Diary of an Orkney Gardener – Mid-August 2018

 In Blog, Caroline Kritchlow, Orkney

My favourite gardening magazine describes August as being vibrant with colour.

This was certainly true here in Orkney at the beginning of the month but with September now just days away and giant V’s of migrating, squawking geese punctuating the sky, autumn is well and truly on its way and the colour in the garden is fast fading.

My prize winning Claire Austen roses.

Looking back on a busy month, the roses have been a highlight at The Quoy this year. Like every where else watering has been essential but ‘Dorothy Perkins’ and ‘Wollaton Old Hall’, both climbers, are still putting on a spectacular show. My biceps have increased in size as the shrub roses have needed the regular protection of our custom-made wind cages, but they have worked a treat and I thoroughly recommend ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Roald Dahl’ for both the colour and perfume of their magnificent blooms.

Glorious cut flower bed.


Opium poppies made a spectacular if somewhat brief appearance, the lack of water definitely affecting their ability to repeat flower. The real show stopper was in the vegetable garden where I always sow a cut flower bed of annuals. The colour has been amazing, the cornflowers are four feet high and their close planting (I never thin them out) has allowed them to stand up to strong wind gusts in excess of 40mph. I also edged the bed with the supporting stems of yarrow which I intend to dig up and replant in the walled garden to give more colour in the long beds. The vibrant yellow will visually lift these borders which I feel have taken on an early drabness this year.




With next years Garden Festival in mind I have also been thinning out some of my Orkney thugs, replacing Alchemilla mollis, Centaurea and garter grass with some new shrub roses and hardy geraniums to provide some colourful extra interest. I am giving shrub rose ‘Harlow Carr’ a go and Geranium cinereum Jolly Jewel Salmon (my neighbour’s is growing well but I am nearer to the sea and it is struggling at the moment).

Winning tatties – freshly harvested.

Of course, it’s harvest time too in the vegetable garden, the onions both red and white have done me proud (though sadly no prizes in this year’s agricultural show).  I am not so secretly delighted that my Pentland main crop potatoes won me the second prize in the much-coveted oblong tattie class and my black currants were awarded a first and best fruit in show!  Eating my giant beetroot before the event was a big mistake as the two marble sized exhibits entered (whilst small but perfectly formed) remained unplaced…

The Claire Austen roses got a first, as did my corn flowers but my violas and three annuals of the same type were badly chosen, and lessons have been learnt for next year!

Always describing myself as not being competitive has proved to be an enormous ‘porky pie’ and I am already making devious plans to sweep the board in cut flowers next year…

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