Celebrating Scottish gardens.Jim, Carole and Lesley each take a favourite area of the garden to showcase as well as completing routine maintenance in those areas.
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Hello and welcome to Beechgrove. It's dry at the moment. I'm hoping
it will stay dry! The first visit back to see our sweet peas. We're
growing them in the old-fashioned way of cordons up the single canes.
That means taking out side shoots, like this one here, because it's
flowers we want to encourage. It's the same story as the tomatoes.
It's been a difficult season for sweet peas. We've had a lot of
reports of this condition... There you are. I've cut that stem.
There's not an indication of any buds at all on that. Bud drop,
caused by atmospheric conditions. Cut the stems off and move on.
There's not a lot you can do. On the other hand, it's fresh ground,
it's well mucked, plenty fertiliser in. We've got three collections - a
Showbench collection at the top, a Cutflower collection here and a
Fragrant collection at the bottom. In this Fragrant collection,
there's one or two famous people. Here we've got Terry Wogan. I don't
think he'll be too pleased. It's a peely-wally kind of flower. Nothing
wrong with the plant. Good stems, all the rest of it. But not
producing the best of flowers. It's maybe not warm enough for them.
This lot are called the Fragrant collection. I wouldnae give them
house room, to be honest. Take that, for example. The flowers are far
too far apart and they should be half as big. I think you're better
to choose the colours and varieties you want and you'll get the best
results. Now then, we move onto runner beans. I was despairing as
to whether we'd ever get runner beans this year. It's been a bad
season for them in the beginning, here at Beechgrove. It's wet, cold
and windy and they don't like that sort of thing. When I first came to
Aberdeenshire people said to me, "You'll only get a good crop one
year in five." But I think it can be better than that nowadays. We've
got five or six varieties. No point in talking about them until we've
got pods, because it's the bean pods we're interested in. But then
again, flower colour can be quite interesting, too. This one, called
Celebration, is rather pretty. Nice to be seen in a tripod in the
middle of a border perhaps. Anyway, in the rest of the programme...
visiting Douneside House in Tarland, Aberdeenshire, and the garden is
quite spectacular. And how does your garden grow? In a lab? Just
wait and see. Lesley, cooking in the garden! We're going to have a
bit of fun. We're looking at the oriental veg. A bit of stir fry and
salad. Which is what you tend to associate them with. What I'm going
to do, I'm putting garlic in. nice and hot! Two things which
associate really well with oriental vegetables, spring onions and
ginger. I'm popping all that in. I'm just going to get these nice
and golden in the wok. Of course, the secret of stir fry, the oil's
got to be really hot and it's very quick. Which is good, because you
keep all the vitamins and nutrients in, which they are packed full of.
We must admit straight away with sowing oriental vegetables,
sometimes they bolt. This is what's happened and I think it's weather
conditions. It's been very hot and dry, and then we've had rain and
it's been cold. We've picked things, Lesley, like the pak choi. That
came from the potager. How are you doing? Absolutely fine.
Concentrating! I am. I want these to get nice and golden. We're doing
really well. We've got the purple flowering choy sum. That's the seed
heads. We've got mibuna, mizuna. Are you just about ready for this?
I am. I'll put a tablespoon of fish oil in. That gives it a nice
saltiness. And we have actually torn this up, haven't we? Yes.
Recipes will be in the factsheet, won't they? All the details of what
we're doing. They will. This is lovely. It's really nice if you
serve it with duck or with prawns. Really, really tasty. Is that just
about ready to put on the plate? We've got chrysanthemum leaves, but
I don't suppose that matters. could decorate it, couldn't we?
That's absolutely perfect. Put that on. Let's see what it's like.
The fish sauce is really nice and salty, isn't it? The flavours are
nice and strong. You do need to eat it straight away, don't you? Yes.
What about the salad? The same kind of things? It is. We've put some
chrysanthemum petals in, which is pretty. To keep the oriental
flavour going, we've got rice vinegar in here, two tablespoons,
two teaspoons of the sesame oil and, again, half a teaspoon, and this is
chopped up ginger. Mm, which is lovely. Whisk that up and then I'm
going to run this through the salad, teaming it up with grapefruit.
a little handful? Yes, just mix that through. I'll just toss that
through. OK. The fruitiness of that goes so nicely with the greens.
Toasted almonds, and that just gives a nice crunchiness to the
salad. Top it off with raw beetroot. Nice colour! It is. It tends to
bleed everywhere, so you just pop this as a topping. Brilliant. Of
course, the great thing about these oriental veg is that you can sow
them now. And, in fact, the chances are, they won't bolt quite so much!
Ideal time. As we go into autumn, the days are shorter, so they make
more leaves than flowers. If you've peas or beans, that'd be an ideal
site for them. Are we going to try this? Which was my fork? That's
yours. See what it's like. What do you think? It's very different. I
like it, actually. The grapefruit's Here we are, admiring a bunch of
plants that are happy with their lot. They're looking good, and I
would expect them to be because they're growing in soil that's well
looked after. And that is going to be the subject today. We'll look at
one or two elements of that. The first I would draw attention to is
this idea of acidity and alkalinity. We use a pH scale, and it's good to
check every now and again. And you can use little kits, like this one,
which I have been using and have prepared earlier. The whole idea is
that by a colorimeter system, we can check where the pH lies in this
soil. It looks to me as if it's between yellow and green. That
would indicate that it's in the high six. But let's check that out
in the lab. The lab I mentioned is at the James Hutton Institute,
formerly the Macauley Institute for Soil Research, here in Aberdeen.
I'm here to meet my old chum Dr Jason Owen. Well, then, Jason, that
sample of soil I sent to you came from our old strawberry patch.
yes. But before I sent it, I took some and sampled the soil to test
for pH with this little piece of kit that you can buy readily in
garden centres. What do you reckon? It's looking there like neutral.
It's got this green colour, which would come in at pH7, which is
neutral. Yes, yes. Now, it's over an hour since I did my little test.
When I let the soil settle out, it was much more straw-coloured.
risk, leaving it too long, is that things might start dissolving
within the soil. If there was a hint of lime, it may've dissolved
and that would adjust the pH. higher than I thought. But what did
your machine show? Well, we took the same soil sample and we
analysed it on our pH meter. Yes. It's coming in at about 6.3.
this is accurately measuring, and this is an approximation, working
on the colorimeter. I mean, they're accurate according to the scale to
about one pH unit. If you're thinking, "Is it acid? Do I want to
plant an ericaceous, acid-loving plant?" compared to, say, for
example, your soft fruit, this is accurate for a lot of purposes
within the garden. That's the answer I was hoping you would give
me. But you guys have also got a system if you want the full monty.
We can, and we accept soil samples from gardeners. We can analyse them
in our labs if that's what they want. We'll put all the details on
If you expect to grow brassicas as sonsie as these, you have to look
after the soil. You have to keep it fertile and, most importantly, you
have to check that pH regularly because brassicas need lime. The
natural pH of a soil is influenced by a couple of things heavily.
of which is the parent material. So, for example, if your soil is
derived from a granite rock, it will tend towards the acid side.
Yes. If it's in a limestone, neutral or alkali. So in Scotland,
we have quite a lot of granite rock. The other thing is, if you apply a
lot of inorganic fertilisers, especially the ones containing
nitrogen, that has an acidifying effect as it breaks down within the
soil. So in combination, you can start to have a decrease in soil pH
towards acidity. How much at any one time? Here's the raw material.
This is agricultural limestone. It's literally rock crunched up.
It's quite gritty, but it's fine material. Yes. Here we have 400
grams of this. Yes. If you were to apply that to a square metre, you
would probably get an increase in soil pH of approximately half a
unit. And when's the best time to apply? You can put it on in the
springtime, before you start planting, giving it time to do its
work. Or at the back end of the year, round about autumn time.
last, and most important link in the chain, of this wee story about
soil relates to organic matter. As you grow crops, whether it be
herbaceous borders, vegetables, flowers, fruit, lawns, you are
burning up organic matter, that's what fuels the growth, and it
starts to disappear from the soil. If you keep on going, you'll finish
up with very low organic matter level. The soil becomes unworkable,
intractable. It's awful. I've seen it. And the answer, of course, is
compost. Organic matter is very important. It's the driving fuel of
a soil. Yes. The micro-organisms and the earthworms are utilising it
all of the time. So what we have is, we've got sand, and silt with some
clay soil. If you were to compact that, you would destroy its
structure. Hence the old adage, "Never work a clay soil when it's
wet." Exactly. And I've included 10 percent by weight organic material
to both the sand and the silt soil. What this will do, this will help
hold water from what could otherwise be a droughty soil. And
here, what we've done, the actual physically mixing it up has
increased the porosity and the channels from which water can
travel through. And over time, of course, earthworms and micro-
organisms will do that for us. now we're going to give them a
shower of rain. What we have here We've added our rain and instantly,
I hope, what we can see is that the water in the sand soil is starting
to penetrate very quickly. It's very open and porous. Over here,
we've got this silt with some clay in it, and it's already starting to
pool on the top, which is never a good look. Yes. Within the sand,
it's a little slower, but the organic matter is starting to hold
onto that water. Within the silt and the clay soil, because you've
broken it up, we've increased its porosity, the water's now freely
draining through that soil. If we're growing plants in this, it's
this that we should be aiming for. Yes. So the incorporation of
organic matter into soil is absolutely vital to grow plants
well? Yes. It drives the biomass, it's the fuel source, and when it
comes to opening up the structure and porosity - organic matter.
ENGINE WHIRRS This lot's for the As we were saying back at the lab
in the James Hutton Institute, you do have to keep adding organic
matter to the soil. And before I left, I made reference to this bin
here, which, at the beginning of the series, we put the contents of
that one into that one for the final stages of the process. And
now we've got compost. Look at that. It's like good loam. Ready to be
used in the garden at any time. We're at a time of year when, of
course, we're creating lots of material for the compost heap. And
there's two things we always advise. One is, don't put too much of any
one thing at a time. And secondly, if it's large and coarse, if you
can possibly chop it up, it helps. We've got some examples here. Not
too much at any one time. Here we've got some edgings and weeds
from the borders. That can go in, like so. It's a big bin. Spread it
around, like so. This is detritus from the greenhouse - tomato leaves
and bits of fruit and stuff, like so. That can go in. No problem. Not
too much at any one time. That's fine. Spread it about. We have
access to shredded paper. We can get some of that in, as well. Not
too much. This has actually got chicken manure sawdust in it, as
well. Really powerful stuff that helps the breakdown process. Don't
put it all in at the one time. Now we're getting to the interesting
bit. Because we've got comfrey leaves. Stems. This is a harvest to
make compost with. This needs chopping. And I just happen to have
a machine that might do the job. Let's see. We can fire it up.
MACHINE WHIRRS How's that, then? A little bit of
twiggy stuff, as well. Look how that copes. I had one of these at
one time and it would never have taken the soft stuff. That will
start to...work, start to make the compost rot down very quickly.
There we go. Lesley, I think the lavenders are really set off nicely
with the gravel. It's going to be a sea of fragrance. Punctuating this
are these obelisks. I think you and Jim had the idea of putting
clematis up. We thought about you! I concur! What we've got to make
sure is that they're a good size to go up these obelisks. They've got
to be nice and compact, patio variety. They're only going to grow
to, what, five, six feet? This one is called Picardy. The flowers are
exquisite. Stunning. A lovely, lovely purple. Really nice texture.
We've pulled the gravel back. thing to bear in mind, when I put
this here, people might be horrified, but look how deep that's
going down, and that's quite important. It's ideal for planting
clematis. We've got four to six inches of stem buried. If it
happens to get wilt, it'll regrow from those stems below ground. Also,
make sure they've got a really nice, cool root run. Sunny tops and cool
down at the roots. When we've planted that, we'll put the gravel
back and train it up. We've trained one further along. That's another
patio clematis called...? "Ooh La La". The French theme, because the
French lavender... The bees love that! I'm not sure how they'll cope
with the winter. I don't think they'll like the winter, but we'll
just have to see. Shaping up the U, it has been shaped up once and it
needs another bit of a trim. We're going to make these into pyramids,
which will be architectural features in the winter. This will
look lovely with frost on. This is a cheap way of doing it - four
canes. Absolutely. You just make the shape. What we need to do is
use the secateurs rather than the shears, because it's quite woody.
If you take off the odd piece, you can stand back, and you just have
to keep going down over it. The yew is very forgiving as a conifer. You
can cut into old wood and it'll regrow. You couldn't attempt this
with some conifers. You couldn't. Once you go into the old growth, it
doesn't come back. Also, you say this is a cheap way of putting up a
frame, we've got the lovely metal frame behind us. It can be a
permanent fixture. It'll look so nice with frost on it when there's
nothing else in the garden. It gives you that shape. I just love
this. Yes, the pleached lime is wonderful, isn't it? I love this as
a look! It's like a hedge on stilts. It could screen something and then
you can get views through. It's quite a job Ben's got at the
moment! It is a good time to trim it, though. Once a year, perfectly
OK. It's an opportunity for us to maybe have a look at one or two
plant combinations. I'm going to check up on my blue and gold
Wildlife planting. OK. I have to say, one of my favourite plants
definitely has to be that elder, and the variety is "Black Lace".
Beautiful dark foliage just about to flower. And in front of that,
the lovely white flowers of the lychnis are really set off against
the dark foliage. And then this little ground cover plant here,
it's a sedum, and it's great the way it's closing that corner and
following the wooden edging. I'm pleased how this bed has come
together. It's been planted for eight weeks. We delineated the
spaces with sand and it's knitted together beautifully. We've got
some new varieties. This is "Coreopsis Be Bop" and it's got
that lovely ring in the centre. Remember, everything is good for
wildlife. It's buzzing at the moment with bees. The sunflower is
"Little Dorrit", which is a dwarf one, and it's already flowering. It
looks really pretty. This slightly strange flower at the back is a
phacelia, and this is so good for bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
Just think, if everyone planted plants like this every year, how
good it would be for wildlife. I've been very restrained on the colour
palette. It's just gold and blue. And this is lovely. We've got
cornflower here. Typically, it's dark blue, but I think these little
pale ones are really pretty, just as a little contrast. And there's a
lot of buzzy activity down here. This is limnanthes, or the poached
egg plant, and you can see why it gets that name. Bees, butterflies
and hoverflies love it. The nasturtium at the front is a new
one, "Banana Split". When we put it in, it was looking a little bit
scratty. It's bulked up beautifully and flowering its socks off. I
pronounce this a resounding success. Well, this is definitely my kind of
greenhouse. What a display. It's absolutely full of colour with the
busy lizzies and the geraniums. A lovely contrast of foliage. No
signs of pest and diseases. Well, And the reason we're not surprised
is that here Douneside House, the head gardener is Stephen McCallum.
How you doing? Hi. 'He was our head gardener at Beechgrove for seven
years.' Is this quite a contrast to Beechgrove? It is in a number of
ways, but probably most significantly is the sheer scale of
these gardens. We've got 17 acres, for example. It's a lot to look
after. It is. A little bit about the history. We're standing in what
is the original development, carried out in 1911 - so it's
exactly 100 years - by Lady MacRobert. You can see this has
been laid out as alpine beds. She, in the 1910s, had a master
collection of about a thousand alpine species. Obviously, it's
changed over time because the plants have grown. Exactly. We've
got shade and free roots. It's changed the conditions. But it
lends itself now, not to alpine beds, but much more to a woodland
glade almost with these moisture- loving hostas and ferns. They're
loving it, aren't they? The rodgersia next to the Primula
florindae there. And obviously you've been here a few years, and
new developments are going on further up stream. The first
development I carried out when I came here was to remove a bank of
sasa palmata. Very invasive bamboo. Exactly! And it was a huge job. But
we've completed that, we've relandscaped and replanted and it's
looking well. I can see a bit of colour just through there. It's
Douneside House was Lady MacRobert's family home, Carole,
and her three sons were all pilots and, very sadly, all died as pilots.
Two of them were killed in the Second World War on active service.
So on Lady MacRobert's death, she put the estate in trust and she
requested that Douneside was used for members of the armed forces,
both serving and retired, as a holiday home. That is still the
same case today. It's a lovely place to come to. I can see what
you mean now about the 17 acres because of this lawn and the superb
view. It's a fairly extensive lawn, absolutely. You can see that it's
not natural, the level, this tabletop level has all been raised
at some point. So manmade? Yes. to bring in tons of top soil.
Effectively, then, it's a little bit like a ha-ha. It gives exactly
that effect. It continues the garden into the surrounding
landscape and beyond, so the whole estate becomes part of the garden.
Talking about the landscape, let's have a sense of place. Well, just
round here we've got Clachnaben, and then we come across a bit and
this pyramid one is Mount Keen, and further round, looking at the edge
of the Cairngorms, that's Loughnagar. We've even got the
sunshine. Yes! The purpose of the garden, though, presumably several
fold. We're maintaining these gardens and developing them in a
manner that Lady MacRobert would be proud of. It's important that we
secure them for future generations. The other obvious uses for the
guests that are here at Douneside, we use the gardens and the grounds
for charitable fundraising, such as our annual open day. We had one
recently and raised �3,000. That's And another important aspect of
these gardens is training. I run a horticultural training scheme in
which we employ up to four trainees in any one year. These gardens lend
themselves so well to training because they cover all the
principle horticultural disciplines. We're doing lawns and propagation,
ponds, streamside. Don't forget the productive garden, as well. Indeed.
Vegetables, cut flowers, fruit. The trainees will, from propagation of
the seeds, see these vegetables through to completion and harvest.
That's brilliant. Just having a look at the vegetable patch, one or
two techniques that they're obviously picking up, like using
the landscape fabric to keep down the weeds. Absolutely. And that's
something we trialled at the Beechgrove, numerous landscape
fabrics. The one that we use is a woven fabric and we can re-use that
year after year. It's cost effective, but saves a huge amount
This is a fine example of mixed planting, your herbaceous trees and
shrubs. Yes, this is what we call the terraced borders. Although
there's a huge amount of plants, it's relatively easy to maintain
through the summer months. What we need to make sure we do is, lift
and divide a couple of borders every year so that in five years we
come back to the start again. That's what keeps them vigorous.
it's important not be lifting and dividing every border in one year.
We would spread the load. Spreading the load, this isn't the only
garden that you look after! It's not. This is our flagship garden. I
have four gardeners. But we need to cover here, as well as six acres,
plus policies at Alastrean. We've got one acre at Tarland Lodge. We
help maintain the gardens for the pensioners in the village, and
footpaths in the estate. We've just, in the last four years, planted
about 5,500 trees across the estate. So all of that needs maintained.
That's absolutely brilliant, because what you're doing is
Our living willow arbour in the Equinox Garden has made loads of
growth. It's time to give it a bit of a tidy up. But I want to be
steady with the secateurs, because it's an opportunity for the younger,
flexible stems to be woven in and that will help thicken it up. When
we've done that, we'll give it a nice trim all over. Over the next
few weeks, you'll start to see bulbs coming into the garden
centres and I just want to highlight one or two of our Asiatic
Lilies that we have flowering in the Calendar border. This one -
look at the size of the bloom! That one's called "Yellow Electric". In
comparison, much smaller, but a gorgeous colour. This one is
"Patricia's Pride". But my favourite is this one in the front
here - "Vivaldi". It really is beautiful. This is a nice sheltered
corner, isn't it? It's lovely. We've been telling bad-news stories
about plants that have died and plants that have died, maybe it's
the shelter. But, I mean, celmisia there, New Zealand, it's hardy as
anything. Come through beautifully. And such a lovely time of year
because you can start picking so much from the garden. Not just the
vegetables, but look at the flowers, too. This is a bit of a potager for
me. That's the leaf beet, as well as the lovely flowers. This is
lovely. It's got the astilbe with that metallic blue, a little
scabious. Just gorgeous. And the perfume of the sweet peas, Jim.
Smashing. I'll put in a word for the hebe behind you, "Sapphire".
Not a mark on it. You see, it's in the right place. Just shows you.
Good news. If you'd like any more information, it's all in the
factsheet. You might want more information about Jim and the soil
science. It's in the factsheet. The easiest way to access that is
online. Next week, none of us will be in the garden. We're all going
to be away, helping out with our first community garden in Glasgow.
Great stuff! Yes, indeed, we'll be taking time out. We're off to the
In the Beechgrove Garden, Jim, Carole and Lesley each take a favourite area of the garden to showcase as well as completing routine maintenance in those areas.
Jim is with Dr Jason Owen at the Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, looking into the science of soil. The condition of our soil is vital to understand to make us better gardeners. And now for the science - Jason has set up some experiments to show what effect organic matter has on soil drainage as well as showing how different pH measurements affect what you can grow and looks at the effect of lime on the soil.
Carole is in Tarland at Douneside House which boasts a spectacular garden. The Head Gardener there is Beechgrove's very own Stephen McCallum who used to be the Head Gardener at the Beechgrove Garden. He now maintains and nurtures 15 acres of grounds, and since he moved there he has added to the existing gardens by creating a wonderful pond and bog garden, and expanded the interest in the wooded areas. The greenhouses house an amazing display of houseplants and the vegetable and fruit gardens provide the house and guests with fresh food for many months of the year.