/ How to create a wild garden (W/Cst Scotland) plants experts

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Jimbo W on 09 May 2013
This request is maybe a bit unusual.. ..but I was wondering if there were any plant / gardening lovers, enthusiasts or even experts that might be able to help me.

We have been renovating a derelict house in Arnisdale, and we're now turning our attention to the garden. There is alot of wild-life around which we love, and which we want to enhance and bring in more. In particular, over the last few years from the house we've seen a pine martin, otters, something that might have been a water vole, mice, slow worms, frogs, toads newts and loads of different birds. We want to plant to create lots of cover, tall grasses, lots of flowers to bring in insects and when I have time I will be putting in a drystone wall, creating lots of nooks and crannies for creatures. I grew up with lots of exposure to Uistean machair, and I love the unstructured wild gardens where people/function takes a definite second place to the plants and wildlife and particularly want a meadow kind of look. I've contacted a number of garden people, but it seems what I want to do is not what they do, and I've written to a number of gardening centres to advise me on appropriate species to purchase.. ..no responses at all. So finally it comes down to UKC...

...We are just at the base of beinn sgritheall and so it can be quite wet, though instituted drainage prevents water logging, there is some marsh grass at the very back. I guess the soil will be acidic. The garden is only separated by a small singletrack road from the beach below, and so it can be windy, it can rain alot, but can also have extended periods of sunshine too. There is also a stream about 8metres to the side of our garden, most of which is not on our land, but there is definitely alot of wildlife in the area near this stream.

We have dark black mud, with very little sand, but deeper down it can get a bit gravelly. The top layers can store water a bit too well, but I've considerably improved drainage and will do so further. There is quite alot of large rock (from a previously demolished property) and also stones aplenty. I made a start at the back turning the soil over to remove some of the largest rocks, and actually it wasn't too difficult to reduced the overal stoneyness of an area. So we want to plant for a kind of meadowy wild cover.. ..I don't necessarily mean meadow plants, but plants that have a bit of length, to create cover e.g. grasses, but also plenty of flowering plants to act for pollination, to attract insects, and we also want to put in plants at the periphery that produce berries/fruit for birds. The garden is south facing, getting good light in summer, but during winter, the sun barely makes it over the Knoydart hills.

Can anyone recommend a mix of species for general planting across the whole area.. ..I mean we want a balanced mix of species across the majority of the garden? Any other ideas, recommendations, any other ways to get good information?

Thanks for any help and ideas you can muster.

Cheers

JimboW
MaxWilliam on 09 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Fellow plant and tree enthusiast but live in the South so don't think any of my limited plant knowledge would be relevant. Your patch and what you are doing sounds fantastic, especially having access to a stream and damp introduces some interesting possibilities. Try the RHS forums for advise.

For the cover shrubs I'd suggest doing lots and lots of cuttings or buying small plants, or wait for next winter's bare root season. Rowan (Moutain Ash), Bramble, other berries, Hawthorn, Blackthorn (sloe) may be possibilities. Willow and hazle like the damp and can be coppiced. Hazle cobnuts is good source of food for mice etc.

I'd take advice before you turn over or improve the soil, some of the grasses and flowering plants you want may fare better on ground that's not been much improved.

Good luck, would be good to see some pictures... (UKC gardening forum?)
Dave Perry - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Look at what already grows well in your area. Plant those!

Beware imported 'off-the-shelf' wildflower/wildtree mixes. These are nearly always generic mixes and will almost certainly contain plants which do not occur naturally in your area.

'Improving' areas may destroy already valuable habitats. For example many species of insects plants, amphibians & mammals like the damp wet areas you drain.

As a simple start, try collecting the seeds of wildplants in your area and planting these. Alternatively simply let nature do the colonising for you. Its a bit slower but works well - eventually.
Eric9Points - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

The bloke that built the gardens at Polewe wrote a book about it, sorry I can't remember either his name or the name of the book now. I realise that he did something different to what you're looking to do but you may well get a few useful tips from it.

I was about to say that the people at Kerracher gardens could also advise you but I note they shut the place down in 2010: http://www.kerrachar.co.uk/

You might still be able to track them down though.

upordown - on 09 May 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> The bloke that built the gardens at Polewe wrote a book about it, sorry I can't remember either his name or the name of the book now.

A Hundred Years in the Highlands by Osgood Hanbury MacKenzie?

Eric9Points - on 09 May 2013
In reply to upordown:

That's him.

In reply to Jimbo W:
I'm a bit furher north than you - Gairloch. Garden is about 60 metres above sea level and south/south west facing. I've done it from scratch - house was a new build about 6 years ago on former croft land . I inbherited a lot of willow and a stand of about 15 pines. Willow grows/spreads quickly and is good cover for birds. As far as other trees go there were already a coule of rowans and a few birches there. I've added to these and these species are growing quickly and handling the gales well. Have also planted holly and hawthorn and a"Gairloch" oak. Have planted gorse and broom which are alo native and these are going well with plenty of flowers for bees etc. Flowering shrubs like Weigela and escallonia are wind hardy and also doing ok. I'v planted a lot of marsh marigold in the wettest areas and this soon gets established and spreads. Primroses grown from seed also doing well and bluebells. Daffodils will grow in almost any kind of soil and crocuses also doing ok. I use seawood as a fertiliser/mulch and this is good for improving the soil. You can alpines like saxifrage, wild thyme and stonecrop in stony areas like your nooks and crannies in and around walls/ boulders etc . A good herb garden also offers plenty of flowers - so stick in rosemary, thyme, mint, chives etc which will also all give you flowers . It's a bit of trial and error on my part - some things work, othere don't . Main enemy is the wind which dries out foliage.
Hope some of this is helpful Good luck
Dax H - on 12 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: I dont know anything about plants but we gave about 1/4 of our garden over to a pond, its very shallow at one end, only a could of inches deep and 4 foot deep at the other end, it's heavily planted with indigenous plants and so covered that the shallow end is more like a marsh than a pond, frogs, newts and toads all arrived in the first year and are breeding well.
Jimbo W on 17 May 2013
In reply to The Watch of Barrisdale:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> I'm a bit furher north than you - Gairloch. Garden is about 60 metres above sea level and south/south west facing. I've done it from scratch - house was a new build about 6 years ago on former croft land . I inbherited a lot of willow and a stand of about 15 pines. Willow grows/spreads quickly and is good cover for birds. As far as other trees go there were already a coule of rowans and a few birches there. I've added to these and these species are growing quickly and handling the gales well. Have also planted holly and hawthorn and a"Gairloch" oak. Have planted gorse and broom which are alo native and these are going well with plenty of flowers for bees etc. Flowering shrubs like Weigela and escallonia are wind hardy and also doing ok. I'v planted a lot of marsh marigold in the wettest areas and this soon gets established and spreads. Primroses grown from seed also doing well and bluebells. Daffodils will grow in almost any kind of soil and crocuses also doing ok. I use seawood as a fertiliser/mulch and this is good for improving the soil. You can alpines like saxifrage, wild thyme and stonecrop in stony areas like your nooks and crannies in and around walls/ boulders etc . A good herb garden also offers plenty of flowers - so stick in rosemary, thyme, mint, chives etc which will also all give you flowers . It's a bit of trial and error on my part - some things work, othere don't . Main enemy is the wind which dries out foliage.
> Hope some of this is helpful Good luck

Thank you all so much! There is some really great advice here and it gives me a good starting point to make a plan! I hadn't thought of using gorse and broom, but that's a great idea. I'll be getting that book too. I haven 't been to the gardens at inverewe, but I want to stick strictly to indigenous plants. Anyway thanks again everyone for the ideas. They are very much appreciated.
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In reply to Jimbo W:
Always glad to help a man with a view of Barrisdale!
PS another flower for boggy places - flag(yellow) irises

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