Mangetout amaranth_1 Litchi tomato

The veg garden is finally getting going and I’ve harvested my first few salads of the year – better late than never!  Alongside the more usual fare, including my favourite yellow-podded mangetout ‘Golden Sweet’, I’ve finally gotten around to trying a few of my more unusual seed packets.  Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica – first image), Amaranth (third image), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), cucamelons (Melothria scabra) and litchi tomatoes (Solanum sisymbriifolium – last image above).  The latter is covered in fairly brutal spines which caught me a few times when I was planting them out.  I’m not sure if they’ll fruit, given the late start, but they’re a fairly spectacular and different member of Solanaceae (the tomato family).

Primula vialii Hosta

The above are pictures of two new denizens of my newly created little shade borderlet.  Alongside my compost heaps there was a small spot which doesn’t get sun except in the morning.  I’d had my Hostas and Solomon’s seal sitting there ready for planting and, since they looked rather nice, I decided they could stay… once I’d tidied all of the elder branches away.  I also added in a Primula vialli which I’d gotten at Gardening Scotland and am now trying to decide on whether to add something for ground cover.  The poor Primula was blown over at some point in the week after I got it and I didn’t notice until the following weekend when I had time to plant it – hence the wibbly flower and stalk. I also finally got around to planting my small Eucalyptus gunii.  It’s gone into the damp spot at the lowest point in the garden, in the hope that it’ll absorb some of the moisture there and thrive.  I intend to keep it coppiced for young foliage, but it’s a bit young yet for cutting back.

Sweetpeas Achillea Nasturtium Nasturtium

 Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), Achillea millefolium, and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), shown above, have started to show off, giving the garden a little more colour.  The cornflowers and   marigolds shouldn’t be far behind them. This year things feel a little patchy.  In the old garden I’d started to gain some density of  planting due to self sowings and perennials and, hopefully, it won’t be too long until I get that again.  This weekend  I’m determined to sow some perennial / biennial traditional plants (lupins, foxgloves, delphiniums and snapdragons) to fill some of the gaps and to lay out the new beds and begin to raw up shopping lists ready for getting in some bigger shrubs come autumn.  Handily, the plastic greenhouse is now empty of everything but the cucamelons, so there’s space for next years plants.

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A Soft Shuffle into Spring

Forsythia flowers, brightly coloured against the sky.

This years spring weather has been rather nice in Edinburgh and everything’s coming out a little ahead instead of five weeks behind like last year.  With coursework piling up I’ve been finding it hard to keep on top of anything that isn’t really essential but I was determined to get my garden started and, since we get an Easter break, I’ve actually had a chance to.

The image at the top of the page is the ‘twig’ of a plant I was wondering about in the last post.   Of all of the random shrubs for it to be, Forsythia is one I don’t mind too much.  It doesn’t seem to be doing spectacularly well where it is, however, so I may have to move it from where it is or give it some decent formative pruning.  Luckily, it’s still young enough that either shouldn’t be a huge problem.

 newgarden_5 Raised beds with various support / covering structures.

Since my last post I have decided to be brave and cut down my elder tree (Sambucus nigra).  I was going to wait until it had flowered, but then I’d have had to wait another year to cut it back and it was more than a little nuisance where it is – over a pathway, close to the front of the building and growing into the hedge.  One other reason I wasn’t too sad to see it go was that there’s new growth coming from the base.  At some point I believe it was probably being kept as a shrub as it has quite a massive stool from which I can hope I’ll get a more shrubby-growing Sambucus.

Into the raised beds have gone: lettuce, spinach, and pak choi (under the fleece) and sweetpeas (under the ungainly green structure).

I’m going to add more beds to the garden but I need to figure out the logistics as there is (I found out, whilst installing the raised beds) that there is a pipe running about a half-spades depth diagonally across the garden – hence the oddly shaped raised bed at the end.  I want most of my garden to be growing space, but I’m not sure of the logistics of getting it all done over the holidays!

Further to that, I really want to get my pond in the ground somewhere.  Due to the early spring, the little Aponogeton is already flowering – it didn’t do so until July last year!  It’s a great little plant, has been very reliable for me even in Scotland and doesn’t take over my tiny pond.  Unlike the blanketweed…


The lawn is a little mossy and weedy, something I hope to fix once I’ve decided how little of the grass is going to be allowed to remain! However, some weeds I could definitely put up with:



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Marching On

Forget-me-nots are a favourite of mine – I’m not sure exactly why.  Perhaps just because they’re delicate looking yet hardy little things which bloom for a surprisingly long season.

March was a busy month, and I’d been enjoying the garden a lot, what with the heatwave.  Now that we’re back to the usual drizzly weather I thought I’d best actually note down some of what’s went on last month.

The above pictures show the ‘new bed’ for this year – really an extension of the main bed which I’ve been meaning to do for a while.   Once I knew for sure we weren’t going to move I went at it with a vengeance.  The walkway at the back is for easier access – there was no point in making it thinner or omitting it as the sun never reaches that part of the garden due to the fence.  As it is, I now have easy access and a spot for dry-shade plants if I want to try some (on the gravel edge).

This new section has almost doubled my growing area for veggies on this side of the garden.   I’ve already put in my pea teepees (the ugly white fabric was protecting the pea seeds from being eaten) and installed a ‘cold frame’ – one of the flyaway greenhouses on its side with the top removed so that I could slide the plastic cover down over the bottom.  You can see the top stuck into the ground next to it – I’ll be using it as a frame for covering various things later in the season.  I’ve also got plans for the old internal shelves – cages for possibly growing vines in/on.  Because of the changes I made to the patio I wouldn’t have had space for it upright, anyway, and now  I’ve gained a much more useful, slightly shaded coldframe.  The other greenhouse is up now, too, and firmly secured to the fence.  It’s going to be used for warmer crops as it sits in the sun all day.  I’m hoping to try some aubergines this year!

The spring bulbs have been out in force, urged on by the sunny weather.

Fritillaria meleagris

Daffodil (Pink Blend Mix) Tulip (Sherbet blend mix)
Daffodil unknown miniatureYellow hyacinth
Tulip Fosteriana Orange Emperor

I’ve sown what feels like hundreds of seeds last month.  This month is a little calmer but I’ll also be starting to sow things successionally so that I can eat my salads out of the garden all summer.  I haven’t included my lettuces, spinach, rocket or pak choi in my seed sowing lists as I tend to sow them ‘on the fly’ or as a catch crop if and when I think I have space.

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End of June ‘Quick-notes’

The one squash outdoors which has survived is blooming.  After a shaky start and removing a few grubby, yellowed leaves it seems to finally be settling down and getting to work producing squash.  This variety is ‘Boston’, an early winter squash – I’m not sure it’ll manage a full-sized fruit this late in the year but that I’ve gotten this far is a personal achievement.

There seem to be a good number of bees around this year – they are certainly loving my sage, lupins, and foxgloves.

I must have mixed up a seedling when planting these lettuces – a row of green punctuated by deep red =) These petunias (‘Fanfare Dark Blue’) are growing really well.  Despite being in a tiny container it’s growing and blooming profusely – I know these are bred to work in hanging baskets but I didn’t expect them to work quite so wall in the flower bags due to the limited amount of soil available in them.

These are the same buddleja I grew from seed on the windowsill last winter – I can’t believe they’re getting so big.  Growth isn’t super-fast at the moment but it’s still satisfying to see them getting a little bushier with each passing week.  I’ve been advised that they’ll most likely take a growth spurt in the autumn so watch this space.

The turnips are getting to a fair size now – this picture is of a ‘thinning’ – one I removed to allow the others to grow to full size with plenty of space.

I’m now up to over 4 and 1/2 kilos of produce this year – with plenty still to come.  Not bad, for a beginner, though there are certainly particular areas (I’m looking at you, beans and peas) where I feel my harvests have been very low so far.

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Several Firsts & Second Helpings

This little, lonesome purple flower is my first sweetpea flower, ever! My grandfather used to grow them every year and I was allowed to ‘help’ but I’ve never actually grown them from seed to flower myself before now.  This poor plant is a little bedraggled – I put it out a little early and it was caught by the bad storms we had.  I found it prostrate and languishing when I came back from hospital, helped it up onto the netting and now it’s starting to eagerly scramble its way up!  The comfrey tea I was attempting to brew looks well steeped now.  I’m not sure whether to be worried or happy about the fact that it doesn’t really smell much – maybe I’ve done it wrong?  Is it missing the vital feeding ingredient which gives it it’s usual horrible smell?  I’ll need to do some research.

Another first – tomato flowers.  These are another thing I’ve never grown by myself before.  My plants are doing well in their new pot which has a reservoir of water in the bottom, growing at a fair pace and flowering away happily.

These strawberries are ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and after producing masses of flowers are now living up to their promise with screeds of huge strawberries.  It’s a bit of a challenge to get them before the slugs, but there are at least plenty to go around – I’m picking two or three strawberries around this size each evening.  Now that the nasturtiums are in full bloom they, too, are adding vibrant colour to lunch – the flowers and leaves have a lovely peppery taste and worked really well with chickpeas, pineapple and feta cheese for a lovely summery salad.

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Gardening Scotland & Purple Profusion

Last Friday I got to go to Gardening Scotland – with the whole gallbladder saga it was a close thing but I was determined not to miss the ‘big event’ I’d been looking forward to for months.  We took it easy, sauntering around at a very gentle pace, but managed to see most of the show before we had to head off.  It was a great day in terms of both enjoyment and weather – almost too hot outside for Scotland!  I managed to restrain myself and only picked up a few african violets and a beautiful tile by Helen Michie.  You should check out her work, it’s gorgeous.  I fear I may have been a bit of a fanboy, gushing over her tiles.  I really do love pottery, I’ve discovered.  I left Andy to ponder over the food stalls whilst I went to look at the plants and he managed to pick up, I think, at least three types of cheese, some bacon and a nice chilli jam.  The cheeses included a really tasty smoked brie – I’ve never tried smoked brie before and could only have a wee nibble, but it really did seem a wonderful combination of flavours.  Started me thinking how well smoked paprika and brie might go together.  There were some other funky things there but since we bought them for presents I’ll have to keep them to myself ;)

I’ve got a wee gallery of photos from Gardening Scotland – I was too busy gawping to take as many as I would have liked – which are at the end of this post.  They’re the same ones as on my facebook, so if you’ve seen them there there’s nothing new here.

I had a few down days when I first came home feeling a bit lost – I couldn’t garden, couldn’t cook more than basics and my creativity was being busted by the heavy painkillers + boredom making me fall asleep.  It was because of that and finally getting back out into the garden that I realised just how sane my garden keeps me! Despite being barred from heavy lifting I’ve been out with camera in hand doing small jobs, picking salads and, of course, snapping some pictures.

The ‘season’ at the moment seems to include a lot of purple – this totally has nothing to do with my preference for that colour.  Honestly!  Most of the purple flowers are either from mixed colour seed, things which I had no idea they flowered purple or which I knew they did but it was nothing to do with choosing them.

Purple Venezuelan chilli, Salad Blue potato, Sage, Petunia, ‘Bijou Mix’ foxglove

In more productive garden news, I’ve been eating at least 4 salads a week which are majoritarily  from the garden – tonnes of salad leaves, potatoes, chives, herbs, radishes.  To mix things up a little I decided to pull up the makings of a stir-fry.  Now, my beans and peas are weeks behind schedule and I haven’t got many things in the garden which are typical stir-fry ingredients but I figured I’d ‘make do’ and it turned out  just fine.

Salad leaves, matchstick-cut potatoes (boil them for ~5 minutes before adding to the pan), pak choi, radishes, young turnips and turnip leaves.  The turnips, which were plump thinnings, tasted absolutely sweet and delicious – ‘Navet De Nancy’ is the variety and I had decided to give eating turnip leaf  a go when I heard this variety’s leaves were a good cooked green – waste not, want not, eh? Tempted to sow more just to have them as ‘baby’ veg.  I’ve also been fairly impressed by the vigour of my Forellenschloss and Really Red Deer’s Tongue lettuces – I’ve now chopped their crowns off 3 times and they’re still coming back!  I’d sown another couple of rows of them as I’d worried about keeping myself in salad leaves but if they’re all this happy then I might well end up with a fair glut at some point.


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Gratuitous Raindrop Photos

As the deluge continued this week I couldn’t help taking a pile of photos of all of the dripping garden – it looks so pretty, afterall.

The shady side garden was also looking pretty nice in the rain – it’s starting to settle in now and an addition of wood chips has helped  to both blend it a little better with the surroundings and keep moisture in for some of the plants which were struggling a little in the heat.  The bluebells are all out in force now, too – though the ones which were trampled on, at the front, have yet to bloom.  I may well give up on them and dig them out, as I want to get that front piece tidied up!


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May Miscellany

Having hayfever is a real pain when you love gardening – especially this year where we seem to have a record number of big, heavy blossoms all over the place and even earlier than usual to.  It hasn’t stopped me getting out there, antihistamines in hand, and doing the many things the garden seems to want at the moment – like watering!  I can’t believe I had to take the hose to the garden twice a week in April! This doesn’t feel like the Scotland I grew up in – where April meant sudden downpours several times a day for a whole, long, miserable month.  I suppose that may be coloured by my coming from the wet and windy west coast, but surely this is still unseasonably dry for the east, too?

Now that we’re into May, we’re beginning to hit the peak of the seed and seedling season – although there are many things planted before and after May, I’ve found that I have the most seeds and seedlings on the go in this month – many of the warmth loving varieties can be started and the cooler one are getting ready to go outside but are not quite there yet.  The mini greenhouses are packed with life!  The cat is sulking, because the windowsill where he likes to sit has also been taken over in the name of gardening and is currently the home for my tomatoes and chilli plants as they still need to come inside at night.

A new addition has sprouted in the garden as a result of my war against the ants.  I pulled up all of the edging slabs to expose their nest and hoed the soil for a few days until they just gave up and went elsewhere – a nice organic way of getting rid of a pest which isn’t directly bad for the garden.  Once the soil was exposed, however, I couldn’t help but think ‘oooh more growing space!’ ;) I also remembered something I’d seen on Beechgrove Garden – that long-thin gardens often look better when split into sections and figured I could take advantage of the space created to grow a living screen.  The poles on the right side are split in the middle so that I still have access to the veggie bed on that side and, because of the way the sun comes into the garden, there will be very little of the garden shaded by these despite them being as tall as the surrounding fence.

The bamboo canes went in at the weekend, but today I got around to planting a few beans in them – namely the Mrs Fortunes climbing beans kindly given to me by matron.  Four of them have been added to the left hand side, along with some cosmos and calendula I’ve grown from seed for some visual interest below the beans.

I mentioned last time I talked about my potatoes that they were growing a mile a minute – the picture on the left was taken two weeks ago and the right one today.  The other earlies are growing just as fast – though the maincrop tatties are still mostly just peeping up over the soil, still.

Elsewhere around the garden things are growing pretty well – below are strawberries (comparison of standard type with an alpine flower), chives, boston squash, forellenschloss and really red deer’s tongue lettuces.


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Garden Palette

A little bit of ‘picture spam’ but I wanted to share with you the colours in my garden at the moment.  This time last year everything was green.  Lush, but a little dull.  This year there are so many colours in the garden already – even if they’re still only dotted around, rather than parading through it.  The forget-me-nots are a particular favourite, as I love those purple-blue flowers with bright yellow centres. The tiny little plants which battled through winter in the plastic greenhouse are now mature flowering plants which are welcoming the early bees and drawing them into my garden!

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I’m bad at pancakes.  Like, really bad,  I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times, in fact, just how bad I am at making them!  The only time I’ve managed to make half-way decent ones was with wholemeal flour and those tasted great… until they cooled down.  Today however (or should that be yesterday, now?) I managed to make good pancakes and I have Coffee Muffins recipe to thank for it.

Thanks to her, I managed to make good pancakes.  Even when they cooled down.

They even looked good…

Yes, I did put sugar and lemon on them, even though they’re ‘Scotch’ or ‘American style’ pancakes.  It was good, too.

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