Spring fever

Now comes my favourite time of year.  From the winter dark, wind and rain, the days suddenly get longer and with the clock change to summer time at the end of March we also tend to get a change to dry settled weather.  Long days, wall to wall sunshine and a drying breeze soon turn the sopping muddy soil to a workable consistency and now is the opportunity to do any weeding or digging projects.  I start far too many things and still achieve half of what I want to get done!  The grass starts growing and seemingly overnight violets and celandines join the early primroses in the parade of spring flowers.

First Spring Violets

It is also the time that the crofters set the hills afire.  The top growth of heather and dead grass is burnt away every few years.  This lets fresh new grass have it’s share of the sun and rain in order to feed the sheep when they return to graze on the moors after lambing.  There are rules now that should be adhered to, including not burning after mid April, so as to allow ground nesting birds to breed safely.  These (and other reasons) mean that the hills don’t get burnt so often, so every now and then the fires get a bit out of hand.  There was one that was burning at the far end of the glen for two days and nights last week, fanned by a strong breeze (it was mostly the other side of the hill).  They can sometimes set the peat underneath on fire, if it gets too dry, and can carry on burning underground, springing into life again seemingly from nowhere.  Someone locally whimsically wrote ‘here be dragons’ on one burnt road sign….

wild fire
Wild Fire Skye

I’ve been moving plants in and out of the polytunnel day and night this week, to try and harden them off ready to plant out.  I have also managed to plant out my ribes odorata or clove currant which was sat outside all winter.  This is a black fruited shrub from the US that has clove scented berries.  I hadn’t realised however, how ornamental the flowers would be.  Attractive yellow with a pleasant scent, they will make a nice show at this time of year.

Ribes odoratum flowers
Ribes Odoratum spring flowers

Unfortunately I have had to prune the bush right back after planting, since it was quite root bound in a small pot.  I have cut through the roots at the surface to try and encourage regrowth, since they are very  congested.  The top growth would have been far too much for the root ball, so I felt that removing most of the branches was the best thing.

root ball bound
Rather root bound!

Unfortunately it means I won’t be likely to get many berries this year.  I have stuck the cuttings in the ground adjacent to the bush in the hope that they will root, (removing most of the flowers and leaves) although it is really too late for that to be very likely.

Ribes odoratum planting 2019
Truncated clove currant left and hopeful cuttings right

I was excited to be given some crug zing japanese ginger roots.  Having seen this at Eden project last year, I was keen to see whether I could grow it here.  It seems likely to do well.  Jim at garden ruminations was happy to get rid of it, since it was a bit of a garden thug for him, with inconspicuous flowers at the base of luxuriant top growth.  However both spring shoots and autumn flower buds are esteemed as vegetables in Japan, so I look forwards to trying it here in future.  Since Jim gave me a substantial number of crowns (thank you!), I have been able to try it in several different places.  Notably near my Toona sinensis shrub where I may create an oriental themed planting area.  I was excited to note several Hablitzia plants sprouting along the willow bank around the fruit garden.  They actually look pretty happy so that is encouraging.  I think they could be a staple leaf crop through the spring and summer once established.

I have managed to get the steps on the drive bank completed, and am gathering up suitable plants ready to plant up the freshly bare soil before the weeds get a chance to recolonise it (hence the polytunnel daily migrations).  I was able to get a nice looking lavender and broad leaved thyme plant in Portree along with some house leeks – thanks Frances for that suggestion for wall crevice planting!  The picture below shows how much drier the soil is and how much the leaves on the sycamore have come out in just a week (even more so now).

wall plants
Gathering plants….

So much fun to be had….



12 thoughts on “Spring fever

  1. wall to wall sunshine! you’re very lucky on Skye 😉

    you are lucky to have sweet violets and celandines, what nice, lovely weed/wildflowers to have,

    the weather has been nice and dry for over a week now and I too have got a lot done, most days were overcast, but when the clouds disappeared is was warm! today rain is set for the day, the rain started last night, but hopefully most of next week will be dry again,

    your steps look good, they will be worth the hard work and time, also safer, now you can get on with the exciting bit, planning, chosing and planting, it’s nice when you can find some plants locally, your dry soil looks so light in colour,

    I’m glad no one was hurt by the out of controll heath fire, a week ago last Tuesday evening our electric went off for a few hours, I heard Wednesday it was due to a fire on Harris that got too near the underground cable and melted it, as far as I’ve heard no one was hurt,

    here’s to more dry weather, wall to wall sunshine and lots of time in the garden, Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately all the wild violets are dog violets rather than sweet violets, although I have now got some sweet violets to try, they should also do well.
      I’ve got a quite a few plants that needed a home, stiil got a bit more grass to clear, then I need to check for dog runs before deciding where to put paths and plants!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am glad, too, that no one was hurt in the fire. Would there be another way of controlling the heather without burning?

    Anyway, the houseleeks are a brilliant idea for the walled area. My parents have them in their front garden which are now a massive carpet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heather is such a tough little shrub and the moors rather inaccessable, strimming or mowing not practical. If one wants to graze sheep then I can’t see much alternative…goats might eat the heather too!


      1. I wonder how the sheep manage to survive on the North York moors, as I’ve never seen burning there. But then of course it could take place when I’m not there!


      2. Miles of it, Nancy. I used to love it but now I wish there were more trees to break up the landscape (from an aesthetic point of view) and increase biodiversity.


    1. I like trying new things to see how they do. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. Red and black currants are Ribes rubrum and R. nigra, so yes, closely related to Ribes odoratum. When checking my info. I found it is also referred to as buffalo currant and ribes aureum villosum: (http://temperate.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Ribes+aureum+villosum). Not any varieties available here I don’t think. Because the Americans have trouble with a disease spread with Ribes (not a problem in UK) I guess they’ve not much bothered with it.
      Hoping to get back to the drive bank today….

      Liked by 1 person

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