Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A visit to Dr Neils Garden in Duddingston

Crocus in the lawns

Visiting this garden has been on my endless list of things to do for years and we finally made it this March. Located in the village of Duddingston in the shadow of Arthurs Seat on the south side of Edinburgh, this hidden treasure runs down to the shore of Duddingston Loch. 

A stunning red Euphorbia, perfect for a winter garden

In the early 1960's Dr Andrew and Dr Nancy Neil began work on a neglected piece of land next to the loch and church called the church glebe (church land). Previously grazed by cattle and geese the land was very rocky and of no use for crops. Gradually the couple turned the land into a garden full of conifers, heathers and alpines. In 1997 Dr Neils Garden Trust was created to take over the running of the garden and protect it for the future.

Gorgeous Hellebores
When we visited the snow drops were just going over and the Hellebores, Crocus and Iris were coming into full flower, giving lovely bursts of colour through the gardens under the conifers and shrubs. Hamamellis and early Rhododendrons were also flowering, underplanted with Ophiopogon nigrescens and Iris ungulicularis.

Crocus opening up

Rhus typhina

Iris ungulicularis, a winter flowering Iris

Walking through the garden under mature trees and along meandering paths you eventually come to Duddingston Loch. Edged with reeds, Cornus and willow, it makes a lovely outlook from the garden and a home to many birds. 

Duddingston Loch from the gardens

Weeping willows on the loch side

A happy home for ducks

In a corner of the garden, down at the side of the loch sits Thomson's Tower. Designed by Henry Playfair and built in 1825 for the Duddingston curling team to store their stones. The upper floor was a meeting room and a studio for the Rev. John Thomson who was the minister of Duddingston from 1805 to 1840. Restored in 2008 the tower forms a lovely focal point in the lower gardens. 

Thomson's tower

This really is a garden for all seasons, from spring bulbs and hellebores, to Rhododendrons, shrubs and then into autumn with grasses and autumn colour. There is a cafe open on certain days and an excellent pub selling food and fine beers in the village. 

Cyclamen, Crocus and Ophiopogon

Bridge over the pond

Garrya eliptica

One part of the garden I enjoyed was the physic garden, laid out in the shape of a flower and home to Dr Andrew's special interest in ear, nose and throat medicine on one side and on the other Dr Nancy's interest in gyno- urinary medicine. Thee is a very useful board explaining all the plants and their use. The physic garden was opened in 2013 in memory of the doctors, 50 years after they started work on the gardens.


Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Cherry blossom

Early Rhododendrons

After visiting the gardens we took Bracken for a walk along the loch side, you can't walk far and there are lots of hungry geese and swans. It was good to get another view of the loch and garden and get the doglet a walk before heading for a late lunch. We went to the Sheeps Heid Inn, tucked away behind the main road through the village. This old watering hole boasts a bowling alley and some excellent food. Website here.

The lane up to Duddingson Village

You can get information for visiting on the website for the gardens here Dr Neil's Garden

Looking over to the gardens from the Loch

Here's looking at you

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Spring Has Sprung here in the Nursery and on the Farm

Hi, it's been a few weeks, I've just been so busy, it's that mad time of year for us gardeners and no less in the nursery where I have the work of three people to get done. I've also not been too well with one thing and another, totally the wrong time of year to be under the weather! Hey ho. so for tonight just a quick blog with some exciting events coming up at the nursery and Whitmuir and hopefully normal service will resume soon.

Gorgeous blue skies and daffodils this week in the nursery

There's so much happening here in the nursery and on the farm. Spring has really sprung. Here at Quercus we have an ever growing range of plants for your garden including plants for those tricky corners, great advice, pots and bits and pieces.
On the farm piglets and lambs are arriving daily, veg seeds are being sown and the trees on the woodland walk and hill walk are all coming into leaf. The cafe is buzzing with fresh farm produce put together to make amazing seasonal dishes by Val and her team @ Whitmuir the Organic Place there are lots of new tasty products in the farm shop too.
In Dancing Light Gallery there is a beautiful new exhibition, one of their best yet, I could go mad buying so many of the Wildlife inspired paintings and pieces of art. So if animals in art are your thing come and see this collection.
There are many events coming up, with an exciting menu for Easter Weekend, a sausage making course and Rowanbank coming back on Easter Saturday with their acrobats for an easter egg hunt. See the Whitmuir website or posters for details.
Whitmuir is the natural place to visit, we look forward to seeing you soon.

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Thursday, 9 March 2017

February in the Quirky Bird Gardens

Weather-wise February wasn't as kind as January, it was certainly wetter and with more snow showers but still not the winter cold we would expect. Still the weather hasn't kept me back in either the garden at home or in the nursery and we are still ahead, yeh! The snowdrops are in full flower and there are plenty signs of life emerging from the ground along with the birds singing their wee hearts out.

Glanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop

If you've been to the nursery you will know there are two rows of willow on either side of what we have made into the wildlife garden on the bottom terrace. Another winter job for me is to weave them into a living fence. Having been neglected for a while, last year was the first time I did them and after
being renovated then, they were much easier this year. I find it a therapeutic task, weaving in some of the branches and cutting off the excess. Once done it looks goo, lets more light into the cafe and opens up the wild life garden.

Weaving in the wildlife garden

The different coloured willows make interesting patterns

Rhubarb beginning to sprout in the garden at home

Threatening clouds over the Pentland hills viewed from the nursery

Having got really far ahead this year despite the wintery weather early February we finally go around to working on the entrance to Whitmuir Farm. We'd promised to do this not long after we bought the nursery in 2015 but so far have been just to busy getting Quercus up and running. I really wanted to get this task done this year and before the season kicks of and we and the farm get busy. I did more digging that week than I'd done in a long time and re-discovered muscles that were not happy with me! But we do now have two fan shaped borders under the signs at the farm entrance that are full of plants. Having removed the turf (aka every perennial weed and grass you can think of), dug it over (removing as many roots as possible) we then planted the borders up with tough plants that will give interest all year round. Once planted we finished off with a thick layer of bark to help with future weed control. We did finish off the job in horiontal snow, so keen were we to get the job done. I can't wait to see the borders filling up and creating an eye catching, colourful display to help attract people into Whitmuir. From tall plants at the back to create a backdrop to low, tough growing perennials at the front so as not to obstruct the line of view for vehicles turning out on to the main road there should be year round colour.


Borders de-turfed and dug over

Planting up with a hint of snow

Both sides finished with off with bark

You turn your back and it's all happening in the garden. I spent time on my day off hoeing the front garden and sweeping paths, patios and weeding the troughs on the lower level of the back garden. I also got all the plants in pots and troughs on the upper level cut  back and ready for top dressing.

Looking good in the garden in February

I always look forward to the snowdrops coming into flower, those first bursts of colour in February with their hidden beauty unless you turn the flowers up.

Galanthus 'John Gray'

Snowdrops in the front garden

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'

Galanthus 'Magnet'

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

Galanthus nivalis, common snow drop

All together

Bit of a theme going on

Doing a photography shoot for a book review

One of the things I got done at the nursery was potting up bulbs into pots and containers and placing them around the seating areas in the nursery.

Designing for spring

A seating area in the nursery

Violas and bulbs in vintage pots

Narcissus 'Tete a Tete'

Birch twig wreaths

In other news I remembered I had an armaryllis / hippeastrum in the greenhouse from last year. I've re-potted it and fed it, it's now sitting on the kitchen window sill growing at an alarming rate.

So all in all it's been another very busy but successful month and we are looking forward to the rest of the year and customers coming back to the nursery. We're working hard on the new gardens and hope you will come along and visit this year.

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Dryburgh Abbey Snowdrops

Hi, how are you? Have you enjoyed a snowdrop visit yet this year? We always try to go somewhere different every year, so far we've been to Kailzie, Dawyck, Hailes Castle and Howick Hall. While I was researching somewhere different to go and see snowdrops this year, Dryburgh Abbey popped up. We were last down in this area a year ago when we walked up to Scott's view and along the River Tweed but by the time we got back to the car parked at the abbey it was closed, so missed out on visiting it then.  It takes about an hour to drive there from home along the tweed valley through Peebles, Innerleithen and on through Galashields and .Melrose which alone is a lovely drive. 

Dryburgh Abbey through the trees

The Abbey is run by historic Scotland (now known as Historic Environment Scotland) and you can get visit details here. There is an entry fee if you aren't members, but the best thing was dogs on leads are allowed in so Bracken got to come too. We were very lucky to get good weather with blue skies and sun, making it feel much warmer.

Looking through one of the many arched doorways of the Abbey

We followed the trail of snowdrops which are mainly concentrated in the grassy area and a deep ditch running from the abbey towards the River Tweed. Mixed in with them are many many winter aconites adding a bright splash of yellow amongst the white of the snowdrops. As you can see in the photographs it makes quite a sight.

A river of snowdrops and winter aconites

Double snowdrops in the grass, Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

I haven't seen so many winter aconites in quite a while, they really are something

The River Tweed, running past the Abbey

A carpet of colour

Galanthus nivalis growing along the walls

The abbey ruins

The abbey was founded in 1150 by cannons and an abbot from Alnwick Abbey, it was burned by English troops in 1322 and subsequently restored, only to be burned again by Richard II in 1385. The abbey flourished in the 15th century and was finally destroyed in 1544 when it was given to the Earl of Mar by King James VI. In 1786 the 12th Earl of Buchan bought the land. You can read more here.

Winter Aconites a plenty

Some parts of the abbey ruins were enhanced and "restored" by the Earl of Buchan in the 1700's, in fact if it wasn't for him there might be nothing left for us to visit. He also created park land around the ruins and planted trees. Many of which now make excellent specimens, particularly the Cedars. You can climb up a tiny tower in the ruin which gives you a fine view over the abbey and you feel you are amongst the branches of the cedars.

One of the fine cedars in the grounds

View from the tower

The chapter house, where you can still see remnants of the painted walls

Another archway

Himself, the doglet and me

Sir Walter Scott and Earl Haig are both buried in the abbey

The abbey and parkland beyond in black and white

Where forward thinking and planning gives future generations trees

A bull finch in the abbey grounds

A Soaring roof above Sir Walter Scott's grave

We spent ages exploring the ruins, climbing up to the second floor where the dormitories would be and up a tiny spiral staircase to look out over the ruins. It was well worth a visit, with or without snowdrops. You can always add on a walk along the River Tweed to the suspension bridge and temple of the tree graces. You can read about our walk along the Tweed a year ago here.

Lunch, cake and coffee

We visited the Main Street Trading Company again for lunch where the food was excellent and we browsed the book shop, deli and homeware store. Definatly pop in here if you are passing St Boswells. We followed the sunset back home along the Tweed Valley back through Peebles.

Sunset over Peebles

Previous blogs on snowdrop visits

Where's your favourite snow drop place to visit? Why not share it in the comments below.

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