Open gardens & other reports 2016

Summer pruning at Resolis  -  Saturday 20 August

Well even if you thought you knew a lot about pruning fruit trees we bet you would have learned something new on Saturday at Resolis community orchard.  Alastair Grieve, who spent years working in a 7 acre walled garden on the Beaufort Estate near Beauly, was a mine of information. 

In warm sunshine ten or so of us learned how vital it is not to let disease into fruit trees and cherries and plums are particularly prone.  So cutting out any overlapping branches that would cause chafing can help as can a good spraying of tar wash in the winter.  Incidentally, looking up tar wash on the internet showed that it has now been banned in the UK but an RHS winter tree wash maybe achieves the same results.

For apple trees, breast pruning  (bending and breaking, but not cutting, side and secondary branches) at this time of year encourages formation of fruiting buds ready for next year.  These broken branches can then be pruned off during winter pruning.  

Alastair (on the right in the picture) has promised to come back in October to show us how to winter prune apples and pears – don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one who has had years of fruit growing experience.



Open Gardens

Sunday 31 July  -  Maggie Dove

'Bayview', Jemimaville, IV7 8LU

Julian Paren was one of many visitors to Maggie's wonderful garden, and writes:

"Maggie Dove opened her garden for Grow North and TBI Members on Sunday 31 July.  Maggie lives in the centre of Jemimaville and her north-facing garden lying behind the house trends down to the shore of the Cromarty Firth.  Maggie runs her garden as a dig-free garden, which includes a greenhouse and one area in which she follows Forest Permaculture Principles. 

Maggie showed off her array of compost containers that are an essential element of a no-dig approach because she feeds the crops by applying surface mulches.  Maggie’s approach for growing potatoes is to start with a pile of cut weeds, which are covered with cardboard, and potatoes planted through it into the decaying weeds, all topped off with a layer of mulch.  Further mulch is added as the foliage grows.  This seemed to all as a great way to make weeds edible!  Something I will try.

Maggie’s garden was full of vegetables, fruit bushes, fruit trees and above all small plants that could be used in salads or just nibbled as you maintained the garden.   One speciality of Maggie is growing varieties of willow and dogwoods, from which Maggie harvests the stems for basket making and other crafts.  She has also constructed a rainwater collection system at the house and through a long pipe delivers the water to a pond at the bottom of the garden.  Maggie seems to have thought of everything!

Maggie enthused for the hour of our garden tour and the 1pm group left with many ideas from a fascinating insight into a less orthodox way of running a garden that was clearly very productive and successful.  Thank you Maggie".


Saturday 30 July  -  Clive Brandon and Julie Plumridge

The Warren, Kilcoy Farm, Muir of Ord, IV6 7RX

Clive and Julie were kept busy on Saturday showing a steady stream of visitors round their garden at The Warren, Kilcoy – though 'garden' is hardly adequate to describe it, as in addition to a newly rabbit-fenced vegetable plot they have a large area of lawn, shrubs and rough grass, a 'wilderness space' where nature is left to take its course, and over an acre of woodland. 


The sloping vegetable area contains a number of terraced semi-raised beds randomly planted with a variety of vegetables and unusual salad plants, and a potato patch (hastily fenced against deer) with fifteen different varieties bought at TBI's Potato Day.  Refreshments and a variety of reading material were on offer in the large conservatory where many of the garden plants were raised.

Clive and Julie have achieved a remarkable amount since moving to The Warren last September, and have ambitious plans for future development.  Thanks are due to them for inviting TBI members to share and enjoy their work in progress.

Saturday 9 July  -  Cromarty Open Gardens day 

A sunny summer day (we used to have them, remember?) would have been better, but at least the rain more or less held off until closing time.  Everywhere you went in Cromarty last Saturday there were serious-looking individuals and groups poring over their maps looking for the next of the twenty-plus gardens opened for the day by their owners.  At some you just peered over the fence - which most of us do all the time anyway - but it was nice to know you were doing it without risking suspicious looks from behind the lace curtains;  at others you were welcomed into and invited to wander around gardens of all sizes, shapes and styles, often with the owners on hand to discuss, explain and chat - more than one of whom was heard to say "Well at least it made me do a bit of weeding".

The Open Gardens day was organised by Fran Sadler and Fran Tilbrook, and raised £1000 for local charities Cromarty Care and Fourways.  Congratulations and thanks are due to the organisers and all those who opened their gardens for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Julian Paren took the pictures, and writes:

"Cromarty was a kaleidoscope of colour.  There was so much to see.  From the spacious gardens of the large houses to the enclosed back gardens of the terraces.  The owners were delighted to welcome the visitors who filled the green with cars in the busiest I have seen Cromarty.



"Away from the bustle of the gardens was the exhibition in East Church of both floral displays and the water colours of local artists tutored by Julie Price, a national expert in botanical illustration.  It all made one feel quite humble with ones own limited artistic skills and knowing how much work ones own garden needs.  Thank you Cromarty folk for arranging this on the day of the Cromarty Market so that the visit to Cromarty was doubly rewarding."


TBI member and Cromarty resident Sheila Currie was one of those who opened her garden (her picture below), and she writes:

"As the day drew closer, I began to wish I'd never put my garden up for scrutiny by unknown experts - those who came would surely be MUCH more knowledgeable and more skilled than me.  And of course the best flowers were in full bloom a week BEFORE the date and so were merely seed heads on the day itself - such is always the way - but it forced me to do more weeding than I usually do and look far more critically at my own efforts (so some hurried plant buying and a bit of new path put in...).

"On the day, a trickle of guests arrived and we talked a bit about the plants, and then some more arrived and so I had to duck about and try to welcome everybody and answer any questions; and at times there seemed to be a river of people coming through my house and walking on my grass.

"Everyone who spoke to me said they liked what I was doing.  I learned more about my own ways of gardening by seeing it through others' ears and eyes; and I felt extremely happy to have shared a bit of what makes ME feel happy with a lot of other people and hopefully also spread some interest in biodiversity and natural & native planting; the mix of fruit and veg and flowers in-amongst the trees and walls. 

"By the end my feet hurt and my voice was hoarse, but it was an excellent opportunity to meet people - locals nebbing in as well as visitors from across the UK - and to build the sense of shared community of place and interests.  Cromarty was buzzing with visitors and bees - I must make sure I get to visit some of the other gardens on the tour!"

Sunday 3 July  -  Fuggo and Geoff King

Lower Arboll Croft, Inver, Tain IV20 1SQ 

Trish McKeggie was one of the visitors, and writes:

"Twenty years of dedication has transformed a  2 acre field into an intriguing Forest Garden.  And what a brilliant use of my favourite tree the Hazel everywhere,  interspersed with pockets of surprises; a young Sweet Chestnut (that means 20 years old) in a circle of Hazel, a glade with benches to party, a couple of vegetable gardens and a big open lawn with polytunnel and greenhouse.

A great interest in growing veg is apparent, with strawberries and gooseberries flowing down to meet them. And don't forget the raspberries (the woodland fruit), some for people, some for the birds and all propped up with Hazel sticks!  A most happy, different and entertaining afternoon spent down in the woods near Tain.

With many thanks to Fuggo and Geoff and cats and hens and all who helped arrange the visit."

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