image of the herbacious borders at Dirleton Castle

I really hope that it is finally safe to admit that spring has finally sprung! Of course, with the change of seasons comes snow, rain and above average temperatures. Scotland wouldn’t be Scotland without the contradictory weather patterns. We’re just thankful when they don’t all occur on the same day!

Sharing our gardens with the wildlife

Springtime in the gardens is a very captivating and exciting time. Blue tits and coal tits flutter about the garden walls finding suitable cracks and crevices to build nests, blackbirds and wagtails frolic and sing in the trees and squirrels chase up trees creating more work for us by chewing twigs and depositing them on the ground for us to clear up. We even get a visit from the odd toad.

photo of a toad on a lawn

Wee toad having a nosey.

Watching bumble bees plod around our herbaceous border and new shoots pop up through old growth makes the work we do that even more rewarding. It’s very exciting knowing that the garden is coming back to life after hibernating for the winter.

More than enough work for this dream team!

April saw us go from being just busy to very busy which honestly delights the two-person team at these gardens. ‘Sensei’ Mark is the head gardener at Dirleton. He has over twenty years experience in these gardens alone. Working alongside him is me, his trusty and young(ish) first-year apprentice, Daisy.

We love these gardens and take great pride in the work that we do. It is an absolute pleasure working alongside Mark with his knowledge and expertise. I look forward to continuing my apprenticeship for the next few years until the apprentice becomes the master!

The beginning of the month saw the arrival of over 3000 plug plants that needed potting out into larger containers. They will continue to grow in our very crowded greenhouse until being planted out this May in our formal gardens, which consist of 17 different flower beds.

A jam-packed greenhouse

Our overflowing greenhouse

The never ending battle

As ever we continue the fight of weeding, this becomes especially ferocious and important this time of year. From 1998 to 2016 Dirleton gardens proudly held the Guinness world record for the longest herbaceous border in the world. We lost that accolade when Kew gardens decided to make a larger one.

Even although it’s not the longest herbaceous border in the world anymore, this magnificent masterpiece still takes some weeding! Going hard at it for two weeks and only getting half the way through, we fight and curse a variety of pesky weeds.

montage of photos showing flowers

Just some of the blooms to be found at Dirleton.
Clockwise from top left: leopards bane, aubrieta, magnolia and elephant’s ears.

Our prime nemesis at the moment is ground elder. We’ve fought with valour and bravery but, unfortunately, have lost the fight with a few of our plants and have had to dig them out completely so that we can try and rid the area as much as possible. We might have lost that battle, but I like to think we are winning the war. Parts of the border are not affected at all. It’s a comfort to see the array of colour and life in the border at this time of year.

Working in the borders on those crisp spring mornings brings us both much happiness. Watching the sun climb to its peak behind the beech trees and casting a dappling shadow on the grounds is very humbling. It can be a very peaceful time, especially as we are at work 2 hours before the doors open to welcome visitors. Usually, however, this peace is disturbed by our tuneless singing and somewhat vague rendition of what has been originally sung. I like to think the birds enjoy it, but I very much doubt they do.

An early morning scene in the garden - the sun splits the trees

Another quiet morning in the garden.

Brighten your borders at home

We’ve also been busy preparing plants that will be on sale in the gardens in the upcoming weeks. Yes, I unashamedly plug this new project! ‘Sensei’ Mark has been carefully choosing what plants to sell this year from our very own herbaceous border with Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus) and Day lily (Hemerocallis) being a few of the many having their debut at this event. Seeds will also be on sale.

Next month sees the arrival of a new and swanky greenhouse to accommodate our presently very busy one to help home all the plants that the lovely public will be able to buy from us. Thanks Historic Environment Scotland!

With Mark and myself on hand to help with any gardening queries, and the gardens beginning to come to life, Dirleton gardens is an exceptionally pleasant day out. To see the gardens at their fullest and most magnificent mid-June is the time to come, though you will still have a great experience if you visit now. Did I mention that there is also a castle?


About Author


Daisy Wright

Daisy started with Historic Environment Scotland in August 2017 and works at Direlton gardens as an apprentice gardener. She attends Scotland's Rural College Oatridge part time, studying towards a horticulture qualification. Daisy has a keen interest in nature and conservation after completing her degree in animal behaviour and ecology and conservation.