Snowdrops & optimism

14 February 2018

Well this coldish winter seems as if it is in no hurry to abate. Certainly, compared to last year we have had a much greater number of frosty nights and days. Fortunately, this has not held us up too much in the gardens and in fact at times the crusty ground surfaces have prevented us from working in mud baths.

Progress in the middle terrace has gone well and all the large unwanted shrubs in the buttress beds have been grubbed out and removed. This has now made room for drainage expert Dave Stewart to move in and sort out some of the lying water problems that we have had at the base of the wall and on the croquet lawn. Gavin and myself spent a very uncomfortable day hand digging in one of the buttresses searching for an old clay main, which we did find about three feet down and remarkably still working – whether it will still be usable we will leave to the expert to assess.

As well as taking water away from the terrace, Dave will also be bringing fresh supplies back into the garden as currently we have been taking water down from the top terrace to water the eight large urns that we have on the middle terrace. This supply will also be needed to irrigate the new plantings that will go into the buttress beds next spring. As part of this project we are also hoping to get new water supplies back into the bottom terrace and the vine house.

The ground work has now been completed on the end of the east drive which will enable us to plant up the new Lime trees to extend the avenue right up to the East Lodge. What an incredible difference this has made already, it opens up the whole area and gives a more grand and expansive feel as one approaches the house.

The stone from the old walls was graded through so it can be re-cycled for repairs and for future diking projects, we managed to reclaim over 120 tonnes. The old tree stumps have also been recycled; they were initially heading for landfill at North Baldutho, but after a brain wave from our farm manager they have been scattered around the grazing fields to be used as scratching posts for our cattle herds.

Just for good measure the privet hedge that ran along the last little stretch before the East Lodge was also recycled – it was pruned down very hard to about 80–90 cms. It was then dug up by the digger and taken away to Commielaw farmhouse garden to make an extension to the perimeter hedges. As it was hard pruned, it has a good root-to-shoot ratio and so stands a good chance of re-establishing, the other technique that helps is not to plant too deep, especially in heavy clay soils, as the roots need to be able to breath. Often when diggers are used for taking out the re-planting trench there is a tendency to get carried away and dig it too deep.

Some plants under protection are now beginning to put on a bit of growth in response to the longer days, so we have been able to start propagating some of our tender perennials and basket plants. We have started on some of the Argyranthemums, which will be used in displays in the parterre and on the top terrace, its hard to imagine that these little cuttings will make bushy plants almost two-feet-tall and a mass of flower before the end of summer.

It certainly is difficult now as we come to the end of the winter to remember how good and colourful the garden looked last year, will it ever get that way again? Well, one only has to look at the thousands of snowdrops that are now in full flower and looking better each year to rebuild ones’ vision with optimism. Oh, and if you want to build up your display of snowdrops the best time to split them up is right now whilst they are flowering (in the green).

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