Six on Saturday – Fading Light & Black Gold

Today is World Mental Health Day. I received a notification on my phone during the week reminding me of a short piece I wrote four years ago today. I thought and thought (while planting peas and composting compost) about how I might link WMHD to things going on sa gháirdín ar chúl an tí. The 100 Word Challenge linked above is also added as text at the end of this article. This may sound very confusing, but I do hope you’ll be able to get past the fog.

Monday

Days are shortening and that means nights are longer. Yin and yang. It’s a time of the year when people’s mental health may be affected by lower levels of light. Studies suggest getting outside more often. Today, I did get out and I started the Patio Pot makeover. By 2:25pm it was time for me to have a late lunch. My recommendation today is to do your best to get things in balance.

Tuesday

Getting outside is one important part of self-care. But the trick is to do it over and over again. With this in mind, I added a few finishing touches. The bird-feeder will bring me great joy over the months ahead. Close comparison between this photograph and yesterday’s shows that there are four minutes less daylight. What words of advice would I give to anyone struggling today? Watch the birds!

Wednesday

I got out again on Wednesday just to top up my vitamin D levels. Apparently, this vitamin is important in regulating mood. To be sure, by 3:02pm my mood was upbeat as the Patio Pot feature is almost finished. In reality though, chun an fhírinne a rá, I’ll keep adjusting it every few weeks. Speaking of adjustments, there’s an extra four minutes of darkness since yesterday. In the Northern Hemisphere we are slowly tilting away from the sun. Mantra for today: get out there, even if you do have to wrap up more.

Thursday

Just after midday, I fortified myself with coffee and sugar. I’m advised that coffee is not ideal to regulate My Mental Mood, but hey… life is for living! I had spent several hours finishing the glasshouse shelving, planting peas outside and shredding apple tree branches for the compost heap. My advice today is to do what makes you happy.

Friday

There’s a side we present publicly and another we present only to ourselves. In light of that, here’s my messy composting corner, being outed publicly. I accept also the messy corners of my mind. Look on the bright side… this heap of rubbish will transform to “black gold”.  The World Health Organisation has solid advice about self-care. Small things make a big difference. Here’s my tip for today: Limit screen time.  There is an off button. Doing this may allow time for reflection and acceptance of your private thoughts.

Saturday

I’m late uploading my garden thoughts as I wanted to get a photograph watermarked with today’s details. Today is the day. It’s World Mental Health Day. I do hope it’s a good day for you. In the past I’ve been affected with seasonal depression, yet strangely mine appears in April. We are all different. I have good coping strategies in place and I know that they work. Gardening and writing work well for me. Then, I like cycling, reading, cooking one new meal each month (sometimes very successfully, I’m told!), meeting friends for coffee & sugar, meeting friends for no coffee, and lots of other little pleasures. For me, life is very good and while I’m grateful, my thoughts go out today to those who are struggling. Would I have some words of comfort today?

  1. People who lift you up are a blessing. Stick close to them, particularly when you just feel like being alone.
  2. Don’t get caught up in small details such as noticing that since last Monday there is less daylight here in South East Ireland amounting to 18 minutes.
  3. Get your hands into the earth.
7:49, 10-10-20

100 Word Challenge October 2016

Could I impart even a very small amount of my enthusiasm for gardening in 100 words? (20 used thus far).

World Mental Health day is on October 10th. Can gardening help with mental health? I say a resounding YES. Here’s my top 3 thoughts:

  • A good garden MAY have some weeds. Akin to ill-health, weeds remind me of life’s struggles. The trick is to ensure that the flowers dominate.
  • I frequently see one small job that needs doing, but after an hour of pottering about I have lost myself in harmony with the earth.
  • Gardening is my therapy of choice.

End of 100-word challenge.

“I am intrigued by writers who garden and gardeners who write. The
pen and the trowel are not interchangeable, but seem often linked.”
Marta McDowell (and adopted by GrowWriteRepeat).

100 Word Challenge 2016

Why not take a look at what my gardening friends are showing this Saturday by visiting Jon The Propagator? “Six on Saturday. Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything, you decide.” You’ll find details about how to participate there too. And now it’s goodbye from me, but the story continues next week. Slán go fóill.

Pádraig,

10th October 2020. WMHD.

Happy Wife Policy

Until I retired in 2013 I had lost interest in my garden. The love of gardening that was there 30 years ago vanished amid the stress of work.
Now, I’m back in full flow and loving the time I get to spend a few hours pottering. Some days I’ve got a plan in my head but most days it’s a case of seamlessly moving on to what I notice needs doing. Of course, there’s also a helluva lot more time to relax, have a coffee or take a nap.

In all this, my good (best) wife Marion leaves me to my own devices. She sees the satisfaction it brings me and likes what she sees. She did have two long-term requests: a water fountain and a Budda. So, in line with my Happy Wife Policy (Rule 1.1.2b), we added both during Covid-19 lockdown. We are happy together.

Better than a dripping tap.

Link to the YouTube version.

Pádraig,

8th October 2020

A is for Alterations

The patio pots brightened my heart all summer. I loved making almost weekly changes, adding pots here and there and moving things around just for fun. I also moved pots away when flowering was finished. The exception to this were the spent lilies, because the upright stems added height.
Yesterday I started the transition to Autumn. Many pots were taken out and nearly everything that was left was rearranged. Many more were added in order to get a good sense of Autumn close to the house. It’s not quite finished yet, but I’m very happy with how it’s shaping up. Now that I see that in writing, it’s never actually finishes because as the autumn/winter progresses changes and additions will be made.


I highly recommend this form of musical-chairs gardening. It is time-consuming in the height of summer as constant watering is needed. Also worth considering is keeping the smaller pots on the most shaded side. I’m lucky that the garden is south-facing and so the smaller stuff is facing me and also helps to graduate the entire structure gently. By the way, the Fairy Door is still there! It has moved once more. They’ve been so careful to stay out of sight that I doubt you’ll see it.

Many plants that I had purchased during the summer when garden centres reopened after lockdown had been minded in their pots in the Holding Area, and several are suitable for this Autumn patio project. Likely, some of these will be permanently planted in the ground at some stage. But now it’s time for to relax.

Here’s a link to my article about musical-chairs gardening back in July. Note that there’s detailed account of the problems caused by them fairies.

Click first picture to commence step-by step gallery.

Have you tried something like this? I’d love to hear of your efforts.

Pádraig,

6th October 2020

Cheering Up My Monday & Just Three Things

It’s Monday and I’m cheering myself up again. I’m combining Cheering Up My Monday with another of my sometimes forgotten regular features, Just Three Things. Cheering Up my Monday is self-explanatory. What’s Just Three Things about? Simply put, it’s three things I’ve noticed today and three things that need doing.

I’m delighted with my forward planning project which is almost complete. At present I have about 60 seed packets, many of which will be started in the heated propagator in the New Year and then transferred to the glasshouse to grow on. Last year I simply did not have enough space. With this in mind, I made a start last week to put in more shelving and the job is almost complete. Three shelves are finished and the final one will be finished when the extra timber arrives. I’m very happy with the outcome, so much so that I have decided to put an extra shelf on the other side too.

Nearly there.

I sat down on the bockety glasshouse chair to admire my work, only to find that my extra weight damaged the fabric. I did try to effect emergency repairs by tightening the screws but they did not hold. Plan B, therefore, and the seat is now comfortable and safe. Cable ties are great for tying stuff, but it’s a first for me to use them in such a situation.

Emergency repair.
Satisfaction.

It’s raining outside and the wind is whipping up. Tá gaoth láidir amuigh. So I’m sheltering inside and admiring my handiwork.

That smug look.

That’s enough work for the moment. What three things (just three) did I notice today, and what else did I see that needs doing?

Three Things I Noticed

  1. The rotary clothes line is leaning because of prevailing wind.
  2. The Avocado stone that rooted in the compost heap is nearly 30cm tall!
  3. Several of the Begonias are still in flower. I’ve dumped the ones I don’t like.

Three Things To Be Prioritised

  1. Finish the top shelf.
  2. Sow the next batch of organic winter lettuce.
  3. Put my feet up, on the new shelving. I shall upgrade this to top priority.
Feet up.

Donate On Ko-fi
For just the price of a cup of coffee, you can put more bread on my table. Here’s the magic link: Support Me On Ko-fi. It’s breakfast time, and my Monday has been cheered up greatly.

Small donation welcome.
Nothing more than a cup of coffee.

Pádraig,

5th October 2020.

Six on Saturday – Naked Ladies and How’s-your-father

Monty Don has described Mount Usher as one of his favourite gardens anywhere. I am quoted as having said that it is staggeringly beautiful.

There are thirty-one days until the US presidential election. This week I am attempting to link my Six on Saturday with important wider world events. In other words, I am featuring things that are important in my gardening head ceann and expressing my thoughts about the bigger picture, that rosy world-garden that we all want. I know which candidate is more likely to be a better world-garden caretaker. If you have no interest, I understand.

Uno:

During the week I visited Mount Usher Gardens in County Wicklow. It is regarded as one of the finest gardens in this small country. In several locations throughout, there are memorial plaques to the head-gardeners of the past, thanking them for outstanding service. Specific phrases used include love, passion and care. We all tend our gardens in such a manner. We are fulfilled and the world is a better place. We expect no less from our leaders.

Evidence of passionate caretaking

Dos:

The Maple Walk is beginning to show the beauty of Autumn colours. Americans call this The Fall. In Irish, we say An Fómhar. Countries worldwide have endured an unprecented Covid-Fall. Economies are on the brink, heading towards a winter crash, and many may not Spring Forward for many years. I am thinking particularly of the horrific effects on the less well-off who are suffering more than others.

Nature is adapting

Tres:

Clean water uisce is the basis of all life. Here, you see a section of the Vartry river. The garden is built around it. I spoke to the assistant gardener who was working on a section of the man-made lake. I was somewhat shocked to find out that there are only two full-time gardeners, and when I asked, she estimated that four more would be needed. However, in these strange times, she smiled and said that they just do their best. Their best is about preserving and improving this world-renowned garden for future generations.

Vartry River

Quatro:

I think someone may be able to identify this. I do not know what it is, but I do know that seeds of future beauty are stored within.

Unknown beauty

Cinco:

I did mention The Fall earlier, so I was shocked to see this. Colchiums are like crocuses and I am learning that they flower right now, as you can see clearly. There is incredible beauty, even at a time when much of the natural world is in seasonal decay. What a wonderful world we live in. Here’s a section of the Wikipedia entry: Colchicum autumnale, commonly known as autumn crocus, meadow saffron or naked ladies, is a toxic autumn-blooming flowering plant that resembles the true crocuses. The name “naked ladies” comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the ground long before the leaves appear.

Naked Ladies

Seis:

This is the fruit if the Cornus kousa tree. Here is an edited excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:

Cornus kousa is a small deciduous tree 8–12M tall. Common names include kousa, kousa dogwood, Chinese dogwood and Korean dogwood. Widely cultivated as an ornamental, it is naturalized in New York State. (Bolding is mine.) 
Berries are edible but not recommended

Note from the garden website: Mount Usher is one of Ireland’s greatest gardens and a world-class example of a so-called Robinsonian garden, with relaxed informality and natural layout. Monty Don has described it as one of his favourite gardens anywhere. I am quoted as having said that it is staggeringly beautiful. I can be quoted thus, because it’s true.

On Thursday last, I wrote about my visit to Mount Usher, and I include here again a snippet of my imagined interview with the garden itself:

I've witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how's-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy... and the latest is the virus that arrived this year. 

I drove back home mid-afternoon, very content. I knew it was one of those important days.

Six Other News Items

  1. My winter bike is cleaned, serviced and ready to ride. New lights installed, and a hooter!
  2. The extra glasshouse shelving is complete.
  3. Meabh has her Racing Life Creations website live. Please give it a once-over.
  4. The first Autumn storm is brewing. It’s a French one, Alex. I’m not sure is it a male or female one.
  5. I watched a horror movie on CNN last Tuesday. They billed it as a debate, but that was a lie.
  6. I did not find any election ballot papers in a bin anywhere.
Read my lips

The Greek philosopher Diogenes was said to have wandered the streets of Athens with a lantern searching in vain for someone to speak the truth.

Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

Six on Saturday is a world-wide idea started by The Propagator in England, and I am a proud participant. You can find out more about it by browsing the Participant Guide. There, you will find no mention of our political world, but equally, there is mention that writers may choose to plough their own furrow. Within this freedom, I value enormously the power to express myself through my garden.

That’s my lot for this week. I shall be spending some time continuing the Autumn tidy-up by day, and reading other SOS updates when I can. Wherever you are, have a great week.

Pádraig,

3rd October 2020.

Tomato Workaround

It’s October already. Seize the moment, my friends. Yesterday I figured out that because of all the seed packets I ordered, I’d need more shelving. Without further ado I ordered blocks and timber, and both were delivered a few hours later.

The tomatoes are still producing, so I needed to build around them, and I’m almost finished. There’s another shelf to be constructed tomorrow. Seven tomatoes needed to be eaten during the construction process. All the seeds to be grown here between now and spring will be very cozy!

Here’s the video from YouTube

Never Enough Shelving

I’m participating in an Instagram challenge called My Garden This Month. The idea is to post something each day according to a given prompt. The link is here. If you’re an IG user, do consider joining in using the hashtag #mygardenthismonth

Storm Alex is arriving from France over the weekend. I am reminded of my reaction in October 2018. The scouts taught me to “Bí Ullamh”. In the case of this one, it may not be severe as Met Éireann have issued no weather warnings. That could change.

Pádraig,

1st October 2020.

Mount Usher Gardens

I’ve witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how’s-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy… and the latest is the virus that arrived this year.

Mount Usher in Ashford, County Wicklow, is one of Ireland’s greatest gardens, and is a world-class example of a so-called Robinsonian garden, with its relaxed informality and natural layout. Monty Don has described it as one of his favourite gardens anywhere.

River Vartry

I left Dungarvan early last Monday on a two-hour drive to the Garden County. That’s the nickname given to County Wicklow, and for very good reason.

Any summary I might write would not do justice to this majestic 22-acre paradise. In the knowledge that descriptive writing is not my strength, I attempt to summarise my hours there using a bit of licence…

Thank you for having me here in the gardens today. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve been here since the 1860’s as Mount Usher Garden was created by four generations of the Walpole family, spanning a period of 115 years. Throughout all this time I did get a sense that history was being made.

Why so?

Well, because the family was well-in with Glasnevin at the time and started a four-generation commitment to developing what’s known as a Robinsonian garden right through until 1980. Plant-hunting expeditions were undertaken worldwide and many plants thrived in this garden that would not survive elsewhere.

What’s the Robinsonian thing about?

He was an Irish Gardener who advocated moving away from formal planting design. He preferred informal natural planting. He became very famous and this type of gardening is called after him.

I understand the garden was sold in 1980?

Yes it was bought by Madeleine Jay, and in 2007 it was leased out to Avoca Handweavers.

Really, you must have seen a lot in your time here?

There was very severe poverty right after the Famine, and indeed right through to the late sixties. (1960’s). I’ve witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how’s-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy… and the latest is the virus that arrived this year.

Why is this garden so well-regarded?

I’ll let the head-Gardener, Sean Heffernan, update you about this.

The Garden is home to 32 of the Champion Trees of Ireland as well as approximately 4,500 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants, many of which are rarely seen growing anywhere else in Ireland.

Is it true that it is Monty Don’s favourite garden?

Monty Don? Who’s Monty Don?

Pádraig,

1st October 2020