Inverness and the Moray Firth
At 57°47′N, the garden (located in Inverness, the Highlands of Scotland) is on a latitude almost as far North as Juneau, Alaska. Gardening in the Scottish Highlands comes with a few challenges and some lovely benefits. The challenges include rain, wind, cold, midges (thankfully not bad here) and long dark winters. The benefits include long summer nights that don’t get fully dark, incredible wildlife, soil that is just a few grains of sand off being peat and jaw dropping scenery and sunrises/sunsets.
Inverness is located by the sea (the Moray Firth on the North Sea). This means it isn’t quite as cold as in the glens and highest mountainous areas like the Cairngorms. I can see the sea from my patio, including dolphin hotspot Chanonry Point. The sight of the Black Isle and the Firth disappearing into rain or snow means we’ll get soaked in the next 10 or 15 minutes.
Being on the East Coast, Inverness is also drier than Scotland’s West Coast, which is lashed by Atlantic rain. It is very exposed to the wind though – my garden is particularly open to cold Northerly and Easterly winds that come straight off the sea.
The back garden
A steeply sloping, East facing garden – there is nowhere that is in full sun and the winds can be biting and damaging.
But located less than a mile from the sea, with a sheltering hedge to the North of the garden, we avoid the very worst of the ice and snow encountered by gardeners just a mile or two further inland.
Still, the temperatures hit -19 both this winter and last, so there are no temperamental tender plants being indulged here! (Except Fuchsia and Pelargonium cuttings, but they move indoors for winter like part of the family).
The feel of the garden is an informal, cottage garden style – I love to pack the plants in. The garden is full of wildlife, with visitors including Red Squirrels, Rabbits, Red Kites, Peregrines, bees, butterflies and much, much more.
The patio and plant tents
The patio overlooks the firth, catches the morning sun and is the place where I do my potting work. Its full of pot plants, baskets and tubs.
In this area I have three plastic tents full of young plants and seedlings. Every year or so the snow or a leaping cat rips the plastic shell of a tent and I have to replace it, but as I have no flat space big enough for a greenhouse I do perfectly well with these. At least now I’ve learned to weight them down with heavy rocks on the bottom shelves. I also keep a carnivorous plant in each tent to nibble up bugs, as I don’t use chemicals outside.
Slugs, snails and vine weevils can be pests – I use beer traps to keep the slug numbers down and occasionally nematodes to tackle the vine weevil grubs.
The front garden
The front garden is just about the size of a folded tablecloth – a right angled triangle of about 5 metres by six meres. Until I moved my desk to the window that overlooks it, I rather ignored this patch. I just filled it full of heather, Crocosmia and lavender and left it to it, just giving the weeping silver birch a brutal haircut every year or so.
But now I look at it every day and it is driving me mad. I’ve already started pulling things up and hatching plans, so I think this area is going to see some drastic changes this year!
[Progress is now under way on this! The front garden is now undergoing transformation & is on its way to being an attractive cottage garden.]
The front is typically hotter and sunnier (being West facing), so it is a good place for pots and it is the best hope for sun loving plants. I tend to put baskets at the front and have some pots I hang onto trellis. The goal is to make it as bright and cheerful as possible in a very limited space.