still closed!

Blue skies in Cumbria

We were straight back into Easter weekend and typically the weather was not great. Sunday was dry and sunny but cold and yet Whitmuir was dead, so frustrating for all the businesses as you can imagine. Oh we really need some spring weather! In between the rain and sleet showers on Friday I tidied up the rest of the planters in the sales area, some I am going to re do when I get some inspiration and have emptied them for now. I finished top dressing the last of the garden borders with bark, which will hopefully make a huge difference to weeding during the summer. When the weather was really bad I got the last of the annuals sown, perennials next. No time is wasted, what ever the weather decides to do. When Kelly was in on Saturday she and I spent a snowy morning in the tunnel tidying Semperviviums and re-potting them while I worked through the young shrubs and climbers, tidying and weeding them and putting aside any ready to go over to the nursery to pot on. In the afternoon Kelly sowed more seeds whilst I tidied and labels shrubs and trees for sales. Its all go. 

We decided to put a small advert in Gardens Illustrated this spring,
it's a start, from small acorns and all that .....

Bracken's answer to everything is to sleep!

Cake by Daniel, decoration by Val

Youngest son Daniel has got a job in the kitchen at Whitmuir and started on Saturday, working right through to Monday, and then every second weekend after that, he was exhausted after his first day. But he is a natural and is getting on really well and will be earning his own money, yay!

Corydalis malkensis in the alpine troughs at home

Monday, what can I say, it snowed all day! There was a large dose of can't be bothered, lethargy and wanting to hibernate, though I did manage to write two and a half blog posts and other admin type stuff. Our day off on Tuesday and the weather was heavy rain, heavy skies and a heavy cold for me - meh! After my hair appointment in the morning (Quirky Birds like to feel and look their best) David and I headed to the restoration yard for lunch. Sadly too wet for a walk in the country park, but we did enjoy a lovely lunch and some shopping before heading home to chill on the sofa.


Detail of a lampshade at the Restoration Yard

A rainy view from the Restoration Yard cafe

Mint and cucumber water and Cuddybridge Apple
 juice at the Restoration Yard

Colourful stools at the Restoration Yard

I should be ill more often, David cooked a lovely bacon, new potato,
mushroom and blue cheese salad for dinner

So that was our week, more winter than spring and a nasty cold to boot. Hope your week is warmer and you can get out in the garden. Happy gardening!




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 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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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Monday, 2 April 2018

Book Review - RHS Botany for Gardeners

My latest read from my book mountain waiting to be read

It never does any harm to go back and remind yourself of the basics every now and then, after all it is 30 years (gulp) since I studied botany in amongst everything else at college. I saw this book recommended on another garden bloggers post (thanks Jo at Edinburgh Garden Diary) and thought I should give it a read.

"The Art and Science of Gardening Explained" is not only a reference book for anyone interested in botany, how plants grow and there for why we garden in certain ways but also a beautifully illustrated book to dip in and out of. Being able to understand how certain things affect the growth and well being of plants helps improve performance and obtains better results and this book certainly helps even a complete beginner understand these basic principles.



The book is beautifully illustrated through out with botanical prints and clear diagrams illustrating each subject in an easy to understand layout. Subjects are in well laid out chapters and with information in bite sized chunks that the gardener can then take outside into the garden and apply this knowledge to every day gardening practice. The book takes us right through from the very simplest of organisms, lichens, mosses and ferns to complex flowering plants, structure, cultural influences, pests, diseases and influential people in botany. 



RHS Botany for gardeners is ideal for any one beginning to study botany or a gardener who wants some back ground knowledge and is interested in why plants are what they are and what they need to get the best out of them. It's easy to understand and straight forward text makes for great reading with out being bogged down in technical terms and science. You could dip in and out as you please or read it from cover to cover on a few winter evenings, when we can't get anywhere near the garden. Considering the amount of illustration and content I think it's well priced and a handy size too for comfortable reading. It certainly refreshed my memory of distant botany classes and all that information that was lurking in a dark, dusty corner of my brain.



Available through book shops and online book sellers, or if like me you frequent second hand book shops, you may be lucky to find one.


RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored Hardcover – 7 Oct 2013 by Geoff Hodge

ISBN -13 978-1845338336

£14.99




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



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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                                                         Quercus Garden Plants


Find out more about the nursery here - our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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Feeling like winter will never end

Blue sky!!!

Despite the weather I am making progress, by the end of Thursday the only bit of the nursery and gardens still to have its spring tidy up is the stock beds and its borders, yeh! Raking the leaves off  the bankings above and below the herb garden was good warm work on a cold Thursday as was barrowing down the rest of the compost for the herb garden. It was a relief to have the water system defrost so I could water the plants in the sales area, which sounds odd considering how much snow we have had. The very cold strong winds we've had over the past week or so have really dried out some plants and it was crucial to get water into them as soon as the compost and water system and defrosted.

The herb garden before tidying

After

Mr Toad unwittingly hitched a lift in the wheel barrow from the compost heap to the herb garden!
He is now tucked up in a compost heap that won't get turned for a few months yet 

David and the doglet were away in York all last week keeping his mum company, so while the doglets away, the cats have been having a ball and taking over the house again

Successful wee pop up shop in Tarbrax today at the community cafe, great to catch up
with lots of people too

Some welcome spring colour at home

Its great to have David home and over the weekend we got a lot of tasks done in the nursery and small jobs finished off. We finally got all the new pots brought up to the wee shop and displayed, the new heathers were delivered and are now on a table in the sales area adding colour and interest to inspire customers.

Pansies in the sales area

Colour and interest for spring in the sales area

Some of our new range of pots

Great sky on the way home from the nursery

In the garden at home there are signs of life, despite the weather. Daffodils are poking their leaves through the soil, the early spring flowers of Hellebores and Pulmonaria are coming out and lots of new perennial shoots beginning to emerge.


Crocus 'Cream Beauty' in an alpine trough
Grapevine in the greenhouse


One of my own Hellebore seedlings


Once the gardens are tidied it's great to see the new growth coming through, ready for another year, and amazing how much green there can be through winter if we choose the right plants. Here are some of the herbs in the herb garden already purring on growth or that have been semi-evergreen through winter.

Allium schoenoprasum, chives, Carum carvi caraway,
Angelica archangelica, Sanguisorba minor



Salvia officinalis sage, Juniperus communis, Thymus serphyllum albus,
Artemisia absinthium 'Lambrook Mist'









Great to see Hengest, Vortigern and Jimmy have survived winter in the herb garden pond

For a brief few days at the weekend the weather was warmer and it felt like spring was on it's way at last. warmer and sunny. Kelly was in on Sunday and we got all the planted borders in the stock beds cut back, weeded and tidied, then I spent the afternoon barrowing up bark to put on some of the borders and compost for the others while Kelly sowed another batch of seeds. it is great when I can finally cross off a big job like tidying the gardens for spring.


The tidied borders in the stock beds
With compost mulch




Bark mulch to help keep the weeds
under control

In March when I start sowing seeds I need to start moving pants out the tunnel to make room for the seed trays so it can be a bit of a juggling act depending on the weather and how cold it is. This year has been particularly tricky with it being so cold and snowing right through March, so I've been moving out the plants that hopefully will cope and keeping my fingers crossed so I can get on with seed sowing. The plants moved out come over to the main nursery where they are potted to go out in to the stock beds once those are tidied and space is made. David has been writing lots of new labels for the stock beds and gardens, this will make it easier for customers to identify plants they like and find them in the nursery to buy, it's all beginning to look very smart. Below are more plants in the nursery gardens beginning to flower and grow, lots of foliage with great texture and colour for early spring interest.

Crocus 'Pickwick', Stachys byzantina 'Big Ears', Sedum 'Karfunkelstein', Primula 'Old Port'

Helictotrichon sempervirens, Digitalis ferruginea, Valeriana phu 'Aurea',
Thalictrum aquilegifolia

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', Sedum 'Herbsfreude', Potentilla thurberi 'Monarch's Velvet', Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'


Some days just have to be giant strawberry tart days!

Last year every Tuesday on our day off we managed to get out and visit somewhere interesting, this year we haven't managed anything. This has been due to illness, the continual bad weather and my father in laws death and David being away in York for a while to be with his Mum. Last week, we managed to have a day together but it was more a catching up on tasks day than a proper day out, hey ho. We did finally purchase a sofa bed to turn the spare room into a proper spare room rather than a dumping room, cat bedroom place! With new bedding and getting rid of the old, very unpleasant bunk beds and junk it is now a presentable room we can have guests to stay. We had lunch out and did some other shopping too, so in the end it was good to cross some outstanding jobs off the list.


Co-pilot and navigator on our way home from our shopping trip

So that's our week, winter isn't finished with us yet and I can't remember the last time I felt properly warm! My electric blanket on the bed is still on every night and the heater is still on in the greenhouse. We better get a decent summer after all this.

Any one else totally fed up with the weather? Have a good week and I hope the sun shines wherever you are.







 If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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 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: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


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