My love I likened tae a rose

Wi’ blackspot, rust and bugs

So, just afore she left me

She skelpit baith ma lugs.

My new love is a bonny thing

Clematis Nelly Moser

Candy stripes o’ girlie pink

I’m fair glad that I chose her.

There's a lovely colour range with clematis and with this climber you can have a wall full of flower from May until August.

Currently, the hybrids are giving a good show. Nelly Moser is an excellent variety with large bi-coloured petals. A good choice for a trellis as it grows to about eight to 10 feet but doesn’t go daft. Maybe plant clematis jackmannii (late flower, dark blue) on the other trellis panel to extend the colour season.

I wouldn’t advise planting hybrid clematis and the early flowering variety (C Montana) on the same structure. Montana is a very powerful grower (one plant will cover a gable-end in five years) and is better given its own position away from weaker growing plants.

Until recently, the colour choice with Montana was pink, double pink or white, but there is an exciting breeding programme currently on the go and next year you will see some glorious new cultivars with double flowers of purple or cream. Truly outstanding – the show will be amazing!

The secret to flourishing hybrid clematis is choosing the right soil and situation. They don’t like acidic conditions and need their roots to be cool. So plant in semi-shade or put a screed of broken slate around the plant base. Don’t use a peat mulch – this will only leach acidity into the root zone and make the plant miserable.

The old advice was for peat mulch to be used on every occasion to preserve moisture during the summer months. Certainly unsurpassable for water retention, but not environmentally acceptable now.

The modern, sustainable alternative would be bark mulch. The fine grade stuff is good and breaks down to boost the organic content of the soil. The only snag is that this process takes away a lot of nutrient from the plant.

Evergreen plants begin to look pallid; deciduous shrubs just look a bit stunted. So, organise a little sprinkle of bonemeal to keep everybody happy.

Interesting to note a suggestion (from the Readers Digest Gardening Year Book 1968) that the average Scottish garden needed 0.7 inches [or 18mm in youngster speak] of rain per week during July to keep things in fine fettle.

Here in (supposedly) wet and gloomy North Ayrshire, we have had a total of 4.25 inches since the start of April.

I understand us Ayrshire folk are not alone. Loch Ness is at its lowest level since 2016. I take it this was just a gradual process and didn’t involve the Archimedes principle. Has Nessie evolved and taken to trampling camper vans on the NC500? Now there’s a good idea for a bed-time story!

Perhaps we need to consider the drought tolerance of our garden plants a bit more urgently. In 'normal’ years, begonias, bizzie Lizzies and petunias would perform well for a bedding plant display.

Possibly a better choice for a hotter, drier summer would be Livingston Daisy, argyranthemum and geranium. Global warming will also mean a ‘new normal’ for perennial plants too. Sun-loving shrubs like cistus, lavender and hebe create a fine display of scented ground cover – the problem is that they tend to not like the Scottish winter. Not easy.

A nice compromise would be to make use of hardy herbaceous geraniums, like Max Frei or Biokovo. Compact, tough and flower for ages.

There appears to be a great deal of support for the bee population. We've has constant enquiries about insect-attracting plants. One of the most sought after is buddleia globosa. The common Butterfly Bush (B davidii) can get a bit out of hand and has a tendency to dominate.

Buddleia globosa is a bit more restrained but still make a sizeable shrub about eight feet tall. Lovely bunches of honey-scented Malteser-sized flowers in early summer. Responds well to pruning after flowering. Plant in a decent soil in full sun, but it doesn’t like getting its feet wet.

Hopefully, this lockdown/stay at home/stay away fi’ me/wear a muzzle carry on will soon be over – or, at least, brought to a tolerable level. Gardening is a good stress-busting hobby. Well, that’s what the latest survey says.

Digging your wee plot also helps fight the flab and burns off 300 calories per hour apparently. Personally, I can vouch for the benefits of tending the veg’ garden.

Normally it's very relaxing and rewarding, but by the time I’ve built all the defences against attack from aerial and ground level vermin (ranging in size from slugs to roe deer) I can feel my stress level starting to increase again and that’s before I worry about what’s going on under the soil!

Happy Gardening

(PS: It’s pouring as I write this!).

General points:

* Sweet peas may need a boost with liquid feed. Tomato feed works well.

* Keep humidity up in the greenhouse. Damp the floor early morning and at lunch to keep the tomatoes and cucumbers happy.

* Early morning weed hoeing of the veggie plot works well on a sunny day. Helps kill them off.

* Thinking of extending the decking? Check out cost of timber first. Horrendous. (I bought rail for one of the polytunnels last week. Still sobbing).

* Check tree ties are not strangling growth.

* Dead-head roses and hanging basket plants. Baskets will need lots of water plus feed.

* Look out for a new rose variety bred by the Dutch grower, Pieter Waarmouteer. It's been grown for the Scottish climate and named after his daughter, Sophie.