Gardening is no longer just about growing a few basic fruit and vegetables.
There is such a variety of different plants to grow, and with climate change we can now try a few exotics that previously would only be considered in the warmer southern end of UK.
Over the last 20 years, I have tried figs, peaches, outdoor grapes and autumn raspberries and strawberries, cherries, saskatoons, aronias and only the goji let me down failing to fruit after four years.
When they work, they can cause a lot of interest and provide a great gardening challenge.
Many however require warmer sheltered locations on fertile but very well drained soil.
Figs need a warm spot to ripen its fruits, so plant against a south facing wall or fence.
It can grow into a very large bush or small tree so plant it in a prepared pit 18 inches deep lined with slabs to restrict root growth.
Back fill the pit with broken brick for drainage then add about nine inches of fertile soil to get it started.
It will then concentrate on producing fruit.
Brown Turkey is the best variety for outdoors in Scotland.
I got 190 ripe fruits last year.
Black Hamburg is very popular under glass, but now many people are trying a few hardy varieties outdoors on warm south facing walls.
I grow the ornamental variety Brant on my south facing house wall.
It is very successful with a regular one hundred bunches every year.
They are small, but the black grapes are very sweet and juicy.
These get used for a delicious sweet grape juice for immediate use or it can be frozen.
I have also tried several others, but so far only Phoenix, Rondo and Regent are successful, but as they all have pips, they are great for wine but not dessert.
Outdoor peaches can suffer from disease so I am trying Avalon Pride which has some peach leaf curl resistance.
It also flowers late so is less likely to get the flowers damaged by a late frost, but I still hand pollinate the flowers as there is not too many flying insects around at that time.
Cherries and Goji (Wolfberry)
I am trying Cherokee grafted onto a new very dwarfing rootstock called Gisela 5 trained as a fan on a south facing fence.
Once the cherries ripen up they need to be netted as birds just love them.
I keep the tree pruned to six feet so netting is not too big a problem.
Goji got dug out as a failure.
Saskatoons are similar to blueberries but grow faster and crop heavier.
The black berries which are very high in antioxidants, are ready in July, and can be eaten fresh or used for jams, pies, compote, summer puddings, or even used for wine making.
They can grow on any soil and are best after a severe winter as they need cold winters to initiate ample fruit buds.
Chokeberries, (Aronia melanocarpa Viking) have extremely high levels of antioxidants in the fresh fruit, but are a bit astringent if eaten raw, so the fruit is best used in jams, compote, pies and smoothies.
They are not troubled by any pests or diseases and our soils seem to suit them perfectly. They can be grown as a single bush or even as a hedge.
I use mine for a healthy home brew wine!!!
Autumn fruiting raspberries and strawberries
Raspberries and strawberries may not really be exotic, but with new varieties we can now enjoy these berries well into autumn.
Try Polka for huge raspberries in September and October and strawberry Flamingo will also fruit during this late summer and autumn season.
Wee jobs to do this week
Plant out broad beans grown in containers.
They are quite hardy, but this has been a long cold winter so no great rush as the soil may still be cold.
I plant mine in a double row two feet apart spacing the plants nine inches apart.
They are heavy feeders so use soil that has been well manured or composted and add some fertiliser after planting, then water them in if necessary.