Life in the Highlands

Hello and thank you for looking at my Blog...i hope you enjoy my site. I'm pretty new to this but hope to keep it all updated with the progress of my garden. I've really enjoyed being able to start everything from scratch and the hard work has been worthwhile. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress too! Feel free to leave comments it's always nice to get feedback.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

End of May 2007

The garden is gathering pace now and this is helped along by the wet weather we've been having. So much water has fallen but the plants are loving it.

Finally my Clematis 'Nelly Moser' is in flower and with more buds to come out. I'm well pleased with the display.

Been busy again and made a start on getting the pots planted up, managed quite a few but still have loads of plants sitting waiting to go into the garden and containers. Also need to get my baskets done so they get a chance to develop a bit before i hang them up.

I was out at the weekend and came back with some pots and more flowers. The garden is starting to get some colour again but it needs sun to really make it bloom and shine.

The weather is not helping me to get my garden furniture painted either. Wood needs to be dry. June not far away now so hopefully we'll get some more sun yet.

My chives are really putting their all into flowering. Will be thinning these later in the year and popping them around the garden.

I actually planted my brassicas at the weekend so at least all this rain is watering them in. Hopefully by mid June it will all be in place and i can just keep the weeds down with the hoe.

Strawberries are starting to form but still plenty of flowers too, looks like another bumper year if it dries up.

Oh well weekend looming and hopefully the weather will dry up quite a bit to allow me to get back at it. Happy gardening folks!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Help Bring Madeleine Home

Please help to keep Madeleine in the spotlight so that she can be found. Post her photo on your blog, email her photo to friends around the world. Someone, somewhere must know where she is.

Do whatever you can to help bring this little girl home safe and well.

Bring Madeleine Home

Phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or 004336 4 1883 731 for outside UK.

Mid May 2007

The weather has been warmer but very changeable of late. After finishing off in the garden following a glorious sunny day suddenly the clouds darkened and showers ensued....great i thought just what the garden is needing. Then the sun shone and i had the most beautiful rainbow, not an unusual sight up here but this was the first i've seen this year. It looked like I was at Rainbows End.....was tempted to go digging for my pot of gold.

So well what have i been up to lately. Despite the weather being windy and rainy i've managed to get some stuff done but the planting has backed up because of this. This week i've got my onions in, not sure i've done the right thing in growing them from seed this year. They don't look to me as though they will make large onions later in the year! So i wait with baited breath. Planted three rows; two rows of white and one row of red.

When i prepared the onion bed in the Autumn i spread garden compost on the top and let the worms take it down. It was interesting to note just how nice and workable the soil was with this treatment and with a rake just levelled it out. I was interested to note that whilst planting that the compost was mixed in with the topsoil a good four inches down, a sign that the worms had done their job over the winter. This should give my onions a good start and will not be too much for the carrots.

The shallots and garlic are doing fine and i've sown another row of carrots, Autumn King and beetroot, Boltardy between the onions and shallots. I sow two rows of onions to one row of carrots. The theory is that this will confuse the lady carrot fly. The fly is attracted by the scent of the carrots which is why they frequently attack just after you have thinned the crop. Cow Parsley is a member of the Carrot family so it may well be an alternate host for carrot fly which could be the reason the crop is always under attack. In fact, there is an old gardening practice of sowing carrots only when the Cow Parsley is not in flower, ie before the flowering stems develop or after the flowers fade. This timing avoids the two important generations of the fly. I noticed today that the Cow Parsley is just starting to open so i can only hope that my sowings today will miss the attentions of the carrot fly.

The first attack comes in late May or early June and the second in August and September. Delaying sowing until late May, can help to avoid this first generation. Alternatively, sow very thinly eliminating the need for thinning.

Managed to plant a row of Iceberg lettuces today too. I only plant one row and when i crop them i do so by cutting across the base and leaving the stump in the ground. I then cut a cross in the stump and after a few weeks a new lettuce forms. This gives me two crops from one row and saves on space too.

Whilst busy in the garden i was very aware that there was a large amount of birdsong, they are busy nesting in the Rosa Rugosa hedge just outside the garden in the wild area. I've a bird table which is handy for them to feed their young and so far this year i've seen, Great Tits, Pied Wagtails, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and today i was delighted to see a Bluetit and Greenfinch. This is the first time i've seen these two birds in my garden and was taken by surprise. The birds that visit my bird table seems to change as the garden matures. I found an interesting site called British Garden Birds which i've found helpful in identifying my feathered visitors.

Clematis Nelly Moser is covered in buds and i've been eagerly awaiting their opening to reveal those glorious flowers. Typically the one that did open was at the very top of the trellis, so here's my first clematis flower of the season. It's a topping plant that if pruned lightly after the first flowers will give a second display later in the year. The flowers are two tone pink and striped. However, the only draw back is that if planted in full sun they tend to fade quickly but their beauty is a joy and eagerly anticipated. This plant is only three years old.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Gardening the Highland Way

Monday, May 07, 2007

Gooseberry and Lavender Crumble

400g gooseberries, washed and prepared
100g plain flour (All purpose flour)
50g butter
50g demerara (light brown sugar, granulated) or white sugar
50g chopped hazelnuts

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
85g caster (Superfine) sugar
2 thin strips of lemon rind
100ml water
2-4 drops of Lavender Cooking Essence (to taste) (available from Health Shops)

Make the lavender syrup by placing all the ingredients in a small pan and stirring until the sugar is dissolved while bringing it to boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Add lavender essence.

Place the gooseberries in a 3 pint pie dish or other oven proof dish. Remove the lemon rind from the syrup and pour the syrup over the gooseberries.

Make the crumble. Place the flour in a bowl and add the butter in small pieces. Using your finger tips mix the butter with the flour until crumbly. Stir in the sugar and nuts (the crumble can be made in a food processor).
Sprinkle over the gooseberries and bake in 180C/gas 4 for about 30 minutes.
Serve warm with lavender ice cream, cream or yoghurt.

Note: This dish can be made with rhubarb or plums instead of gooseberries.

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May 2007

I was so excited having received several grasses and bamboos from fellow gardeners which they were thinning out. They arrived in the post and with no idea what lay inside i opened to see wonderful plants. I think you have to be a gardener to understand the sense of excitement of receiving plants in the post. Before planting i watered them and let them rest for 24 hours after the journey before setting them in their new homes. That's the thing about gardeners they are very giving people and like to share. Unfortunately my plants are not mature enough for me to yet share parts of my garden but i look forward to the day that i do. That said i have managed to share some strawberry plants so i feel at least that's a start.

Very busy in the garden of late getting things planted. We had a whole 10 days or more without a drop of rain but finally the skies opened and watered the garden nicely this weekend. You can feel the difference after rainfall the garden ready to gallop away again. We've another week of rain and then it should brighten up again but it will certainly give the new plants a boost.

Walking around the garden there's lots happening already, the strawberries are in flower and with promise of more to come it looks like a bumper harvest again. The gooseberries had been attacked by the gooseberry sawfly so i sat and handpicked off all the caterpillers and the eggs i could find. Having made several checks since it would appear that for now anyway i've done enough. The gooseberries have flowered already and i have small goosegogs already forming. The currant bushes are still in flower and will be a little behind.

These Nasturtiums were planted at Easter and have made great strides in growing. I find they grow better if you don't disturb them, they will grow on if transplanted but it really does slow them down so these days i just sow what i need where i need them. These are in pots either side of the arbour seat in the veggie garden. More have been planted but not showing through yet under the apple trees. The seeds for these Nasturtiums were given to me by a fellow gardener, Bob. For the small cost of postage he sent me loads of different seeds and i must say the germination rate is equal if not better to those i have bought.

Having made a good start by planting up twenty largish pots for starters, I've still got plants in the cold frame hardening off for pots so still more to do along with my hanging baskets and more plants waiting to be hardened off. I usually do five 14" baskets for the front of the house and usually include surfinias, geraniums and petunias. I used to add trailing lobelia but it's not very good when the weather dries out the compost so i tend to use plants that will stand a bit of heat and not go to seed just cos i'm a bit late with the watering. I find the trick is to keep deadheading and make sure you don't overwater them which is easy to do with baskets as i water them insitu. I tend to line the baskets with black polythene cut to size from bin liners and puncture a third of the way up the sides so that it only retains a reservoir of water in the bottom. To hide the black polythene i also plant the sides so that they are covered much quicker. I only need to water these daily usually in the evening and feed them once a week. Two of my neighbours have already asked me if i'm doing baskets again this year and when are they going up, but this won't be until June and they will stay there until the first frosts. Pots are hard work in keeping up with the watering in the hot summer sun but they are worth it. This year i've included fuschias too in the pots so will see how they do.

When i think of my garden as finished, if a garden is indeed ever finished, i always imagine lush green grasses and bamboos, interspersed with beautiful flowering plants with bright flowers that look naturally placed and complimenting each other...of course that is by day. I also would like my garden to look it's best at night when it's dark and really hanker after some sophisticated lighting. The garden at the mo is not mature enough to realise this dream but there are things that i can do now for the future such as planting the right plants. By keeping the palette light - i've planted lots of white flowers and those in very pale tints of pink or yellow that will glow at dusk and into the darkness. Many white flowers pack a double wallop in the evening garden: they're often more fragrant than brightly coloured (or even pastel) blooms. Some, such as nicotiana (flowering tobacco), release their intoxicating aromas only at dusk. Variegated foliage - striped, spotted or mottled with white - stands out at night in much the same way white flowers do. Any white flower looks good at night and you have hundreds to choose from in annuals and perennials of all sizes and shapes.

Add water in some form - a small pool, a fountain, even a birdbath. It will provide a reflective surface for moonlight and starlight, its gentle sounds lend a sense of tranquility to the scene and the extra moisture in the air further intensifies the scent of flowers. I have a birdbath sited amongst plants and also a water feature on the patio which i surround with big lush plants so that only the sound can be heard, this is quite effective and rather soothing. My larger grasses are illuminated using discreet solar uplighters and the larger ones are already quite effective at night, i plan to increase this through time and as the plants mature with downlighters. Solar lights give a soft glow at night and are very pretty. I also have solar lanterns on the fences too.

Of course, with lighting you are in control. If you have an ugly part in your garden at night you can ignore it... and only highlight the best bits. I recall staying in Aberdeen a few years ago and the restaurant next door had this wonderful garden that diners looked out on. They had mature trees with uplighters and the effect was really stunning. That image has stayed with me and one day would like to recreate that effect, of course my tree is only small at the moment but i can dream can't I?

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