Alison Stewart

About Alison Stewart

Freelance science and medical journalist, based in Edinburgh and gardening in Argyll, western Scotland, and Edinburgh

Book Review: Good Soil by Tina Råman

I think I can safely say that Good Soil is the only book I possess that has both ‘Pee‘ and ‘Poo‘ as chapter headings. Those chapter headings give you a clue to what sort of book this is: mostly, it is about how to nourish the soil with the macro- and micronutrients plants need to thrive (many of which abound in pee and poo), and it takes a chatty, no-nonsense approach to the subject. Continue reading

Giving two rooms their view

It rains a lot in the west of Scotland. It’s often too soggy to be out in the garden, so it’s important to have something attractive to look at from inside the house. We spend most of our indoor time in our kitchen and adjoining living room/dining room, which are both west-facing. Continue reading

North Portugal: Scotland with more sun

A June trip to the Serra d’Arga mountain region in northern Portugal, just south of the border with Spain, reminded me of one of the many pearls of wisdom to be found in Catherine Stewart’s blog postings for GardenDrum. The one I have in mind was about the importance of pH (point number 3 in The 7 best pieces of garden advice I’ve had): “Other than drainage, it [pH] is usually the reason as to why something is not thriving”. The flip side of that, of course, is that pH may also be the reason why something is thriving. Continue reading

Sid & Bridget’s GOLD: Gardeners’ World Live

For the first time, I’ve (almost) had an insider’s view of what it’s like to design and build a show garden. Garden designers Sid Stratton (from London) and Bridget Robinson (based in Folkestone), both just one year out from their graduation as professional garden designers, had their ‘Slow Burn’ design chosen as one of four winners of the Metamorphosis show garden competition for the BBC Gardeners’ World Live exhibition held in Birmingham on 11-14 June 2015. Continue reading

Local heroes blitz rhodies

A few weeks ago we had the best afternoon’s entertainment for ages, watching local builder Neil Blair and his crew reef out a whole bank of the dreaded Rhododendron ponticum from our west-of-Scotland garden. The rhodies started as a hedge that borders the drive but over the years they “walked” down the slope below the drive so that eventually they formed a great wedge-shaped blob that covered the whole bank and was impossible to reach across with the hedge trimmer. Continue reading

Gardens & volcanoes in Costa Rica

It’s been a very, very wet and grey winter in the UK and we felt the need for some warmth and light, so in the first half of February we stole a couple of weeks in Costa Rica, in Central America. It is a country I have always wanted to visit, not just for its spectacular landscapes and wildlife, but because it has managed to buck the political trend that prevails in most of that part of the world: it abolished its army in 1949, Continue reading

The mystery of the white rocks

Was there a Victorian or Edwardian fashion for making garden features from large lumps of white quartz? We have several examples in our garden in Argyll in the west of Scotland. I’m guessing the rocks were found locally rather than being brought in; websites on the local geology confirm that quartz-rich rocks, and metamorphic quartzite, are commonly found in this area. So maybe I should be celebrating the use of this natural material. Continue reading

Who will rid me of the troublesome beasts?

Help!! The deer are somehow getting into our garden again. Can our international GardenDrum support network come to the rescue with some advice? I thought I had solved the problem 18 months ago when we got the front gates working again and put up deer fencing along a low section of the boundary wall of our garden in Argyll in the west of Scotland. Continue reading

Snippets from a garden design course

I have forsaken my yoga class this term and enrolled on a 10-week course in garden design run by Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden adult education team. I should say straight away that it’s not what GardenDrum’s professional bloggers would regard as proper instruction in garden design. It’s only 2 hours every Tuesday evening, and the main point of it is to learn about using plants in garden design. So there’s nothing about hard landscaping or garden construction, except in general terms. Continue reading