River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Passionate About Plants

May 2011

Paul send in his report from Scotland where the summer has arrived early!

Summer has arrived early

I was inspired to start this article at the end of March. I was sat in the kitchen relaxing after starting a new job reading the local rag, the wildlife article really pleased me as they were excited to report the return of the Ospreys to their secret location in the estuary not far from us, and they also reported the first sighting of a Swallow this year in Newton Stewart. I was surprised somewhat, although the weather had been really hot and sunny. I was hoping that tomorrow being my day off the weather would remain hot and sunny, and sure enough the day was not going to disappoint. I had arranged to go and visit Jimmy the head gardener at Logan House a private garden open to the public, well worth a visit at this time of year due to the rhododendron trees (and I do mean tree size!). This is definitely the time of year to see these large growing species Rhododendrons in their full glory, such as sinogrande this is magnificent as a foliage plant with its shining dark green leaves which sometimes can measure as large as 80cm long and 30cm wide. The lower surface has a silvery grey or fawn indumentums. The flowers are creamy white with a crimson blotch and are held in huge trusses at this time of year. It was discovered and introduced by George Forrest in 1913 and due to the size of these large plants they must have been planted about that time. There are of course a lot of other specimens and not only of Rhododendrons and so it is no wonder that Jimmy is very proud of his woodland garden.

It was on my drive there that I saw my first Swallow of the year but of course one swallow does not make a summer! However, the next day whilst walking the dogs on my lunch break at the new gardens and nursery that I work for I saw yet another Swallow, by the following week I had counted up to twenty Swallows collecting mud in a local wet field.

The new gardens are less than a mile from the cliff top on the southern most tip of the Machars and although it's set in the lee of a small hill it is still a very windy site. On a clear day you can see the Isle of Man - and it feels so close you could almost reach out and touch it (if you were a very big giant!). The name of the garden and farm houses translate from Gaelic into the valley of the dogs, and when you walk down the valley to the beach the sides of the cliffs are covered in Primroses. More Primroses than I have ever seen in my lifetime! Peregrine Falcons live on the cliffs and between the two cliff top hills a juvenile Golden Eagle over wintered this year. The farmer and his son told me that this winter during the bad weather they observed a large white owl in the garden, much bigger than a barn owl which they have locally, so they came to the conclusion that it must have been a Snowy Owl. Where the gardens are situated surprisingly enough remind me very much of Cornwall, it is therefore no surprise that growing outside in the garden they have a range of plants which we would have considered in Norfolk to be conservatory plants, I am most certainly looking forward to the challenge of propagating and growing these plants. One such plant is Felicia an evergreen sub shrub grown for its daisy like blue flowers prefers full sun and well drained soil, often grown as a bedding plant in East Anglia.

The garden is best known for an amazing Magnolia it is a variety of sprengeri called Diva it is a small to medium sized tree occasionally up to 13 metres high, which has just finished flowering. The pink flowers resembling and as rich as, those of M.campbellii but smaller and fragrant, Diva flowers are rose-carmine and caught in full sun they seem to be fluorescent. It derives from a tree at Caerhays, Cornwall, which is the only Wilson seedling of the typical variety to survive.

The weather here is still glorious and luckily we get rain at night, so I guess it won't be long before the midges become a nuisance. If you were to ask Jimmy when midge season was he would say "its starts on the 1st of January and ends on the 31st December", with a smile. I can't imagine wearing a kilt in true Scotsman style!

I look forward to my next trip down to Norfolk, which will hopefully be the 6th May when I am booked to be on the panel at the Swaffham gardener's question time in aid of the Macmillan nurses, I hope to see some of you there.

Happy gardening.

(Your new Scottish correspondent).

Paul Markwell

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