Woodland Garden

When Peter and Gill first came, this was a patch of small sycamore trees with grass.  Prior to 1805 this is probably the site of the church in Saline, demolished to build a larger version in the centre of the village. We have found no evidence in our digging; probably the need to recycle the stone meant the local farmer benefited.

Over the wall in the old graveyard members of Jacks family, who lived at Kirklands from 1860’s to 1920’s are buried.  Unfortunately, six of the children died in infancy, others, who reached adulthood, left to live in Canada and South Africa and one, Florence, was buried in the 1960s long after the new cemetery had taken over.

Beneath the sycamore trees snowdrops, hellebores, wood anenomes in several colours (white, white double, blue, primrose, yellow), snakehead fritillaries, erythroniums, bluebells and trilliums thrive.  Later the self-seeded Turks cap lilies (lily martagon) put on their show.

Peter loves ferns.  He started with one or two then he got the bug! Ferns names are almost impossible. So don’t ask him to name them all!  There’s a collection of 80 different ferns.  There’s Blechnum Chilense from Chile, which is quite rampant here. We bought it at Logan Botanic Gardens; the really tiny Blechnum Penna-Marine, a small spreading fern that Gill’s not so sure if she likes it because it spreads too quickly for her liking.

Proceed down the avenue towards the stream past ‘compost city’ where we have 8 huge compost bays and 3 leaf mould bays.  Compost is Peter’s specialist subject!  Gill thinks he’s rather obsessional about his compost, but he thinks it’s just a healthy interest and part of the recycling.  We have a friend, a tree surgeon, that provides us with shreddings to mix with grass and all the other garden material. Nothing gets wasted, everything gets turned back into wonderful compost.

Prince Charles’ gardener said that they turn out their compost bays three times to get things to compost properly. We don’t have the same machinery or the same staff level, but we like to turn it out once or twice to make the fantastic compost!  We’ve recently invested in a compost rotary sieve – perfect for potting up, though it takes some muscle power!

The leaves are kept separately.  We have a pile from last year’s leaves and a pile from the year before.  We use it to mix with compost to pot up Meconopsis and other beauties.  It’s wonderful black gold to put goodness back into the garden.

The Avenue of trees leading down from the compost area to the stream is probably a shortcut for people attending church on the site before 1805, so the bells would ring and they would rush up the Avenue to the church. For Peter and Gill one wonderful thing about moving to Kirklands was finding things like the old steps at the bottom of the Avenue covered with probably 150 years of leaves. They had lived here maybe five or six years before they found the steps. This has planted with snowdrops and hellebores. There is wild garlic that flowers beautifully in the spring, though it has to know when to stop.

Turn left at the bottom past the climbing frame and campfire.  The climbing frame was built for Cameron’s 9th (and 10th) birthdays during lockdown.  The path parallel to the stream is our bluebell walk, with snowdrops, hellebores in whites, pinks, purples and nearly black, rhododendrons including rhododendron barbatum with bright red flowers, rhododendron Solidarity with pink flowers and many, many more in all colours.  Candelabra primulas again in so many different colours and, of course, bluebells.

In the 1970s there was a row of dead Elm trees growing in the wall to the stream and much of the wall had fallen into the stream. Previous owners had grazed ponies in the paddock above the wall.  Over the years, we have dug out the roots, re-built the wall and slowly tried to cultivate the bluebells in this area. To encourage the bluebells and kill of the hog weed, nettles, ground elder etc we put carboard and newspaper over the weeds and added a thick layer of mulch on top.  Now some of the bluebells are being re-located to the woodland across the burn and other plants are taking their place.

In the last two or three years hundreds of the candelabra primulas have been grown from seed to create a display that follows on from the bluebells in May.