Midges - Scotland's worst kept secret

Midges...Scotland's worst kept secret...but people still often looked surprised when first bitten.
Yet they are rather like childbirth, you forget about them when they are not about.
Midge hood - Abriachan Nurseries
Well today is really odd...28 degrees in Scotland and no midges on 25th July.
It is too hot for them!

These are the three best things.......if it is too hot or too cold or too windy then  - NO MIDGES.

And what a relief. I get pretty sulky some evenings because I know we can't eat outside, as before we are even 20 minutes in, they will arrive en masse as uninvited dinner companions.
One of the best things about being on holiday in Australia or New Zealand is that you can eat outside, or even simply have the windows wide open in the evenings.
If the House & Garden magazines are to be believed, you can eat outside in the evenings in the cities and also sometimes in the stylishly quaint villages, I suppose there is less vegetation...but you definitely cannot do it in a garden close to water...so that us out, or rather in!

Midgies - Abriachan Nurseries
Her Revenge
So how do we live with them?

Well you do get used to them. So for instance if you are out for a walk, you do just that, keep moving briskly. That leaves them behind...except for the odd persistent one.
You use midge repellent and over the years we have tried them all. The citronella ones, the ones based on bog myrtle, that smelt nice and the ones with evil sounding DEET as the insecticide ingredient.
I can't say I have been impressed with any of them.
Having said that I am currently using one called SMIDGE.......it is the best yet and does seem to help. I just don't like using anything chemical on my skin too often.
This smidge has been researched and formatted by the guys behind the Scottish midge forecast ..so maybe they do know a thing about the wretched blighters

The other and preferable method of protection is the midge hood. This is a fine mesh hood , that keeps them out and you can see through.
Of course it darkens the world and gets a bit hot and sweaty after a while, but basically works well. They work well and we have had a couple for some years now, and still going strong.
When our daughter Cathy came back from working in Canada she bought a gift of a full ...or any way half-body net protector.
This will be designed for mosquitoes; and the mossies in the Arctic Circle do sound like man-eaters . It works well and Donald as you see rather suits it. However I have seen more than one startled visitor come across him suited up in the garden.
Midge half body net - Abriachan Nurseries

Beyond that, tuck your trousers in your socks, wear long sleeved and high necked tops, all methods not really designed for the heat and so it is as well they go away over about 25 degrees.

There is also the midge catcher idea and I recall we bought one about 6 years ago. It only works, and only partially and over a small area and you have to keep replacing the propane gas as it is the CO2 they are attracted to.  We gave up on that.  Jo who works for us always offers to do any summer barbeques...as the smoke is a great midge repellent. Of course she will end up smell like a smoked kipper, but you cant have it all ways.

But don't let the rotten old midges put you off coming to Scotland,. Some years are worse than others and this summer is pretty good. But if you wonder why Highlanders retreat indoors and close the windows on summer evenings...now you know.

The Year of The Poppy

Back in winter I clearly recall saying to Donald ”This is 2014 and if ever there was one, this is the year of the poppy”
And so it is. We have the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of the 1st world war, and as August approaches we will all be swept up in the reflection and memories that the date and its attendant ceremonies will awaken.
Anyone of my post 2nd world war generation will be steeped in family stories and memories of the 1914-1918 war. They were 50 year old memories when I was a teenager, and my grandfather was gone, at a younger age than necessary as the long shadow of the trenches and gassing and the whole experience took its long slow toll on many British men.
The memories and reflections have freshened in recent years, and the annual Memorial Day ceremonies are now very well attended, and red poppies are a potent symbol in our lives.
Oriental Poppies Papaver orientale Abriachan Nurseries

Looking around the nursery and the garden, it has been surprising and pleasing to see the range of poppies we grow and Donald has responded to my never ending desire to add more.
I’ll keep the reporting coming over the summer and autumn as they come into flower, but here is the first instalment and they look terrific.

Californian Poppy  (Escholtzia californica)
These are fabulous and without peer on a warm sunny day. We grow the single orange, no mixtures or frilled varieties as I find they just do not have the impact and sheer exuberance of the orange. They now self-seed for us, and that gets things moving after a mild winter.

Californian Poppy  Escholtzia californica Abriachan Nurseries

Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule)
A favourite as we used to grow lots in The Falkland Islands, where they seemed to thrive on cool summers and sea spray. Well they would wouldn’t they.
Best grown as seed & growth year 1 (sown in March/April or even May) and up to flower year 2. A good percentage carries on into years 3 and 4. 
They make really good cut flowers, plunge them into a deep jug of water.

Iceland Poppies Papaver nudicaule Abriachan Nurseries

Welsh Poppies  (Meconopsis cambrica)
Tough, easy to grow poppies. We like to create areas of the garden where they are all yellow or all orange, and I love the red ones that pop up unexpectedly in many corners. Very tolerant of woodland shade and hence extremely useful to brighten dull corners. 

Welsh Poppies Meconopsis cambrica Abriachan Nurseries

Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)
These are the huge early summer poppies. They have large heads and centres of quivering black stamens. All colours are wonderful, but the reds and pinks stand out for us with performance and you have to love the huge whites with black thumb prints at the base of the petals and the striking black centres. Feed well and have a nearby perennial or some annuals to take over the space as these die down.  Show stoppers!

Oriental Poppies Papaver Perry's Pink Abriachan Nurseries

Himalayan Poppies (Meconopsis)
Any gardener will have heart stopping moments of pleasure when they see these superb blue poppies growing well.  We have acid sandy soil, and provided we keep them well fed, and watch they do not dry out, these aristocratic, elegant plants do wonderfully  well for us.  

Himalayan Poppies Meconopsis Abriachan Nurseries

There are a range of cultivars and some very nice coloured variants like Hensol Violet. 
I’ll try and guide you through them and all our other poppies, including the fabulous ladybird poppies, in another Blog another time.
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