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.

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

Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens

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.

Pádraig, digital manipulator

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
Combined age: approx 568

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.

This is a first for Kilmacurragh. I’m sure of it.

Gallery:

Click/touch first picture, and swipe your way through.

One For The Road

Love is… digital manipulation

Pádraig,

23 September 2020