Become a 2017 Living Garden mentor


An exciting volunteer opportunity to provide support to Eco-Schools entering the ‘One Planet Picnic Pocket Garden competition’. Winning gardens will be displayed in the Living Garden, one of the exhibits at the national Gardening Scotland event at Ingliston, Edinburgh. (see last year’s report here).
To Register please contact Juliette Camburn at Keep Scotland Beautiful by 12 December:

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A frosty but beautiful sunny day on the allotment

A bitterly cold but splendidly sunny winter day with many interesting examples of different kinds of frost from the minus temperatures overnight.

Our stout-hearted team kept warm by digging out the roots of two hazels which were in the way of the new beds, cutting scaffold boards to size for the beds, coppicing the hazels and pruning back the willows. As long as we kept on the move, we were fine and we even felt the warmth of the sun as we sat down for a coffee break. We’ll use the hazel and willow branches for windbreaks and for Christmas decorations. The coloured willow stems make good wreaths for the front door.

All the winter vegetables are looking fine we have leeks, kale, sprouts, broccoli, swedes, Pak Choi, winter cabbage, chard. On the Japanese veg bed, the Wasabina and Pak Choi have survived though the others have died off.

Jobs for next week – weather permitting
Finish the latest raised bed
Empty the old potato tub

Finish pruning the willow

Tip out the compost bin to see what is burrowing into it!

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A chilly day on the allotment


A chilly, windy day so a good day to have another bonfire and get some digging done to keep warm.

The Jostaberry was the latest fruit bush to be moved over to the new area. The carrots in the ground are now finished so that bed was weeded and dug over.

The last of the strawberry runners were planted out and the paths between the new raised beds levelled.

The last of the apples were picked and the last of the redcurrants.

The leaf heap is now building up as the Council do a regular delivery.

AND from The Bridgend Farmhouse project asking for your help  with with Aviva Community Fund.

Bonfire Night (6th November) Bridgend Farmhouse project
With the nights drawing in, and Autumn in full swing, we’d like to invite you along to a good old fashioned Bonfire Night at Bridgend Farmhouse on Sunday 6th November, 7.30 – 9.30pm. See the flyer with information below and attached. We hope some of you will come and huddle round the fire together with us.
Community Fund – Please vote to support us!
Also, please help us raise more funds for the weekly drop-in sessions by sparing 5 minutes. We are part of the ‘Aviva Community Fund’ competition where you can vote on projects you think are worthy of receiving their funds. You have to register at their website, and then have up to 10 votes you can use. Here is the link of where to go to vote and to register:

Jobs for next week
Working on the new raised beds
Start on new posts
And weeding no doubt!

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Good day on the allotment

No midges today with a good west wind blowing, unlike last week.

It was down on hands and knees today, getting the boards for the new raised beds into their final position and levelling them off,  taking into account the slope both to the north and east, but all done and now they need screwed to the support stakes.


On the new strawberry bed, we finished laying down the weed-suppressing fabric and planted out another variety of strawberry. More Gariguette runners were tracked down and potted on for the final rows.

Now the brambles have finished fruiting, we pruned out the old shoots and tied in the shoots which will give us next years fruit.

And finally we have time to get in amongst the hazels and start weeding.

We are doing well for vegetables with Brussel sprouts ready, kale, chard, red cabbage, carrots and still potatoes and onions plus apples.

Jobs for next week

Finish screwing in the boards on the raised beds
Weeding among hazels and clear round the soft fruit

Start on new posts – bring a ladder!

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A mild, sunny and windless day at the allotment

Today we started on the new raised beds, marking out the beds and paths; putting the boards and stakes into position as well as doing a thorough weeding of the whole area.

The runner beans are now over so they were taken out and added to the compost bin. The apples on the Adam Pearmain tree are still ripening and another batch were ready to be picked today.


The Japanese vegetable Gobo is grown in tubes in a tub to make it easy to remove and the results speak for themselves!

Jobs for next week

Level the boards and nail to support stakes
Finish the new strawberry bed

Weeding round the hazels

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Awards for Scottish gentians

img_0510img_0514Two of Ian McNaughton’s  gentians have been recommended for the RHS Award of Garden  Merit by the Joint Rock Committee ( composed of reps. from RHS, Alpine Garden Society and Scottish Rock Garden Club). The Caley is already well known to member of the society. Also recommended is the white Oban.

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A Beginners Guide to Exhibiting at the Caley Spring Show – Part One

Part One – The Bulb Planting Workshop

At the Caley’s annual Spring Show in 2014, as I was wandering around admiring the beautiful exhibits, two questions kept popping into my head. How on earth does one get bulbs to bloom in peak condition on the precise date of the show; and then how does one transport them to the Botanics without them being ruined?


I promised myself that I would discover what magic was involved and that the next year some of my own blooms would be on show!

So last year, in Spring 2015, I entered some of the novice categories. The Friday afternoon spent setting up with other exhibitors was wonderful fun, with lots of experts around to help with advice and secret tips. There is great banter between age-old rivals and a lovely spirit of competitive camaraderie.

I was amazed and delighted to actually win something too! I got a second and third place and, most special, a ribbon for the best Irish-bred daffodil by a novice. I was such a novice that I didn’t even know that any of my bulbs were Irish-bred and completely missed the ribbon when I went to look at the results!  Spring 2016 was even better as, due to the poor number of entrants, I won the novice cup. This I did notice!


So how did I do it? How did I find the answer those two questions I asked at the start of my journey back in Spring 2014? How did I capture that magic of achieving peak condition for the exact day of the show?

Well, with great guidance from The Caley every step of the way, of course!

The first step in that guidance is the Bulb Planting Workshop every October at the Botanics nursery. This is a must if you aren’t entirely sure what you are doing! I knew about forcing hyacinths for Christmas but that’s about it and I’d never actually done it because I hate the smell of hyacinths!

The workshop is fantastic value for money as it includes all your compost, pots, bulbs and labels plus use of the plunge bed at the Botanics nursery for four months. It’s so good that lots of members go every year!

This year the workshop was led by past president Pam Whittle.


Last Saturday about twenty of us were spaced along the potting bench, some were regulars who enter every year and some were complete novices like I was myself a couple of years ago.  It is all very easy and fun, with tips and pointers gbulb2-charlotteiven along the way.


Charlotte here is already a dab hand and was potting up bulbs for other people, who hadn’t been able to make the workshop.



Pam explained to fill our 2 litre pots about ¾ full of compost, so the bulbs will be almost covered once the compost is added on top of them. We used bulb compost but multi-purpose is fine too.




Remember to place the bulbs the right way up and, to prevent rotting, it is best to ensure the bulbs are spaced so they do not touch each other. The most vital instruction is to label your pot with the variety you are planting!



For daffodils it is standard practice to plant five bulbs per pot. We each planted four pots of different varieties of daffodils – they were Thriplow Gold, Golden Amber, Madam Speaker and Rapture.

For the hyacinths, it is standard practice to plant three bulbs per pot. This year we had a choice of two varieties – Jan Bos or Delft Blue.


For the tulips, it is standard practice to plant six bulbs per pot. I still haven’t figured out why, as the show schedule for a pot of tulips is for five, so one always has to be cut away later.  This year we had a choice of two varieties – Fur Elise or Albert Heijn.


The pots are all then placed on a trolly to be moved to the plunge bed.


The plunge bed is any bed (in this case a raised bed) which has had the topsoil dug away to leave space of twice the depth of the pots. The pots are placed in and then covered up with the topsoil, to cover them to about the same depth as the depth of the pot. This is to keep light out, to force them to grow up straight and strong.


If you don’t have space for a plunge bed, then there are lots of other ways to do this stage. The aim is to keep the pots cold and dark, so covered with black plastic in a shed or garage or corner of a garden does just as well. A past competitor even found a pot he had forgotten under a hedge, and went on to win with it!

A must at this stage is to protect from mice, who will love to munch on those juicy bulbs over winter. We used heavy wire mesh but a roof tile or chicken wire works well too on individual pots.


With the bulbs put in their cosy home for winter, now is the time to start browsing the schedule for the Spring Show. This gives an overview of each class, the rules and what the judges are looking for. You can find it on the Caley website.

Initially this document can be somewhat bamboozling as there are over one hundred possible categories to enter. It’s all rather overwhelming for a novice especially if, like me, you didn’t know there were different types (called divisions) of daffodil depending on their form.

I’d advise you to skip straight to the section titled “Novice/ Beginner Class“. If you are under sixteen then skip straight to the section titled “Junior Classes“.  This is the section which will have other competitors at about the same level as you are. If you have attended the Caley bulb workshop in October, you will have enough bulbs to enter most of the classes in this section.

There is also a separate competition for schools to enter, with dwarf daffodils in smaller pots.

All we have to do now is wait until about Valentine’s Day for the second part of the bulb workshop, when we will lift our bulbs to take home and grow on. The February workshop includes a talk and demonstration on how best to care for your bulbs and how to get to that magic point of peak condition on the precise day of the judging!

Until then,

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