It’s been a wonderful, busy and productive summer at Douneside gardens, our first year as a RHS Partner Garden. But the spring and summer heatwave seems a distant memory as we now settle into autumn. The perfume of Roses, Lilacs, Lavender and Mock-Orange has given over to cool blustery days, the sound of crows and wood pigeon rather than swallows and skylarks, and the surrounding fields of barley now stubble or grass. With the nights getting colder and the early morning ground frosts, the trees around Douneside’s gardens are turning into a spectacular blaze of reds, russets and golds. Set against the backdrop of the Howe of Cromar and the distant Grampian Mountains, it really is a wonderful sight.
Three of the Trust’s horticultural trainees completed their training year in August and we were delighted to see two of them move on to full-time positions, one at a private estate in Perthshire and the other at the Great Steward of Scotlands’ Dumfries House gardens. The third trainee is off to Devon to train with the RHS at their superb Rosemoor and Wisley gardens.
The terrace garden is still full of colour with drifts of Dahlias, Monarda (or Bee Balm), Sedum, Japanese anemones, Phlox (the list goes on) and looks particularly lovely as the sun comes up against an autumn blue sky. Rugged up and hatted, an early morning stride around the gardens in the fresh autumn air, amongst the swirling leaves and crows, it’s a wonderful start to the day before heading back inside for a heart-warming Scottish breakfast.
In our walled kitchen garden (somewhat depleted of summer vegetables) we’re now harvesting plump leeks, parsnips, potatoes, Tuscan black kale, swede, squash, chillies, Jerusalem artichokes and much more. We do this three mornings each week and the produce is taken directly to the kitchen. If you’re dining at Douneside, you’ll be glad to know that the vegetables are unlikely to be more than a couple of days from harvest to plate, in many cases a number of hours.
Our new team of horticultural trainees are settled in and the daily routines are changing in the garden as plants die back, the lawns slow down and the leaves drop. Soon we’ll be cutting back the herbaceous borders, lifting the remaining veg from the walled garden and storing them in cool sheds and sand clamps for use during the winter months. We’ll be ordering and planting bulbs for our spring display, trawling through seed catalogues for next years’ orders, planning winter development works and checking over our leaf blowers, chainsaws for tree pruning and our snow plough to ensure we can keep the roads clear around Douneside throughout the winter months. We might even have a white Christmas.
If you do one thing this autumn, order as many spring bulbs as you can. Plant them in the garden – in pots, in containers and anywhere else you can find. You’ll have them to look forward to all winter and have a wonderful spring garden.