I don’t know about you but when I go out to spend a day in the garden, things never go quite according to plan. I did make a list, mostly concerning seed sowing, but, once I got outside, my mind turned to other things. First of all, it’s been the most glorious day – cold but with a with a spring tranquility. There was lots of birdsong, daffodils still in their full glory, some contended cats, taking it in turns to enjoy the flowers with me:


While admiring these lovely primroses with Bella, I took a closer look at the back hedge, one year on from the great conifer removal. It is still quite scrappy looking but there are definite signs of renewal and there are daffodils, honesty and wallflower providing some spring colour:





You can also see there a  rose, a honeysuckle and a lot of campion about to surge into flower. It’s definitely getting there and should look better in the summer once the regrowth has continued.  I did some light pruning of the privet to encourage it but once I had the shears in my hand, I wandered off to other areas of the garden in need of hacking back, finding myself attacking the enormous and ancient escallonia, which dominates one side of the garden. This magnificent bush has taken the place of the conifers as the oldest plant in the garden. It doesn’t appear to do very much but in the summer it is a magnet for bees:

Bee on escallonia

At this time of year it just looks rather scraggy and gets very out of hand if not pruned. Apart from the bees, what I love about this plant is that it doesn’t seem to mind what you do to it, it just grows back. Once I had cut back an entire council bin full of prunings, I found myself in right at its centre, where its ancient, ivy covered heart  is regrowing already:




Alongside the ivy all sorts of tiny things have self-seeded and started to grow inside this bush, including a holly:


a bramble bush:


a cotoneaster:


and, astonishingly, a yew tree.


Yew trees are supposed to live for thousands of years, but I suspect this escallonia is going to compete with it.  I cut back the ivy a bit (I know you’re supposed to leave it for wildlife and things but there is really quite a lot of ivy in my garden) and I pulled up the bramble but I’ll leave the cotoneaster and the holly and the yew to see what happens next.

I may go back out to the garden now to do some of that seed sowing but I came in to warm up, write this blog and to sample some of yesterday’s allotment cake, which turned out rather well:




Slowing down

There’s a heatwave in Scotland, too much going on in the day job, garden and allotment in full vegetable production. They don’t combine well with putting your left arm out of action with a (thankfully) minor injury. So I’ve had to slow down. The grass will stay long, the weeds will invade, the shrubs will grow straggly but the frogs and bees are in heaven.

frog in lilies


The lawn is full of clover.


I love it and so do the bees. I’m trying to slow down, pick the peas and raspberries and watch the tomatoes, marrows, bees and frogs enjoy the sun. Everything else will have to wait.

… oh and typing with one hand means the blog will be full of typos but like the weeds and the wildlife, they may bring special joys


Frog and bee paradise

This weekend has been all about the frogs and the bees.  We’ve always had frogs in the garden, even before we built the pond and we were delighted when they moved into the water.  We don’t see them very often as they are, rightly a little shy, what with cats prowling about.  This weekend though they have been sitting in the pond, poking their little noses in the air, catching flies or other delicacies.  Last night I counted six, tonight there were nine. Don’t you just love them?

WP_20180624_10_13_04_Pro (1)



WP_20180624_15_27_32_Pro (1)There was even one at the allotment this evening

wp_20180624_19_27_31_pro.jpgYesterday I spent the whole day in the garden, planting, weeding, generally tidying up and, while I was there, noted down all the flowers that were attracting bees.  I came up with the following list: campion, clover, foxglove, raspberry, radish, thyme, sage, escallonia, cotoneaster, borage, daisy. Bees are much harder to photograph than frogs as they don’t stay still for long. I managed to catch this one on a beautiful red scabiousWP_20180623_14_04_00_Pro.jpg

Watching the frogs and bees has been part of my #30days wild challenge. They have certainly repaid my patience. Maybe it’s because I took the time to really look, or maybe it’s the warm weather. Either way, I’m delighted.




Bees and ivy flowers

I’ve not done much gardening this weekend, but yesterday I was out and about, looking for inspiration from the natural world to cheer me on my way.  I passed a little garden with huge pink sedum flowers:


(Photo of sedum from a previous occasion) – those should be covered in bees, I thought but there were none.  Then I saw where the bees were – on an ivy bush, growing against a wall, covered in ivy flowers, not the most stunning blooms but absolutely buzzing with bees (and wasps but that’s fine).  There was a very fat bumblebee which I tried to photograph but failed.  I did manage to catch one bee though:
DMq1ynJX4AAPmvEIn case you can’t spot the bee, here is a clue:

Bee and ivy 2It’s quite hard to capture bees on camera but I had a lovely time watching them and they cheered my day.  Must remember to be more sympathetic to the ivy in my garden.

Autumn joys

I’ve been away at the weekend, visiting my mother.  We went to the wildlife reserve at Caerlaverock, in search of migrating geese.  The geese migrate to Svalbard in the summer and come back to Scotland in the winter.  We were a little too early, though I did see my first skein of geese in the sky, a sight and sound I always find uplifting.  While we watched for geese, we also enjoyed the other wildlife, including these bees gorging on a sedum plant:


I was so impressed that I succumbed to buying a sedum in the garden centre.  Otherwise I was doing some tidying up in my mother’s garden, helping to harvest some of her magnificent apples:
WP_20170916_17_15_17_Pro[1]I thought it might help if I targetted the highest up ones.  I’ve seen fancy gadgets in catalogues for harvesting apples but I improvised my own apple grabber from a thing I found in the shed, I think designed for citronella candles:

WP_20170916_17_07_44_Pro[1]Grab the apple in the baskety thing, give it a little twist and it comes off neatly enclosed. Perfect.  The only drawback is the great pile of apples that I’ll have to cook or do something with soon:

WP_20170916_17_14_58_Pro[1]I also did a little weeding and hacking back of my mother’s overgrown garden, worrying a little that I had been overenthusiastic in my hacking back of roses earlier in the year.  There is a lovely rose growing over a pergola that my father made for their golden wedding a few years ago.  The pergola is terribly overgrown with enthusiastic honeysuckle and thorny rose shoots. He would be horrified at the lack of order but I hope he would love the flowers:


Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

When I dug up the car park and created a huge bed in the front garden I intended to grow vegetables.

Since it is in a lovely sunny spot, the idea was that I would increase my vegetable growing space and grow lots of tomatoes and other sunloving things. The trouble is that they have never done very well. I’ve tackled this every year with yet more compost, green manure, nitrogen fixing plants such as beans and I water when I remember. One year I had a magnificent crop of overwintered broad beans but otherwise everything tends to go straggly, get eaten by snails, dry out with the faintest whiff of sunshine and generally fail to thrive. The reason for this is that it is lovely and sunny but it dries out too quickly because the monstrous sycamore in the corner of the garden has stretched its endless roots into my lovely compost and helped itself to all the good things in the bed. Putting yet more compost into this is only feeding the sycamore.

Meanwhile, the herbs that I planted round the edges of this plot have been in their element. I’ve had magnificent rosemary, sage, thyme, lovage, oregano and tarragon – no parsley, I’m afraid. These plants have been trying to tell me something. The lovely vegetable patch in the front garden is not suitable for vegetables but it is perfect for herbs. And the bees love this.


So, I’ve finally decided to give up on the front garden vegetables and turn it into a proper herb garden instead. It is a bit odd having a herb garden at the front but the peculiar arrangement of our house means that the kitchen door faces into the front garden and it is just as easy to dash out there for a pinch of herbs for the soup or salad as it would be go out the back. I keep a collection of pot bound herbs right at the door

but, despite what all the books say, most of my herbs don’t seem to be very happy in pots. They are getting rather overgrown, the dratted vine weevils are nibbling their way through their roots, while the slugs and snails are helping themselves to the juicy green bits.

So today I’ve planted out the bay tree in the middle of the ‘vegetable bed’

There are still some struggling broad beans which may yet do something, as well as some chives, newly transplanted.  You’ll see in the close up of the bay the tell-tale signs of vine weevil munching.  I’ve kept some cuttings back to grow in the pot in the hope that they will root before the weevils get to them and provide new plants just in case of a very cold winter.

I’ve planted out some more chives and garlic chives and split up the happy tarragon, oregano and thyme to let it all spread about a bit.

There are still daffodils lurking underneath:

Sometimes you just have to let the plants decide where they want to grow and give up on the grand plans. It’s never going to look like the tidy herb gardens in the garden design books but here’s hoping that everything will do well, bring joyful daffodils in spring, provide us with fresh herbs most of the year and keep the bees happy in the summer.

Bees, frogs and trees at polling stations

It’s been another week where the garden has been low on the list of things to do. I’ve been keeping up the #30dayswild activities and tweets though it has been a little challenging what with the General Election and such like. I tried to rival the #dogsatpollingstations hashtag with a #treesatpolling stations one:



but I don’t think it caught on (next time maybe!).  On my way to and from work, I’ve been enjoying the Water of Leith, Edinburgh’s little known river and an oasis of peace in the centre of the city:

Today, I’ve been in the garden and planted out most of the courgettes, marrows and tomatoes and moved all of the cucumbers to the seed houses.  Harvesting is just beginning.  We’ve had about four strawberries and five peas but lots more to come.  I had a lovely harvest of rainbow chard and so made rainbow curry for tea:


As part of the #30days wild I’ve been spotting bees and frogs in the garden. The bees love the flowers on the sage plant in the front garden:


The frogs are out in force. I’ve seen them in the pond, behind the compost bin, all over the fairy mounds – these are frog heaven – covered in moss and wildflowers and long grass: WP_20170610_17_37_39_Pro

This fairy mound survived its recent move and is still full of frogs, though the frogs are tiny and hard to photograph as they, sensibly, hop out of the way as soon as they notice you.  But I found a huge one under a rhubarb leaf:


I reckon they’ve been enjoying all this rain we’ve been having. There has been an awful lot of rain. This was much needed and I took great pleasure in watching the water butts fill up and the pond beginning to overflow:

Now, we have had enough, thanks.



Flowers and friends in the garden

I’ve been away for a few days and come back to roses:

Wild rose
Gertrude Jekyll
Boule de Neige
Benjamin Britten

Although my first loves are vegetables, I can’t resist roses.  These all also have a wonderful scent.  And then I spotted some red flowered broad beans:


I sowed these a while ago and none had come up so I was delighted that a few have now appeared. I’ve no idea what the beans will be like but the flowers are certainly worth the wait.  Meanwhile the bees look as if they prefer the black and white flowers on the ordinary broad beans:

WP_20170528_17_03_48_ProMy day was made when I found this little friend on a rose bush, chomping its way through the greenfly:



Edinburgh skyline from Inverleith Park, midwinter

I took this photo yesterday but the light in the sky was so lovely, it represents the season rather better than the rain and gloom today.

We should have had a special dinner to celebrate the Solstice but it was one of those ‘see what’s in the fridge and cook it’ days. So we had green soup: cabbage, courgette, leek and some ageing sprouts.  I know it doesn’t sound in the least bit tempting but it was rather good.  In more celebratory mode, we had the last marrow last night:


The last of a wondrous crop this year.  This one had been sitting in the vegetable basket for a couple of months but was delicious in a vegetable curry, despite the long wait.

And here’s the advent calendar update for the Solstice:

Spider plant – you know why – if not,see here

Hamamelis – the lovely witch hazel, blooming magnificently in the early spring

and the beautiful bees, cheering us all as we creep slowly through these dark winter days.




I had an urge to prune the Philadelphus and, for once, checked a book on how to do it first. I’d just been doing my usual hacking back but this book said to cut out the old wood. So after a bit of more targeted hacking, I ended up with three satisfying piles: one, of greenish stuff for the compost heap; one of twiggy stuff for the brown recycling bin; a bucket of kindling for my son’s woodburning camping stove:


.. and a lovely pile of strong, straight sticks:

WP_20160828_006I used a couple straight away to prop up some top-heavy tomato plants but these will be great for next year’s peas if we don’t play giant spillikins with them first.

Oh, and while I was hacking away, I watched some bees enjoying the mint flowers beside the pond:

I’ll have to wait till next year to find out what the Philadelphus thinks about all of this.