Gardening magazine. The Beechgrove team are in the Howe of the Mearns village of Arbuthnott, where they take part in a Q&A with some of the local gardeners.
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Hello and welcome to Beechgrove Garden
on the second outing of the year.
Last time it was the wonderful Orkney.
This time we're in the Howe of the Mearns in the north of Scotland.
Aberdeen's about 26 miles that way
and the North Sea is five miles that way.
The Howe of the Mearns is about 50 square miles
of the most wonderful territory.
Howe, of course, means a broad valley.
Now, the interesting thing is, if you travel up and down the A90,
you're bound to see the soil.
It's the red brick soil. The locals actually have a name for it.
It's called the Mearns Keel.
It's interesting, reputedly one of the most fertile areas
in all of Scotland here we're standing on
and on a day like today, it kind of smells that way, doesn't it,
given all the muck they've been spreading on the harvest there?
But that combination of the soils mixed with the old red sandstone
which is underlying.
And a fabulous tapestry of fields and hedgerows.
Here we are in a field of beans
and this is one of these wonderful old varieties, a thing called Talia,
which is self-fertile.
This was sown in April, it has grown on.
There's very little disease on it at all and it will be
harvested in September and go off to the supermarkets.
It's one of these wonderful little tender beans, so look out for it.
George, as you say, they are very healthy.
They do treat it for chocolate spot,
but they don't have to treat it for thrips.
It doesn't seem to come into this area.
They can't land!
And in more recent times, I have to say, narcissus production for bulbs.
We actually sell bulbs to Holland, cos they have to restock.
Their stuff gets so virus infested.
Well, I think it's about time we got out there to go and have a look.
Ah, but before we do,
this is also the country which is to do with Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Every schoolchild in Scotland, in their final examinations,
will have done something on Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Grey Granite, Sunset Song, wonderful novels,
and they really typify what this region's all about.
-NOW we can go.
"You'd waken with the peewits crying across the hills,
"deep and deep, crying in the heart of you
"and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you'd cry for that,
"the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies."
We're up on the hill overlooking the Howe of the Mearns
and just down in the valley is the parish of Arbuthnott.
Now the words you've just been listening to
are from Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song,
set in the early 20th century,
and the main theme is all about the area and the land.
Now we've already discussed how productive this area is
but what's it like to garden here?
Later on, Jim, George, Chris
and myself are going to find out more about that as well
as trying to answer a range of gardening questions.
When you say you lose them, what happens to them?
Do they just keel over and collapse as healthy specimens?
Do they die back?
They just go like that and wither.
And, as usual, the MC for the evening is Mark Stephen.
Jim and George have been to see the garden of Arbuthnott House.
The house dates back to the 17th century and its five-acre garden
is reputed to be one of the earliest gardens in Scotland.
When somebody came out here with a wheelbarrow 300 years ago
and planted a little seedling of Cedrus libani, the Cedar of Lebanon,
they didn't know it was going to grow into a thing like this.
Look at the size of that.
That has stood here in the face of the gales for round
about 300-350 years.
Possibly one of the original plants established in this garden.
Now that's the value of estate gardens. It shows us what can grow.
And when you think that has been little affected by all the weather
that 300 years have thrown at it, I wish it could tell its own story.
I do love these old estate gardens.
Not only for the wonderful tree specimens you get, these old things
like the cedar we've just seen, but also, look, there's an apple.
Possibly been there for about 100 years.
Not a mark on the fruit. Clean as a whistle.
Absolutely fantastic. Might get a piece of that.
Now, here is something which is just delightful.
This is Gentiana asclepiadea. It's the willow gentian.
That grows in shaded areas.
It will grow in woodland, but here it's in full sun.
A fabulous blue for this time of the year
and it's just a magnificent plant.
Great foliage on it as well. There's anticipation as it grows.
This time of the year the colour in the borders changes.
We're going on to yellows and coppers.
The heleniums are coming to their best.
This is something which gives you a lot of bounce
and joy at this time of year.
You'd hardly think you were in Aberdeenshire, would you?
Meanwhile, Jim is inside with the head gardener,
who's been here for 50 years or so.
They'll be having some discussion.
Now then, John, I'm chuffed that you've brought me in here
-cos it takes me back to 1956.
-That's a long time ago.
That's a long time ago.
And I had a greenhouse like this to look after at Auchincruive
and it brings back memories.
The geraniums up the wall, did you plant all these?
-Yes, this is all new ones.
It was the same varieties.
-Mostly all the same varieties.
-Aye. Do they get to the top?
They went to the top before, but I didn't have enough time to...
Well, that's a valid point
because how many of you are employed on this set-up?
There's me full time and a young lad.
-He comes in maybe two or three times a week.
-All of that outdoor stuff?
Outdoor stuff as well.
Well, that greenhouse I'm talking about, I spent half a day
there every day and then I joined the crew to do other stuff.
Yeah, I know.
But I've stopped here again because my wife's taken a liking
-That's a gorgeous colour.
-It's a nice one, that is.
If there was a wee leaf missing off of that when I left,
-you wouldn't mind, would you?
-No, I wouldn't miss it.
Oh, I'm pleased to hear it. I'm pleased to hear it.
Now then, here's another
because this is a plant you hardly see at all,
except in this kind of set-up.
Rhodochiton. A lovely, lovely plant.
-Very intriguing, isn't it?
And what about this?
-Plumbago. What a blue that is.
-It's a nice blue.
-Did you put it in?
-How long ago have you planted it?
-15-20 years anyway. Anyway!
-Yes, and it's looking well.
-What do you feed it on?
-And I can see we're coming up to some whopping camellias there.
-When were they planted?
-I've no idea. They were here before I came.
-So there we are. That was half a century?
-Half a century ago.
-But they're still flowering regularly?
They're still flowering, aye, every year.
-Probably holding the greenhouse up!
-It could be, quite possible.
You're a wonder.
The amount of work you get through, dear boy, is tremendous
-and thank you very much.
"All the parks were fair parched, sucked dry.
"The red clay soil of Blawearie gaping open for the rain
"that seemed never-coming.
"Up here, the hills were brave with the beauty and the heat of it,
"but the hayfield was all a crackling dryness and in the potato
"park beyond the biggings, the shaws drooped red and rusty already."
The words there of James Leslie Mitchell,
better known as Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
This was his home patch. It's where he grew up as a boy.
It's where he's actually buried up in the local kirkyard.
One of the main characters in what's probably his most popular work,
Sunset Song, is this, it's the land.
The chapter headings are things like,
"Ploughing", "Seed Time", "Drilling", "Harvest"
as he leads us through the life of his heroine, Chris Guthrie.
And then there's this, the distinctive red soil of the Mearns.
It is beautiful round about here.
It's rich, fertile, well-tended,
but not without its horticultural problems,
as no doubt we'll discover now when the team, Jim, Carole, George
and Chris get together to answer some local gardeners' questions
at the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre in Arbuthnott Hall.
And, heaven help me, I'm supposed to referee!
Right, good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Never mind Sunset Song, after today it's more Rainwater Rhapsody!
Can you welcome our expert panel tonight?
Tonight, playing the part of Chae, Jim McColl.
Our very own green-fingered Chris Guthrie, Carole Baxter.
Playing the romantic lead as young Ewan, Chris Beardshaw.
And finally, George Anderson,
who tonight will be appearing as the Slug Road.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Right, ladies and gentlemen, first question tonight, Hilda Kerr.
We'll be hiding.
I have no idea where you start with that, but who would like to start?
Will I read out my question?
Well, my name is Hilda Kerr and I come from the Garvock
and I would appreciate help with the regeneration of this cactus.
Now it has been a most beautiful cactus for two or three years.
I got it as a gift and it took a number of years to come to life
and then it produced the most beautiful flowers
but obviously, it's needing a little tender care.
There's one flower there.
That's a minute one.
-Listen, it's the ONLY one!
There's one at the front as well.
If the technology can't produce it...
It's had a rough passage from the Garvock.
Yeah, it's an absolute cracker, it really is.
Easy enough to propagate.
You could take any one of those leaves off,
you could cut it into bits if you wanted,
into lengths about that and stick it into some compost.
50/50 peat-sand or something like that.
So you can do that with some of the older leaves on there.
I would get hundreds of plants out of that.
As George said, do propagate from it,
and keep the propagations in really quite small pots
so something like a nine-centimetre pot because the smaller you keep
the pot, the more like you'll be to get it into flower nice and quickly.
But I don't want to be starting from scratch
because I'm at an elderly age and I need it now.
I want the flowers now.
So, Hilda, it has flowered well,
-but it's the last year or two that it's not been great for you?
Cos cactus, very often, they do like a bit of a winter rest,
so I don't know whether you're maybe being a bit too kind to it.
So, it loves the sunshine and the summer
but perhaps south facing, but a cooler room in the winter time.
It's perfectly happy and you don't necessarily want to water it
quite so much in the winter time.
-Give it a bit of a rest.
-Jim, would you keep it?
Yes, I wouldn't have brought it out in that state, mind you.
I would have cleaned it up before I brought it here.
I'm being cheeky, but it does need a bit of cleaning up.
I wonder if it would be regenerated if it were given a bit of a trim
and some general fertiliser if you don't want to start all over again.
-We think it's got scale insect as well.
-I think I've got a little one just on my finger.
So scale insect is one of those pesky little
blighters that will run around as very,
very small organisms on usually the underside of the leaf.
It will be on the compost around the pot
and elsewhere in the house as well, or conservatory,
and what they do is they create a little umbrella over
the top of themselves and that is then impervious to moisture.
-They can be blown around when you're doing the dusting,
so actually it's an excuse for you not to do dusting!
I'm very grateful for that information.
If you don't want to use insecticides,
then you could do what my grandmother used to do.
She used to grow all sorts of house plants
and she used to take my grandfather's whisky
and she would get a cotton wool bud
and dip the cotton wool bud in his whisky,
sometimes whilst he was holding the glass...
..and then just dab the back of the scale,
because the alcohol cuts through the scale and will kill the insect.
That sounds like a very good idea.
-One for me and one for...
-Thank you very much.
-You disagree, Jim?
-Entirely. I have a better use for it than that.
But there are, as Chris has said, organic roots to it.
The nemesis treatment will also kill the sucking insects.
We'll try anything. Thank you very much for your help.
OK, thank you very much. Karen McWilliam.
I have a rose garden that's been affected...
Or the roses have affected by blackspot.
What can I use safely that won't affect bumble bees?
-Blackspot is of course an affliction on roses
especially in seasons
when you have a spring which is quite moist, quite humid,
and there's a lack of drying winds or lack of sunshine.
Blackspot is caused by fungal complaints
and what happens is that the spores will move around in water,
in rainwater, in mist, in irrigation, in watering cans
and they'll infect the emergent buds and then you'll find that,
once the blackspot actually occurs on the leaf,
that's well into the infection stage so the first thing to do is pick off
any of the really badly affected leaves.
There are various treatments that you can apply
via the normal sort of spray routes.
But one of the things you can start to play with is
some of the alternative approaches to treating, not just blackspot
but also things like mildews and rusts and these sorts of things.
And one of the things which is very good
-is actually alcohol.
Something of a recurring theme going on here!
For the rose, not for you.
One of the products that's most commonly reached for is mouthwash.
If you get mouthwash that has an alcohol-based content,
you can then put that into your hand mister
and you can spray it onto the foliage of your roses.
But it's largely about hygiene to be honest.
If you're growing roses,
put a good mulch on the surface of the soil in the winter months.
You'll find that will isolate the spores.
Also you could try growing varieties that are hardy
to things like blackspot.
So, for instance, Rosa alba and its various varieties,
are very good at resisting blackspot.
You were worried about the bumble bees as well
and there are some newer products now that are called invigorators
and they're based on fatty acids and algae extracts.
People are using them against things like box blight
and I think it would probably help against blackspot as well
and perfectly safe with bumble bees around.
I would endorse what Chris has just said. Good hygiene is vital.
Some varieties have a bit of resistance
but they haven't yet found it right
and if there was ever a case for genetic modification, I think
a rose that was totally resistant to blackspot would be
the saviour of the industry.
-Thank you very much.
We've grown tomatoes by hydroponics for several years now and this year
I think about six or eight of them have gone soft at the top,
then they've dropped off the vine.
And we were wondering why this is happening?
It's condensation arriving in that little hollow by the top
of the fruit and then of course it turns into botrytis, I think.
So my husband sometimes sprays them,
so would he be better not to do that?
Yes, you've got to keep spraying them,
but it's about ventilation and try to avoid this condensation.
In the summer time, when it's very hot, it pays actually to leave
-a little bit of ventilation on overnight...
..because the condensation accumulates with dawning,
so it's atmospheric conditions that's the problem.
It's nothing to do with the way you're growing them,
with that exception, that, in certain parts of the year,
if there's a tendency for condensation,
is to leave a crack of ventilation on all night.
If you've got automatic ventilation, what you do is put a wee stick
in the gap so that it can't actually close right down.
Have you got ventilation louvres at a lower level?
Well, that one's still in the garage.
-It's not been installed?
-It's being installed next year.
We've got another tomato question now.
This time from Sid Clark in St Cyrus.
My tomato plants, it's the opposite end. They get...
..disease on. What's the problem?
-Where do we start?
This is a classic sort of blossom end rot,
so it's really black at the base but it's kind of fine at the shoulders.
What I'm going to say is it's to do with a check of calcium,
but it's normally to do with your actual watering.
What kind of system are you doing with the watering?
-What are you growing them in?
-Just a watering can.
-Just a watering can.
You're probably not watering them enough, I'm afraid.
What you might find is that one truss is like this
and some of your other trusses are fine.
Two trusses got it in the meantime.
-Just two trusses? Some of the others are OK?
-Seems to be.
So I am going to stick with the watering.
Should you water in the morning or night?
In the morning. It's not watering evenly.
It's allowing too long a time span from one watering to the next,
so they've got plenty suddenly and then they've got none at all,
and, as Carole rightly says, the calcium is there
and as long as you're watering
and the juices are running to the top of the plant,
you'll be OK, but as soon as the plants are too dry
because you're leaving too long an interval and they get too dry,
that calcium stops going up through the plant and that's
when you get that blossom end rot.
Are you growing them in grow bags or in pots?
Can I make a wee suggestion, and we often do this at Beechgrove,
is when they are in pots and maybe when you've grown them
perhaps in a three-inch pot,
or a four-inch pot, plunge that by the plant
and water through that, so knock it out of your little pot,
put it into you bigger pot and the small pot that you've got,
sink that into the compost by the main stem
and water through that so it goes deeper.
You know, tomatoes are one of the most researched of all
of the crops that we grow.
As gardeners, when we're growing them
in small pots or in growing bags, we tend to torture them.
We just don't give them enough space
and all of the research suggests that an average vine tomato,
so reaching somewhere around about six to eight feet in height,
that type of thing, needs about a cubic metre of compost
in order to thrive.
Now think about the size of the pot that you've put it in.
So what that means is that we're not compromising the plant
as long as we keep the nutrient and moisture regime coming through.
If, however, there is a hiccup,
then the plant is immediately going to get stressed
and these sorts of conditions
-are going to start to display themselves.
-OK. Thank you.
Marie Thompson. What's For Tea Tonight, Laurencekirk.
Please advise how to manage clubroot
and how to reduce it as an annual problem.
It's a problem where we've been gardening for a while
and where we've imported the little blighter.
It's a slime mould or fungus.
Used to be called Plasmodiophora brassicae
but it's changed its name now.
-Really? You never told me!
-No, I never told you.
It lies in the soil and it waits until a brassicae is planted
and you think, "How does it know?"
Because the exudate from the roots of the brassicae
permeate into the soil and that causes the spores to germinate
and then it invades the very small roots
and it grows inside there and produces these things
which we call fingers and toes or clubroot like that.
I mean, that is... That's a wonderful... Oh, you're good.
This is a good example.
So everybody will know what it is from now on.
I did an observation on my allotment in Edinburgh at one stage
where I wanted to have clubroot so I could show it on the programme
and what we'd done was we'd added lime to some of them,
putting a handful of lime into the hole when we were planting them.
In other ones I had grown the plants on in pots in clean soil
for a time and then planted them out.
Then I had others which I'd not done anything to,
and then a further lot which were clubroot resistant,
and you can get clubroot-resistant varieties.
And I would recommend, when you have this problem,
grow clubroot-resistant ones or the other thing is, you grow them
in a pot, you add lime when you're planting them
and you also make sure that you just concentrate on growing
brassicaes in the cooler period of the year.
That's the sort of thing that will solve it
and that's a classic example.
These leaves, which are discoloured and you think the thing is needing
water so you give it more water and that encourages it even more.
-The fact of the matter is, if you grow the plant in a pot
until it's ready for planting out,
when you plant it out it already has a very good vibrant root system.
Eventually the clubroot will get at it
but the plant will actually mature and give you a crop.
But by far and away the most simple way is to buy
and use resistant varieties.
OK, thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was our last question for today.
Can I ask you to thank our gardening panel one more time, please?
CAROLE: After a fascinating Q&A,
I headed off down the road to the Milltown Community,
based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, who believed that
everyone should be encouraged to maximise their potential.
In this case, through gardening.
Karen Allan is the head gardener.
Milltown Community Trust took Milltown over 20 years ago.
It's a place for adults with learning difficulties.
-Hello, Tony. Are you busy?
-Tony's doing some weeding here.
Which is brilliant, isn't it?
-We're not getting past.
-So a whole variety of jobs?
Yes, the idea is to have lots of different tasks
that people might want to do.
Collecting seeds, planting out, splitting herbaceous,
weeding, of course.
Yes, probably 52 weeks of the year?
We spend some time in the winter doing crafts and baking,
but probably nine months of the year we're out in the garden
or the greenhouse.
So a bit of a colour theme going on with these borders?
Yeah, my idea for this was to have a red border, a blue border
and a yellow border and they're just more accessible.
Warms up the ground a little bit with the raised bed.
Yes, the ground gets very hard here.
And I do think you've got a sense of satisfaction
-when you hear the bed's completed.
You did say indoors, outdoors, whatever the weather,
-but let's take a look at the lovely greenhouse you've got.
So this is our greenhouse.
This is James and Stuart, who are brothers, potting up violas.
There's a good production line going on there.
I think you're enjoying that.
-This can be done in all weathers obviously.
Since I've got the room I'm growing squash down the right-hand side.
What in particular are you growing? Which varieties?
There's a blue banana here.
Now, I'm growing pink banana, so that's quite interesting.
What about this one? That's a funny shape.
-That's a Thelma Sanders sweet potato.
What about the cultivation techniques
that are going on in here?
I'm very interested in permaculture
so I've been mulching with newspaper and grass cuttings.
And you can see that it's suppressing the weeds.
Yes, it keeps the weeds down,
keeps the moisture in and it seems to deter the slugs as well.
-That's a beautiful plant, the amaranthus.
-That's a cut flower.
It's also a grain and you can grow it for bird food as well,
so it's multifunctional.
OK, so the workers,
not only are they learning things like permaculture,
but learning about the plants and what you use them for?
The different uses, yeah.
I don't know about you, but I'm getting a bit hot in here.
Shall we go outside again?
Karen, I hadn't realised how extensive this garden is.
A lot to look after and you're only here part time.
Yes, I've only got a small part of it though.
This is a relatively new border?
Yes, I did this last year. This is the prairie garden.
It's lovely cos it's got a lovely airy feel about it, hasn't it?
Yes, the idea is that when the staff are sitting eating their lunch
or having their coffee they can look through the flowers
and still see the rest of the garden.
I can see on a day like today how you can enjoy it.
I think it's not just the skills about gardening, is it?
I mean, you've got the woodworking, like the totem pole.
Yes, the woodwork shop made that. I think that's gorgeous.
You recycle tools.
So much is going on and I think it is just such a fantastic site,
so thank you very much.
-More power to your elbow.
-Thank you for coming.
"The North Sea was gloom-away by Bervie
"as the sholtie trotted south.
"You could see then as the land rose higher the low parks that sloped to
"the woods and steeple of Drumlithie.
"Beyond that the hills of Barras."
Well, it would be quite wrong of us to come to this part of the world,
here we are now in Inverbervie just over the hill from Arbuthnott,
to see this wonderful garden that you guys helped to create,
what, two years ago?
-Just imagine, two years, this is the growth we've had.
-And isn't it well looked after?
-Well, it is.
The combinations of plants, the cleanliness and everything else.
And, so you know, not only have they maintained it, they've added things,
so the gate's new and that nice seating area around the circle.
I love that. Associated with the kirk.
I imagine evening services and a wee bit of hymn singing.
-And some of the plants, that pink achillea.
-Coming into its own.
The white anaphalis, that's lovely.
Over there there's a thing that looks like a rose
and I thought, "That's a bonny rose. I wonder what that is?"
-It's actually a potentilla.
-Have you been to the optician recently?
I think I need to go, but it's a cracker.
-It doesn't matter what it is.
-Absolutely stunning. It's wonderful.
Before we go, however, we've got
to say a big thank you to the people at the Grassic Gibbon Centre.
-Haven't they looked after us?
-That grub was really to die for.
-Nothing about the cakes.
We're back in the garden next week, folks. It's back to Beechgrove.
The whole team travel deep into Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song country, to the Howe of the Mearns village of Arbuthnott. For anyone who drives the A90, the red clay soils of one of the most fertile and productive areas in the country will be familiar and are the dominant feature of the area.
Jim, Carole, George and Chris explore the area horticulturally and also solve some gardening problems for the gardeners of Arbuthnott gathered in the Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Centre for a Q&A.
Jim and George visit one of the oldest gardens in Scotland at Arbuthnott House, while Carole visits the contemporary gardeners of Milltown Community.