Visit to Ian Young in Scotland

Mary Sue Ittner
Sun, 27 Jun 2004 09:58:47 PDT
Dear All,

In February 2003 Paige Woodward gave us the url for Ian Young's bulb log, a 
feature of the Scottish Rock Garden web site.

To quote what Paige said then: "It's a pawky, informative diary of the 
goings-on in his own bulb
collection, well illustrated with closeups of rare plants, including lots 
of Crocus species." I'd like to add that there is so much to learn from 
reading this and he uses pictures to illustrate his points.

When I discovered that he was successfully growing Scoliopus biglovii which 
is native to where I live and I hadn't yet mastered how to keep it going, I 
emailed him and he was kind enough to write back help. Since we were going 
to be in Scotland on our trip in May I decided to write him and see if we 
could come to meet him and see his garden. Even though he only knew me from 
the email I had written him he said yes. My husband and two of our friends 
journeyed to Aberdeen and spent a number of delightful hours with him and 
his wife Maggi. I've been wanting to write about our visit, but other 
things keep coming up that need my attention so haven't done it. Maybe I 
won't remember as much this way and my note will be shorter than usual. 
Maybe not.

Ian and Maggi have a wonderful garden and they were both very welcoming, 
enthusiastic, and eager to share information with us. One of my non 
gardening friends who came with us was so impressed she talked about the 
visit for days. We all were glad we went.

Ian has a greenhouse and grows a number of things there in pots, but they 
definitely have a  garden and not a collection of pots. They bought the 
house next door and therefore have a double back yard. Since Aberdeen is 
close to the ocean, they have a more moderate climate than some parts of 
the U.K. and a lot of his bulbs are grown in the ground. Ian scatters seed 
about and some of it grows and so there are surprises here and there in the 
garden.  He and Maggi have a lot of Rhododendrons, many grown from seed. 
Some they let get tall and prune off the lower branches so there is more 
light for plants growing under them. Others they keep quite short.
Like David and Pat Victor's garden which we visited later, this garden is a 
joy to wander through and I'm afraid I'd never get anything done as I'd be 
so distracted looking at what was blooming!

A lot of things are grown in troughs that are artfully arranged around the 
garden. They make their own, using boxes as models for authentic ones, but 
also turning polystyrene fish boxes (readily available in Aberdeen) into 
troughs that once completed look like aged stone. All you rock garden 
people on our list I am sure know all about this, but we didn't. Ian gave 
us a tutorial complete with pictures since he gives talks on this and I'm 
eager to see if I can do it. They would be so much lighter and provide a 
bit of insulation too I'd think. The most recent column shows Rhodohypoxis 
in these troughs.

I'd like to share just a few things I talked about with Ian. First he is 
only going to do his bulb log for the rest of the year, alas. By then he 
suspects people might be getting tired of it (not to mention he might be 
tired of writing it as it has to be an enormous amount of work). He plans 
to put the first two years on one CD which can be purchased. After that he 
will do sporadic pieces on Fritillaria and Erythronium, two genera he is 
especially fond of and wants people to know more about.

Ian firmly believes in sharing and educating others. He told us that 
eventually they hope to have all the Scottish Rock Garden journals on their 
web site (which he manages content for), available to all.

Crocus is his favorite genus. He talked about how there are so many 
different species that you can have plants in bloom for such a long time. 
Even though the days are short in winter in Scotland he can still grow 
them, although some get etiolated.

Ian has been busy taking digital camera pictures of all his plants even 
though he had a large collection of slides from the past. He believes that 
the digitals are better. He talked about how once you transfer the image to 
the computer you can see parts of the flower you never can see when you are 
looking at it. Because Scotland is so far north, he can still take pictures 
in summer with his digital camera at 10:30 at night.

Ian does not subscribe to the theory that letting plants go to seed 
diminishes the bulbs. He has run some tests on some of the genera he grows 
and finds that plants continue to grow as they are forming seed pods. Once 
the seed pods are gone, they go dormant. Growing longer makes the storage 
organ bigger. I know this is very controversial, but I certainly have 
observed what he is talking about. If I deadhead many of my bulbs, within 
days you can see them turn brown. If someone has asked for seed and I have 
left it on the plants, many of them stay green weeks, months longer.

Since it is possible to see Ian's garden and to learn a lot by reading his 
weekly column, I won't be posting a lot of pictures we took from his 
garden. I'll add a couple of pictures and announce them when I have time to 
put them on a page.

Ian will be doing a speaker's tour for the North American Rock Garden 
Society in October while Maggi minds the garden at home. I urge those of 
you who can to go hear him talk and welcome him to the USA and Canada. I am 
sure you won't be disappointed. I wish I could go.

Thursday October 14, 2004 -- Newfoundland
Saturday October 16, 2004 -- New England
Sunday October 17, 2004 -- Connecticut
Saturday October 23, 2004 -- Hudson Valley, Manhattan, Long Island, Watnong

If Bobby Ward or Jane McGary have a more complete itinerary please share it 
with us.

Mary Sue

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