June is such a colourful month. Everywhere you look there are flowers and for us in the North, we have the extra daylight hours as well. Summer is upon us and in a couple of weeks it will be the Solstice – the turning point of the year when the sun stands still having reached its highest point on its journey through the skies.
The rhododendrons are heavy with flowers, ox-eye daisies and irises, paeonies and lilac abound and the star attraction of the year, the first roses, are now opening.
The Scots Rose
Rich in colour and sometimes heavy with scent, the modern rose is usually a large, complicated bloom and yet the earliest roses were often simple 5-petalled flowers. The Scots Rose – Rosa spinosissima – is a native plant. It has been used as a Scottish emblem since the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788) and may have been the original ‘White Cockade’.
Tartan Weaver Rose
This robust little rose is the parent of many a scented modern rose and is the plant badge of the Clan Keith. Around the time of the Battle of Barrie in 1010 and the death of King Malcolm ll in 1034, it formed part of their heraldic emblem. Surprisingly, the juice from its small black rose hips produces a peach coloured dye and when this juice is mixed with alum it creates a rich purple colour making it an essential plant for the tartan weaver’s garden.
Not all plants are so benign. At this time of year, the roadside verges and riverbanks are full of many wildflowers and some of our best loved are actually quite poisonous.
Foxgloves are a common sight but did you know that all parts of the foxglove are toxic to humans, dogs, cats and horses so you should always wash your hands after handling foxgloves.
Toxic to medicinal
Foxglove plants contain poisonous cardiac glycosides. Eating any parts of the plant can result in severe poisoning. Symptoms include skin irritation, nausea, headaches and diarrhoea. In severe cases it can lead to visual disturbances and heart and kidney problems. However, the toxins have been put to good use to create drugs that are extensively used in cardiac medicine worldwide.
This plant is easily recognised by its tall flower spike. The tubular flowers grow on the sunny side of the stem and hang downwards to keep out the rain, but we all know that it is to keep the fairies dry. Bumble bees pollinate the flowers and have been known to take a mid-afternoon nap inside these delicate bowers. Be careful if you grow it in your garden because you can have too much of a good thing as you will see from our Wisteria Border pictured below.
The Quiet Life
Life at Bannockburn House is relatively quiet just now. The deer and rabbits are the only obvious signs of life for much of the time. Susie, the cat, makes occasional patrols around her territory but spends much of the day asleep in some safe, sunny place and by night the foxes wander at random among the blackcurrant bushes and onion beds, round the outbuildings and up the main drive.
Fled the Nest
There is a flock of Goldfinches, or should I say, a ‘charm’ of Goldfinches swollen by the addition of the 2020 generation, all pristine with their bright, newly grown feathers in dazzling shades of green, red and yellow. There seem to be a lot of inquisitive young robins, all very skinny but definitely red-breasted and the school of baby starlings have already graduated with flying colours quickly learning how to behave like grown up starlings as they fly from treetop to treetop, occasionally overbalancing on a narrow twig or landing on top of a colleague on another branch. It’s time for the adults to have a well-earned rest now as these young birds have safely fledged and will grow rapidly into maturity.
Time is Flying
Are we really halfway through the year?
Looking back, it has certainly been a year of records but is this the new normal?
We had the wettest February ever; March went from soaking wet to bone dry in about two weeks. April was the driest for 300 years and in May the temperature suddenly dropped bringing frost and snow to some places, strong winds and rain. Yet we’re told that 2020 has seen the sunniest Spring, which in one season has achieved more sunshine than almost every Scottish summer on record (except for the summer of 1976 and a couple of other years – which I can’t remember).
Don’t forget about Greta
Global warming, carbon emissions and Greta Thunberg were the words on everyone’s lips 6 months ago – will we forget these important discussions, or will the ever-changing weather remind us that we have to act to change our habits and the impact our actions have on the planet.
The lockdown has been a valuable time for some of us to slow down, take stock change our habits and take up new hobbies. We have been encouraging the local community to grow some of their own food, and now have over 50 people growing their own potatoes as part of our ‘Tatties in a Bag’ scheme, maybe you are one of them. Also, ten families have been given raised beds and are ‘competing’ to see who can produce the most amount of food by Autumn.
Don’t tell anyone, but we are growing some giant pumpkin plants in a bag of manure one metre square, in one of the polytunnels, and hope to win… we are astonished at the size of the leaves. Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on the progress.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for lots of ideas of things you can grow and do over the summer months. We’d love to see the pictures of your efforts so send us your photos. It’s good fun and you’ll get some delicious food as a result so it’s well worth doing.
Blog written by Margaret in the Gardening Team