Six on Saturday – Celebrations

2020 Act 2, the first Saturday of the second half of the year and it’s Independence Day if you are American or Philipino. For those of us who are not, please note that it is my nephew’s birthday, born a little later than the first Saturday of 1776. In advance of multiple celebrations, I spent a while selecting my six for this week, so without further ado, let’s have liftoff…

My first this week is Feverfew, known to some as Bachelor’s Buttons. This one seeded itself in a small crack between patio slabs. I love it even before it flowers because of the attractive lime-green foliage. After you’ve read this blog thingy and other posts over at the Propagator’s HQ, after perhaps some gardening, coffee or other brew, you could return to this picture to count the buttons.

Next up is a shot of Begonia Corner. I went completely over the top with these for the last two years, having forty-two altogether. I mismanaged them last winter and now there are sixteen. They are not at their best yet, but I will enjoy them right up to the end of November.

Last week I described a struggling Vinca. In any case, this is a fine healthy one, planted into the Annual Trough, and blends well with Ground Ivy. Right now it boasts a single small flower.

Nothing speaks to me more of summer than petunias. The dry weather has suited them this year and they look strong.

Can anyone help me find the variety of this light-blue Campanula? I think it’s Milky Bellflower. It’s just past its best and will get a post-lockdown haircut next week or soon after. A good plant creeping up a dry stone wall in semi-shade, it seems completely unruffled by the large amount of slugs & smails that nibble on it most nights.

Finally, we move along to Geranium Corner. These ones wintered well and for that I am pleased.

That’s my six this week. For more, pay a visit to Mr. Prop. who started this going. I have to say I’m enjoying reading articles from like-minded garden writers from near and far. Tá an-áthas orm bheith ag léamh scéalta deasa scríofa ag garraíodóirí i ngar is í gcéin.

Independence Day

It’s America’s big day. Heaven knows, they need to celebrate because they are in trouble. I wish them well as they attempt to recover the high ground, and I finish with a quote:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Ronald Reagan

Regular readers will know by now that I cannot separate my garden from the world. In fact, I try to make a link. I have many very good friends and acquaintances in the US, many of whom have spoken to me about the brokenness of their country. It has always been the dream of Americans to find that they have Irish blood. Therefore I finish today with an incocation: May you once again feel proud of your country; may you realise that we Irish are suffering too, but proud of how we are dealing with tough stuff. Heads up high! Like the waterlogged Geranium, we will all recover.

Pádraig,

Saturday, 4th July 2020.

Drought & Waterlogged

Who would have thought that using this vibrant red pot would be a bad idea? Most of my pots are plastic with a few expensive terracotta in the mix, and all have proper drainage. I discovered the vibrant red while doing the twice-yearly shed cleanup. It looked good and I figured it would be a good candidate for the front of Geranium Corner. It was a good idea back in mid-June when there was a drought, because there was no drainage hole. I ndáiríre, there still is none. Unfortunately, when the wheelbarrow-load of rain dropped, I was so taken by how lush everything in the garden looked that I forgot to empty it. Today there’s several inches of water in it, and it is likely  the pelargonium is suffering and the leaves are showing the effects of prolonged water logging. But this is a hardy specimen and will recover.
I call this a geranium. I’m told that pelargonium is more correct. What do you call yours?

On a more philosophical note, I am reminded that my ENTIRE garden is a container, a very large 10×30 metre container. I have placed all my plants in this container over the past thirty years, and the heavens take care of the watering almost entirely. I am so grateful that the garden is naturally well watered.

The resident fairies seem to shy away from vibrant red, so I will leave the pot in place in recognition of Liverpool’s Premier League triumph after many years of adversity.

Hamlet Cigar & A Shocking Discovery

The fairy door has moved AGAIN. It had been behind the Alchemilla for the last few weeks, but the little devils relocated overnight.

There was a time when happiness was a cigar called Hamlet, until TV tobacco advertising was banned. How times have changed! In my case, I did enjoy a cigar every once in a while and yes, it was a Hamlet. Nowadays, other things do the trick very nicely.
I could write a book about the little things in my garden that help the happiness bug, and if I were to pick just one it would be my daily five-minute pre-breakfast garden inspection. I’ve written about it just this week.

“Fairy’s Live Here”

So what caught my eye today? I made a shocking discovery! The fairy door has moved AGAIN. It had been behind the Alchemilla for the last few weeks, but the little devils relocated overnight. Worryingly, they are nearer the house behind a large stone. I dare not get too close, and they will wreak havoc if I tread on their invisible meandering pathways. My boiled egg will be rotten, my bike punctured or the bindweed will return.

Unrelated to the Irish wee folk, I came upon this from Marcel Proust:

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

I have enough people in my life who make me happy, and I am grateful every day.

Finally, I return to the fairies and include here one of my brother’s favourite school poems by William Allingham. I have omitted the two verses not traditionally known as they are a bit offside.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watchdogs,
All night awake.

By the craggy hillside,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For my pleasure, here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather.

Pádraig,

Thursday, 2nd July 2020.

June 2020

June was just fantastic. Glorious sunshine with temperatures in mid twenties until the 20th. Rain was badly needed and arrived in wheelbarrow-loads.

Highlights:

  • The fence is nearly done
  • Plenty ripe strawberries & salads
  • Regular writing to record the work

Plants that look good in June:

  • Roses
  • Begonias
  • Grasses
  • Geranium

Now that I’ve made a start with this summary of the month, I’ll be doing July in a bit more detail. Just so that I can look back on it when I’m OLD.

Pádraig,

Tuesday, 30th June 2020.

Three on Tuesday

First off, this is a bit of a cheat! I wandered the garden yesterday before breakfast. So really it’s Three on Monday to add to yesterday’s Cheering Up My Monday. No need to read that back again, coz it’s a bit garbled. The boiled egg was boiling as I grabbed the camera for a five-minute stroll through the garden. It was indeed looking very summery.

  • The Skimmia is doing well in the container. In fact there are two. Bought back in 2018 together with the Acer Red Flamingo, they are doing much better since I moved them to a more shaded spot. Correction: they get plenty sun, but critically the pot is shaded in front of a small wall. The original article about these is one of my favourites, and also includes my delight when Trump lost a lot of momentum in the mid-term elections. Here’s the link.
  • This grass is past its best. It has set seed and I am wondering will it come again if I cut it back hard? Must check that out. However, I very much like the heads and may decide to leave it in its natural state.
  • The bindweed is dead. I repeat, the bindweed is DEAD. It took me six weeks to beat the life out of it. Now, the bare space needs to be filled. That’s something for the jobs-to-be-done section below.

Three things that need doing:

  • Sow more lettuce & spinach
  • Water and feed the strawberries
  • Fill the bare soil where the bindweed lived.

There are many many more lovely items in the garden at the moment. After all, it is the last day of June and things are looking good. There’s been enough sunshine and enough rain. There are also many more little jobs to be done but right now my egg should be ready!

Link to last week’s Just Three Things.

Finally, I include for the first time a selection of three’s not related to gardening. This a trial to see if I am interested in continuing it. My thinking is that I may like to read back over this next year or in several years time. Or I may do it irregularly from time to time.

Family:

  • 18th birthday gathering for my niece. Cake also
  • Got a dog-walker for the old Yorkie
  • Visit to two garden centres with Marion. Such an exciting life we live

Bike:

  • Group Coffee spin to Kilmacthomas with Danny, Tony & Majella
  • Wednesday 20km time-trial
  • Sunday 85km, group of nine, very blustery, plenty hills

Ireland:

  • New government. Taoiseach Mícheál Martin
  • Restaurants open again!
  • 16 Covid deaths last week

Sport:

  • Crystal Palace beat Bournemouth but lost against Liverpool & Burnley
  • Liverpool won Premier League
  • Plans for December All-Ireland finals

Curiosities, courtesy of Irish Times:

  • 23 sitting TDs have hired members of their families
  • 6200 attended Trump rally, whereas they expected 100,000
  • Average price of a Dublin home is €438,000

Thanks for reading & I hope you have a great week.

Pádraig,

Tuesday, 30th June 2020.

Six on Saturday – Plants That Struggle

Keep a close eye on your struggling plants. Value them as you would the scented rose.

Reading time: 4 mins approx.

Last Saturday, at 5.44pm the gong marked the Summer Solstice. Every TD&H knows this was the longest day of the year, and now it’s downhill until late December. It’s a time of year for celebration as our Northern gardens are in tip-top shape. Not really a time associated with feeling depressed. I choose to highlight this aspect of The Longest Day and make some sort of a link to my garden. I worked as a volunteer with my local Samaritans’ Centre for three years after I retired. In light of this, my six this week will highlight plants that do not thrive. They struggle along, despite my best attention to them. They are definitely not the star of the show, not the top dog in the border nor the scented rose. Their struggle becomes almost invisible to those of us who do not look beyond the joy of pleasing plants.

Here’s my six this week:

1. This Vinca is in the wrong place, in deep shade under a large Acer. It was previously in another wrong place in full sunshine, so I don’t know what’s best. Perhaps the soil is not right? Anyhow, ar aon nós, it continues to hang in there. I resolve to give it more attention through the coming weeks and months.

2. Flowers of the stunningly large Dahlia Café au Lait can be up to 15cm in diameter. Not this one, I fear. It is struggling this year because I moved it into a pot, and either I’m watering too much or too little. I moved it in order to have more space to grow vegetables. If this Dahlia could talk, it would ask severe questions of my  motive for dislodging it. Some people have very good lives, suddenly thrown into chaos by a life event. Some have coping skills whereas others sink deeper into a constant struggle for survival.

3. Weeds are plants too. I have been moaning about bindweed these past few weeks, because it is doing damage to other plants. It is causing plants to struggle so I need to get rid of it. No photograph, as I abide strictly to my Bindweed Photography Policy. However, many weeds are harmless and can be left in situ.

4. I have planted French marigolds in several areas of the vegetable patch. They give off some sort of vibes that deter insects from chewing through what’s going to be my lunch. The lettuces & spinach would struggle without this intervention. This is actually a win win situation, because the vegetable patch will have a bit of colour other than shades of green.

5. The taxus baccata Fastigata is in serious trouble. I bought this only last year, to add some delight to my garden in winter. It is an evergreen, but something is seriously wrong. I do not want it to die. Be that as it may, plants do die after a long or short struggle. I’ve lost several real favourites and some that I liked less. The only difference with these plants is that they do not choose to die. Humans who choose to die are no less human. Suicide was a crime here in Ireland until 1993. That’s why the term “He committed suicide” was popularly used rather than the now preferred “He died by suicide”. I hope my taxus will survive.

6. Old age is a bitch. The struggle before death can be very difficult and particularly difficult to watch. These conifers are old. They will not be there in five years time. They are beginning to suffer and the beauty is fading year by year. Incidentally, this is from my front garden, an gáirdín ós comhair an tí. At present, I have very little interest in this part of the garden, but that’s not the reason for the decline of these once lovely conifers.

Footnote:

On June 20-21st last year I cycled 400km with my friend Declan, along with support from the local cycling community for sections of the journey. We cycled for 19 hours, 3pm on Friday until 3pm on Saturday with a dinner break, a chipper/pizza delivery at 2am, a breakfast break, a lunch break (in that order), and a two hour codladh sámh, through The Longest Day, helping raise funds for Waterford Samaritans.

The Longest Day is our symbol of constant struggle. The new day does not always bring comfort. Keep a close eye on your struggling plants. Value them as you would the scented rose. Keep a close watch on friends or acquaintances and be there for them with a listening ear. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

Ah shur, trying to keep the good side out. (Man quote)

Follow Me Around…

Pádraig,

Saturday, 27th June, 2020.

Three on Tuesday

Rozanne is of the Geranium clan, and I’ve loved her for many a year.

My morning five-minute examination of the garden was damp today. We had a light mist for most of yesterday, and it continues.

Here’s what caught my eye:

1. The first Nasturtium is in flower. My wife doesn’t like nasturtiums very much, but I do. Yes, I know my she is always right, and I know I love her very much. However, these easy to grow plants will fill uninteresting corners and last right through until the first frost. Marion gets my number one vote and these guys are very close behind. Going forward, as the nasturtiums begin to dominate the area around the oiltank, I know it will be very important to tell Marion that I love her more than them.

2. Another of my favourites is Rozanne. Rozanne is of the Geranium clan, and I’ve loved her for many a year. Here, she is bows her head to shelter the important bits from the mist.

3. The forget-me-nots are finished for this year. I waited a full three weeks after the last flowers before pulling them. I did this to be sure they have a chance to shed seed for next year, before sending the remains to Compost Heaven. I am looking forward to to finding the new 2021 version in unexpected places. It always happens. Anyway, lo and behold, an gcreidfeá é, there’s one last late developer! Such a moment, and I’ll not forget it! Shall I show it to Marion? Yes, that would be delightful.

Three jobs that need doing (soon)…

  • Put fresh water in the birdbaths
  • Sow seeds of Sweet William and Aquilegia for next year
  • Move the Fairy Door to a surprise location. Marion loves this, and loves to be surprised

On a sad note:

My blue egg-cup is in the dishwasher, so I had to use the white one today. I do not like the white one because it is too big and the egg sinks right down into it. Despite this catastrophe, the day is a good one. I have completed the garden inspection, noticed some lovely surprising things and my to-do list is easy to complete after breakfast or maybe later this week.

Follow Me Around:

Pádraig,

Tuesday, 23rd June, 2020.

Six on Saturday – Raindrops

The garden really did need some rain. It needed a bit more than some. So, naturally we were thrilled to get a decent drenching overnight last Saturday. To be clear, the garden got the decent drenching while I slept, dry in my bed. Management, known also as mo bhean chéile, informed me that there was accompanying thunder and lightning and I take this on trust despite having no evidence. On the other hand, there is very clear evidence below that there was some rain.

Here’s my six this week…

1. Alchemilla mollis is a prolific self-seeder on Joe’s rockery. Dainty flowers right now, but it’s the way  raindrops stay on the curled leaves that I like best. Joe was my right-hand-neighbour and the rockery is named after him.

Alchemilla mollis, Lady’s Mantle

2. I’m not sure what’s the variety of this Geranium. Again, it’s a prolific seeder and I love it. The rain left many of the flowers in a sad state. Some were wet, soggy & droopy, while others escaped the deluge. Seems the one on top may have sheltered the lower one. All the while, I remained dry i mo leaba.

Geranium love

3. Leaf from Rosa Just Joey holds a few raindrops. I’m noticing that there is some munching going on. Likely the offender is beneath, sheltered from decent drenchings and downpours.

Rosa Just Joey

4. I return a once again to my friend Sorbus aucuparia Rafina, commonly known as Rowan or Mountain Ash. The slightly curled leaves capture and hold the drops tenderly.

Rowan (Mountain Ash)

5. This is one of my three lilies, about to burst into flower. I’d need to go to IcyBetter (my preferred alternative to Specsavers) in order to see the drops clearly. Obviously, I did go and I did see them. The camera did the rest.

Lily about to flower

6. Acer palmatum somethingelseius is in a patio container. Rain was more necessary for this small plant, as is the case with many that are potted, rather than planted. Scorch and drought damage can be seen along the edges.

Japanese Maple

That’s six, so I’ll leave it at that. If you like this article, you’ll be able to find many many more by visiting The Propagator. He is the instigator. I am a fan, together with the aforementioned many many more. Truth be told, you’ll be able to find them using the aforementioned link even if you don’t like my article.

Pádraig, 20th June 2020.

Just Three Things

Most mornings I take a very short stroll down the garden while my boiled egg is boiling and my toast is toasting.

Three things from the garden this morning:

1. I do not have many strawberries, but the few that I have are very tasty. They are now well protected. I like to savour one or two most days.

2. The garden really did need a drop of rain. The weather here has been very dry for many weeks and there is a six-week hosepipe ban in effect. The rain arrived overnight, together with accompanying thunder & lightning. The image below is Sorbus aucuparia Rafina.

3. We bought this for the dogs. We thought they might like it, but it is not nearly as interesting as other things, such as the cat on the wall or the blackbird. However, I am leaving it where it landed. It reminds me of cancelled sporting events that are in lockdown limbo.

Three jobs that need doing (soon):

  • Continue the BEP bindweed eradication programme. Now in my third week, I am determined to defeat this nasty undercover agent.
  • Watch to see when seed pod is ripe on the Acer Red Flamingo. I’d like to attempt growing a replica, knowing full well that I will be quite old by the time it grows tall.
  • Get the latest garden plant safely into the ground. I bought a lovely Carex oshimensis Everest,

And finally

My November 2018 article about Acer Red Flamingo is one of my FAVOURITES. Well worth a click, even if I say so myself. Plenty there: funny story, the tree & its symbolism, American mid-term elections and some of my thoughts about The Trump.

Have a good week,

Pádraig

Sunday, 14th June, 2020.

Six on Saturday – All Lives Matter

Thinking cap on to look for an angle… Now where did I put that cap? If I could just find my glasses, I’d see it clearly.

I spent some time wandering in the garden, seeking an angle for another article. I try to write other than descriptive, and if I’m able to link my garden, my head and something going on in the world then maith-go-leor, (also known as fine-and-dandy or Bob’s-your-uncle) .
Each of my six plants this week is dedicated to a very special person. I have a very poor memory for plant names, especially the variety of a known plant, so I name some plants after people. For example, Penstemon Propagator would definitely remind me of Jon, the originator of this Six on Saturday idea. My family would say thay my poor memory extends beyond plant names, to things like misplacing my phone right beside me, constantly looking for my glasses (right beside me/out of eyesight) and missing appointments unless I send myself two phone reminders, on my misplaced right-beside-me phone.

Here’s my Six on Saturday:

1. The Sorbus Rafina is dedicated to the young Iranian 14-year-old recently beheaded by her father. The girl ran away from home with her boyfriend, but was returned by police officials, despite she warning them her life was in danger. Her death is recorded as an honour killing. The legal punishment is very light. Not a good country to be a young girl in love with the wrong person. I will care for this tree in her honour.

2. Fuchsia George Floyd was being choked to death by bindweed. I needed to take away all the ground cover plants beneath it and eradicate the evil that was killing it. It’s a work in progress.

3. Heuchera Mike reminds me of a gentle, chatty garden-centre owner who passed away in 2018. I have several of his plants in my garden. A very keen eye may notice that it is a petal-trapper. Last weekend was very windy and the roses lost many a bloom, only to find a cozy nesting place beneath.

4. Geranium Maureen. My mother-in-law loved geraniums. At her graveside, the funeral director placed one of her plants in this pot. At present, all my geranium plants are too big for this pot, so it remains symbolically empty. It is moved around the garden regularly.

5. Grassius Leeds United. I just love grasses. They are wild and hardy, carefree and free-flowing. My brother died at the age of 28. He died on the football field, playing the sport he loved. He was a mighty Leeds United fan. I am a Crystal Palace supporter so we had deep philosophical differences, yet he was Best Man at my wedding! Gary was best man to many many people. While I have this plant, his memory is ever-present in my back garden. Cherish the love you have; cherish the life you live.

6. Hebe M&M. This one is different in two ways. Primarily, it reminds me of two people, Martin & Miriam. They are very good friends of ours and, of course, very much alive! We gave them a Thuja shortly after they married and they called it the Pat-and-Mar tree. This hebe is my way of having them here with us, and is especially important to us right now. I bought them at Lidl during the height of lockdown in early April. This hebe is also different from the above five because I can remember it’s name very clearly. It’s called Hebe Rhubarb & Custard. How could I forget a name like that? But while it lives with us, I shall always call it M&M.

That’s my six this week. There are many things I forget, such as appointments and where my phone is. But I do not forget people. Rafina, George, Mike, Maureen, Gary, Martin & Miriam are remembered in my garden.

I joined this Six on Saturday last week, having read all about it here . New garden writers might like the idea. Old writers like myself too! Certainly, I received a very warm welcome and I want to express my thanks to everyone who read my article, commented here or on Twitter, encouraged me beforehand or just sent me a welcome message. It gave me the encouragement to continue. Thank you very much.
I am now following lots of similar Six on Saturday gardeners and virtually meeting some really nice people.

Finally, I’ve offered myself a suggestion which is undoubtedly sensible. I am a native speaker of the Irish language, sadly in severe decline (the language, that is, not me!). In an attempt to spread awareness, I’d like to use a simple Irish phrase in my articles ó am go h-am. Linguists will likely guess the meaning from the context, or may use An Foclóir for assistance. Others might like to use Mrs. Google, or perhaps not. As my life-motto would remind me: No worries, mate.

So onwards to next week… Thinking cap on to look for an angle… Now where did I put that cap? If I could just find my glasses, I’d see it clearly.

“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

Pádraig, 13th June, 2020.