Few people (certainly in Scotland) will argue that this has not been an exceptional spring and, thus far, summer. Long spells of hot and sunny weather with little or no rain (we’ve had about six hours of rain in six weeks) has been a welcome break from the usual mixed weather but; it is a bit of a double edged sword. Hard physical work in the heat and glaring sun for eight hours each day is challenging for the gardens team who go home exhausted, and, of course, the additional management of many parts of the garden caused by the prolonged drought.
On the other side, if we ignore the steadily browning lawn, the display in the gardens has been, and is, just stunning. We had the most wonderful display of spring flowering bulbs across the garden with large drifts of Narcissi, mass planting of Tulips in the terrace gardens, Muscari, perfumed Hyacinths and much, much more. Set against a backdrop of early flowering trees and shrubs such as our ornamental flowering Cherries, sweetly scented Osmanthus and Viburnums and a magnificent bird chorus – this has truly been a spring to remember.
Summer arrived apace and our herbaceous and mixed borders are now in full growth and flowering wonderfully. The Lilacs have just finished flowering but have been taken over by other shrubs such as Philadelphus (mock orange) with its heavy scent of orange blossom. Our roses are loving the hot sunny weather and are flowering prolifically and, with the amount of insects in the hot dry weather, the swallows are on their second clutch and filling the sky.
We’ve been busy in the walled kitchen garden and are now starting to reap the rewards; we’re harvesting deliciously plump, fully-ripe strawberries which make their way (all of 50 yards) to the kitchens. Our fresh herbs are also being picked for the kitchen and the promise of a huge range of freshly harvested, organically grown fruit and vegetables is not far away.
The gardens team and our horticultural trainees are also working hard in preparation of our annual charitable fund-raising ‘Gardens Open Day’ to be held on Sunday 15th July. This will be our 53rd year of opening under the banner of ‘Scotland’s Gardens Scheme’ (SGS) and we are proud to have raised many thousands of pounds over the years for charity.
Finally, the gardens team were delighted in being awarded the accolade of Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Partner Garden for Douneside, meaning that RHS Members have free access to visit our wonderful 17 acre private gardens throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. We are, in fact, unique in Scotland as Douneside House is the only hotel to sit within a RHS Partner Garden and one of only three in Britain.
A few tips to help get through the drought:
- If it rains, run a hoe through the soil afterwards to break the capillary action and trap moisture within the soil.
- Water what’s absolutely necessary but water it well. A little water will do little and could also encourage surface rooting and disease such as powdery mildew.
- Water early in the morning or late evening.
- Add a few drops of washing up liquid to the watering can to break the soil surface tension, allowing the water to seep downwards.
- Form a soil dish around newly planted plants to ensure that water seeps directly down to the roots rather than running off.
- Drink plenty of Pimms.
As the season’s change read about what the gardens at Douneside are like during Autumn here.