Sign up for our newsletter

View our Privacy policy


Meet Mark from Dirleton – HES

September 24th 2018

The weeks of blazing sunshine and long hot days feel a distant memory as Autumn’s grip tightens on the shortening days and awakening chilly mornings. August made the transfer from the drought of July to the rain-soaked grounds of late summer and a welcome relief to the dry borders and arid grass.

Pulling the plug!

This month has again seen the arrival of over 3000 plug plants for the winter bedding which will be eagerly happening for the very first time. Mark and I are really excited about this project and apparently as we are both gluttons for punishment, relish in the additional work this will entail. Instead of having empty beds throughout the winter, we thought why not try a new display that will bring a flash of colour to early spring. Premiering the first years’ show are pansies, polyanthus, primrose, bellis, and wallflower.

Tiny plug plant ready for its bigger container

One row of plugs, many more to come…

We’ve really seen a mix of success in the formal gardens this year in regards to flowers. Busy Lizzies (impatiens) were a huge hit, especially after we thought they were going to be a complete flop after losing quite a few in the beginning. They relished being planted in the gardens and grew so large that the entire beds were covered and no ground could be seen. However, our joys were relatively short-lived as at the end of August we were digging their remains out. With the downpours and cold nights, it was a bit much for these delicate blooms and they rapidly faded to dust.

On their way out.

The pelargoniums have been quite a disappointment this year. They put on so much growth and looked so healthy but the buds were slow to materialise and the flowers stubborn to show themselves. They still flower and even though are few in number, the bold colours are a lovely contrast to the dark leaves.


The dahlias continue to bewitch us with their dazzling displays of colour. They have been such a magnificent addition to the gardens this year with their various shapes and colours with insects alike being attracted to their beaming flowers.

Beautiful dahlias

Losing the border

It’s sad to see the herbaceous border lose its colour and vigour as summer flits and flutters away from us. It feels so short, are we not due more? I don’t feel ready to say goodbye for another year. The buds that excited us and the flowers that rewarded us are slowly creeping away and even though the border is far from finished (and still a marvel to behold!) it seems but a shadow of its former grandeur. Still, we receive many a compliment and there is still colour to be seen, yet I do not feel I have had enough time with it during its vivacious and charismatic peak.

Some late flowering plants are gifting us with their marvellous plumes nonetheless which Mark and I revel in as much as possible. The tall black-eyed susan’s bring a joyful and playful brightness to the border as they follow the sun throughout the day with their cheerful faces.

Cheery rudbeckias

The agapanthus leans over the path with their beautiful blue, delicately scented flowers.


The artichoke welcomes visitors as they begin their journey around the border and cause everyone to stop and marvel at their unusual beauty.


At the end of the border bathing in the sunlight sees a wonderful combination of pink marguerites, dark-leaved dahlias and one solitary nicotiana plant. Sometimes plants come together in a wonderful mix that can only make you smile in amazement.

A pleasant and satisfying mix of flowers

Hedge over heels

Mark and I have been tackling the box hedge that frames the herbaceous border this month and having two people that require as close to perfection as possible on this task has been, to say the least. Measuring has taken longer than cutting! Cutting off the top and then using a string line for the sides, Sensei Mark has been passing on his years of expertise onto me for this strangely rewarding assignment. This job is ridiculously satisfying and the results are so worth the walking up and down, peering down the line to make sure it’s straight and constant conferring. I would even go as far to say that it looks professional! Marks tutelage yet again comes into its own and the results are fantastic.

This may need more conferring….

Looking not too shabby!

And the winner is…

At the beginning of the summer, Mark and I planted tubs that sit at the entrance and on the benches overlooking the formal garden. We used a ragtag mix of material that was left over and growing in the greenhouse and planted two apiece. It was clear to see the Mark took quite an exceptional lead as his cosmos shot up to stand tall over full pelargoniums and stark silver ragwort (Senecio cineraria) whereas mine were, unfortunately, underachieving and underwhelming. I told myself that of course mine were going to be inferior to Marks’ and his 22 years experience and consoled myself with the knowledge that I would give it another go next year. However, as the sun shone overhead and my pink marguerites began to fill out, the trailing fuchsia started to pick up speed and well, I allowed myself a little hope. Perhaps they’ll be alright after all I thought to myself. Now, as the summer starts to turn its back to us I feel that at last mine are in fact amazing, stupendous and superior! I certainly did not wait until Marks tubs had passed their best to share this, nor did I only photograph the better looking of my tubs as the other may still be looking a little feeble. This contest was fair and just…..almost.

Marks rather lovely looking tub

Wow! Look at that….

Go on then, a different shot!

The butterfly effect

It is saddening to see far fewer bees and butterflies around gardens nowadays but we are still lucky enough to have these gardens a hive of activity throughout the summer months. August saw the butterfly bush (buddleja davidii) swamped with butterflies, bees and other nectar loving insects. These gardens are a really special place to take time out and appreciate the work of nature. It’s something that Mark and I are both quite passionate about as we stand gawking at birds in trees, listening to their song and running around the border trying to photograph elusive butterflies or interesting insects. It’s humbling to think how something so small can play such a huge role in our lives and how inconsequential one can feel in comparison.

Red admiral butterfly

A beautiful peacock butterfly