Archives for category: 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?


Just when I thought Spring might really be here… It’s gone and turned cold again. I don’t think I have ever been so confused about what to do with seeds, seedlings, young plants. This is normally something that comes quite naturally to me. I’m seriously thinking of just planting everything in the polytunnel this year and hoping I win the lottery so that I can purchase another tunnel. Honestly! It’s May 19th and I really want to put the heat on this morning. That is so very wrong. I hope this isn’t the way the weather is going to be from now on…


A la carte Dandelion

I was talking about dandelions last time and how they had all come out at once. I must follow up with this quick story. I was standing at my kitchen sink looking out the window at the misty rain coming down. The west-facing window looks out onto a neighbour’s very large field which has stone wall boundaries. I noticed movement in the not-so-tall grass (not so tall thanks to the crappy spring). It was a cock pheasant and a hen. He was following behind her at a good 10-foot distance while she slowly and methodically ate every dandelion seedhead that she could. It made a really nice picture with the mist and the not-so-tall grass, the thousands of dandelion seedheads, and the colourful cock pheasant. Where’s the photo, you ask. I was looking at it through binoculars and my camera is not that great, so apologies. But I hope I’ve been able to do the lovely image justice when translated into words.

Cock and no pheasant

The rooster and missus

Since I can’t show the pheasant and his missus I’ll just put up this photo of the Rooster and one of the hens.  I was trying to get a photo of him with his head stuck down between the coppiced ash tree and the stone wall.  But when he heard me coming he popped out again.  At first I thought he had found something to eat but then I realised he was actually hiding from the wind.  They really hate the wind and lord knows we have enough of it here.


Lamium orvala, a type of false nettle

There are a few nice plants flowering at the moment.  As I was walking around the Little Garden taking a few photos I realised that I most likely have a compulsive disorder when it comes to buying plants.  It seems that most of the herbaceous perennials I have bought in the last five years have flowers in the dark red family.  I will prove this to you now.


Astrantia major, I forgot the variety but I got if from Camolin Potting Shed

Isn’t that Astrantia lovely?  That’s the colour I can’t resist.  Read on…


Bud of Rodgersia pinnata ‘Chocolate Wings’

This is my favourite time for the Rodgersia.  I didn’t know the flower bud was like this when I bought the plant.  It  is a great architectural addition to a border and really breaks up a bed that is full of clumpy perennials, like this one…


Centaurea montana ‘Jordy’

This is a lovely plant and you can give it a chop after it flowers and it will clump up and flower again for you.  I can understand why one of its common names is mountain knapweed because it is an extremely strong grower and it bulks up quickly.  Having said that I don’t find it a thug because it is so easy to cut back.  Once you have it you will always be able to share it with your friends, it is so easy to propagate.  Just dig bits out of the side of it.  I love it.

And finally, our last plant for today from the Maroon Flower Compulsive Disorder Society is…


Clematis ‘Niobe’, Jackmanii group — thank you Aldi

…this happy little Clematis I bought from Aldi last year.  I am no snob when it comes to acquiring plants and this Clematis was as healthy a plant as you would find in a much more expensive specialist nursery.  Granted, it is a very common type of Clematis, but that shouldn’t really matter if you like it.  And I do.  ‘Niobe’ will be trained up a trellis I just put up (I made it myself.  It’s not pretty but the plants don’t mind.) along with a pale peach coloured rose I also bought from Aldi.  Sounds like an ad for Aldi.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had many Aldi plant disasters (cherry trees come to mind and most perennials that come in a bag…), but sometimes you get lucky and the plant isn’t diseased and is actually what the label says it is.

I think that’s enough of my dirty little dark red flower secret.  Please don’t worry about me because I do also really like bright orange flowered plants as well (they go really well with the dark red ones!). 

Bit of a mish mash today — I blame it on the weather. Happy planting (with a jacket, hat and warm socks on)!

At last it feels like spring – she is so late this year that the dandelions have all come up at once.  In a normal year (whatever that is) the flowering time of the dandelion seems to be a bit more spread out.  Not this year as you can see from the picture of one of the fields by the Little Garden.

Dandelion City

Thousands of dandelions in the next field over, waiting to blow into the Little Garden

I used to hate seeing dandelions going to seed, being the main (and only) weeder around the place, until I saw a goldfinch munching away at a seedhead.  Now I just sigh as I pass out the hundreds of fluffy heads knowing that I will be pulling the weeds up in a year’s time.  And so it goes.

Tulip 'Ballerina'

Tulip ‘Ballerina’ doing a raindance

It’s the freshness of the season that I enjoy most: raindrops sitting on leaves, buds bursting open, leaves unfurling (why do I hear Julie Andrews singing all of a sudden?).  It restores hope (if you happen to have lost it over the winter). One of my very favourite sights is a big fat Oriental poppy bud pulling up out of the centre of a plant.  The wind here usually tears up the delicate flower once it opens in all its tissue-paper glory, but I enjoy the rough, toughness of the bud stage and take as a bonus the flower itself if it manages to last even a few days.

Oriental poppy bud

Oriental poppy bud is rough & tough, unlike the flower to come

Spring flowers are probably my favourites.  Maybe it’s because everything is looking lush and healthy, nothing has really gone over yet except maybe the daffodils (whose ratty old foliage you can disguise by planting things like Aquilegia around them that are only bulking up and coming into flower when the daffs finish).  I like the old standards: Pulmonaria, Dicentra, Pulsatilla (you may have seen my fondness for ‘Papageno’ in a previous post), cowslips, Doronicum.  I find yellow a difficult colour to work with in the garden because it can be so wrong with other colours at times (I feel the same about pink) – but in springtime this doesn’t bother me a bit.  One of my borders is a sea of yellow at the moment because I have let cowslips seed prodigiously.  I love cowslips and can’t bear to pull them out, though I fear these are starting to choke each other a bit and so I will separate them after flowering and put the extras somewhere else.


A sea of self-seeded cowslips

The vegetable garden like everything else is a bit behind.  I have a good stock of tomato plants growing in the polytunnel along with some trays of lettuce seedlings.  Everything is so late this spring that I’m only just clearing the tunnel out now.  I had let rocket and mustard plants go to flower in hopes of bringing in hoverflies and bees – they need a bit of help this time of year when the weather is wet and flowering is behind schedule. It worked – they did show up. But now that plants are starting to flower outside I can clear out the rocket, etc., before it goes to seed.

Look at all the potential in this little fella, a climbing bean seedling

Look at all the potential in this little fella, a climbing bean seedling

Squashes, pumpkins and all sorts of beans have been sown.  I’m using up old seed this year so I have oversown just in case.  I’m going to throw out all the seed packets of the non-germinators (The Germinator — now that’s a good name for a film!) and start fresh next year.  I have to do this every three years or so, otherwise I just end up with far too many seed packets.  I always buy fresh parsnip seed every year and scallion seed which doesn’t seem to keep a very high germination rate for me after the first year.  And sweet peas as well.

Pulmonaria officianalis

Pulmonaria officianalis

What’s happening at the Big Garden, you ask?  I haven’t been in a few weeks due to bad weather and other commitments.  I had planned to go this morning to do a bit of weeding, but it is lashing rain.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to go later.  I will post an update when I do.  Until then, happy digging from the west of Ireland.  Yours truly, The Germinator