Event date: 5th December 2016

Write-up by Isobel Shaw

When I look ahead to each new HPS NE talk, I always know that the speaker will engage and enthuse us all. But last month my expectations were thoroughly exceeded by the talk given by Ian Young. He held us enthralled throughout with his energy, practical ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm, and afterwards patiently answered questions from a succession of Hardy Planters, each asking for advice about their own specific gardening problems.

Narcissus cyclamineus © Peganum (Wikimedia)

Ian gardens near Aberdeen and his garden has light, sandy, slightly acid soil with a loose structure. Over 40 years it has had much gravel added to it as well as mulch, which has given it additional depth. He is not in the least deterred by gardening so far north, but takes obvious pleasure in the range of plants that become self-seeding “weeds” (Meconopsis!) For those who are unfortunate enough to garden in the “banana belt” of the South, he expresses his sympathy.

Ian came to us as a representative of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, for which he writes aweekly online diary or blog, with images from his own garden. In case you think you’ve mis-readthis, I’ve searched it out at www.srgc.net and all his blogs can be accessed in either HTML or PDF format for every week since the start of 2003. Just imagine the dedication needed!

His blog highlights the conclusions he draws from his experience of gardening in Aberdeen, and he shares it freely with the gardening world. When you read the blog you will read about hisplants’ strong points, tips on his favourite varieties and suggestions for our gardens – and you might take inspiration from his habit of monitoring everything in the garden, at every stage of its development.

So, apart from being a dedicated and energetic member of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, what else does Ian do? He is responsible for the selection and introduction of plants which have hybridised in his garden, such as Corydalis “Craigton Red” and “Craigton Blue”. He has workedwith The Beechgrove Garden team, travels the world in search of unusual alpine plants, anddescribes himself as “an artist who gardens”.

All the pictures used in his slideshow were photographed in his garden during the 2011 season: asuccession of vignettes were presented to us representing Ian’s Spring planting. Many of us willbe pleased with a fine show of colour by April – in Ian’s garden, his borders are on their third wave of flowering by then. Beginning with eranthis, snowdrops and leucojum, almost every conceivable bulb family has its moment.

Ian’s bulb displays are enhanced by the positioning of small rhododendrons and herbaceous plants such as hellebores, primulas, dicentras and anemones. Colchicum leaves are valued for their effect. Delphiniums, foxgloves and erodium are valued for taking up moisture and preventing bulbs from getting too wet.

Ian’s talk was punctuated by his tips for successful gardening in a Northern climate, and which he was keen to share with us. Here are just a few:

  • Establish eranthis, iris and erythroniums in your garden by growing them from seed. Allow seeds to self-scatter.
  • Divide clumps of narcissi to avoid congestion and eventual failure. If you are gardening on sandy soil, you can divide them even while they are in full flower.
  • Selectively remove the lower limbs of larger rhododendrons to allow for views across your garden.
  • Plant tulips in your hottest, driest bed – preferably a slightly raised bed.
  • Plunge beds and mesh pots are used to cultivate some varieties just for their seed – an example given was Narcissus cyclamineus.
  • If mice are a problem with certain plants e.g. when growing crocuses, top with pebbles: these allow the flowers to appear but make it hard for mice to dig down.
  • Understand the nature of your plants: what they do and when. With Trillium grandiflorum (which in Ian’s opinion is the easiest of the trilliums to grow), lift the plants and divide immediately after flowering so the new roots can grow.

To return to the subject of Ian’s talk, “Bulbs in your Garden”, what I will take away from Ian’s excellent presentation is the usefulness of assessing your bulb displays, studying them from every angle and not being afraid to experiment.

I will leave you with the link to an example of Ian’s writing: a detailed article “Bulbs from Seed” which can also be accessed from the Home page of the Scottish Rock Garden Club


Happy reading!

Trillium grandiflorum © Derek Ramsey (Wikimedia)