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


Not quite spring yet.

 This was the first time in months that I have been able to do any gardening outside as it is fairly mild and not raining.  Hooray!  It was mainly cutting back old, dead bits, or rotting, damp foliage from perennials.  Some of the evergreen ferns are looking a bit bedraggled so some of them were cut back too.  The huge fern in the raised bed I just left for the time being as it still looks fine.  Later on I will take the old fronds off ready for the fresh new ones to appear.

Everywhere looks rather brown and flat at the moment but there are bulbs already through like the snowdrops, and a few hellebores up and flowering (although they are still not quite at their best.  Other bulbs are pushing through, such as narcissi and tulips.  The verbena is still flowering sporadically, the witch hazel is in full flower, and there are signs of little catkins on the tortured hazel.  It is not quite spring yet.

snowdrops in flower and a tulip pushing through

We are still waiting for new neighbours on the stumpery side ,therefore still waiting for the adjoining wall to be fixed before we do any new planting in that bare, shady patch. 

stumpery corner

stumpery left side

 I do love all the twisty branches of the tortured hazel or corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana contorta).  Now and again, I have to take out the odd branch that has reverted to just plain straight branches and leaves in order to keep the twisted look of the shrub.

corkscrew hazel, tortured hazel, Corylus avellana contorta

tortured hazel, corkscrew hazel, Corylus avellana contorta

The raised bed will soon be overflowing with periwinkle, tulips, ferns, bluebells and geraniums. The snowdrops are flowering away happily under the main shrubs, and I planted a hellebore there last year but it is still rather small and getting used to it's home.

raised bed Feb 2021


We haven't seen the fox family for a few days but there was a pile of feathers in the stumpery.  Could have been either the foxes or the sparrow-hawk.  Harry is still in the middle of dismantling the old trellis and it may be some time before the whole lot is done.  He haste DIY.  I hate the way it looks just now:  it should either be all up, or all down, in my opinion.  It is so frustrating not being able to do these jobs oneself. 


Foxes In February

Yet again I have been very lazy about winter gardening.  I keep the birds fed and watered, and check on the patio plants, but tend to leave everything else just to get on with things. 

 It is nice to keep seeing our foxy visitors through the window.  Harry took a short video this morning and I have a couple of snapshots from it.  These foxes were living in the vacant house next door, and passers by even saw them looking out the front window.  The authorities were informed and the foxes can just have to make do with the gardens now.  These 3 Foxes In February look very relaxed in the garden.  I haven't seen any pheasants this year and it is probably down to this lot prowling about looking for some dinner.

fox on the patio

3 foxes in the garden

It has been snowing on and off over the last few days and has been very cold.  It got down to about -22 C in Braemar last night.  Only a balmy -7C in Edinburgh!  As Harry is working from home during this covid lockdown, he can easily help keep the pond from fully freezing, and  I don't have to muck about clearing snow from the patio in order to feed and water the birds.  There isn't as much snow this year as there was in the winter of 2010/11 and it should thaw fairly quickly.  I get cold very easily and am so looking forward to some warmer, dryer weather to have a potter round the garden and seeing how all the bulbs are doing.   The ground hasn't been dry for months - if it hasn't been raining - it has been drizzling and I can bet that some weeds have been thriving despite freezing temperatures and wet.

Feb 2021 snow in the garden from the upstairs window


Foxes in autumn.

 There are lovely autumn colours out now but I haven't really been in the garden much over October.  Harry and I have both had a bit of ill health (no not covid) so I really couldn't be bothered doing much.  I did pot up a few pots with narcissi, tulips, and bluebells but not much else.  The bay that was on the patio  was brought into the conservatory for the winter, I did my best at keeping the rain off the irises but the leaves look awful just now.  That huge aster will have to be dug up as it is now huge and I just can't get past it (although it has loads of flowers on it at the moment).  Once Harry is feeling a bit better I will ask him to plant the new cornus in that clay area just in front of the patio.  The plants are rather small so will look tiny there so I may put other pots around them to cover the bare soil or maybe bark chips.  That is the area that the pigeons have made a path to get to the seeds that fall out of the bird feeder so I will need to protect the new plants while they are still young.

Harry did manage to take a few photos through the back window of our little visitors.  They have found a mouse and are hunting in between the pots for it until they get a scent of something else I think.  I frequently find pots knocked over on the patio.  The squirrels have been digging in any bare soil in the pots burying nuts and looking for other nuts so I used to always blame them for knocking them over.


fox on the patio

fox on the patio

fox on the patio

As usual, the louts setting off fireworks have been out and about already!!  We had to call the fire brigade and police out the other evening when these youths rather stupidly decided to build a bonfire just beyond our back garden in the golf course, and then threw fireworks into it!  The fireworks near us have been so loud that our dog is terrified to go outside now.  They are being set off at all times of day and night so you can never tell when it will be a good time to take him out.  Oh how I wish there was a total ban on fireworks.  Trouble is that somehow folk would end up making their own home-made fireworks which would be far more dangerous in the long run.  Ok rant over.