Carina Contini: ‘Our bees will help with propagation – and jars of honey’

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IN HER ongoing monthly reports, Centotre and the Scottish Café owner Carina Contini updates us on her efforts to create a kitchen garden

My husband Victor has just started his Edinburgh & Midlothian Beekeeper Association course and has drones, modules, nuclei and queens coming out of his ears. We even buzzed over to Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute, recently and met David, the head gardener there. Last year their four hives produced 70lbs of honey. Our bees will help with early propagation – and hopefully a few jars of honey.

From the sweet to the smelly, but equally essential. Lasswade Riding School uses the neighbouring paddock. Ponies peep over the wall, resulting in head gardener Erica repositioning her fruit planting just in case they get a taste for our berries. The school has 125 horses, so our manure problems have been solved.

The builder arrived on site last week with a JCB. We were hoping the first-stage groundworks would be completed, but the equipment was so heavy it started to compact our precious soil, so we called a halt and resorted to old-fashioned man (and girl) power in the shape of Operation Volunteer San Lorenzo. Erica’s band of green-fingered friends, all with a passion for gardening, joined us for a day to tackle the preparatory landscaping. The transformation was miraculous.

The team cleared the boundary soil, preparing the ground for our first planting; created an area for compost; and removed all the tree stumps. They even planted our first sweet peas, complete with canes. Suzanne, our head chef at the Scottish Café, was on hand to provide the necessary sustenance. A picnic with our homemade chutneys and pickles, our own boiled ham, spring salads and hot homemade bread. Eating our food in our garden together with our lovely team was such a wonderful reminder of why we’ve tackled this crazy but joyous adventure. It was teamwork at its best. I’m sure the bees would be proud – this Queen Bee certainly is.

Carina Contini, Casa San Lorenzo (