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Fiddlers Green - Orkney Islands

A stones throw from the sea, Mike and Sue Palmer have transformed a front garden of neglected grass into a tapestry of summer colour and turned a boggy but sheltered back garden into a simple parterre of raised beds.


Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, UK

GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

Feature No:   3869 

Qty of Images:    65 


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Images available for use by license only.

It is almost a decade since Mike and Sue Palmer moved to the seaside hamlet of Herston, exchanging a very exposed garden on the east coast of Orkney for one that, being within a stone's throw of the sea, is often battered by the salt-laden gales. 'Luckily, I'd already learnt through trial and error the plants that survive, and those that are simply not worth the effort,' says Sue. Gradually, she has transformed the sea-facing front garden from a neglected patch of grass with a few struggling plants into a tapestry of summer colour by focusing on perennials and bulbs that go safely beneath ground during winter. A doughty hebe hedge provides shelter for summer's lupins, campanulas, mallows, centranthus, monkshood, hardy geraniums, heucheras and Californian poppies. Meanwhile, Mike has turned a boggy but relatively sheltered back garden into a simple parterre of raised beds where vegetables, soft fruit and cut flowers thrive. The most successful plants invariably come from local nurseries, friends or neighbours. 'Orcadian gardeners are very generous, and happy to give you cuttings,' says Sue. 'They're not always named, so I've one that was simply known as ‘Ruth’s bit of blue’, until we discovered it to be a campanula, whilst 'Bobby’s Pink turned out to be phuopsis!' She favours plants that are stocky, rather than leggy, because it is the wind that causes most damage, either flattening or desiccating them. 'And I try and pack plants in so that they all support each other, I would rather have them looking natural and slightly floppy rather than tightly corseted in with canes and twine,' she adds. Each garden area measures less than ten metres in any direction.



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