Killing Two Birds

As a bald man, I’ve skinned my head badly on a regular basis when entering the glasshouse. The sharp lintel is just a wee bit too low and there’s a very slight lip at ground level so I’ve had a tendency to look down to avoid tripping. I’ve cut my head so many times down through the blianta.

Furthermore, the overhead glass triangle broke a few years ago. I had patched it with hardboard but it became warped and weather-damaged. De facto, in reverse: weather-damaged and warped. Yesterday, I killed two birds with one drill.

Firstly, I replaced the hardboard. Easy peasy. Secondly, I drilled a few holes and inserted three drop down alarms using plastic string, and knotted them for effect. Environmentalists will cringe.

Problems solved. After breakfast, I’m off to the safe glasshouse zone to check on new seeds sown last weekend. I’ve got pot marigold, lettuce and Sweet Pea. Clearly, the tomatoes are unwilling to ripen and I may remove them. It’s really sad, but sin mar atá.

Pádraig,

8th September 2020

Six on Saturday – National Garden Exhibition Centre

I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching.

For thirty-five years I returned to work during the first week of September. It marked the beginning of the new school year and put a halt to my summer gallop. My wife and I slowly stopped going places, we began the slowing-down process in preparation for winter stay-at-home coziness. This semi-hibernation lasted each year until the end of February, and although I no longer work for a living, our summer still finishes at the end of August. The first of September is like New Year’s Day.

Our only staycation this year was in County Wicklow the week before last, and I include memories here to look back on in thirty years time, using the nursing-home-supplied iPad. I’ll be 92. Come along with me on a magical journey to the National Gardens Exhibition Centre in Kilquaide, County Wicklow on the east coast near Dublin. As with the recent storm-force-Francis winds, I’m bending the SOS guidelines very severely as these images are sixteen days old.

1. Move along, move along…

Step from one garden into another, similar to moving from one season into the next. Life moves along and changes, sometimes seamlessly and at other times abruptly. There’s a step up this time. In other cases, life throws in a step down or even a steep drop.

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. - Yoko Ono

2. Let there be darkness…

We visited in mid-afternoon, following forty-eight hours of rain and wind. The weather was just beginning to brighten, yet there was a darkness very uncharacteristic of August. I am reminded that life brings such dark moments when we least expect them. Embrace life in all its strange times.

3. Think beyond…

On a more positive note, this little nook brings to my mind the beauty of looking beyond the present. There is light beyond the darkness. This time will pass.

4. Creating from nothing…

Whoever created this scene obviously started with the stone steps and planted around them. I’d like to think that the creator is able to see the beauty that has resulted. A vision to create beauty from within.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

5. Shade and Light…

I was struck by this scene. Life brings us moments of bright sunshine and darker times. The trick may be to realise that everything is constantly changing. Rotha mór an t-saoil. The wheels of life keep turning.

6. New arrival. ..

This is the Wicklow Budda. I’m told I should rub his belly every few days. Marion has waited a long time to find the right one for this spot. I did mention that a Fitbit would look good on his wrist but she knew I was only being half-serious.

7. On a personal note…

Throwback to this time seven years ago. My retirement clock. I’ve been #busybusy ever since. Busy also finding time to do the things I love. Cycling, gardening, writing and lots more. I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching. Here’s to the next seven. I’ll be 69. (Originally posted on Instagram. I’ve no time for that Facebook craic, and I’m better for its disappearance from my day.)

That’s my lot for this week, a cháirde. I’ll be back with more an Satharn seo chugainn. In the meantime, please visit Mr. Propagator’s garden blog where you can find many more Six on Saturday offerings from around the world, together with details of how to participate if that’s your thing. I’ll be spending some time today, tomorrow (or perhaps even yesterday?) reading articles by so many others, and I’ll not be clock-watching ar chor ar bith. I hope you have a great week, be it in the garden, the potting shed or elsewhere. Slán go fóill.

Pádraig,

5th September 2020.

Cold Frame v. 2.0

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.

7-9am this morning. Breakfast well earned.

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.

Baby, it’s hot inside.

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.

Sky above and cuttings below.

Credits:

  1. 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.
  2. Christopher, my Instagram friend from Belfast, who got me started.

Pádraig,

Thursday, 3rd September 2020.

September 2016

Four years ago today, I was a bit obsessed with taking cuttings. It didn’t just develop overnight.

Here’s the proof. I originally had this on my previous blog, so here’s a reminder to my older 2050 self that it was there too. I’ll be 92. I did love PetalsByPáraig but I didn’t love Blogger. I did like it at the time, but it was not love. Links may be out of date. Bit like myself, I suppose.

Note: Páraig is the shortened version of Pádraig, aka Pat, Patrick, Patsy and Paddy. My wife loves Páraig, and I love her too.

Looking back…

Looking back, three things I notice now:

  • The shed was much tidier.
  • There’s a very professional-looking dibber.
  • I was using very posh terminology: Pelargonium rather than ordinary-Joe-soap Geranium.
  • Blogger was not my favourite piece of software.
  • I loved Marion back then too.

Pádraig,

2nd September 2020.

Acers in Autumn

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.

Acer cuttings & others

Late update…

Two days later… It’s DONE. I’ve completed the Cold Frame in double quick time. Here it is.

Pádraig,

1st September 2020.

Six on Saturday – Cut and Change

I’m going to cut to the chase, without further ado. Pronto, as it were. There will be no dilly-dallying or beating about the bush. I shall abandon the preliminaries and get stuck in immediately, foregoing the unnecessary preambles, because I’m eager to cut corners in order to get to the nub of the matter. Simply put, it’s the last weekend of August. It’s time for me to start making baby plants from cuttings. I’m cutting corners (twice) and layers of red tape to bring you my Six this Saturday. There are thirty cuttings and five rooted seedlings below. That’s thirty-five. Triocha-cúig.

1 and 2: Lavender & Fuchsia

I was kindly asked to stop using peat-based compost recently, and I gave the matter some thought. Not much thought, but enough. I rummaged in the shed to find that I already have an organic peat-free bag hiding behind the other ones, so I used it, mixed with some sand, to pot up some fuchsia and lavender cuttings.

9 Lavender & 6 Fuchsia

There is a growing trend (yes, a growing trend) to move away from using peat. I had known about it from my work in the local garden centre last year, yet it sometimes takes a little kick up the ar backside to make change happen. Likely, it may be a bit too nutritious, so I’m wondering is there a peat-free product specifically for cuttings and/or seed-sowing? I’m sure there is. I love answering my own question! I’m sure others reading this may also love answering my question.  I am learning so much from other gardeners and I’m happy to be more enlightened.

3. Hebe ‘Rhubarb and Custard’

I wrote about this only a dew days ago, and I’m not in the habit of repeating myself so go check it out here. The comments section highlights the gentle kick up the backside mentioned above.

Nine Hebe Rhubarb & Custard

4. Skimmia ‘Temptation’

I notice that some of the leaves of this (gift from my daughter for Christmas 2018) are cut. It’s not unusual to cut large leaves when taking cuttings. There’s a very good reason for it.

3 Skimmia

5. Leucothoe ‘Red Lips’

The common name has me smiling! It’s called Dog Hobble. Smiling is good as it helps exercise many facial muscles that simply do not get moving while sulking. Dog Hobble Red Lips. Again, I decided to snip the leaves horizontally for the same very good reason as above.

3 Dog Hobble

6. Helleborus

This one is not a cutting, but rather a few small rooted seedlings that had grown beneath the parent plant. It’s a plant that I really like. There’s an interesting story I’d like to share about this parent plant.

5 Hellebores
In 2018 we noticed that it was  being ravaged by whitefly after flowering. I wanted to deal with the blighters privately and Marion wanted the plant snipped to ground level, but I objected strongly. I returned home one fine day to find that it had been given a haircut. Number one. Later, peace was restored when I discovered that there were little seedlings seeding beneath. My wife is always right. I must write that seventy times. 

Other News

  • Storm Francis brought lots more rain last Monday night and very blustery winds on Tuesday. Very strangely, there were a few hours of lovely gardening weather in between. No damage this time. Sadly though, I got word that our friends in Santa Cruz have had to evacuate their home because of the raging fires there.
  • America has had very severe problems. Ireland had Golfgate. Both are horrific.
  • Our new Budda is in situ and I rub his belly every few days. It seems that lots of rain follows.

Get involved…

Has anyone got tips or tricks about taking plant cuttings? Or perhaps advice about what has worked or failed? Do please share. I am more than happy to get as good as I give.

That’s my lot for this week, a cháirde. I’ll be back with more an Satharn seo chugainn. In the meantime, please visit Mr. Propagator’s garden blog where you can find many more Six on Saturday offerings from around the world, together with details of how to participate if that’s your thing. I hope you have a great week, be it in the garden, the potting shed or elsewhere. Slán go fóill.

About the Author: Pádraig is the author of GrowWriteRepeat. He loves cutting plants, baby seedlings and Dog Hobble. He also loves the Buddha’s big belly, but not storms in August. More about him here.

Pádraig,

29th August 2020.

Hebe ‘Rhubarb & Custard’

I bought three Hebe Rhubarb & Custard plants back in April 2020, and planted them near the roses. They have settled in very well and are putting on good growth.

I had held off buying these from the previous year because they were overpriced everywhere. Eventually, my patience was rewarded as I got them for less than half price.

Now is the time, I think, to take some cuttings. The plan is to take three from each plant. I had written about it on Instagram in June.

Previous Articles about Hebe

Below is a repeat photograph taken this week from the same angle as the one above. I can see that they are growing well.

In 2022 these three will grow to become one large group.

How to Propagate from Cuttings

Here is a very simple guide to propagating Hebe from cuttings:

Step 1: Cut and trim the lower leaves and remove the growing tip. Dip each cutting in rooting powder and shake off any excess.

Step 2: Fill containers with a mixture of peat and sand. Water well and leave for a few hours to drain. Use a pencil to make three holes and place one cutting in each. I had nine cuttings, and put three in each pot. I always liked maths. From these nine, I expect to get four or five new plants. Place the pots in a cold frame or a sheltered spot. I do not have a cold frame (yet) so I will go for plan B, and I’ll check them in about six weeks. I will pull very gently and if they have rooted I will know immediately. Its exciting.

The logical deduction is that I can now buy more plants and still save money.

Such excitement!

Note: Storm Francis arrived last night. Plenty rain and some wind, but nothing as severe as Ellen last week. Today is a bright and fresh, ideal for gardening.

Pádraig,

Tuesday, 25th August 2020

Six on Saturday – Fake Mexicans & Clever Italians

There is a distinctly beginning-of-Autumn feel about my garden as the fourth Saturday of August rolls along. There’s also a distinctly scary feel as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, regardless of the approach of the changing season. I’ve been reading about the history of pandemics and it’s very grim. As a species we are vulnerable. This time around, we have the benefit of science, but many refuse to heed advice. It’s a sort of Superman Syndrome, I fear.

My Six this week features four of my top ten plants that regularly do well in my garden. Included also is some information about Storm Ellen, blue pollen, enlarged testicles and clever Italians. To be clear, all are unconnected.

1&2 Fuchsia

Discovered in Haiti, Fuchsias are named after a German botanist, while some originate from New Zealand. All have the particularity of having blue pollen. This pollen was used by young Maori people to adorn their face, probably well before the official discovery of the genus. The plant is not known to have any medicinal uses. It’s just there to brighten up our lives, especially during pandemic times. The Smallpox Pandemic ravaged Europe on and off for centuries, but when it was brought to the Americas it killed up to 90-95% of the population in just a century. Smallpox was the first Pandemic to be completely ended by a vaccine.

“We’ll have a vaccine. Very soon. Very soon”, the Mexican fella said.

Fake News: He wasn’t Mexican.

Here’s a lighter brighter one.

Speaking of lighter… Have you heard the latest?

Maori 1: Will we put on the blue stuff?
M2: No, wait awhile. It hasn't been discovered yet.
M1: Righteo. Kakai.

3. Heuchera Binoche

Native American people used some Heuchera (Alumroot) species medicinally. The Tlingit native Indians used Heuchera glabra as an herbal remedy for inflammation of the testicles caused by syphilis. To the Navajo, Heuchera novamexicana was a panacea and a pain reliever. The Smallpox Pandemic (see above) reduced the population of Mexico from eleven million people to one million.

4. Nasturtium Alaska

I may have included Nasturtiums before, and I’m delighted to do so once again. This is Alaska and I like the flowers and the leaves. During the lockdown months since March so many amateur gardeners started to grow their own food. We know that the flowers of these plants can be eaten, usually in summer salads, and the leaves are a firm favourite with little caterpillars. This was not the case during the Black Death 1347, because this native Central American plant didn’t arrive on the scene until nearly two hundred years later. The Black Death killed an estimated two hundred million people in four years. On a trivial note, its very likely that several ego-maniacal tribal leaders lost power, simply because they thought it would go away. Meanwhile, it was at this time in Venice that the clever Italians had a clever idea:

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino, the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.

https://www.history.com/news/pandemics-end-plague-cholera-black-death-smallpox

5&6 Dahlia

Native to Central America, the dahlia was first introduced into Great Britain from Spain in 1798. In Europe and America, prior to the discovery of insulin in 1923, diabetics, as well as consumptives, were often given a substance called Atlantic starch, extracted from dahlia tubers. This knowledge simply was not there during the Plague of Justinian in 521. An estimated half of the population of the known world died. Justinian lost power in a flash. Perhaps he thought it would just go away.

This is a smaller, yet equally beautiful dahlia, loved by the bees and I. It’s hardly worth highlighting that there’s no blue pollen here.

Unseasonal Weather

  • Monday was a washout. There was a passing shower here last Sunday night, but it took 24 hours to pass along to somewhere else.
  • Tuesday was the only decent day for cycling. When I checked on Tuesday morning the roses were a soggy mess, the gladioli were hanging horizontally and even the lettuces looked miserable.
  • On Wednesday night Storm Ellen arrived with severe level-orange winds that blew the entire soggy mess into tidy heaps in several nooks. There was severe damage to the dahlias in particular. The Café au Lait above was levelled.
  • Thursday was wet so we headed for a staycation to Glendalough, home of my friend Kevin, in County Wicklow, known also as the Garden County.
  • Friday was wet again. We visited the National Garden Exhibition to meet old friends. Such a visit needed to me marked with a gardening purchase or two, so we bought a small Acer and a big Budda.

We are an expanding group of gardeners who write. We write about six items in our gardens, and we do it on Saturdays. I’ve been doing this since June and I enjoy nothing more than reading about and seeing other gardens from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, USA and Britain. Lest we forget, hundreds more choose to publish on Twitter and Instagram. We follow the leader Jon and Jon follows us. You can find out more about it here. You may read and follow, or like myself, you may choose to write and follow. Either way, it’s great fun!

I do sincerely hope that no misinformation is circulating as I type. Primarily, I have used History.com as my source. Full article here is worth an eight-minute read.

Pádraig,

Saturday, 22nd August (Lúnasa) 2020