It’s not always easy, summertime.  Fish are not jumping. And the nettles are high. In the last month at Pond Cottage we’ve had high winds and low temperatures. Delicate flowers compete with weedy thugs and then heavy rain has a good go at flattening them all.

But when the sun shines the world changes. And even when it doesn’t there are long hours of daylight and beneath grey skies a defiant burst of bright colour covers the ground.

That’s what the music celebrates in the new video Tommy has made for Scotland’s Garden Scheme YouTube channel.  It was recorded at the pond by Tommy Perman and Morgan Szymanski two years ago in the pre-pandemic midsummer of 2019.

So much has happened since then. In this year alone. Since our first springtime video we have sewn seeds, moved plants, hacked weeds and cut paths through long grass. More visibly, there’s the beautiful smooth road repairing the damage of winter floods rampaging  through the beechwood. Thanks to our friend Jimmy Loudon. With the help of an impressive display of heavy machinery – diggers, tractors, trailers – and tons of hard core. But such a light touch!   (When Ray suggested transporting trailer loads of topsoil unearthed during the work Jimmy protested, ‘You’ll make a mess of my road!’)

And earlier in the season, when the beechwood was alight with bluebells and wild garlic, we had our fifteen minutes of fame in an article in Scotland on Sunday’s lifestyle section: ‘A Wood of One’s Own’ [that was the heading in the printed version, the online one is different].

What brought you here?

I had been strangely nervous before the interview with the well-known garden writer Antoinette Galbraith.  I’m usually the one with the notebook, asking the questions, writing the story and I had a feeling it wouldn’t be so easy to come up with nice, fluent answers.  Even if I could remember the names of plants and the year we came here, how about more difficult questions like ‘What brought you here?’

I must admit after a telephone conversation lasting more than an hour – Antoinette at her home in the Borders, me poking a bonfire with one hand and grasping my mobile with the other which was getting very chilly – well, I switched off the phone thinking, ‘I’m very glad I don’t have to try to make sense of all that’.

But she did. Antoinette’s eloquent account captures the general quirkiness of our project with great generosity. Ray Cox’s splendid photographs do us proud. Ray (Perman) and I are just a tad embarrassed at the tagline: ‘Restoring ten acres of woodland in Perth and Kinross has brought intense happiness to an author and journalist…’  The intense happiness bit is right (albeit tempered with periods of intense exhaustion) but in all honesty we haven’t done a lot of restoring. Nature is the boss. At best we manage to infiltrate here and there with splashes of colour and dashes of ideas. Some of them even work out well.   

Wheedling wild geraniums to grow among thistles, ripping Sticky Willy away from winter’s red stemmed willow, helping self-sown foxgloves to meander through ferns. This is not so much ‘rewilding’ as finding a way to fit in.

Open Days to come

One day perhaps we will get round to writing the story – I’m amused to discover an article I wrote at the start of a garden series for The Herald in the very early years, the heading is Wanted: a thick mulch of money – but that’s a job for the fireside in winter, I think. Before then we have our first season of SGS Open Days to plan, raising funds for Perth Autism Support.  Come September.  You’ll find more about that on The Pond Garden page on SGS website. And in Tales from Pond Cottage too. Please do give me a nudge if you need to know more before I get round to it.

Further information on Scottish gardens, virtual tours and gardening workshops: Scotland’s Garden Scheme YouTube channel

Further reading: delighted to find a few links to my old garden series in The Herald online – this is one of the first in 1995, a fantastic garden in Glenfarg (must go back there again, the house was sold some time ago but the legacy lives on in the public garden opposite the Bank House

The author's shadow in a photograph of Pond Cottage waterbank garden, sporting two pink flamingoes. Picture Fay Young
Fine weather for flamingoes on the edge of the pond