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Growing a garden on the wild  West Coast of Scotland …?

"To forget how to dig the earth & to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I was initially concerned that my garden plans would be limited given how close we are to the beach, not to mention the west coast weather. However, with a little trial and error it can be done.

As I have mentioned previously the garden was really just a large, neglected lawn with a couple of shrubs when we bought the property. Take a look at some of the photos in the ‘Renovation Journey’ under The Owners section of the website. Knowing that gardens take time to establish I decided to make a start on creating one, even though the house renovation was nowhere near completed. That was back in July 2019.

I chose to start by putting in a herbaceous border on the more sheltered side of the garden. This area was 'lawn' backed by a wire fence that had long since been swallowed by weeds. With the help of ‘Old’ Ronnie, from a nearby farm, and his mini digger the ground was cleared and broken up. My mum and I painstakingly worked our way down the bed clearing out weeds, roots and a surprising amount of broken glass??  Adding in some soil improver and fertiliser. I also did my best to tackle the nettles and sticky willies that had taken hold along the fence line, I even put down some weed suppressing matting in the hope of slowing down their inevitable return. Another of my ideas was to plant lots of orange Crocosmia, which grows wild everywhere, as a kind of natural weed barrier - whilst I love their cheery orange flowers, it has now presented me another job to do as they really have to be kept in check....they truly are a plant that wants to grow !!  Once all that was done, I could finally turn my attention to plants. 

As it was a large garden bed there was no way I could afford to fill it with new plants, as lovely as that would have been. Fortunately, my mum is a keen gardener and I was able to raid her garden for cuttings and some plant 'babies'. Some of my most successful plants came from her garden, particularly the Lavetera, red Crocosmia, Asters, Red Currant and St. John’s Wort. We also foraged a few from the hedgerows – Golden Loosestrife and Foxgloves. I did buy a few new plants from the local nursery though, and in they went with a little prayer to the garden gods to help them grow. I will list some of the plants at the bottom of this post with a note about how they are doing so far and pop a few photos on too.  

I also had to tackle the hedge around the perimeter, which had been overtaken with weeds, and the pretty, but highly invasive, Himalayan Balsam – That’s a tale for another day though.

I planted a Weeping Cherry Tree and a Bramley Apple Tree. Both did very well, but sadly in 2022 the Cherry Tree succumbed to a root disease and died. Such a shame as it really was beautiful, a mass of swaying pink blossoms. I couldn’t plant anything from the same genus in the that spot as the root disease was still in the soil and would have infected the new plant, so I opted for a Weeping Birch and so far, it has been doing just fine. We have since added two more apple trees, a Katy and a Discovery, both are doing well - the apples are ripe in early autumn and guests are welcome to give them a try. Other additions are a Weeping Cotoneaster, Witchhazel, Dragon's Claw Willow and a Rowan Tree. The Rowan is quite an important tree in Scottish folklore and is often found growing near standing stones, it is said to be a symbol of protection against witches and the like. Last year I noticed a 'fairy' ornament had appeared at the foot of the Rowan tree, I have no idea who put it there?

 The lawn has had to be scarified each year as it was 99% moss. Even now, after 4 scarifies (is that even a term?) we still fill up to 11 huge, bulk garden waste bags with moss. I suspect this lawn improvement is what may have led to the arrival of moles…

The moles only started to appear last summer, however, our main battle is with rabbits. We have a few citadels of rabbit warrens in the field behind the property and they are home to hundreds of rabbits. These little critters see my garden as a veritable smorgasbord of delicacies. I am prepared to share a few leaves and shoots with them, but unfortunately that is not where their destruction ends. They dig….and dig….my garden bed borders are rifled and the bark mulch thrown all over the place, and worse still they damage the roots of plants. I have tried to block as many of the entry points as I can, but I think the phrase is "I'm on a hiding to nothing". Ideally what’s needed is some chicken wire all the way around the perimeter, sunk at least a foot down to prevent digging – but that would only really have been possible back when the house was built and the area was accessible. So, I rely on the visiting four legged guests to leave their scent about the place and hopefully that will deter the bunnies. Guests are welcome to submit advice on this matter🐇

Below is a list of the plants I started out with. It is quite a hotch-potch of a list, but I was unsure what would do well, so planted a bit of everything and it is only now that I am able to get a picture of what works and what doesn't.  Gardening requires a great deal of patience and an acceptance of loss, but the results are always worth the wait. 

Hydrangea White - Alive, but struggling. May need to be relocated this year.

Hydrangea Pink Lace Cap – Doing OK

Lady's Mantle – Doing really well

Callistemon Bottlebrush – Could be better, may need more light.

Spotted Laurel – Doing well

Aster Michaelmass Daisy – Doing well, perhaps too well !

Shasta Daisy – Doing well

Fatsia Japonica Caster Oil Plant – Struggling, needs relocating this year. 

Acer Maple Varigated – Could be doing better

Acer Maple Red – Needs to be relocated this year

Lysimachia Golden Candles/Loosestrife – FORAGED – doing very well, needs thinning

Crocosmia Orange – Doing too well, needs severe thinning this year!!

Buddleja Davidii Black Knight – Doing well (we also have lots of native Buddleja)

Digitalis Common Foxglove – FORAGED – Doing well.

Centaurea Montana – Doing well

Berberis Darwnii – Doing well

Photinia Louise – Struggling, will try relocating this year.

Hemerocallis Lily – Doing well 

Black Elder – Struggling, may lose it

Mahonia Japonica – Doing really well

Viburnum – Doing well

Rhubarb – Doing well

Cotoneaster Horizontalis – Doing well

Red Currant -Doing really well

Goats Beard – Doing well

Euonymous Varigated – Doing well

Geranium Native – doing really well

Lavetera Olbia Rosea – Doing really well

Lavetera Pale Pink – doing really well

Red Cortinus – Doing well

Hypericum St. Johns Wort – Doing really well

White Yarrow – Doing too well, needs thinned