Winter landscaping

20 December 2017

We are well into winter now and we seem to have had quite a cold start compared to recent years. We have covered some plants that are staying outside with fleece, like the Brugmansia in front of Toby’s garden door. Other tender perennials, which if they die down tend to shoot back up from the rootstocks, we have given them a bit of a mulch with our own compost to help protect their roots.

In recent weeks we’ve managed to get a fair bit of winter landscaping project work done, too. Prior to the December food event at Bowhouse, we did the first instalment of planting around the entrance areas. In keeping with the theme of the market all the plantings have a usable produce element about them. Following in from the signage at the bell mouth we planted a low sweeping evergreen hedge of Rosemary that gently follows the curve of the road. Behind the hedge are clumps of quick-growing native shrubs that should prove both hardy and fast-growing in the very exposed situation. The plants used were Sea Buckthorn with its lovely narrow silvery foliage and orange very nutritious berries.
The other type of plants used are various types of Elderberry also renowned for its berries, but also for its flowers that are much-used for flavouring drinks. We used two-cut-leaved forms of Elderberry that will associate well with the narrow-leaved Buckthorn and the Rosemary, a few purple-leaved were used for contrast (not too many as they can look quite dark) and a much larger number were the plain-green-cut-leaved form – this has upright branches and can look almost bamboo-like particularly if it is pruned very hard each year. The third type of Elderberry is the yellow-leaved form, which has the typical broader leaves that start quite a bright yellow in the spring then go more of a sulphurous green later in the summer. All three of them will have the black fruits later in the year, great for making country wines.

We also did some planting on the triangular island as you enter Bowhouse. This has been planted with a mini orchard of Scottish apple varieties and includes Bloody Ploughman, which is a pink-fleshed variety (Google it to read the amusing little story of how it got its name). Another particularly interesting variety is Scotch Dumpling, it is a useful early cooker, but it has a most amazing pink blossom in spring. Around the mini orchard on two sides of the triangle are hedges of two of the best types of blackcurrant Ben Connan and Ben Sarek – both compact and very heavy cropping. Along the back of the triangle is a nice evergreen hedge of Bay trees, which should give us some shelter and visually soften the hard surfaces. Bowhouse was a fun event and we enjoyed being involved with it, Lesley collected a lot of evergreen foliage and was involved with the festive decorating inside the market space.

Back home we have managed to complete the making of the vegetable bed in Toby’s private garden, we did this by excavating down one spit depth replacing the turf at the bottom upside down or brown side up, we then proceeded to fill it back up with layers of seaweed, leaf mould, and farmyard manure all mixed up with the original topsoil. Having built up the sides with two layers of sleepers this enabled us to come up to about 15-inches above the ground level. This will sink down a bit in time, but part of the idea is that each year the levels can be brought up with fresh new mulches of the soil improvers we used to build it with.

Progress on the middle terrace went very well initially and we did manage to get the new widened edges laid to the lawns, this was done by laying one turf brown side up then laying another one on top green side up the turves are cut 3-inches deep so the grass then has 6-inches of soil to establish into. Having then refilled the gaps back to the old edge with topsoil we were almost ready to level and reseed when the frost caught up with, us so that little project is on hold for a while.
We did a little bit of planting in the bottom terrace a few days ago, this was in the central Yew hedge beds, some Sarcoccoca that were a bit late arriving in the spring had missed the initial general planting out. They are being used as end stops to the border as a very low hedge. This bed is partly designed for fragrance so the Sarcoccoca will fit in very well, this variety – Confuse – has the strongest most pungent fragrance I have come across. I once went into a poly-tunnel-full of these on a nursery after the Christmas break and the doors had been shut for several days the smell almost bowled me over as I opened the doors.

Well that’s it for now as we end the year in the garden lets hope that we all get lots of gardening gifts for Christmas and emerge from our hibernation full of enthusiasm for the coming season.

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