Read­ers’ gardens

Garden News (UK) - - News - Chris Ham­ma­cott

A four-acre croft in the Outer He­brides, with veg, flow­ers and plants to make dyes from.

The West­ern Isles weather web­site is re­mind­ing ev­ery­one that the winds will start in earnest soon here and ad­vise that ev­ery­thing should be tied down. It has been a good sum­mer and the work we’ve put into the gar­den has seen it im­prove.

We need to make a wind­break for the poly­tun­nel as soon as pos­si­ble, as well as tak­ing down the sweet peas, which have been grow­ing up wig­wams in pots.

I like the whole idea of ‘putting the gar­den to bed’, although this year I’ve got a mass of spring bulbs to plant, from the usual nar­cis­sus to frit­il­laria, chion­o­doxa and bro­di­aea. I also have 100 irises I fancy putting in pots, so I think a few re­lax­ing baths will be called for with all that plant­ing! The poly­tun­nel is do­ing well and I’ve op­ti­misti­cally planted some more French beans – they’re grow­ing well, but we’ll have to see if the light lev­els are good enough. We had a cou­ple of coach par­ties come to see the sheep (we’ve got the only reg­is­tered flock of Bor­eray sheep on the is­land. They’re an old, na­tive breed and are now very rare). While they were here they had a tour of the gardens. How peo­ple open their gardens so of­ten is amaz­ing – we both found it stress­ful, even though ev­ery­one was com­pli­men­tary. Dye­ing with our plants con­tin­ues. We’re now get­ting into the richer tones, us­ing roots and barks rather than the petals and flow­ers. I’m grow­ing on mad­der ( Ru­bia tinc­to­rum) and woad ( Isatis tinc­to­ria) in the poly­tun­nel, with hope for rich reds and blues in the New Year. The darker evenings do mean, of course, more time to drool over the seed cat­a­logues. Such joy and such plans – and all as you sit round a warm peat fire with a wee tot of the ‘wa­ter of life’. Happy days!

Dahlias for dye­ing make a splash in the poly­tun­nel Crack­ing colour from marigolds

Who’d have thought pan­sies pro­duce acid-yel­low plant dye? I’ve had such enor­mous veg plants in the poly­tun­nel

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