Archives for category: Early Spring Garden

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 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 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?


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?

This is the winter that would never end.  Never mind that it is spring according to the traditional and equinoctial calendars.  I have been walking around the Little Garden every day looking at buds on trees and shrubs, monitoring their progress.  I hope that when it does warm up it will stay warm and not revert to harsh, freezing temperatures.  That happened last year and it was fairly devastating to my plum and apple crops, and probably other crops as well that I didn’t even pick up on because the rest of the summer was so poor.

Flower buds of Chaenomels japonica

Flower buds of Chaenomels japonica

As I was going around looking at buds, I took a few photos.  I remember when I was taking a class on trees and woody shrubs at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia.  We would have to identify plants by their buds – no leaves, no flowers, just a twig.  It seems impossible at first, but once you work with the plant a bit it does get easier.  The one area I never mastered was conifers – trying to distinguish between Thuja , Chamaecyparis, Cedrus, Larix, etc., made my head reel.  I suppose I haven’t worked as much with conifers as with deciduous trees and shrubs.  This is because conifers have not been as fashionable in garden design as they once were.  I have always hoped that they would make a strong comeback and will freely admit to having planted a couple in one of the Little Garden’s back borders.  One of them is a little Pinus mugo, which is among my favourites.  It’s a squat little plant, but that’s why I like it.  They can get quite large actually but it takes a very long time.  It adds such good structure and interest to the bed in the winter time.

Pulsatilla vulgarai 'Papageno' singing through the frost

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Papageno’ singing through the frost

Speaking of winter time, that’s what I’m really supposed to be writing about – how cold it is, extended winter, want to stay in front of the fire, can’t sow anything.  I’m itching to sow more seeds but am hesitant.  Now that I am working full-time, I won’t be able to carry seedlings in and out, to and from the tunnel every day.  So if I sow too soon and it remains cold I will either get leggy seedlings because they have to stay in the house, or they will be stunted, stunned by the cold in the polytunnel.  It’s a bit of a juggling act, a guessing game.  What I wouldn’t give for a little heated glasshouse…

Becky, warm in her fur coat

Becky, warm in her fur coat

What I have sown:  tomatoes, leeks, scallions (my people call them green onions), chillies.  I’ve sown some flower seeds as well:  Cobaea scandens, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’, sweet peas.  I have loads more to do.

Self-seeded Wallflower 'Blood Red Covent Garden'

Self-seeded Wallflower ‘Blood Red Covent Garden’

That’s it for now because I have to wrap up and go do some work outside.  Enjoy the pictures of buds and the few things that are now flowering.  Make sure to get out into your own area and have a close look at the new growth.

Next time… a new bed at the Little Garden.