Thursday, 27 March 2014


You can imagine how my little heart did a tiny leap the other day when I read an email addressed directly to me that began like this

"My name is Janet and I work for an independent TV production company called Spun Gold TV. We are currently making a brand new ITV series with Alan Titchmarsh called “Britain’s Best Garden”. Our new series aims to find the best private / domestic gardens in Britain."

The 5 seconds of excitement I felt at the possibility of my garden having gained some attention was quickly followed by terror at the thought of how naff my garden actually is and then embarrassment as I realised that this was a generic email going out to many garden bloggers stating 

"We are seeking applications from the length and breadth of Britain with an array of horticultural wonders from the outrageous to the draw-droopingly beautiful, the grand and opulent to the small and perfectly formed, from the wildest to the most the meticulous - this is the series that opens the gates to gardens that are works of art, labours of love, flights of fantasy and feats of engineering.
All private, domestic gardens are eligible for entry and I am hoping that you will be able to help me find some really extraordinary spaces. Does any garden specifically come to mind? Can you think of someone who has created a truly staggering and original outdoor space? We are looking for a variety of different types, styles, sizes and themes and at this stage have no pre-conceived idea of what Britain’s best private gardens looks like.
If you were able to help our campaign and spread the word about our series that would be much appreciated. If you have a mailing list or twitter account please do spread the message and include the link below to the application form. If you have someone’s garden in mind who you think could be right for the series please do let them know and pass on my contact details. If you have any other suggestions of ways you think we could find some of Britain’s best gardens then please do let me know as we are always open to suggestions. Please also forward this information onto any who you think would be interested.

Feel free to contact me at any time on 02070656929 or at with any questions.

I hope to hear from you soon with some prospective private garden suggestions.

Many Thanks,

Janet "

So if you can help then the contact numbers are there for you to get in touch with Janet Atkinson.

Every year I promise myself that I will remember to take some photos of a particular grass bank in Wick that is a riot of yellow as the Daffodils bloom and every year I forget. This year though I just happen to have been to the hairdresser opposite the bank and got the opportunity to those pix, they seem to be thinning out in some places but the most of it still looks bright and vibrant.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The questionable sanity of a gardener

I got some very strange looks from Mr TG and one of my daughters yesterday. I tried explaining to them that what I was doing was normal for gardeners but to be honest the more I said it the less I actually believed it.
I think us gardeners are a thrifty bunch aren't we? We learn to find a use for pretty much anything that comes our way don't we? And I'm not the only one that would sift through a trailer load of turf just to get a few barrow loads of soil am I! Am I?
Mr TG has recently dug out an area on one of my daughters garden so she could gravel it for the dogs. I had kinda hoped that the trailer load of turf removed would already be pre sifted into a pile of good stuff and a pile of rubbish stuff that was to be scattered on the land before the plough comes along - that was never going to happen really so I was left with no option but to sift through it myself.
Mr TG just looked resigned to what I was doing - let's face it he's probably seen me doing more bizarre things but my daughter just couldn't get her head round the fact that I had set up a sifting system for a few scraps of soil when we have 4 acres of the stuff - have to admit that comment was when I first started questioning my sanity.
Anyway, this soil looked particularly good and as our own soil tends to have a high peat content I figured waste not, want not.
Here's my little system on the go - a trailer full of turf and soil, 1 barrow for sifted soil, 1 barrow for the turf and weeds and a crate for all the bits and bobs I found in the soil such as old screw drivers, kids cars etc etc.

So far I've had 4 full barrows that were desperately needed on the flower beds and there's still more to go through. Although the system works like a charm I hadn't factored in that I would be bent over the entire time I'm sifting and let's just say it didn't do my back any favours. In fact I'm now on strong painkillers just so I can continue to work, but back to the original query - I'm not the only one who does stuff like this am I? We don't all buy in trailer loads of soil do we? I did buy some top soil a couple of years ago but to be honest it was naff stuff and I wish I'd spent the £60 on flowers instead.

I had a lovely surprise for Mr TG yesterday (or so I thought). I don't know how many of you remember me saying that we have a rather large natural pond here and we'd stocked it with Koi and gold fish over the years. A few years ago an Otter came along and wiped out all but the largest Koi, we restocked the pond as we didn't realise it was an Otter that ate them at first. A couple of years after that though the entire pond was empty of fish including our large Koi. We realised it was an Otter when the dogs cornered it one morning - I guess it passed through as it searched new territory.
Anyway we've refused to put any more fish in it for the last couple of years but each year Mr TG sits by that pond with his fish food in case a survivor shows up and I pretty much take the mick out of him for doing it.
Yesterday I happened to pass the pond and saw a bright orange fish in it so I ran back to the house to get my camera knowing Mr TG wouldn't believe me without a photo and snapped away, then another one appeared. I was so pleased for Mr TG and couldn't wait to tell him that night but his reply was

"Erm, well, a couple of years ago I put more gold fish in there to shut you up when you insist they all died. But once I put them in they disappeared. I've been watching for them every year but never saw them again, so I'm guessing that's what you've seen"

Well Mr TG doesn't deserve to see photos of them now so I'll post them here instead. Personally I think they're too big to be ones he put in 2 years ago as they're easy 6" now and he said they were only about 2" when he put them in. I really think they're survivors of the Otter attack.

This year we'll make it Otter proof as the garden pond goldfish need putting in there so we can rebuild the garden pond. Once the garden pond is rebuilt and enlarged I'm making it a Koi pond.

The Blue Tits are back! Last year a bit of fighting went on between the Blue Tits and the Sparrows over a particular nest box. One of the Blue Tits got a bit winded and sat on my shoulder for a while before flying off and not returning, I'm hoping the Sparrows don't repeat the attack this year as the box hole isn't even big enough for them to get in.

Blue tits.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Seeds and bulbs

I am terrible at growing plants from seed because I can be a lazy gardener when it comes to checking on the propagator and making sure they're watered and that the heat is just right. I tend to get all excited about sowing the seeds and am quite vigilant until they start to sprout, after that I tend to get lazy or simply forget about them for a couple of days. It's quite a common occurence for me to suddenly remember they need attention, go to the greenhouse and find all the little seedlings have keeled over and shrivelled up.
The same thing happened this year with my Tomato seedlings - some came up, I forgot about them and they shrivelled up. Of course I doused them with water in the hope that some miracle may prevail and my efforts at seed growing weren't entirely ruined however there was no saving them.
The water did start the remaining seeds into action though and I now have healthy Tomato seedlings romping away - no need to buy plants this year hopefully.
Tomato plants aside I'd been watering some Thalictrum seeds in the same propagator even though I had no real belief that they would sprout so I was very surprised and very pleased when I saw this yesterday

Thalictrum seeds

Now I just have to be vigilant and keep them alive.

This may be strange coming from a "gardener" but I've never really grown spring bulbs. I remember trying to grow Tulips in the lawn once but they never once flowered so I kind of gave up trying - I'm really not that tenacious am I!
However I have recieved so many bulbs this year that I figured I should at least give them all a fighting chance. The Allium bulbs are all up and showing signs of life (only those in the PT though. The garden ones are not doing much at all) but the ones I'm really chuffed with at the moment are the Hyacinths and the Crocus - I honestly believed that growing these plants was beyond my patience so I claimed I didn't like them enough to even try.
I have now changed my mind, how can I not like these


Hyacinths bought for me last year and I've actually managed not to kill.

The willow cutting I took earlier in the year are romping away with plenty of roots and leaf. The problem I now have is that the land isn't quite ready for these to be planted so I may end up having to plant them in temporary beds which is not something I want to do. I have neither the time nor inclination to plant these whips temporarily just to have dig them back up and plant again later, they are so much easier to plant before the roots have stretched out and taken hold and they'll do that very quickly once they're in the ground.

Willow whips
The first sign of Spring for me is the call of the Curlews as they return to the field behind us and they've been calling for a week or so now. Alongside the Curlew is the return of the neighbours in the same field although this year Mr Farmer appears to have delved into a different breed of sheep. I have no clue as to what they are but they're certainly different to the normal ones I see.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Scottish Highlands

I had intended to grow my French bean outside this year but I've now decided against it - the last time I tried to grow them outside was a disaster, the plants just barely grew and I ended up with no more than a handful of beans.
Growing them in the PT on the other hand was very productive two years ago, we could have eaten beans for breakfast lunch and dinner and still had a freezer full of them. The problem was that they liked the growing conditions so much they grew like triffids and smothered the PT structure as well as the nearby plum and pear trees.
This time I'm limiting the amount of plants I grow to just 4 and have built the support trellis far away from the fruit trees, they will still need alot of control but at least there will be veg at the end of it.

The soil in these beds is deeper than it looks because it also goes down by a good 2 ft.

Although the weather has been lovely of late I haven't really been able to get much done outside due to getting through some other projects that have been started and left for quite some time now - all house crafts.
On the days I wasn't building we decided to drive round the Highlands and take in the scenery - we've promised ourselves for years that we would start doing this and have never gotten around to it. This year we've also decided to get some hiking in on the vast mountains and hills around us.
We are so lucky to have easy access to scenery such as this

We were lost at this point.

The canyon looking red hue was created by putting my sunglasses in front of the lens.

I don't have many photos of Mr TG so I am pretty pleased with this one

We met a couple of these along the way too.

Having a good old scratch.

I refuse to move!

Wednesday was my daughters 23rd birthday - both of them! Mr TG decided to take the day off as we would have both girls and their boyfriends at home with us this year and we decided the girls could decide what we did for the day.
A walk in the forest with 6 dogs and 1 barn owl was first on the agenda (and I forgot my camera) followed by lunch in town and then a drive up to John O Groats seeing as the weather was so lovely! At least that was the plan that Leanne wanted! Stacey tried to opt for a day of agility on the land with a pack of dogs - thankfully a vote of hands put a stop to that one.
I'm terrible at having my photo taken, I simply refuse to let anyone take one for various reasons (Insecurity about looks and weight basically) and my family are pretty accepting of that, however I saw how gutted my girls were at not having my photo taken with them so I allowed them to take 2 - one at lunch and one at John O Groats. Posting them on here really goes against the grain for me but I'm trying to get over it.

L-R: Leanne, Mr TG, Me, Stacey

Stacey, Me, Leanne

Sharing at

Tillys Nest

Friday, 7 March 2014

Life in the garden

We've had quite a few days of good weather here in the Highlands and despite todays snow shower I do believe the good weather is set to continue over the next few days. Dare I let myself believe that spring really is on its way!

I now have a polytunnel packed to the roof with perennial plants in temporary pots needing new homes. I had a half hearted attempt at counting them all while I was making a list of them but I gave up after 60 or so. I will be renovating the second half of the garden this spring but I still have no idea where I'll put all the plants especially as some of them will need winter protection.
I don't know about you guys but I never buy plants according to a planting scheme, I just have no interest in paying ridiculous amounts of money for plants I cannot guarantee will survive this harsh climate. Pretty much all my plants are either from cuttings, plants I have been gifted or those my daughter gets me free from work. I don't mind paying for them if they are ridiculously cheap but I'll still be anxious about it for days afterwards.
One problem I have is that I am no good at working out planting schemes, this is probably due to the fact that I have to use what plants I have but I do not have the 'eye' when it comes to where things should go and as a result of that I'm going to be doing alot of re-positioning of last years attempt.

One success this year has been the Rose cuttings I took in the autumn. It really was a half hearted attempt as I never believed they would work but as well as the ones in the raised beds being 99% taken I'm also finding cuttings in my borders that I don't remember doing.
It's such a 'me' thing to do - not recording where I put them - but I'm finding these little cuttings sprouting all over my garden borders

Golden showers rose cutting

On 26th Feb I sowed sweetpea for the garden and the polytunnel and I think this year it has sprouted in record time

Sweetpea cuttings.

The blossom on the Plum tree seemed to appear overnight. I've seen absolutely no pollinating insects around just now so I'm having to hand pollinate in the hope that I can improve on last years lack lustre result of one fruit. This is one of the down sides to a polytunnel here in the Highlands - plants such as the fruit trees have to stay in it over winter for the protection (the ones outside have karked it) but the sheltered warmer atmosphere in there encourages blossom way too early.
I now have to make the decision do I keep them in year after year and hand pollinate or plant them out in the most sheltered spot I can find and use them as structure only in the garden - they won't flower and set fruit outside up here.
As large as my polytunnel is the numerous fruit trees are dwarfing it and they're quite awkward to work around. Decisions!

Plum tree blossom

The hens have not stopped producing eggs all winter which is most unusual for them, we normally get a couple of months when they stop but this year has been the exception, could this be a sign of a good summer????
Anyway they've finally been able to get out of their runs over the last few days and despite one end of their run being very dry dirt they all literally fought over this dirt area outside the coal shed. They look amazingly scruffy here but they were loving every minute of the dirt!

Hens in dustbath