Ne’er cast a cloot till May is oot.

26 May 2023

Ne’er cast a cloot till May is oot.

I love Scotland at this time of year as the countryside is clothed with blossom and wildflowers. The grass has grown tall and gently ripples in the breeze, the bank is covered in an ethereal swathe of ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ (so called because the dainty flowers resembled the delicate lace that the Queen wore on her dresses) and the hawthorn trees are draped in wreaths of bridal-white petals.

These wildflowers are important food sources for our pollinators, feeding them with abundance as they build up their nests and breed during the warmer months of the year.

Hawthorn

Although much of Scotland has acidic soil, here, at Bannockburn House, approximately half of our land has limestone bedrock so we have a  diverse range of wildflowers.

One particularly pretty weed or ‘hero plant’, Green Alkanet,  appeared at the Chelsea Flower Show this month. It looks like an overgrown Forget-me-not with its piercing, bright blue flowers and bumble bees especially love to visit, but allow it in your garden at your peril! It is vigorous and in no time will colonise every corner of your garden given half a chance. However, it is so pretty that I often allow it to thrive in an out-of-the-way corner. The plant is not native and arrived in Britain in the 1700’s from S.W. Spain and France.

Green Alkanet photo

Ivy-leaved toadflax, another Mediterranean plant, thought to have hitched a ride on marble sculptures imported from Italy to Oxford in the seventeenth century, likes to grow on our limestone walls. Its first recorded appearance, as a garden plant, was in 1640 but as it has been here for almost 400 years it is widespread in any shady place. Once the flowers are finished, the seed heads bend away from the sun and towards the wall, dropping their seeds into the cracks helping them to successfully spread vertically up the wall. It often grows beside the ‘Maidenhair Spleenwort’. This evergreen fern grows on old walls. The ‘old’ part is essential as many old walls have lime mortar joints which this lime-loving ferns adores. Lime mortar is weaker, softer and more porous than cement mortar, so it protects walls from cracking. It also crumbles and stays moist and it is these two characteristics that make it attractive to Maidenhair Spleenwort.          Here is a photo of all three plants.                                              

Trio photo

These next few weeks are a special time as we build up to the Summer Solstice and then begin again the slow descent of the sun towards winter. We have so much extra daylight in the Northern Hemisphere that in some places ( much further north than us) it will not get dark at all. They call it the ‘Simmer Dim’. In Svalbard, the sun doesn’t set from approximately the middle of April till the middle of August. We know our plants benefit from the extra daylight and it can be a magical time to be outdoors – if there are no midges about. Why not get out one of these warm evenings and go ‘roamin in the gloamin’ . Who knows what might happen?

Post by Margaret
Margaret is the Head gardener and leads the Gardening team.

Catherine Bradley.<br />
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