I was going to write about seeds this week, but Lord knows there is plenty of time for that!. Instead, I’ve decided to write about my little trip to Bellefield last Saturday to the Spring Plant Sale. I say trip, but it was only just a few minutes over an hour’s drive for me to get there.

Baton Rouge

Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’, a purchase from Bellefield Plant Fair

I love little trips like this and, while I enjoy the company of friends on such trips, there’s something very peaceful about going for garden visits on your own. A cup of coffee in a paper cup, an apple, a banana, an orange, a cheese sandwich, directions written in very large print (no GPS gadgets for me! Vive la map!), a camera and appropriate clothes for the weather — that’s all you need to enjoy your little trip. Oh, and most importantly, very strong shopping bags (mine are the ancient Tesco ones that hold absolutely loads) to carry your plants in — you always know the plant sale aficionados because they are carrying empty shopping bags as they come in. Five euro notes and 1 and 2 euro coins come in handy as well.

Upon arrival, do a quick sweep of the plant sellers. Don’t buy anything on your first go round (unless you absolutely cannot resist and there’s only one of what you want). Have a look at it all and don’t be shy to ask prices if they are not marked. Then go back and buy what you like. I’d give the advice not to buy things that you don’t have a place for at home, but I won’t say a word about that because I never heed my own advice. If plants are your true love, then buy anything you like, space be damned.

Hellebore

Hellebore at home

Bellefield has a very nice garden. It’s a funny time of year to go for a garden visit. But if you like snowdrops and early bulbs, hellebores and the like, it’s a great time for you to be out having a look. I’m more of a galantholiker than a galanthophile. Looking at different green markings on the white petals of a snowdrop is akin to trainspotting, if you ask me. But some people go crazy over snowdrops. Daffodils were just coming up; Iris unguicularis was flowering and hellebores as well.

Helleborus foetidus

Stinking hellebore at the Little Garden, grown from seed

Hellebores are lovely. I have one very large specimen of Helleborus foetidus I grew from seed and I have a dusky maroon-coloured one. Both are as sheltered as they can be in my garden. If left out in the wind, they go to tatters. And you have to cut last years’ foliage off in the early spring so that it does’t detract from the flowering.

Lupin

Lupin wakes up after winter

If I didn’t have my own garden to tend to and another very Big one, I’d be out and about every weekend visiting gardens.

Next time… final touches on vegetable bed? Sowing seeds? Polytunnel ready?

One of the very best features of the Big Garden is… I won’t spoil it with words that will only fail. See for yourself.

and now for my close up

And now for my close up… Snowdrops at their best in the Big Garden

And more snow

And more snow

... and more snow.

… and more snow.

The show will be ending soon at the Big Garden, but the daffs are coming up for the next spectacle, and will hopefully be around for the Hunter Trials (horses, horses and more horses) in April. I must take a photo one day of the best manure heap in Ireland — if only I could get to it without having to risk my life getting sucked into the mud equivalent of quicksand.

Back at the Little Garden. We all know Ireland is famous for its rain…

Moat, in Galway not Westmeath

Inside the new porch, aka moat.

…but this is ridiculous. I can pretend like I have a moat around my little castle (thankfully corrected this week with one of those new-fangled inventions called a GUTTER).

Gardening undercover? My tunnel, which I usually call ‘Spain’ (as in “I’ll be right back; I’m going to Spain.”), has been redubbed ‘Venezia’ (I thought Venice was too obvious). If I was any good at graphics I would have made a little man in a boat singing ‘O Sole Mio’ and stuck him in the centre pathway of the tunnel.

will it ever stop raining?

Venezia!

But this was a few weeks ago and hope springs eternal. Buds are fattening, even bursting in some case (like the weirdly early willow I have at the very back of our place — the bees love it). As you drive along the motorway (which I unfortunately have to do twice a day), you can see big swathes of trees turning lovely shades of spring as if an artist has come overnight and dotted reds here, whites blushed with pink there. Remember to keep your eyes on the road or this could be detrimental to your health.

And just when you think you can’t take it anymore (the weather, that is), you can go into Venezia and pretend like you’re in South Africa…

One can always pretend...

South Africa! Well, that’s where Osteospermum grows like a weed.

Next time… Sow what?

Only a couple more weeks until Christmas, but you wouldn’t know if from the weather here in the west of Ireland. It has been very mild and even a bit dry for this time of year, although we did have a few light showers over the past week. It was so (relatively) dry that I was able to bring 40 bags of manure home from the Big Garden’s muck heap. This requires me having to squelch through some very mucky and usually sopping wet ground. A trailer would be great, but it’s nearly impossible to get anything with wheels to the muck heap without getting stuck. One of those bog tractors with the double-wides might work. But last week I could’ve driven my car to the heap with a little care and attention. Still, I ended up doing it all by hand. Actually, I got a hand getting the 40 bags to the van, which was great.

Black gold

Black gold


I’m a bit of a connoisseur of manure. I think it’s great stuff. I’m particularly happy with this manure because it has some lovely, dark, well-rotted manure that has been mixed up with newer stuff. The older stuff was mixed with straw and the newer stuff with shavings. By the way, this is horse manure we are talking about from the Big Garden stables. I like having the uncomposted shavings in the mix as they help make a really nice mulch. So I just dump the bags where I want and leave the little heaps until the new year. Any of the fresher manure will be worn down enough by planting time. I’ll let the worms and chickens do a lot of the work — those chickens need to earn their keep since they’re not given eggs at the moment. Come January or February, I’ll just give it a quick rake.

If I could get the whole muck heap to my house, it would be like winning the lotto! How sad am I?

Covered porch.

The porch is covered!


The porch is now covered. The incline downward is only slight as the height needed to be kept quite high due to very tall family members (that would not be me, I’m afraid, as I am cousin to Bilbo Baggins [without the hairy feet]). The concrete for the footpath will be next and some kind of guttering. It’s so nice and dry underneath and when the sun is out it is quite warm, even on colder days.
willow fedge

Willow fedge due for a haircut.


Depending on the weather, I may cut some willow today. Most of the leaves have fallen now, which is what I was waiting for. I’ve got a fedge and a wigwam that need attention; both are very overgrown. I’m going to collect the nicest, straightest bits of willow to make a little wattle fence to go on one side of the new flower beds to make a barrier between the footpath around the house and the beds.
euonymus seed pods

Euonymus seed pods or a blackbird’s dinner…


And finally, a little bit of colour to end. I saw these seed casings on this stone near the apple trees. I think a blackbird must have pulled it off one of my little spindle trees and took it to the stone to have a feast. Ha! What a romantic notion – a blackbird?? Well, possibly, but it was most likely one of magpies (who really think they own the place).

Next time… review the year and look forward. Happy and peaceful holiday to all!

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