The beast from the east

27 March 2018

We are now, at time of writing, in the second half of March and the beast from the east is still giving us a hard time, there is now talk of it coming back for a third time to make us suffer. This winter has been very long and much harder than last year, let’s hope it will release its grip soon and we will get a decent spring and summer.

We are now coming to the end of our winter landscaping projects, as we will soon have to start maintenance jobs like mowing and weeding, but we will also turn our attention to some of the plant raising and husbandry jobs.

We have taken some early cuttings, which are now ready to be potted on – these are mostly for use in troughs and urns for this season’s displays. We have also taken the opportunity to split some of the plants used in the containers last year: Astelias and Phormiums that we use as the central specimens with their colourful bold sword like foliage. We brought them into an unheated glasshouse in the autumn for frost protection and kept them on the dryish side. Now, they are ready to start growing again it is fine to chop them up into smaller plants; I like to use an old saw to get a good clean cut. Kept in the tunnel for a few weeks they will soon make fresh roots and establish themselves. I haven’t been too greedy trying to make hundreds of plants, most of them I have only cut in half as I still want to have large plants to put back into the urns, but it will give me enough to put some into the borders as well.

Lots of hardy perennial plants were divided in a similar way in the autumn and kept in the tunnel to overwinter. They are now shooting away, we will have to keep them inside for a few more weeks while the likelihood of hard frost is still around, and they should be strong enough to be planted out into their garden positions in early summer. Included are Agapanthus, red hot pokers, Arum lilies, Kaffir lilies, Montbretia and many others less well known.

Before we leave the winter projects, here is a little update on where we have got to. The East Avenue is now planted up with its Limes and the Walnut end stops, all we need to do now is sow the wildflower meadow seed, which we will be doing very soon. The recommended time is late March, so we are just waiting for the weather to improve a bit.

On the middle Terrace the drainage of the buttress beds has been completed. Water pipes have been laid and we are now just waiting for the riser covers to arrive before we fit the taps. But there is plenty of time to do this little job as we will not need to water any plants for a couple of months yet.

The other area that we are just finishing off is between the Rose Garden and the west wing of the house on the top terrace, this area is often referred to as the Secret Garden. Presently it is quite an open area, but it will hopefully become more secretive, as we are screening the entrance from the top terrace gardens with a yew hedge forming a zig-zag passageway. This area, formerly a large sea of gravel, will now be mostly grass, but with a very attractive Pentland stone pathway that connects the descending staircase from the west wing directly to the Rose Garden.

While we have been working on the landscape projects there has been some important cultural work taking place as well. Fruit-tree pruning has been taking place since the new year and more recently rose pruning, in this part of Scotland it is usually recommended this is carried out in March, however this year with its very severe weather the later done the better so if you have not done yours yet don’t worry you can still do it now.

Here’s hoping that we get some better weather soon.

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