Dahlia obsessed Tara Beattie, shares her garden in the north west of Glasgow with her husband, chickens and puppy. We asked Tara to tell us about her garden obsession.
“My interest in gardening stems from my dad. He has always been a keen gardener and as a kid I remember being dragged around all the local garden centres looking for his latest ‘thing’ – the hunt for Meconopsis betonicifolia being particularly long lasting and memorable, given this was quite a long time ago and blue poppies were rare and very exotic back then.
“My passion for gardening did not really hit though until about a decade ago when we got our own garden, a sunny plot north west of Glasgow, roughly 10 by 35 metres, with heavy clay soil. It was really just a long expanse of grass with a couple of privets (about 3 metres wide in every direction) and a large rhododendron at the back. While it is very much still a work in progress things are developing nicely.
“The first thing we added to the garden was a full size, plastic greenhouse – the idea being let’s not spend lots of money on something that may sit empty. After my first season growing tomatoes however, I was hooked, again I blame my dad, he always has tomatoes on the go during the summer, and this has rubbed off on me.
“During the second season we installed a 6 x 8 greenhouse – I now wish I had gone bigger – but was still following the line, I may not use it. If you have the space and the money, go for a bigger greenhouse, they are essential for growing in Scotland – you can get things started early and protect more delicate flora from the usual Scottish summer. A greenhouse also helps extend the season for chrysanthemums and gives you flowers well into winter.
“After a couple of seasons with the greenhouse, a few flowers in pots, and the addition of a shed, we decided to add some livestock in the shape of three chickens: Izzy, Rocky, and Marilyn. The garden was still pretty barren at that point so there was no issue with having the chickens roaming around – how much damage could three wee chooks really do?
With each advancing season came more infrastructure: a larger chicken house and more chooks, fencing to keep the destructive pooping monsters contained, and a she shed for my retreat.
“I’m not really one for growing edibles, tomatoes being the exception, flowers are my thing and I found some obsessions, although I prefer to call them ‘must haves’. We had a year of dahlias, and then lilies, and dahlias, and strangely monardas, and then more dahlias.
“So the dahlias have become a big thing in the garden, and just in time for what seems like a bit of a resurgence of these versatile beauties. There are a wide range of types, cactus, pompom, dinner plates, doubles, singles, the latter being much loved by the bees.
“The main issue for Scottish growers is that they do not often survive the Scottish winter but they thrive outside during our summers. I usually lift the tubers for the ones I want to keep over the winter and store them in the attic. That said I have a few in my front garden that have been in place for five or so years and they do come up each year – even this year after the cold winter we had – it is a gamble though leaving them in the ground so if you want to keep them, it is best lift them.
“One issue I have had in the garden is my indecisiveness, and this resulted in me putting lots of things in lots of pots, lots and lots of pots. This means that watering is several hours’ work pretty much every day to try and keep up.
So over the last couple of seasons we decided to put in raised beds – this also in-part stemmed from me joining Instagram and getting lots of inspiration. The beds have been a great addition to the garden – the plants are growing and flowering better, I do not have to water so much and the garden in general looks so much tidier. One of the beds, supposed to be dedicated to growing vegetables, is now filled with dahlias.
Finding What Works
“There has certainly been an evolution in my garden, going from lots and lots of different plants and flowers to getting an idea of what grows well – dahlias being one of my mainstays. I do also dabble with chrysanthemums but I find them a bit needy and because they do not flower until very late in the season, they often get neglected during the summer while my attention is with the dahlias.
“This year I have also experimented with growing anemones which have grown really well and ranunculus which have been a bit hit and miss. For the first time I had a spring bulb fest and totally fell in love with tulips – I have already order too many for next year but again, this comes back to knowing what grows well in your conditions – tulips and daffodils do really well in this environment.
Enjoying the Garden
“The other key thing to really enjoying the garden has been making sure everyone has something for them in the garden: the bees and I, we have the flowers; hubby is kept busy with the infrastructure side, lucky for me, and he also has fruit trees in a mini orchard. The garden though also belongs to the chooks and the new lockdown pup – a ten month old labrador with a passion for digging.
Instead of becoming precious and keeping the dog in the house and the chooks in their run, I have installed lots of wee fences (recycled cage from the first chicken run and the pup’s play area in the house) which keeps the flowers and the livestock apart, and everyone happy – most of the time!
You can keep up with the progress of the garden, the dahlias, tomatoes, chooks, and pup on Tara’s Instagram @mineorthechooks.