Archives for category: Trees

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.

A few weeks ago we went away for a long weekend to County Down to visit the parents of a good friend of mine.  It was a really nice break and I enjoyed it immensely.  It felt like being at my home in America (except there was alcohol involved — hey, it is Ireland after all).

The lovely place where we stayed in Co Down

The lovely place where we stayed in Co Down

But beyond my absolute pleasure at not having to wash dishes or cook for a whole weekend, I got to do one of my favourite things in the world — visit a big garden.  And all the better that it just so happens to be a National Trust garden and one that has loads of mature and fantastic trees.  The phrase ‘pig in shit’ comes to mind; I suppose it’s a bit crude, but it comes the closest to expressing my happiness at being able to visit Rowallane.

The art shot

The art shot

Rowallane was created in the 1860s by a man called Reverand John Moore.  It’s a big demesne-type place located in Saintfield, Co. Down which is about 10km from Belfast.  It’s not as big as a landlord house but is a nice, big substantial house with acres of garden.  There is a lovely and fairly large walled garden around the house and then the landscape beyond is full of mature trees and a rock garden.  The soil must be fairly acidic because Rowallane is known for its rhododendrons and azaleas (not my favourite genus, it must be said, but having seen some different, more unusual species has allowed me to be more open-minded about them).

Rhododendron bud

Rhododendron bud

It is also the holder of the National Collection of Penstemon (which just looked like a pile of mush at this time of year — anyway, I’ve given up on Penstemons after the two cold winters we had.  You can keep your half-hardy perennials, life it too short…).  There is also a nice little collection of lace-cap Hydrangea in the walled garden.  They were still flowering mightily thanks to the microclimate within the walls.

A very cool Rhododendron -- sorry, there was no name tag on it

A very cool Rhododendron — sorry, there was no name tag on it

This time of year (it was just after Halloween actually) was a great time to visit Rowallane (by the way, it’s pronounce ‘Roe Alan’ — I say this because I wasn’t sure myself until I heard my friend say it).  The colour was fabulous.  I’ve mentioned before that there is really no place like the northeastern part of the United States for autumn colour, but I will have to repeat my belief that there is something even richer about the deep, earthy, subtle colours of the autumn leaves in Ireland.

Acer in full colour at Rowallane

Acer in full colour at Rowallane

Rowallane really underscores that belief.

The biggest Handkerchief tree I've ever seen

The biggest Handkerchief tree I’ve ever seen

I have only one complaint about the place — plant labelling.  There were a few name tags but I’d say 75 percent of the time I went looking I couldn’t find a name anywhere.  And I do like my Latin names.  So I must apologise if I can’t name the plants in my photos.  I hope you’ll enjoy them just the same.

Just one example of the hydrangea collection

Just one example of the hydrangea collection

Next time… Pruning living willow structures at the little garden.

Quick! You’d better get out and enjoy the autumn colour now. It’s going fast. I was at the big garden on Monday and it was very nice. By the Thursday the colour was even more intense.

Autumn colour in the big garden

Then came a nice bit of frost, wind and rain (back to normal, in other words). And so the leaves are everywhere.

Subtle colours of autumn leaves in the west of Ireland

Being from the eastern United States originally, I grew up with huge amounts of leaves falling in the autumn (yes, it’s why we call it ‘Fall’). In fact, it’s something that I took for granted until I moved to Ireland. At home, you have no shortage of leaves to gather to make into leaf mould, which is such a great soil conditioner. Here, in the west of Ireland, you really have to look hard to find enough leaves to rake into a puny little pile.  And even though I curse them at home in America because of the torturous amount of raking you have to do, I do miss the large quantities of leaves.  The big garden has those large quantities that I miss. The little garden does not.  However, if I can live for 30 or 40 more years, I might reap the benefits of all my frantic tree planting in the last few years at the little garden.

Autumn colour on the river

The big garden has loads and loads of very old trees, some being centuries old. There is oak, beech, ash, yew, maple, willow, sycamore (or suckamore as I call them, because they suck and I hate them — though I was reminded that suckamore is good for timber to burn, which, in my opinion is where it is best placed…). The colour this time of year is rich. It is subtle, unlike the autumn colour in New England which can nearly give you a headache when you’re looking at it on a bright day. The colour here reminds you of fires and fine woollen jumpers and hot port. I’ve said it before, but I do love this time of year.

Next time… the garden club.