Head Gardener Sallie shares some of her new year aims that are worth keeping in mind this February!


It’s the time of year when I like to consider ways to pursue happiness in the garden. Whether it’s planning ahead to make those little special moments happen or setting out a time in the week for a spot of down time to simply enjoy the fruits of the garden labour.

Part of my job is to encourage others to take notice and share the gardens surroundings. Seeking out ‘perfect plant’ moments however small are better when shared and are also the perfect way to spur any gardener on to greater gardening moments.

With each burst of mild weather constant change is in the air. It almost seems that when our backs are turned something else appears in the borders! Noticing these growth spurts is the reminder that spring is trying to begin. Here, in our Glasgow garden we have had our earliest ever flowering of snowdrops and iris reticulata, a reminder that no two years are ever the same.

As the caretaker of the garden I will continue to adapt to this everchanging environment by reading these signs just like way markers for the year ahead.

Making the best choices for the garden, for who uses it and the wildlife that lives in it, are some of the many sides to being a Head Gardener.

Using our greenhouse space efficiently means I have held off sowing the sweet peas and started repeat sowings of our much loved chillies. This will be followed by all the other favourites that we can possibly squeeze in. Broadbeans, kale and peas are always on the list, but its nice to seek out something different from last year. I am always drawn to the wide variety of winter oriental salads, so this year the garden will feature komatsuna, giant red mustard and mizuna, which also provide various levels of ‘heat’ like a wasabi style hit that warms the soul on cold winter days. They are also full of immune boosting vitamins and make the perfect shared taste test activity!

With all that garden sourced food we should have the energy needed to action the winter mulch this year. Any composted organic matter spread over the vegetable and flower beds will supplement the soil and provide optimum growing conditions for the year ahead. Feeding the soil this way helps bring back nutrient levels needed to create a balanced soil and the worms will thank you too. They are the miners that will carry organic matter deep into the soil during cold spells and burrow away improving structure and drainage. Perfect for growing happy healthy plants able to fight off attacks by pests and diseases by simply outgrowing them.

We grow a selection of plants that the patients like to see or will offer a lovely display and sensory experience. Some varieties will be ones that they may never have seen before.

My choice is cosmic rainbow colours of ruby chard, which grow exceptionally well in raised planters over the winter.

For some scent, sweet peas are hard to beat, but zaluzanskia is a favourite night scent that filters through enclosed garden areas.

Perfect taste has to be indulgent strawberries. I will be checking in with last year’s plants, to pot on any runners and to mulch any strong existing plants.

In terms of touch, the popular Lamb’s Ears, Stachys byzantina; as its common name suggests, its downy leaves resemble the ears of a lamb and for the more unusual we have a lovely New Zealand Pachystegia insignis a small evergreen shrub that has downy leaves that are impossible to resist brushing to reveal glossy leaves.

Sounds in the garden connect you to a particular space and time. An autumn rustle of crisp leaves dancing in a gust of wind, the robin stating his claim in late autumn and the blackbird singing an evening song are just a few we hear in Glasgow. In the courtyard garden, we have a tall upright growing grass, Panicum virgatum Northwind which I cut back only when new shoots appear. The noise it creates on a blustery day is magical and brings the garden alive.


Enjoy the sensory delights of your garden and happy growing in spring 2020.