Yesterday the sun came out and the countryside was suddenly green. After a spring which seems to have got lost along the way leaving in its stead rain, hail and wind with a cold edge, yesterday was warm, almost hot – at least for Scotland. Overnight, winter clothes were ditched in favour of summer gear.
Last week we noticed a banner advertising a plant sale, so as we have lost lupins and daisies, pinks and Japanese anemones, and goodness knows what else from our long border at the back, yesterday afternoon we headed for the sale. It was being held in the Borders College agricultural campus where plants raised by students on their horticultural courses were being sold off.
We left with a box of assorted plants to fill the gaps left by those that didn’t make it through the cold winter and soggy spring.
We left with a box of assorted plants to fill the gaps left by those that didn’t make it through the cold winter and soggy spring. Plants grown locally have a better survival rate with us than garden centre plants which are often raised in heated greenhouses or poly tunnels in Holland. The village where we stay is about 700 feet above sea level, in a fairly exposed situation and with heavy red soil. So only hardy plants survive. For a number of years we lived at sea level (by the shores of a loch) on the milder (but wetter) west coast and had as a garden a chunk of fairly sheltered hillside with rich peaty soil. Here all kinds of exotic (for us) trees and shrubs grew – magnolias, camellias, crinodendrons, masses of rhododendrons and azaleas, fuchsias…
Where we now stay is beech tree country. Lots of wonderful old trees with twisted and gnarled roots, and beech hedges bordering roads and fields. In winter their old copper leaves add a touch of colour and warmth to grey skies and brown fields. Now their new acid green leaves bring exuberance to the landscape.
At the end of our garden grows a large beech tree, planted by someone eons ago when our garden was a field. Another, with copper leaves, dominates another part of the garden. Although not trees suited to most gardens, we could never cut them down so just work around them, and some ground-cover flowering plant has happily established itself beneath the spread of their branches where grass fails to grow.
The Scots Pine comes into the same category. It’s a tree of fields not gardens, but I love its foliage, the lopsided appearance – they are susceptible to losing branches – and their patterned bark like bolts of locally woven tweed.
Along the boundary at the back we have hawthorns and rowans – got to keep the witches away! Amongst the non-native trees our willow leaved pear has thrived, providing a contrast in leaf shape and colour. Some bamboo that initially did reasonably well didn’t make it through the winter before last, but its canes are still standing. Yet more contrast comes from a cherry with purple foliage but disappointingly small pink flowers. Pheasant berry, brought from the west coast, thrives, and can be heavy with sprays of wine-coloured, bell-like flowers – though can be decimated by the winter weather. However it usually regenerates or we discover a seedling to plant.
A Kilmarnock willow – a small (about four feet high) willow that delights us with its weeping habit, was planted in one of the beds, but has now been moved by husband to a position on its own. I wonder if in its new position it will survive the ravages of marauding hares in winter.
Although this is a place of beauty, it is also a place where not only the weather but also the wildlife makes growing things difficult and where only the hardy survives.