SGS Fife Trail 2019 – Visit Teasses

By | Garden

Scotland’s Garden Scheme Fife  Spring Trail 2019 kicks of next week, running from 16th April to the 3rd of May. The Trail is the prefect opportunity to visit seven privately owned gardens in the county, each abundant in spring blooms. Don’t miss the chance to visit Teasses on each Friday of the the Trail, that is 19th & 26th April and 3rd May. Entry to individual gardens is £5 or buy a Trail ticket from SGS.

We look forward to seeing you at Teasses, make sure to have plenty of spool left in your camera!

Spring Blooms in the Woodland Gardens

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Spring is blooming in the gardens at Teasses and no where is more colourful than the Millennium Woodlands. The gardens are filling with the sweet scents of Primula vulgaris and Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’.

Spring is a great time to visit the gardens at Teasses and with Scotland’s Garden Scheme Fife Spring Trail kicking off in two weeks, there is plenty to enjoy Teasses.

SGS Fife Trail 2019

By | Garden

Now that we are thoroughly embedded in the cold chill of winter, it is the ideal time to look ahead to the bright, vibrant days of spring. The Scotland’s Garden Scheme Fife Trail kicks off on the 16th April and gives you the opportunity to visit six unique gardens each with its own particular springtime highlight.

Find out more about SGS Fife Trail 2019 and where to buy tickets on the Scotland’s Garden Scheme website by clicking on the link below.

Autumn is beating at the door

By | Garden

Leaves on trees are slowly turning from the vibrant fresh greens of summer to indulgent amber, scarlet and gold. Berries on bushes in the hedgerows are bountiful and glistening in the early morning dew. Industrious red squirrels are darting around the garden gathering seeds and nuts and any form of insulation they can find to keep the winter weather out of their dreys. Without a doubt the season is turning from summer; autumn is beating at the door. The first named storm of the season is upon us and has left its mark on the garden. Several trees have been blown over or snapped in half, large limbs have fallen from old oaks and beach trees. We’ve spent two days clearing up.

Teasses, Millennium Wood, Storm Ali

As our gardening predecessors once would have done; we have taken to preserving as much of the garden produce that we grow in the walled garden in our newly constructed root store. The idea of the root store is to prolong access to fresh (and in our case) organic fruits and vegetables and would have originally supplied fresh fruits and root vegetables to the Mansion house throughout the year. Much of the old techniques of storing fresh fruit and vegetables have been forgotten by modern gardeners so we have to rely on the historic accounts of victorian gardeners who were adept at keeping produce for many months.

So far we’ve managed to get our potatoes lifted and stored in crates, some of the better quality apples are polished, wrapped in newspaper and are now stacked in crates. Apples which are scabby or damaged will go into our apple juice (some of which will be fermented into cider). Also stored in the Root Store are pumpkins and squashes, which after being cured in the sun will store until the spring. Carrots, Beetroot, Celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes will be stored in the Root Store in years to come.

Fleshy produce such as plums need to be eaten, frozen or used to create Plum Wine. We’ve done all three (recipe for Plum wine to follow).

We have used the old Victorian Boiler room as our Root Store so have ingeniously divided the room with a floor above the old boiler (which is still in place, but very degraded). This gives us two very useful rooms. The upper story room is the Root Store and the lower story room will be used to grow mushrooms and force rhubarb.

The harvesting of produce is something every estate gardener looks forward to, its the culmination of months of hard work. The bottling and storing is only a tiny part of the overall task; starting with digging over beds and mulching in the winter, to hand fertilising early greenhouse crops. Ultimately the thinning, feeding and nurturing of crops in the garden all works towards these few weeks in the year when you have to be focussed on gathering produce at the right time and processing it so that it is available long into the cold dark days of winter. Its really a very primal hunter-gatherer instinct you’ll find in most people and I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t take great pleasure and joy from it.

Garden Larder – Late Summer Harvest

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It is such a privilege to walk into the Walled Garden at this time of year to gather produce you have so carefully cultivated over the previous months. Those dark cold winter days of sowing seeds and thinning stems are rewarded by the late summer with an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

I’ve already started my first batch of Plum Wine – Recipe to follow – and soon we’ll be lifting wind-fallen apples to juice for Cider.

Teasses, Walled Garden, Teasses Estate

Dahlias in the Walled Garden

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Teasses, Walled Garden, Teasses Estate

Dahlia ‘Belle of Barmera’

Teasses, Walled Garden, Teasses Estate

Dahlia ‘Zorro’

Teasses, Walled Garden, Dahlia, Teasses Estate

The Walled Garden provides the ideal climate for these stunning Dahlias. We like to try different varieties each year, and once again we’ve been bowled over by the intensity of colour in each of the varieties we’ve selected. Here Belle of Barmera is stunning, but the star of the show has to be Dahlia ‘Zorro’ with large vibrant blooms.

Teasses, Walled Garden, Dahlia, Teasses Estate

Fresh, Warm, Juicy Peaches

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There is nothing nicer than plucking a fresh ripe peach from the tree. Even better if you’ve had the opportunity to help towards the growth and development of those same peaches and have observed them gradually fatten over the early summer months. Now in late July the fruits are plump and ripe. To plunge your teeth through the flesh and be splattered with warm sweet juice is an absolute delight few get to enjoy. As the juice   trickles down your chin you recall all those sunny childhood summer holidays. The taste of sweet fruit and sunshine on your skin.

Peaches, Teasses, Greenhouse, July, Fruit

What makes gardening so interesting?

By | Garden

Gardening is something that you are either born to do or grow into over time, for me gardening has always been an interest so I must fall within the former category. But what makes gardening so interesting? This is a question I have often asked myself and have been asked by countless others. In this post I hope to explain my reasoning for this from the privileged position of Head Gardener on one of Scotland’s finest estates, Teasses in Fife.

So, what does make gardening so interesting? To answer that I need to clarify what I mean by ‘gardening’. To me gardening is my chosen professional interest, my profession is Head Gardener, for which I have trained for years to undertake – and as any one of my peers would tell you – the training doesn’t stop as soon as you leave the institution; whether that might be university,college or an apprenticeship. In fact it might be argued that the real training begins on that first day when you unlock the potting shed door.

The traditional idea of a Head Gardener is one befitting Mr. McGregor in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and on bad days I probably succumbed to the imagery. A head gardener will usually become grumpy for one of two things – either the machines are misbehaving or something has stumbled onto the beds and left hefty foot marks everywhere.

There are plenty of other challenges every day which the modern Head Gardener has to face, so for me what makes gardening interesting is the variety of tasks undertaken. I suspect each estate gardener has their own peculiar lists of jobs, for example; cleaning the pond circulation pump of dead bugs and half rotten plant material, turning the compost bays to let air into them, gathering leaves from the woodlands, stacking logs for the fire, taking the bins to the end of the road, pruning roses and climbers that don’t get the message the first time. Of course, these are the more challenging jobs; what estate gardeners generally undertake are the jobs most ‘amateur’ gardeners would dream of doing weekly and on a typically larger scale. One of the gardening jobs I really enjoy is planting out thousands of bulbs in the autumn in anticipation of the spring. Once the bulbs are buried safely under ground only you and the team know where they are going to re-appear in the crips bright mornings of spring. It is a grand reveal over a number of weeks for the estate owners. Another job is planting out beds of summer flowering tender bulbs and annuals. Just as in autumn with the spring bulbs, planting out summer bulbs and annuals is also a great illusion for the estate owners. In late May the large decorative pots are emptied seemingly over night, and little vibrant green plants replace the tired stems and flower heads of tulips and narcissi. Give it a few weeks, a decent amount of feed and plenty of water and before you know it you have a cacophony of hybridised antipodean plants in bloom and buzzing with butterflies and bees.

Of course the two jobs I ‘ve just mentioned are planting jobs, but what gets us there in the first place?

Cold winter mornings, frost nipping at your fingertips, a drippy nose and the seed box. Sowing seeds in a warm potting shed is in my opinion a job only a born gardener can do. You need patience, imagination and bucket loads of optimism.

Firstly, sieve the seed compost to break any larger lumps down into a fine light growing medium. This is vital. Not only does sieving break up hard blocks of soil which little roots might struggle to penetrate but it also opens up the soil texture allowing the ready movement of water and importantly air into the compost. Choose a suitable – clean! – pot or tray, this entirely depends on the size of your seed, gently fill the desired receptacle all the way to the top, firm down the soil by tapping the pot or tray on the potting bench. This step helps to settle the soil, despite just taking care to add air to the compost you don’t want big spaces of air in the compost, just lots of little ones. Use a similarly sized pot to tamp down the top of the soil so that you have a nice even sowing surface. Here is the controversy. I was taught, when studying at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, to water the seed pots/trays before applying the seed. This way the seed sticks to the damp soil and doesn’t get washed away. However, I have seen others do the exact opposite and water after the seed has been sown.

Now, wipe the dirt from your finger tips and palm, carefully pour out the tiny hard grains which you know contain the beginnings of an entire plant. It is just as well you know this because you might doubt that such a tough little thing would do anything other than sit there in the soil and do almost nothing.

Time for sowing. You either know the seed well or you’ll read the packet – some seeds like a little soil sifted over the top of them, while others benefit from being left uncovered for the light.  Sow the seeds so that they are evenly spread across the surface of the compost or place your larger seed firmly on or in it. Again, the shape of the seed will determine how to place it in the pot. Large flat seeds like pumpkin or squash require to be sown on their side, so that water doesn’t gather on the flat surface of the seed and rot it. Some seeds also require a little beating, smoking, actual fire or chilling. Again, you’ll need to read the packet. If you are at all bothered with slugs, snails, fungus gnats or moss then its a good idea to cover the surface of your soil with grit (but only if the seed does not require light to germinate).

Label must include plant name and variety and vitally the date you have sown it. If after a couple of weeks there is no sign of life  in the lettuce tray for example, they are most likely not going to germinate.

Seed sowing and planting are jobs which any gardener will enjoy but others prefer the meticulous implementation of stripes on lawns, weeding, laying new pathways and tying in fruit. The list of interesting things to do in the garden renews every week. The Head Gardener of an estate also gets to enjoy these jobs but the role involves something a little deeper. The Head Gardener is firstly a gardener – that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised – and secondly is the manager of the garden, all the garden related activities, garden staff, garden machinery, garden tours and events. The role obviously is specific to the requirements of the particular garden he or she is managing. At Teasses for example my role involves designing new gardens and features, and I particularly enjoy that aspect of my job here. It gives me great pleasure discussing ideas and sharing concepts with the estate owners, drawing up plans and putting together plant lists, sourcing plants and scheduling the work. At Teasses I’m involved from pencil t0 spade, and that’s one aspect of any Head Gardener’s role. The list of tasks a Head Gardener undertakes is endless I’ve summarised it as; gardener, contract manager, project manager, budget controller, HR, public face, propagationist, public speaker, floral arranger, quality controller, garden designer and events coordinator. I’m sure there are countless other jobs too minute to add.

In light of this apparent ramble both you and I are at least partially able to explain what makes gardening so interesting, it will certainly be much simpler to point your inquisitor in the direction of this post than to try to convince them otherwise, especially if you happen to be up to your waist in nettles or double digging the vegetable bed at the time. Whether your garden is sixty extensive acres or a few pots on a balcony there is always something to be done. As this is the first of many posts I’m sure I’ll cover most aspects of the garden and no doubt some will be relevant to you; whether it is what’s looking good now, how to best plant up a decorative pot or even how to preserve what you’ve grown. I hope you’ll find the time to take a couple of minutes with a cup of coffee and enjoy from afar the work we are carry-out at Teasses.

Just remember though, when asked by a less than green-fingered friend ‘what makes gardening so interesting?’ You might say…variety.