Showing posts with label cottage in Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cottage in Scotland. Show all posts

Early Spring - too warm too soon!


I love my springtime clutter here in this 200 year old house. It has been unusually warm and sunny here for a couple of weeks, and that means that when the weather changes, as it is going to do later on this week, and becomes much much colder - with frosts too - the incautious blossoms will be nipped. 

Currently wondering if I can cover the beautiful magnolia stellata with something to protect it. At least the very old apple tree at the bottom of the garden is always very careful and bides its time! 

Roses and Writing: Perseverance Pays


I seem to be writing a lot of posts about roses just now, but they really have been spectacular this year here in Scotland! 

About twenty five years ago - perhaps a little more - we had an expedition to beautiful Holker Hall with good friends. That's a picture of our respective kids, before they became all grown up - Charlie and Lucy. 

They had got candy canes from the gift shop and were busy sucking away at them to turn them into sharp points, so that they could duel with them, as far as I remember! 

It was at Holker that I first saw how rambling roses could be grown into trees and how beautiful they looked. So the following year, I managed to buy a couple of suitably tall ramblers from David Austin Roses: Paul's Himalayan Musk, and another called Rosa Felipes Kiftsgate. 

It was ambitious, but we do have a handful of quite tall trees in our cottage garden.

Paul's Himalayan Musk took off right away. It was a few years before it was properly established, but look at it now. 

Kiftsgate was different though. It grew a bit, and then seemed to get some kind of fungus. I cut it back and left it alone. It grew again, but not much. And to be honest, I kind of forgot about it. It had been planted in a little shrubbery, with a gorgeous holly tree that grew taller every year. Sometimes I would see a few flowers, and sometimes I would trim back a bit of the resulting growth. Often I would think I should get rid of it, but then I would forget and just leave it to its own devices. The slightly chaotic shrubbery with holly, honeysuckle, spiraea and philadelphus, provides great cover for the smaller birds in summer and winter alike, so we trim it back a little, but otherwise leave it alone.  

Cue forward to this year, which has been a bumper year for roses of all kinds. The Himalayan Musk had flowered and mostly died back by last week, when I was standing beside the holly tree and suddenly noticed that here and there were clutches of rosebuds. Lots and lots and lots of them. 

Quietly and without fuss, Kiftsgate has clambered up and through the bigger branches of the holly tree - and here it is, twenty five years later, flowering beautifully and almost reaching the top of the holly. When I walk down the garden at night, I can smell the gorgeous scent of it. I can see it from my window as I type this.

As with writing, sometimes gardening just takes a little time and patience! 

Where do the crows roost at night?

Drawing by Alan Lees 

 The birds in our garden have pretty much kept me sane throughout the past covid infested months. Especially a pair of very large crows - carrion crows, I think - that have become reasonably tame over the summer. At first they would watch me from a distant rooftop and only come down into the garden once I was safely indoors. 

Now they watch me from our own rooftop, and will even come down onto the bird table when I'm still in the garden. A couple of weeks ago when we were taking advantage of the last of the fine weather, sitting outside for a late afternoon glass of wine with our immediate neighbours, they even flew down to have their customary supper from a smaller feeder, with a drink of water from the bird bath afterwards. We carried on talking and they carried on eating, glancing around occasionally to make sure that we were still in friendly mode.

I put out a seed mix for the birds - we have a lot of small birds in this garden: sparrows, tits, robins, wrens, blackbirds and many more, as well as bigger birds like wood pigeons and collar doves. There are covids in plenty: jackdaws on all the roofs, rooks in the trees in the overgrown field at the bottom of the garden, and a pair of magpies that are not very welcome since they do tend to bully the smaller birds. However, there is plenty of cover for the wee ones in this garden, so they should be OK.

The crows are shown a great deal of respect by everyone else. It's fascinating to watch them. They don't seem to be particularly aggressive, but the smaller birds, and even the smaller corvids, always give way to them. 

Very occasionally I'll put out a bit of stale bread. The crows love it, but they will dip it in the bird bath till it's nice and soft, like dunking a biscuit I suppose. Sometimes, with a particularly hard bit of crust, they will leave it in the water for a few moments, eat a bit more seed, and then come back to it. 

What I really want to know though, is where they roost at night? I assume it must be in one of the bigger trees. We have old fashioned hedges and a big viburnum, and I know that's where all the sparrows hang out. The blue tits and the robin commandeer a holly tree. The pigeons take shelter in a tall fir tree, very thick at the top. The jackdaws lurk among the chimney pots.

But I've never managed to see exactly where the crows go to roost. And they're so big that you'd think it would be obvious.