Most gardeners love a challenge.
We do our best to grow a wide range of normal plants to a high standard, but then enjoy trying to grow the rare, the unusual or those deemed to be too exotic for our area, climate and soils.
I have taken the challenge up with outdoor peaches, figs, saskatoons and grapes.
We like to think that if Scotland can get just a wee bit of this global warming through climate change then those exotic plants normally associated with tropical climates might just grow in our gardens up north.
Saskatoons were easy to grow and very soon adapted to our soils giving us excellent crops.
Why figs are not more widely grown outdoors in Scotland is a mystery as I have had great success with Brown Turkey provided you gave them good drainage, fertile soil and restricted root growth at an early age.
With mild winters becoming more normal the fig is happy to produce numerous ripe fruits for several months in summer.
Hardy outdoor peaches are a bigger challenge as the problem of peach leaf curl disease is a huge set back with our colder and wetter climate.
It is nice to get four peaches on a tree, but we really would like to get a few more before we consider them a success.
2018 was a unique year as global warming stayed with us right throughout summer.
The four summer months could not have been sunnier and temperatures were consistently way above our normal, but this came with a severe lack of rainfall. However as long as the hose was in use to keep plants watered all the plants were very happy.
I have been growing a range of grape varieties outdoors in my garden and on my allotment to see if some of them could be considered worthwhile.
This warm summer was brilliant for the vines giving excellent growth and providing numerous bunches.
However the weather in late summer and early autumn was not in their favour.
The bushes produced plenty bunches with good sized grapes, but lack of sunshine in autumn held back the conversion of sugars.
Over several years many varieties have been tried and some fell by the wayside. Polo Muscat and Muscat Bleu just never got the wood ripened enough to produce a worthwhile crop of grapes.
Solaris suffered the same fate so I transplanted a vine to the greenhouse and it just loved this protected environment.
It is an early variety so was a good match for Siegerrebe, another early variety from Germany which I grow in my greenhouse.
Both have a Muscat flavour so they were both picked in early September at the end of a glorious summer.
I had enough for a good demijohn of wine and the juice from the crushed grapes had a specific gravity reading of sugars at 1086 which will give me a wine with 11% alcohol.
Black Hamburg in the greenhouse gave huge grapes and was ready for picking in October.
My two outdoor red varieties Regent and Rondo were also picked at the same time. These grow on a south facing fence and are fairly sheltered.
However although together they gave enough grapes for three demijohns, the sugar content was a bit lacking with a specific gravity reading of 1070 which would only give about 9% alcohol so some sugar was needed to increase the strength to an acceptable level of 11%.
My last grape to be picked was Phoenix giving me about 12 pounds of sweet white grapes, but only suitable for wine due to having too many seeds.
The only dessert grapes suitable for growing up north is Flame, a red seedless variety, and Perlette a white seedless variety.
Black Hamburg does make a good dessert grape but needs thinning to increase grape size as it still has a few pips.
Wee jobs to do this week
Lift chrysanthemums stools and dahlia tubers for storing, now that they have finished flowering.
Shake some soil off the chrysanthemum stools then box them up into seed trays with fresh compost and keep them moist but not wet over winter.
They really need a cool greenhouse or cold frame that is frost free.
Cut back stems to about six inches and make sure they are all labelled. With dahlia tubers you need to remove all the soil and dry them off for storing in an airy but frost proof shed and keep them totally dry.
Both will produce shoots for cuttings next spring.