To chop, or not to chop?

 Yes that really is the question.  I have debated for a while whether or not to give the tree heath (Erica arborea estrella gold) a good chop.  It has been getting rather too big for the bed and the Japanese anemones are struggling to get past it now.  As far as I know, you only really prune the spent flowers off straight after flowering and you get lovely new bright lime green foliage.  They should respond well if they are cut back into the old wood but I just couldn't decide how much I wanted to remove, so for the first chop (after discussing with Debs - our new garden help) she chopped some of the underskirt off first to see if any new growth would appear.  Later I just decided that we should just go for the big chop now so that it had a chance to put on some new growth this year.  So we chopped a bit more off but left a few woody stems at each trunk.  We still can't decide if we should go even lower than that.  So maybe next week we will have made a final decision.  It certainly lets a lot more light to the plants on other side of the bed.

tree heath before the chop
Erica arborea estrella gold

tree heath after the 1st chop view from upstairs
Erica arborea estrella gold after 1st chop

tree heath after the 2nd chop view from upstairs
Erica arborea estrella gold after 2nd chop

tree heath after 2nd chop view straight on
Erica arborea estrella gold after 2nd chop

This week when Debs came round it was peeing down so we decided to stay indoors.  Time for that big cactus to be re-potted I think.  It has been one of those jobs that I have been putting off because I knew it would be a bit tricky.  As the plastic pot it was in was rather old, it pretty much fell apart which gave Debs a half pot to use to hold the prickly cactus with.  It definitely looks much nicer in this pot.

cactus repotted
Cactus variety unknown

Another job I had been putting off was to sort out the tree fern.  I still don't know if it is a Dicksonia antarctica or squarrosa.  As the label said antarctica I will go with that, but did have someone round a few years back, who was from New Zealand, and they thought it was a squarrosa as it had a few 'trunks' and not just a single trunk.  It has been in the same pot for years now and has grown 6 trunks and is very congested.  I know that only the top parts will grow back so I asked Debs to cut 3 of the smaller trunks off to leave the 3 larger ones.  Debs needed a bit of help from Harry as it was pretty hard work.  She then cut the ends of the old stipes back to neaten it all up, and it now looks great, and instead of being a bit jaggy looking is now looks ever so hairy.  Of the 3 bits that she cut off, only 2 might grow again as the growing tip of the 3rd one just came off.  So we are experimenting with the other 2 to see if we can get them to grow.  The first photo is a few years old but you can see the new trunks growing up and the jaggy ends where I had cut off the old fronds.

tree fern congested before being chopped
Dicksonia antarctica (or squarrosa)

tree fern after being chopped
Dicksonia after being chopped

tree fern close-up of hairy trunks
Dicksonia close-up of hairy 'trunks'


July: the good, the bad and the strange.

 As always we must start by mentioning the weather.  We started with the sunshine and warmth, then the torrential rain and thunder, and now back to sunshine and warmth.  These photographs were taken before the rain except the philadlephus, it was looking fabulous, as were the roses, until the rain pelted down taking most of the petals with it.  Some of the roses were just a soggy mess and had to chopped as they would have just rotted instead of opening.  Some of the old trellis was still up, but Harry has taken it all down now and it make s a big difference.  The neighbours' and golf course' trees all blend into our ivy clad walls now.

By the pond I spotted a couple of damselflies and the blue tailed one came into the conservatory.  I am afraid the photos are not great (taken at speed with my phone camera). 

blue tailed damselfly on the conservatory wall
Ischnura elegans (blue tailed damselfly)

The large red damselfly was just flitting about on the leaves of the marsh marigold.

large red damselfly sitting on a marsh marigold leaf
Pyrrhosoma nymphula (large red damselfly)


The surface of the pond is mostly covered with floating duckweed and pond pants but I try to keep an area clear so the sun can get through to the oxygenating plants below.  The area covered by floating plants has also been covered by hundreds of semaphore flies.  The males flash their wings, which have a white tips, to entice a female and this resembles semaphore signals.  They have gorgeous bronze and mellatic green colourations.

semaphore fly on garden pond
Poecilobothrus nobiltatus (semaphore fly)


Also in the pond are some very fast water crickets.  I think these are the nymphs as the adults have red line down the abdomen.  They have white markings that to me look like a face.  They flit about on the water surface of the pond.

water cricket nymph skitting about the surface of the pond
Velia caprai (water cricket)

 A new fungus has appeared this year.  At first I though it was another puff ball or earth ball but as it grew - it changed shape.  I think this is a stinkhorn.  The cap is covered in something called a gleba which contains the spores.  It emits a smell that attracts flies which then get covered in the spores.It disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

stinkhorn mushroom
Phallus impudicus (stinkhorn mushroom)

Now just a few snapshots of the garden before the rain just taken at different angles.

foxgloves by the curling stone

beds in July 2021

beds in July 2021

beds in July 2021

beds in July 2021

The yellow irises did well out in the front garden.  I don't actually know the name of them, mum was splitting hers so she gave me some.

tall yellow iris in the front garden
Yellow iris front garden

And after the rain I am afraid the nepeta was flattened, the roses all drooped and lost a lot of petals, lots of the foxgloves keeled over with the weight of the rain, and the poor philadelphus that was just looking and smelling gorgeous lost lots of petals too.

philadelphus loosing it's petals after the rain
Philadelphus losing it's petals after the rain

Once the rest of the foxgloves go over I will have some bare areas to put some new plants in.  They are waiting in their pots on the patio until then.

Our dog had his first dip in the pond this week (by accident) and he didn't think much of it, so he then had a zoomie around the garden then dug 3 holes!  Also, a neighbours cat fell into the pond this morning.  I was watering the plants on the patio when I hear a big plop and splash.  I looked up and saw  a very wet, bedraggled, black and white cat slinking off down the garden. 

The forecast for the next few days is lots of sunshine a high temperatures so that will mean I have lots more watering to do.


Colour in the garden in early June

Now that we have had a bout of rain, we are now getting some lush new growth - not just the plants but also the weeds. June has started with loads of welcome sunshine and in the stumpery area the golden coloured plants are absolutely glowing. I have lots of different ferns all around the garden but the Dryopteris crispa congesta in the stumpery are sporting the their bright green, upright fronds. The ivy along the stumpery side wall, Hedera helix Goldheart has mainly reverted back to dark green as it is pretty shady over there, but when the sun does fall on the Acer Shirawanum Aureum, it picks out the gold hearts in the ivy leaves in the background. Just in front of the Corylus avellana contorta is the very bright Oregano vulgare Auereum. The oregano makes pretty good ground cover which can brighten up the somewhat shady stumpery.
bright green new fronds on Dryopteris crispa congesta
Dryopteris crispa congesta
bright golden leaves on Acer Shirawanum Aureum
Acer Shirawanum Aureum    

golden foliage of origano aureum
Oregano vulgare Auereum

Newly planted in the stumpery is the very pretty Primula Japonica Apple Blossom.  I usually like to plant in groups of 3 or 5 but I had also bought the primulas for pond side so just bought this one and hope I can divide it soon to get a nice clump.  I like it beside the old log (there are pink aquilegia to the left and blue ajuga to the right top).

Primula Japonica Apple Blossom beside old log
Primula Japonica Apple Blossom


The other acer in the garden (in the raised bed) is looking fabulous right now, flowing over the side walls down to the ground.  I will need to pull out a few of the London's pride as it is getting pretty over grown now, and give the acer a wee trim later in the year.

Acer palmatum Dissectum Garnet in the raised bed
Acer palmatum Dissectum Garnet

Acer palmatum Dissectum Garnet in the raised bed, end on.  
Raised bed


The pond area is taking a while to get going this year.  The marsh marigolds have gone over but the cotton grass ( Eriophorum angustifolium) looking nice.  I am still waiting for the newly planted primulas to flower.  

Just now we are getting lots of sunshine and very little rain so my main jobs just now are keeping things watered, pond topped up and staking some of the tall flowers.

Eriphorum angustifolium in the pond
Eriphorum angustifolium


May - out with some old, and in with some new plants.

 What is going on in the garden early May 2021?  Well I have to begin with the weird weather over the last month - According to the met office April 2021 had the lowest average minimun temperature for April in the UK since 1922, and the UK has seen it's highest levels of air frost in 60 years.  BUT we had the sunniest April on record!  It was certainly a very dry month here in Edinburgh so I was constantly out with the hose.  I had bought biological controls called Nematodes to control levels of vine weevils and slugs in certain areas of the garden and these must be used within a certain time.  Ideally you wait until the soil temperature is consistentky up to 5 C and apply during rainfall.  Well that wasn't possible but I had to use them up.  It is hard work using large watering cans and holding them out at arm's length to apply the solutions so I ended up with a very sore back and shoulders for the next few days.  Being paraplegic means that I have very little in the way of core muscles so all the strain is taken by the shoulders and I can't use both hands at once otherwise I will fall over.  Shame you can't just sprinkle them on and hose them in.  I will ask for help the next time and I won't be ordering them until May next year!

In the front garden the daffs have all gone over, as have the epimediums, mahonia, and the white periwinkle.  Disappointingly, only 3 of the tulips have flowered and 3 small irises.  My mum gave me a selection of irises from her garden and I have no idea what kind they are so I just lobed some of them in the diamond shaped bed out the front where they should get plenty of sunshine.

Out in the back garden, Harry dug out the Golden Japanese rush that was taking over the run-off area at the corner of the pond.  We planted some Primula beesiana and bulleyana in it's place. In the pond we added some Typha minima (dwarf bulrush) and one yellow variegated iris.  He also planted 3 dogwoods in the clay area that the pigeons trample to death so hopefully these are sturdy enough to cope.  They look tiny just now though.  I will take a pic when they are looking bigger and better.

Golden varigated grass
Golden Japanese rush

I took out all of the Tierella from the stumpery as it wasn't looking great.  It had gone all knobbly and hardly had any roots.  Perhaps vine weevil damage.  I replaced it with a Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' as it has lovely dark purple foliage and should stay quite low as ground cover (but it is tiny just now).

The primula denticulata are going over now, as are the tulips and most of the narcissi.  Things doing well are the cowslips, forget-me-nots, brunnera, dicentra, pulmonaria, epimedium Rose queen, vinca, marsh marigolds, spirea, and the mossy saxifrage.  I do need to take out some of the moss by the curling stone to give the mossy saxifrage more room though.

border with narcissi
Narcissi going over

carpet of dicentra around rhododendron
Dicentra around the rhododendron

carpet of dicentra
Dicentra formosa bacchanal red

purple vinca in the stumpery
Vinca minor

stumpery in early May
Narcissi and cowslips in the stumpery

brunnera in the stumpery
Brunnera and mossy logs in the stumpery

mossy saxifrage next to curling stone
Mossy saxifrage and moss next to the curling stone

 Mum was getting rid of her 2 troughs due to work getting done to her house so they have a new home here at the corner of the patio.  I am looking forward to seeing them in full bloom.  I do need to get some new pots for the patio too though.

alpine troughs from mum
Two alpine troughs from my mum's garden.

trough with alpines
Left trough with alpines

trough with alpines
Right trough with alpines.

The Duddingston Kirk Garden Club held their first event since lockdown - The May plant sale!  It all went well and we followed the rules of being outdoors, one-way system, had contact-less payment (cash too) and it was just as popular as usual.  The weather was not pleasant as it was very cold. windy and wet but we were prepared with some gazebos over the tables.   I had a rubber mat for beneath my wheelchair so I didn't churn up the soft ground which was a good idea..

Right now though, the weather has changed again - this time a little warmer with showers.  That should cheer the garden up and promote some lush growth (and weeds).


Snappers, loppers, and saw for tougher pruning jobs.

 My favourite and most used tools in the garden are my Darlac cut'n'hold snappers. I have the 655mm and the 1000mm versions. They are great for reaching over and through plants in the border.  I hold onto the left wheel of my chair with my left hand and can reach quite far with my right hand to prune and dead-head.  They are made of aluminium and the smaller one is quite light.  They cutting head can swivel which means it can be used with the left hand (which is sometimes useful and sometimes annoying) and there is a little catch that you can flick with your thumb that keeps the grips closed without you having to grip them closed. They hold onto the stem so it is easier to bring the cut piece to put in a trug rather than them falling back into the flower bed.  The long one really requires both hands as it needs to be stabilised.  I can use it single handed but it is very sore as the hand operating the mechanism has to bear the full weight.  It is much easier to use with one hand supporting the long bar to take the strain.  It can be useful just to pick things out of the bed or even out of the pond. I use the long one especially to cut the climbing roses at the top of the arches.  I have found another use for the smaller one: it is great for getting some weeds out!  Because it has such a good grip I (much better that the ordinary household reacher aids for disabled people) I use it for taking out grass seedlings and small weeds like hairy bittercress.  It has 2 gripper bars that hold onto the cut stem and a blade that does the cutting.  I may actually get a new one and keep that for pruning, and take the blade of the old one and keep that one for weeding.  It won't take out long rooted weeds like dandelions.

Darlac cut'n'hold snappers
Darlac cut'n'hold snappers

Darlac cut'n'hold snapper head
snapper cutting head

Theses bypass loppers are ancient and well used.  I find them very heavy to use and they really require two handed operation.  I can use them if they are pointing up or down, but if I have to use them out to the side I just fall over as I have no core muscles for stability.  I can lop some branches that are low down, and I have managed to lop branches by bracing one lever on the wheelchair and pulling the other lever down.  Much easier  just to ask for help.


 The long reach pruners are not used much any more.  I find them too heavy and unwiedly to use properly.  You need to pull the rope to cut the branch so you need a bit of strength to do this.  It is difficult to see exactly what you are doing and trying to get the right branch to lop.  I have used this with the blade facing me and blade away form me and find  that if you don't have enough strength to get a good cut then the blade can get stuck.  Harry has sometimes come home and found this dangling in a tree if I have not been able to free it myself.

Long reach pruners
Long reach pruners

 This Wilkinson tree saw can be a useful tool, not only when the branches are quite thick but also when the branches may be in a difficult position. Loppers can sometimes just be too big to get into some areas. The teeth cut on the backward stroke and you get a good clean cut  through the wood.  I like the safety features on this one as it can lock in the closed position as well as the open position.  The cutting action is not the same as normal saws so it can take a bit of getting used to.

Wilkinson Sword tree saw
Wilkinson Sword tree saw

I don''t really use shears and as I would have to use them at my side rather that straight on as I would just fall over.  I do have some single handed shears but actually just end up using scissors instead.  These days I just use my Darlac snappers and tree saw, and ask for Harry's help with anything they can't cope with or that I can't reach.


Secateurs, snips, and scissors for pruning and dead-heading.

I have been a paraplegic for many years now:  I have very little in the way of core muscles, have arthritis in both hands, and get supraspinatus tendinitis in my shoulders if I do too much.  Therefore, I have to pace myself when working in the garden.  My tool-trug always sits in the garage ready for me to put it on my knee and trundle down the ramp into the back garden so I don't have to keep going back and forth to retrieve any tools that I may need.    It contains my favourite secateurs, snips and other small tools that I use regularly.  This post is about the tools (secateurs, snips, and scissors) that I find the easiest to use in order to prune small twigs and plants, and to dead-head plants that are within easy reach.  I tend to use one hand for holding onto my wheelchair wheel to stabilize me, while reaching out with the other to do the pruning.

trug containing small tools

My Felco 8 Classic secateurs must be my oldest and most used tool.  I could not do without them.  They are comfortable to use.  They are easy to clean and maintain.  They have an anvil blade with a sap groove.  As long as I remember to clean, oil, and sharpen them, they should last me my lifetime.

felco 8 classic secateurs
Felco 8 Classic secateurs

 My Kew gardens collection ratchet secateurs are great for the slightly thicker, tougher branches that the Felcos cannot cut through.  I used to always wonder why no one had invented a ratchet type before... and then I found some!  I so wish I had found these before I injured my finger by trying to cut through a thick branch with my Felcos.  (I was just being stubborn and did not want to ask for help with this last branch and I damaged my tendon and now I cannot bend that finger).  They are made by Spear & Jackson and can take 4 steps (squeezes) to cut a tough branch.  They are great for someone with little grip strength although can be tricky at times and can  get a bit stuck in the branch..

Kew gardens collection ratchet secateurs
Ratchet anvil secateurs

These Darlac Cut'n' Hold flower snips (DP636) are very handy.  I haven't had them long but it means I can hold onto the spent flower head and put it straight into a handy trug instead of letting them fall to the ground to be swept up later.  They are nice and light to use, and if you are cutting flowers to put in a vase, they have a small stem crusher in the centre of the handle.

Darlac Cut'n'Hold' flower snips
Darlac Cut'n'Hold' flower snips   

For dead-heading delicate flowers or flowers that are in an awkward place, these mini deadhead snippers are fantastic.  I especially use them for dead-heading my Streptocarpus saxorum as the flower stalks are tucked underneath the small fleshy leaves and these can get right in there and snip them. 

Deadhead snipppers
Deadhead Snippers

These trusty old tough kitchen scissors are my favourite tool for cutting my decorative grasses that are in pots.. They are also great for some stems that are rather bendy that don't cut well with secateurs.   I trim my iris leaves and other plants with long strappy leaves with these.

Kitchen scissors
Tough kitchen scissors

It is a good idea to have some spare secateurs for any willing helpers you have to use.  I hate giving my Felcos to anyone else to borrow. Also, I have a few tools go missing which may have been thrown out by accident along with the clippings.

For arthritic hands though they all use the same action which means my hands get very sore even after a short amount of time pruning and dead-heading.  I have seen some electric secateurs on the market which may be something of interest but are pretty expensive.  I would like to try-before-I-buy just to make sure they aren't going to be too heavy to use, and see how stiff the trigger is to use as my first finger is the worst affected by arthritis and won't bend much at all.

When buying any hand held tool it is worth getting the feel of them before you buy as they must be comfortable to use.


Spring 2021 has sprung at last!

 Some of the bulbs are up now adding some lovely splashes of spring colour.  The dwarf narcissus Tete-a-Tete are really cute.  I have a couple of small clumps of these that were in the conservatory last year.  

Narcissus Tete-a-tete dwarf
Narcissus Tete-a-Tete

The dainty crocus (unknown name) looks so delicate compared to the big bright purple ones but only a few survived - I think the mice may have eaten a few.  


Small dainty pale purple crocus
Dainty crocus (unknown variety)

Same goes for the Cyclamen coum Ruby Star.  I had a few planted at the edge of the stumpery but kept finding that something had dug them out and nibbled some of them.  Only one survived so I took it into the conservatory over the winter and it is now flowering in a small pot.  Maybe I can collect seeds and get a few more going.  


Cyclamen coum Ruby Star
Cyclamen coum Ruby Star

The hellebores have suffered a bit with all the rain we have been having and are looking rather bedraggled and soggy, so I have only photographed the slightly better ones.  I am still waiting for a few doubles to flower that I bought a few years ago as very small plants.   


Deep purple hellebore

Purple hellebore

Double hellebore
Double white spotted hellebore

My Iris Katherine's gold alpine have gone over already.  Having pigeons sitting on them didn't help.  I haven't seen the Iris reticulata this year? Not out yet or have they died off?  The primroses are only just flowering, as are the pulmonaria.  


Primrose by stump
Primroses by the stump

Out in the front garden the Mahonia is flowering away and has a fabulous scent.  There are large daffodils along the hedge and are about to put on their bright display. 

On the patio the pink erica goes quite nicely with the blue glazed pot. Usually the patio is full of seedlings and cutting that I have prepared for the Duddingston Kirk Garden Club plant sale, alas, covid 19 is still among us so that event has been cancelled along with many others.  I did have 3 trays with some cuttings taking cover under the bench but the foxes were about last night and pulled them out ad even pulled a few small plant pots out too in their quest to find the mouse.

Erica in blue pot
Erica carnea Westwood gold

Although I didn't buy more bulbs last year, the conservatory is still pretty colourful.  The cyclamen always do well as the temperature is pretty cold but kept frost free. 

Conservatory colour