Zigging and Zagging

30 April 2018

Its now a transitional period in the gardens having spent most of our man hours during the winter on what would be termed as landscape projects, we are now moving over to more regular maintenance tasks such as cyclical weeding and mowing.
The main projects undertaken during the winter have all been completed on schedule thanks, perhaps to a rather late spring.
The East drive tree avenue has been extended up to the East Lodge and hopefully the 17 new lime trees 2 Walnuts and 5 Pine trees will successfully establish themselves this season. The whole area has been landscaped removing the old stone dykes and it now ties in with the existing sections of the drive by being freshly under sown with a native wildflower meadow mix, which we will supplement with more native wildflowers raised from seed in the nursery.
The middle terrace has had the main paths narrowed back to the original lines to the width of the stairs in some areas we had to add over 1 metre of new turf. We have also removed a lot of overgrown shrubs from the buttress beds leaving lots of space for replanting with interesting plants from all around the globe that will benefit from being grown in the microclimates provided by the south facing buttresses. These are only about a mile back from the coastline so get very little frost. We will spend this summer improving the soil in this area as well as making sure that they are clear of any invasive plants previously planted such as Vinca major, montbretias and Japanese Anemones.
The other improvement made to the middle terrace has been putting drains into the buttresses beds as some of them lay very wet due to the water moving down from the upper terrace. We did some exploratory digging and found a main that runs along the whole terrace West to East about 4 metres from the back wall, we tested it by putting a running hose into it and found it to be still working very efficiently so our new drains feed into it. This main was laid in the early 1970’s, how do we know this, well some of the clay tile drains used had a date stamped on them!
Having lots of open trenches and a digger on the middle terrace it seemed like a good idea to bring irrigation onto the terrace (this sounds very spontaneous, but it was pre-planned). We also had to upgrade water supplies to the bottom terrace and the vine house, this was all done as part of the same project with new taps installed inside and outside the vine house and on the west side of the bottom terrace. In total we buried over 400 metres of blue water pipe installed 6 new taps and reconnected 3 that were already in position on the old leaky supplies
The last major project completed over the winter was constructing the secret garden, this links the west wing of the house to the Rose garden. Clark Mercer put in a new Pentland stone flagged path that directly connects the staircase to the rose garden. The secret garden is now entered through a zig zag yew hedge passageway from the statue lawn/west section long border and the large expanse of gravel has been converted to lawn surrounded by flower and shrub beds.
There is a lot of planting still to take place this spring /early summer to fulfil plans to improve the patio border directly in front of the house and the Yew border in the bottom terrace. Some of these plants have been produced in house, others are being sourced from British nurseries.
The raised vegetable bed that we built for Toby and Kate in the Laundry garden has recently been planted up with some of the first of the crops for this year and hopefully there will be some lettuces ready in a few weeks’ time. With all the farm yard manure and seaweed that we put into the bed it should produce some cracking veg.
Although the Inn will not be opening this year we had been asked by people involved with Kinneuchar in bloom if we could put in a display at the pub to help enhance the look of the place. Apparently, the judges had been quite impressed by our displays in previous years! We have decided to just put in the window boxes for this season as they are not as demanding in their requirements as hanging baskets would be. This will be a relief to the volunteers from the village who have offered to water them for us as we will not have any staff there till next year.
The plants to go into these window boxes and our urns back here at Balcaskie are all growing away in our tunnel everything is a bit late this year, but we hope to get the urns planted up at the end of May or early June that will all depend on what the weather does in the meantime, as does everything involved with gardening!

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