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.
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 headceann 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.
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.
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.
Clean wateruisce 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
The first Autumn storm is brewing. It’s a French one, Alex. I’m not sure is it a male or female one.
I watched a horror movie on CNN last Tuesday. They billed it as a debate, but that was a lie.
I did not find any election ballot papers in a bin anywhere.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
With my sincere thanks to Paddy, An Irish Gardener. Please send on more good recommendations, a chara.
Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens is a two-hour drive from Dungarvan. I simply cannot believe that I haven’t been there before, but I surely will again.
I don’t believe it.
Victor Meldrew, (One Foot In The Grave)
Featuring a remarkable selection of plants and trees, the oldest of which is 600, the garden is the historical home of the Acton family. The original Mr. Acton was a lieutenant in the army of a certain Oliver Cromwell. Going back further to the 7th century, there was a Christian monastery, presided over by a fella by the name of Mocheallóg. Apparently, the ruins of the monastery, dissolved by the much-married Henry 8th, were used to build the smallish Acton family home. We made the journey there yesterday, and I feel the day is worth recording. Rule 38.2.b comes into play.
Memories of our day-trip include:
Warm sunshine throughout
A badly-bruised toe, the second on my right
Brambles café is quaint and the food is good
Angela gave us a very interesting guided tour
Entrance and tour were free, thanks to OPW, paid for by my taxes
I was rushing home for yoga
Next time I’ll devote a full day and soak it all in slowly. My sincere thanks to my garden-blogger friend Paddy, also a Dungarvan native. Please send on more good recommendations, a chara. Is iontach an aoibhneas to be had on a stayanta-saoire day-trip, escaping the four garden walls.
Click/touch first picture, and swipe your way through.
I’ve been saying it for many years and I’d been thinking it for a few years prior to saying it. Now is the time to do it, and hey presto, it’s done in two days. It’s my Cold Frame 2020 v. 2.0. Timber bought, measured, cut and varnished yesterday. Assembled early this morning and now my many cuttings have a sheltered warmer home for the winter. I intend growing winter salad as well, and it will be a mighty advantage in getting vegetable seeds started much earlier in Spring. In April next year it will be used as a half-way-house between the glasshouse and the garden for delicate seedlings because I’ll be able to leave it wide open during the day and closed at night.
It’s a deluxe Cold Frame, with two separate WiFi-controlled hinged vents and stylish teak knobs. I decided to place it directly on the concrete walls of my raised bed but it can easily be moved to the next bed or even further along the bed. It will not be needed between May and August and the area will be needed for vegetables, so I may just move it away to a quiet corner. Why on earth did I not get this sorted years ago? Note: it’s not WiFi-controlled!
I did have a Cold Frame back in the last century, but now I’m bang up-to-date again. However, I am looking for advice. This frame is west-facing and gets sunlight most of the day, and importantly from midday to 4pm it’s direct sunlight. Will I need to shade it? Will cuttings survive inside? If it were WiFi-controlled I’d be able to pull a blind remotely.
As I mentioned up top, this was in my mind and on the tip of my tongue for ages, yet it was only when I saw a friend of mine showing his gorgeous updates on Instagram that I was prodded into action. Bit of maths, trip to Topline, gloves and paint, wine & sleep, and finished the job before breakfast. I might toast my efforts with a further glass or two of Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva. Would that be good advice?
It is highly likely that this super-duper high-tech project (and the contents within) will feature over and over again in future articles. I am excited, and in a strange way, looking forward to some cold weather! Having said as much, I sat in the gáirdín this afternoon in warm sunshine. Felt like about twenty. The thermostat in the Cold Frame measured 28.3C just before 4pm.
“Why isn’t it called a Warm Frame?”, my daughter asks.
Míle buíochas to my brother Ray for his willingness to donate two teak windows to the project. There will be a half dozen plants winging his way in 2022.
It’s overcast here in Dungarvan and there has been light overnight mist. Seems like a good time to continue with a few more cuttings. Today it’s Acer time. I’ve got 15 little babies in the making, three of each. That would be 18, you say… However, two of the images within the collage are from the same plant, but which two? Have you any recommended Acers? I’d opt for Seiryu, Orange Dream and two unknown ones, simply because that’s what I’ve got!
These cuttings are safely tucked away in a shaded corner and I’ll keep a close eye on them. Ideally, I’d prefer a cold frame. Maybe I’ll tackle that before winter. Time now for late breakfast. Bricfeasta.
Two days later… It’s DONE. I’ve completed the Cold Frame in double quick time. Here it is.
My bike-stand has served me well. When it’s not in use for washing my rothar, it doubles as a bird-feeder prop. Included also is the warped & wobbly deadwood, varnished to extend its death-life.
This bike-stand, although not used as a bike-stand as often as it should, has served me well. Last night was proof of the cleaning when I participated in my club 20km time-trial. My personal best back in 2017 was 36m30s and I clipped 34 seconds off that, coming home in 35:56. Time to clean the bike? Not yet, I’m thinking. Time to relax in the gáirdín and enjoy the summer. Every time I look at the bird-feeder I’ll do so with satisfaction!
I have started into my sixty-third orbit of the sun, and to mark the occasion I include here excerpts from my Instagram write-about-my-garden every day challenge. Each day’s entry is written to a given theme. Luckily, there was plenty of cake to inspire me. Here’s my garden week:
Monday: Birthday Blooms
It’s my breithlá and I relaxed in the garden on Monday morning. The beautiful blooms, assembled using YouCollage, are… Lily Trumpeter, Rosa Just Joey, Cornflower, Geranium Johnson Blue, Strawberry Red, Begonia, and mixed grasses. Although last one is technically not a beautiful bloomer, I’m taking liberty of adding it, coz it’s my birthday.
Tuesday: Three Little Things
I’ve completed a separate article because I had wine. It’s a bit long, and it’s “deadly”. You don’t know what deadly really means? Have a read and pay particular attention to the comments!
Wednesday : The Scent of Summer
I’m half way through the month and actually enjoying this challenge to write something about my garden (mostly my garden) every day. My good friend Tricia shares a birthday with me, and we celebrated it for a few hours together with her lovely children on Monday, and I was given a brand new mug to start off my 63rd year. Today, as I sit at the breakfast corner, with my toast, double-yolk egg and coffee, I get the scent of Lily Trumpeter from a distance of ten metres. The coffee smells good too.
I’m the gardener and OH is the crafter. Therefore, there is a craft room and a garden operating side by side, in aice a gcéile. It’s a mismatch, but one that actually helps us be together. A mismatch made in heaven? I wouldn’t go that far, but we have toiled here for thirty-two sun orbits. Neither puts in on the other, despite varying interests.
7pm update: The seagulls are circling as the flying ants leave their nests to find a new home. It’s a feeding frenzy, but I suspect that enough of the little girls will survive. Surely, they know that they’ve been through a battlezone, and will settle into their new homes, grateful that the natural urge to run the gauntlet has been successful. On the other hand, surely the seagulls are taking it easy now that they’ve had a feed of protein other than fish. Bit like Christmas Day for them.
Friday – To Shop Or Not To Shop
If it’s a choice between the two, I now choose NOT TO SHOP. My garden is in good shape, probably the best it’s been for quite a long while. Also, given everything that has happened this year, many folk have come to the conclusion that we can live gratefully without spending.
Most summers I draw a line somewhere in June. After that, the garden is there to enjoy & relax in. The summer annuals are in. The bulk of the work is done and only small maintenance jobs are on the agenda, such as watering and some weeding. No further purchases are needed until tree & shrub planting in November. That’s also the beginning of seed catalogue browsing, which will lead to shopping. There’s a commonly used phrase “Shop till you drop” and I now amend it to “Drop the Shopping”.
It has been very dull for the past few weeks. In fact, my wife went so far as to suggest that it was boring. Bland, lacking a little je-ne-sais-quoi and indeed just very… dull.
The weather has also been dull, yet that’s outside even my wife’s control. On the other hand, the bare patio needed just a little something, and she requested that I draw up three plans for her consideration. I am so happy that she put the hosepipe to my head because the hard work is now done and the patio is not even the slightest bit boring!
My six plants this week are being classed as one tightly-packed group. Management needed policies & safe practices to effect a solution to an issue I encountered after buying lots of plants recently. I have a central area on the patio which changes in appearance regularly. In it I have some permanent containers, together with some annuals. The last step in the process is to pack my newly-bought plants tightly in and around the others until I decide in Autumn where to plant them.
Generally, they are placed on the sheltered side so that they do not suffer too much from the heat of the summer sun. Included at the moment are…
various ornamental grasses
Spiraea Red Carpet
Ilex crenata Golden Gem
three Euonymus Emerald Gaiety
six Emerald Gold
and a Fairy Door
About once every six weeks I rearrange the plants, give them a decent soaking in a tray and add the new ones that I was unable to resist at the garden centre checkout till.
Anyone who remembers my post from a few weeks ago will know also that the fairies are in residence and the Fairy Door can be seen by zooming. No, not that kind of zooming! Continuous zooming will bring the nameplate on the door into clear view. “Fairy’s Live Here”.
Top Fairy left me a cryptic note last Thursday. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, but clarification arrived after I appeased her with the promise of more plants to disguise the main entrance. Ar ndóigh, it appears that some of the wee clan want to sign up for this Six on Saturday thingy hosted by PJ, but frustration has set in because my WiFi does not reach within their door, and I am reminded to get it sorted… Or else… My boiled egg will be rotten, my rothar punctured or the bindweed will return.
There’s no longer anything dull on the patio, nor within the hidden micro-residences. My wife is pleased. Top Fairy is onside again and I’m off to spend a long day in the gáirdín. I hope you all have a good week, and that there may be some gardening involved.