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EWAN MACKINTOSH: Tips for your garden and house plants when going on holiday from the manager of High Life Highland’s Inverness Botanic Gardens

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Ewan MacKintosh, manager of High Life Highland’s Inverness Botanic Gardens.
Ewan MacKintosh, manager of High Life Highland’s Inverness Botanic Gardens.

Gardening columnist Ewan MacKintosh, manager of High Life Highland’s Inverness Botanic Gardens, shares his and the team’s gardening tips each month.

In this new gardening column, I’d like to share with you tips and ideas from our great team of gardeners and volunteers at High Life Highland’s Inverness Botanic Gardens.

I manage the gardens, which consist of the Botanic Gardens, the Grow Project and Bught Nursery, and the new community orchard we are developing around the old pink sandstone perimeter wall.

Before returning to live in Inverness, I worked in the whisky industry, and I can tell you a fair bit about barley and even more about the wonder of sprouted barley.

However, Highland News and Media asked for a column with more horticultural breadth. Luckily the Botanic Gardens team are a hive of knowledge, experience, and ideas, and happy to contribute to this collective effort.

Here’s some of their gardening tips this month...

Gardening is a top hobby for many people.
Gardening is a top hobby for many people.


In the Botanic Gardens, you will often see our gardeners with scissors or secateurs to hand. In the summer, when we’re not watering or weeding, we are deadheading!

Keep your garden flowering beautifully throughout the summer with regular deadheading. Simply snipping off any past-their-best flowers means you’ll enjoy a longer display of blooms.

It is a continuous job, but even a few minutes a day really does improve the look of the garden, as well as encouraging more growth.

Some leggy herbaceous perennials (including the likes of Campanulas or perennial sunflowers) have side shoots along the stem. Snipping off the main stem encourages further growth. They grow bushier rather than taller, providing you with even more cut flowers to bring your garden’s beauty into your house.

House plant care

And let’s not forget holiday house plant care: So often plants wither and die during the summer as heliophile owners disappear to refresh themselves in far flung locations.

Here’s a few simple tips to give your green friends a chance: Firstly, this is obvious, but give them a really good water before you go.

Next, move them away from sunny windows – they will dry out fast – and put them in a cooler part of the house. Think of it as a house plant holiday.

If you are away for longer, put some capillary matting on the draining board, with one end in a sink full of water (felt or even a towel will do). Place your plants on top of the matting. This will give them a slow drink for hopefully a good chunk of your holiday.

Yellow leaves

At the Grow Project, wildlife is normally encouraged. Not so, slugs and snails. We don’t use pellets – just tidiness!

Keeping the veg plot tidy is key to reducing their hiding places: pots, stones, plastic (a particular favourite) all provide habitat to hide from their predators.

As well as keeping the plot minimalist and clutter-free, it’s good to cut off any old, yellowing, or bitten leaves, from cabbages, beetroot, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes etc.

These old leaves are no use to the plant, and harbour slugs and snails. This simple task also gives great visual impact to vegetable growing – everything looks so fresh, vibrant, and delicious.

• The gardens are well worth a visit – there’s a rumour that not everybody in the area has been in – please come!

Entry is by donation, and you can even see some barley growing (looking magnificent, by the way) in the Grow Project’s croft garden.

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