Have you voted for the Scottish site to win a wildflower transformation?


The Sarah Raven special a couple years ago about Bees, Butterflies and Blooms opened my eyes about the need for more pollen and nectar-rich flowers for bees and other pollinators, and the viper’s bugloss I planted in the garden last year were, along with my oregano plants, complete magnets for all kinds of beautiful insects this summer. I’ve become as excited about bees as I became about frogs after getting over my initial queasiness about them. Big community spaces have a huge role to play in supporting insect life, so if you are reading this, please could you take a moment to vote in the Grow Wild competition? Three sites across Scotland who’ve submitted plans for new community gardens have now been shortlisted to win a £100,000 Grow Wild transformation, supported by the Big Lottery Fund: the transformation of the winning site will include large sowings of UK native wildflowers.

The shortlist of sites in Greenock, Livingston and Barrhead has been put together following a call made to people to nominate a site in their community that would benefit from a Grow Wild transformation. The judges went through submissions from youth groups, community associations and residents groups, artists, high school design students, and landscape architects, who’ve pulled together some inspirational plans, and the three shortlisted Scottish projects now need your vote.

Win tea for two at the Botanics in Edinburgh or Glasgow – leave a comment on this blog

There are only a few days left to vote, so please cast your Grow Wild vote here, where you can also read more about the three shortlisted sites. Leave a comment on this blog, or re-tweet my tweet to let people know you have voted, and I’ll put you in a draw to win a gorgeous afternoon tea for two at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens or Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

The three sites in the running to win the £100,000 prize are:

  • Belville in Greenock
  • Frog Pond, Dedridge, Livingston, West Lothian
  • The Water Works, Barrhead, East Renfrewshire

Have you voted yet? Go vote! Voting runs until midnight on 3 November and the winner will be announced in mid-November. Don’t forget to leave your comment below, or re-tweet my tweet letting people know you voted, and I’ll put you in the draw to win the gorgeous afternoon tea.

UPDATE:  Thank you to everyone who voted – Waterworks in Barrhead won the Grow Wild £100 000 funding!  Almost 20,000 people across Scotland voted for the three projects in total.  Thanks so much to everyone who spoke up to have their voice heard on this vote.


The Scottish daffodil without a name


double yellow daffodil from Mull stopwatch gardener

For six years I’ve been trying to identify this sophisticated double daffodil with the shredded, egg yolk-yellow centre. I found it growing just outside the walled garden of my mother-in-law’s house in Mull, off the west coast of Scotland.

The helpful David Wong of Plantedd has suggested it looks something like Narcissus “Glowing Phoenix,” and it may well be, but I’m going to have another look when it flowers this year and compare it against the Phoenix pictures. My mystery bulb also resembles Narcissus Eystettensis, which has the same shredded centre but is one colour throughout.

I like to imagine a romantic past for this unique flower: maybe it joined the other spring flowering bulbs that I know this Scottish garden used to provide to the ancient abbey on the island of Iona, about an hour away.

I’m really keen to identify this flower for my mother-in-law. If you are (or know) a narcissus connoisseur or other bulb expert, I’d be grateful for your help.

posted under Bulbs, Gardening | 1 Comment »

I need late autumn interest in the garden — dahlias need not apply


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Novemberish gales are blowing the September garden sideways and making me think prematurely about mulching, clearing and cozying in. The open wire grille I put down to keep leaves out of the pond has stopped airborne bits of recycling from pummeling the tiny puddle of water and its newts. I’d never managed to cover the pond before this year. Maybe last winter’s swift, shocking start in November is what has me bracing for the end of the gardening year, and a bit too soon. The apples and pears are bearing, most leaves are stuck fast to branches and the late asters haven’t even shown yet.

Do you do dahlias? I’ve never grown one I liked — they are martyrs to earwigs, which means I’m not tempted even by the lighter, arier single types. The more traditional dahlias, great blobs of colour, are repellent to me. The autumn roses I grow are fat and colourful, too, but all are balanced with large areas of their own green foliage. The dahlias are unrestrained, unremitting splotches of red, pink and purple blowing a technicolor raspberry from the border — you can keep them.
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An autumn combination I prefer is growing now in the hall border, which I see foreshortened from my office window, so far-apart plants appear side-by-side. It includes:

  • heuchera palace purple
  • aster frikartii Monch
  • liatris spicata
  • schizostylis coccinea major
  • Lobelia fan blue
  • Rose de Rescht
  • Rose Zephyrine Drouhin
  • Rudbeckia Goldsturm
  • Lonicera (honeysuckle) berries
  • alchemilla conjuncta
  • persicaria

I’ve tried so hard to get autumn colour here, especially late autumn colour, for my daughter’s birthday at the end of October. That means I really need November colour, and that’s hard.
Click for larger imageMaybe this is the real reason I’m looking ahead to November: I’m keen to know if this year’s show will be any better, now that the persicaria and chrysanthemums will add to the later asters (Alma Potschke) and Schizostylis. Claire last year suggested some of the hardy fuchsias as good performers into November, and I’m propagating some from cuttings now.

Sorry if it’s tedious for you, but I keep coming back to this question of November interest (see here and here) because I can’t get it right. My two children are November and February birthdays, and a garden show at those times of year is Advanced Gardening. I have this vision of a blanket of snowdrops beneath black-ball Rudbeckia seed heads from the previous autumn. Do you think this will work? It would be some achievement to have a good autumn-into-winter show that celebrates both kids. But much of the garden gets too little sun for the Rudbeckias, and even those that thrive would need to withstand Scottish wind, snow and thaw.

I’m not sure if this black and white plan will work (I’m trying to propagate the Rudbeckia just in case), or if my kids will even know what I was trying to do for them.

Although plantings that are “for” others aren’t really what we gardeners do, is it? The planting is for us, to echo our feelings or memories of those who mean so much, we need them in the garden with us.

Who have you planted for? What did you plant?


A good gardening podcast is hard to find


Click for larger imageIf you hunger for good gardening podcasts as much as I do, you know they’re hard to find. Here’s my list of favourites, from the unmissable at number one to the merely OK at number eight. I’ve given the web address of the feed; I hope this will let you track down the show and subscribe to it with whatever podcast tool you use. I use Google Listen on an Android phone, and I’ve created a folder in Google Reader called “Listen Subscriptions” that lets me add any new podcast if I know its Web address.

I know that all sounds a bit technical. If you have any questions, let me know, and I’ll try to help you. (By the way, I’m now doing my own rather stumbly Stopwatch Gardener podcast, which you can subscribe to here for iTunes or another podcast player.

  1. Gardeners’ Corner with Cherrie McIlwaine
    Feed URL: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/northernireland/garden/rss.xml
    My all-time favourite. Host Cherrie is a true radio talent, painting evocative pictures of the gardens she visits, making everything sound magical and intriguing. It’s the one podcast I really miss if it’s not available immediately after its usual Saturday recording date. The show, broadcast by BBC Radio Ulster in Northern Ireland, has also hit on the perfect mix of phone-ins, visits to stunning gardens, chats with experts, road shows, and on-site help with listeners’ gardens. About 22 minutes per episode.
  2. The Greendays Gardening Panel with Steve Scher
    Feed url: http://www.kuow.org/rss.php?program=garden
    KUOW radio in Seattle has put together an excellent Tuesday gardening panel which takes questions by telephone and from its Facebook page, hosted by Steve Scher with advice from Willie Galloway (perky veg expert), Greg Rabourn (conservationist and tree guy) and Marty Wingate (the one who uses Latin plant names). I love their no-nonsense approach and the satisfying 50-minute format, and their knowledge about what works in the Pacific Northwest and their willingness to share it is evident. I wish they’d use more Latin names; I once spent a half an hour googling for the ground cover plant “kinnickkinnick” (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).
  3. Gardening with Tim and Joe – Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden
    Feed URL: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/leeds/gwtj/rss.xml
    This folksy advice show from BBC Radio Leeds is notable for its insights on growing fruit and vegetables, as well as routine care of garden plants like roses, chrysanthemums and more. I like the “back to basics” feature, and gardener Joe Maiden’s decades of experience shine through, although I wish he wouldn’t call every plant of the week “absolutely fantastic”. Short and sweet, just 12 minutes per episode.
  4. A Way To Garden with Margaret Roach
    Feed URL: http://am1020whdd.com/rss/individual.php?id=119&title=A%20WAY%20TO%20GARDEN%20WITH%20MARGARET%20ROACH
    This US gardening luminary writes the “A Way to Garden” blog and has just published a new book, “And I shall have some peace there,” about the New York garden she commuted to for two decades and now lives in permanently. Host Jill could do with sounding more in charge, but I like Margaret’s insights on seed sowing, managing a mature garden, and why going organic is worth it. About 20 minutes per episode.
  5. Gardeners’ Question Time with Eric Robson or Peter Gibbs
    Feed URL: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/gqt/rss.xml
    This weekly BBC radio broadcast is a must-listen for the range of unrehearsed questions the experts can answer, and although I like Peter Gibbs, I wince at episodes hosted by Eric Robson, who manages to be jolly and disdainful in the same breath. The conflicting and/or bad advice given by the expert panel can become wearing (why did they just advise listeners not to bother doing a big tidy up of last season’s fallen rose leaves? David Austin experts told me the February clean-up is a golden rule for preventing ills like blackspot, and I believe them.) I do appreciate many of the insights from panellists like Bob Flowerdew and pest expert Pippa Greenwood, despite her recent broad slur against gardening blogs. About 50 minutes per episode.
  6. HearSay with Cathy Lewis and Jim Orband
    Feed URL: http://www.whro.org/home/html/podcasts/hearsay/podcast.xml
    This podcast from Virginia would be much higher up the list if it were more frequent, but Jim Orband only joins Cathy once a month, and their chat doesn’t have its own feed, so you need to keep an eye on the episodes and download the ones with Jim. He takes phone-in questions from listeners, and his willingness to share knowledge (and gardeners’ hunger to learn) is wonderful to behold — listen and marvel as he gives out his e-mail address for people to send in extra questions. I do like the banter between Cathy and Jim; she’s a truly likable host.
  7. North Country Public Radio – Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy talks to Todd Moe
    Feed URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/TopStoriesFromNCPR
    Amy’s interviews with Todd are too new to me to rank higher on the list, and like the Cathy Lewis podcast, this is another one that doesn’t break out its gardening into a separate feed. But I’m now watching out every Monday for Amy’s segment, which gives practical, seasonal advice I appreciate. About 10 minutes per show.
  8. Dean of Green
    Feed URL: http://www.wglt.org/podcasts/Dean_of_Green.xml
    Sultry-voiced Laura Kennedy speaks to Don Schmidt of the Illinois State University School of Biological Sciences. Laura’s incessant station identification (WGLT) is irritating, but Don Schmidt is incredibly knowledgeable and his enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve picked up a few useful tips on everything from moving peonies to the biological inner workings of plants. Super short, only about seven minutes per episode. Don takes questions from anyone, anywhere, just submit yours online at — yes, you guessed it — WGLT.org.

Attention broadcasters and bloggers – we want more, quality gardening podcasts. Why has the Scotland’s Gardens podcast has gone off air? And someone tell me why the otherwise useful and veg-centric UK online gardening community GardenersClick.com has made its GC podcast unsubscribable-to. (You can only listen to it within the walled garden of GardenersClick. Must do better, GardenersClick.) There must be hundreds of thousands of gardeners out there who, like me, would love to listen more and learn more, and would certainly be disposed to remember the names of sponsors who back such podcasts.

Do you know any other good gardening podcasts I could listen to? Do tell.

posted under Gardening | 21 Comments »

Briefly California


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Until now, I’d never bothered with seed sowing in summer. The seedling fatigue of spring usually leaves me uninterested in repeating the whole affair during July and August. But two things have come together this year to change all that: my sharper awareness of the way the garden grows like mad in July; and the Eatin’ Project, where my early success in growing edibles has inspired me to try to keep the crops coming.

I listen to the folksy “Gardening with Tim and Joe” from BBC Radio Leeds, and a few weeks ago gardener Joe Maiden was encouraging everybody to sow more French beans and carrots right away to get strong young plants developing. I did, and they have. This evening I planted out some of the young dwarf French beans “Masterpiece” (thanks for the recommendation, Marc Diacono): their little root balls were full and raring to go.

The growth in all corners is rampant. I was stunned to see a fab root system on a bit of pelargonium that I’d knocked off the plant and had thrown into a cup of water. I planted it up and it’s flowering now – the whole process took just a few weeks. So I tried the same with a bit of Aster Frikartii Monch I’d yanked off the plant and sure enough, voila, roots. Today I’ve also sown dianthus seed; cuttings would be easier, but it’s my mother’s favourite flower, and these fell from the pinks I’d cut for her bedside when she was staying with me earlier this month. It is always hard to see her go back to Boston, and I couldn’t throw these seeds away when I was clearing up her bedside table this morning. If I can get some of these to germinate, that’ll mean something to me. Click for larger image

This is the first year I’ve tried to exploit these few weeks when Edinburgh is briefly California: long bright days, warm soil, and easy abundance everywhere in the garden. In past years I’d noticed how the borders went ballistic during July, but I’d never used it. July is a wave I’m riding this year instead of a flood that’s swamping my borders, and I like it. This is the first time that I’ve slashed my aquilegias to the ground in June, and I wasn’t afraid to do it, knowing it would give everything else more space during July and August.

It’s been a revelation to sow and nurture seedlings in summer: nothing like the slog of sowing in the dim days of spring in Scotland, where equal parts willpower and liquid seaweed are the only thing that keep the seedlings going.

Do you ever feel that your garden is a mute entity whose signs and moods you spend years studying? I think I’m starting to speak her language.

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