One of my longrunning favourite blogs is Croftgarden, the story of a garden sometimes battered by winds and storms and sometimes bathed in sunshine on the coast of South Uist in the Hebrides. I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago. It's an amazing place and a testament to the extraordinary energy and commitment of Christine and her husband that there is a garden where the land meets the sea. Christine has just blogged her answers to eleven questions on her garden and has nominated another five blogs to respond to her own questions as part of the Liebster awards. I am honoured to be asked. Here are her questions and my answers:
1. How would you describe your gardening style?
Naturalistic would be kind. Unkempt would be another way of putting it. I am trying to garden in a high site surrounded by farmland and open moorland and to produce something which fits the place.
2. Who or what has influenced the design of your garden?
I hope that the strongest influence is the place itself. In terms of people, there are gardeners I greatly admire such as Tom Stuart Smith and Anne Wareham but I don't think I would say they have influenced the design. Actually that is not true. Anne made a comment about the way some of the boundary trees cut off the view in a certain part of the garden and I have responded to that by reducing the height of some hollies and taking some branches off some of the larger trees.
3. Is this your first garden or just the latest in a long line?
This is the latest in a long line which has included small city gardens and medium sized suburban gardens. I began being interested in gardens when my children were young so I have been gardening with varying degrees of intensity for about thirty years, depending on how much time I could spare from family and working. This is the first garden I have attempted to make from scratch and very difficult it is too!
4. Do you fall into temptation every time a gardening catalogue lands on the mat?
No, I am not much affected by gardening catalogues these days. Sadly I can't ascribe that to virtue or extraordinary willpower. It is simply that a lot of things won't grow up here so there is little point in bringing in a lot of new and exotic plants and seeing them die!
5. Are you seduced by the glossy pictures in magazines or books and then despair at your own efforts?
I do sometimes despair and long for a garden with soil instead of stones, less wind and some respite from the ravages of perennial weeds! When I see gardens in magazines in the south and the south west it sometimes feels that I inhabit another gardening world altogether. In fact I think that is probably true. There is no point in comparing our garden to gardens in glossy magazines. Until very recently it was a field and it is still a sloping site with a strong resemblance to a field although I hope the sense of a wildish, country garden is beginning to emerge.
6. Do you wear gardening gloves, carry a trug or wear designer wellies?
I always begin any time in the garden wearing gardening gloves and usually take them off at some stage and get my hands filthy. I have a very beautiful trug which is sometimes used to bring in vegetables and otherwise lives on a shelf in the greenhouse. I have two pairs of wellies, a cheap pair for gardening in and a less cheap pair for walking in. Neither could be called designer.
7. What is your favourite gardening task, apart from sitting on the bench with a cuppa?
I love cutting back and the satisfying sense of letting things breathe. Even though everything here is wild and often overgrown I love the things that bring some order - cut hedges, stacked wood, cut paths through long grass.
8. Do you have a “wish list” of plants or just get carried away when you see something new?
I used to be much more susceptible to buying something new and beautiful when I had my last garden which had very good shelter and good soil. Nowadays I don't buy anything without establishing that it won't mind my fastdraining, stony soil and even then I can do all the right research, think I have cracked it and find the plant turns up its toes anyway.
9. Do you propagate your own plants?
I do a lot of splitting up plants and taking cuttings. This is partly because there is a lot of space to fill and partly because anything that is happy to grow here is worth having a lot of! I am also much more taken by the repeated use of the same plant in large numbers than by lots of different plants so propagating to achieve that makes sense and is satisfying.
10. Do you try to grow something new each year?
Not really, I just try to keep things alive.
11. Why do you read gardening blogs?
I read lots of blogs, not just gardening ones, in fact the ones I enjoy most tend to range more widely than gardening alone. I like to see what other people are doing, and I love people talking honestly about their successes and failures and explaining their ambitions. That is something that is rarely done in gardening magazines which tend towards simple admiration. A good gardening blog is like a good conversation.
I think that the idea of this award is to nominate others and ask your own questions. I do hope that it is ok to answer without passing it on. Many of my favourite blogs have already done this and some of my favourites are not blogging right now. I have enjoyed answering Christine's questions and urge you to go and have a look at the other blogs she nominated and at her own, Croftgarden.
These are the others nominated by Christine:
The Hopeful Herbalist
The Garden Deli
Edinburgh Garden Diary
There are some great blogs out there and some great gardeners. I am deep in winter hibernation here and, as those who read regularly will know, last year was not a gardening year as so much of our time went into family things. Thinking about the questions and looking back at my photographs and diaries has almost made me feel like gardening again!