Weeds and Waistlines, Signs of Spring!

How can I be sure that this is spring?
It is warmer, yes. The beautiful but icy grip of the Scandinavian anticyclone is loosened.
It is dry, surprisingly so and distant hills have smoke patches every day as estates start the moor-burning season. It keeps the fire services busy and hopefully will be finished before the grouse and other ground nesters start to build.
No, the real reason I know is that my muscles ache and I have the oddest twinges. Such is age and a soft winter.
My waistline is definitely broader and after about 15 minutes of wheel barrow and lifting work, I am starting to think about the next tea break.
This last winter I suddenly decided after years of neglect, that my family needed cake. Well yes, I can still bake, but it will have to stop!
Definitely time to get out and stay out.
Spring also brings that restlessness that sees every messy corner and cobweb. A brisk walk around, shows up the leaves that have not been lifted, the jumble of pots in odd corners, and the grassed up areas you meant to deal with last July.
The corners no-one is supposed to see, where the dead pots lurk and the Jabberwocky jabbers
And look under the leaves of Epimediums or winter green ferns and there is my old friend ground elder and yes, the dandelions and bittercress have gained volume over this last week.
Overwhelmed and slightly panicky…it must be spring . The only defence is to lift your eyes and enjoy the hazel catkins, the first primroses and the wonderful snowdrops.
However, time to spring clean….If I can find the energy!


Winter Woodland Garden Walk

It is a wonderful day. The sky is a pale washed blue, still cold, but hopeful. With the encouragement of a little warmth, the bees are out today, cleaning out their hive and foraging for what nectar they can find.

Let’s walk up through the garden, Donald is working in the bed by the cemetery, which is one of a remarkable 14 beds that he and Hamish have renewed this winter. He is tidying round the entrance sign and digging in homemade compost to restore some of the fertility that years of growing has taken out. Now we are forming our ideas for these beds (A job I can only get them to concentrate on after supper). Renewal is always good for the soul.
Now up the steps, and looking over to the left is a very nice area of Galanthus atkinsii. It is doing well next to the wall; large  slender flowers, of good shape and substance, characterised by a prominent green horse-shoe mark on the petals.   

We now walk up the steps and past the Iris reticulata George. This is a  reliably perennial early iris, along with Katherine Hodgkin. Both are doing well in this well drained sunny bed.

 Crossing over we come to Galanthus plicatus on the corner and turn up the hill.

Climbing up one can stop and stare with frank admiration at the Witch Hazel, Hammemallis xintermedia  Pallida.  It is now a substantial and handsome shrub.
To the right is a small clump of Galanthus Desdemona, a fine double flowered form, best admired by lifting the flower to see the lovely doubling, just like petticoats.  Close by is the first Celandine I have seen this year. Celandines require sunlight to open, and hence are always a welcome sight in February.
On round past the Font Stone and there are more snowdrops under the shrubs. The first is Mighty Atom, with huge flowers, on short stems.  Nearby is Colossus, with its large flowers in tall stems, and Galatea, the 3 large petals resembling rotor blades.
Pause before you leave this are and smell the amazing Sarcocca flowers. This winter flowering evergreen shrub takes a while to settle and grow away, but is worth the waiting.

Now we climb the curving paths and up into the upper parts of the garden. The evergreen shrubs are glistening in the afternoon sun, the variegated hollies looking particularly fine. The Hellebores are sending up their new flowerbeds and will be fine sight soon.
Up past the willow basket planting of Galanthus Magnet, a fine, large flowered snowdrop variety and into areas where plantings of Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop are beginning to bulk up nicely and make an impact. Having visited old estate and castle gardens I realise it will take 100 years to attain those wonderful drifts of snowdrops on banks and stream side, but we have made a good start, and now, 10-15 years on they are looking well.
I am sure to have missed some varieties or forgotten to point out items of interest.

If you come this Sunday we will walk the garden together.

Late Winter Garden Walk
Sunday 24th February - 2pm
Join Margaret at Abriachan Garden Nursery for a late winter & snowdrop walk through the woodland garden with hellebores, early bulbs, iris, aconites, snowdrops, winter trees and shrubs.
Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the start of spring in the garden.
Tea and cake to follow
Adult = £5     RHS Member = £4     Children (Under 12) = Free
Please call to confirm attendance so we know how much cake we need (01463 861 232)

2013 Plant Catalogue - Now Online

So, how did that happen? Suddenly it is 30 years on.
We arrived at Abriachan in 1983 after 12 years living and working in the Falkland Islands. It took us time to settle, but somehow, setting up the nursery and beginning the garden did the job.
We began as all gardens should, by planting vegetables and soft fruit, but the stony soil and the oak and hazel woodlands drew us on up the hill.
So what began with a few alpines, swiftly gained momentum? Don sweated away creating dry stone walls and paths, criss-crossing the hill side and gradually our woodland and dry slope garden took shape.
I believe gardens are always a reflection of their owners and we are no different. We have lived overseas in New Zealand and the Falklands and we grow plants from both places as they mean something to us and also do pretty well in our climate.  Living in Scotland we must accept the limitations of the weather, but nevertheless we find ourselves pushing the boundaries of hardiness all of the time.
Every year we do something new in the garden, and there is still so much to learn. Like many gardeners, we have some favourites and start collections, my personal passions are the old fashion primroses and auricula, and there will be more yet.
It has been 30 years of huge interest and fun.  All of our family have contributed in so many ways and together with our staff and the many in our community who have encouraged us over the years; and not least you, our customers who have made our imaginings come true. We have made something beautiful between us.

Thank you all.
Margaret Davidson

The 2013 Abriachan Nurseries Plant Catalogue is now online  to download as a pdf and to purchase online through paypal
Hardcopies will be sent out in the post in the next weeks, please contact us if you would like to be added to the mailing list

Spring in Scotland

We are home in Abriachan and this morning was a perfect winter day.
The sunlight came across the Loch and lit up all the golden yellow and glistening dark green of evergreens. It rained overnight and drops of water were glistening along branches and giving a zest to the air.

It has been cold this past week and grey, so to see so many shrubs with flower is a real lift for the sprit.
The early Witch Hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia Pallida is wonderful. It is close by the house, looking magnificent against a blue winter sky.

Walking through the garden yesterday, it is always a surprise how good the moss looks on the stone walls. When the leaves are off the trees, the moss seems to take centre arena and is a perfect foil for winter blooms and early bulbs.

I walked up through the steps and into the woodland, elated to see the upright stems and flowers of Mahonia x media Charity. These branches pull the arch of the sky down within reach.

The Sarcococca confusa; sweet box; behind the Font Stone wall brought a gasp of pleasure as I have never seen it looking so well and with lots of the small dizzily, fragrant flowers amongst the leaves.

The final surprise yesterday was Ilex…..a wonderful variegated holly…..dripping with berries and outlined against the sky.

It’s good to be home and how great is it that our garden greets us with such splendour.

Love (and a garden) in a Warm Climate

Our daughter Elizabeth has a garden at Lyttleton on the South Island of New Zealand.
It is an overused word, but her garden really is ' lovely'
Lyttleton is a quirky village ....lots of old characterful wooden houses, arranged around the slopes of a volcanic harbour.  At the bottom of the hill is the port for Christchurch.
The busy Port and the comings and goings of container ships and ferries make Lyttelton a real lively place.

Lizzy's garden is a real cottage garden in all senses, though without livestock as yet.

She has bowers of roses and native plants side by side, and beds of annuals and old fashioned flowers like columbines next to lush rows of potatoes and beds of silver beet and kale.  Leeks and many coloured lettuce and fruit bushes backing up and filling border gaps.
If Lizzy has learnt anything from her nurserymen parents, it is to feed and to make compost, both of which she does.
New Zealand is blessed with warm summers and mild winters, but with enough of a chill in the winter to ensure the plants have a real rest season and know where they are.
Elizabeth has also learnt our love of annuals and the garden is hence ensured of pots of summer colour - cornflowers, pot marigold, cosmos, and lots of sweet peas.
And here and there are the native plants, flax, southern beech, ake-ake.  All happy and thriving and full of birds in the early morning and late afternoon. You have to love the liquid notes of the bell birds and the fantails, along side naturalised European birds, the yellowhammers and goldfinches and black birds.

She has to water a lot with the dry New Zealand winds and strong strong sunlight. This will become less as she builds up the humus and fertility in the soil.
Whilst deadheading in Lizzy's garden today, It struck me that it is the job of every gardener to pass on their soil in better condition than they found it.  Viva la compost!
MD Lyttelton.  January 2013

A Pohutukawa Christmas

We are in the South Island of New Zealand again, visiting family and friends for Christmas and New Year and taking every chance to get out into the hills and the native bush.
We also spend a fair amount of time looking over fences and into people's gardens as we walk up the steep hills here in Lytellton.

What you notice straight away is that many of the tender summer bedding plants we grow at home in Scotland, do exceptionally well here, in fact they thrive.
Banks of geraniums, vast clumps of pelargoniums, flowering clumps of aeoniums and roses to die for.
The roses, the roses, it makes  you  understand that many roses really love a milder winter.


Many of the modern Hybrid T roses look great. In Scotland, Iceberg is a virus ridden, frequently black spotted, defoliated white floribunda, here it is a healthy vigorous shrub and completely reliable white!
David Austin roses are very popular  here.  I believe that is because many of the repeat flowering modern roses that he raises also love a mild winter.

Of course, It can get too hot and dry in their New Zealand summers, but they really can't have it all ways!

The large white scramblers and coloured ramblers are magnificent, as you can see.

Oh my, it does inspire you to have another go, and hope and hope that we get that long overdue good summer.  To dream

Beautiful Red Pohutukawa
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