Furthermore And Also: Short Days Challenge

Last autumn I had wondered what on earth I’d write about during the winter. It is easier when the garden is ablaze with life and colour. It is easier when there’s lots happening. I had thought that winter would be very tricky. I could not have been more wrong. Furthermore and also, the past two months have given me a dreamy insight into my garden and my appreciation of it.
Christmas has come and gone. I have always liked Christmas, and this year was different. It occurred to me only last week that, for those of us in the mid-northern latitudes, it has been created to occur just at the perfect time of the year. It is mid-winter, yet it is exactly four days after the equinox. Things are on the up. Farmers are looking ahead to spring and animal birth. Gardeners, like myself, are looking ahead to warmer weather, longer days and new plant life. Indeed, there will be rough weather ahead during the months of January and February (and perhaps March/April too, if last year is anything to go by). It was a tough time for gardeners, farmers and many others. Ireland nearly ran out of bread. Yet, just a very short ten weeks later Ireland baked in the long drought. The toaster was set to crispy. I cannot remember warm weather like the summer of 2018. It was astonishing. The spirit of the nation was lifted. It remained lifted despite a prolonged abortion referendum here in Ireland, or perhaps because of it. It remained lifted until such time as Ireland beat the All-Blacks in mid-November, and on a personal level, it remained lifted as I began my daily Short Days Garden Challenge. I wrote about it twice recently (here and here), so this final 2018 article completes the trilogy.

Thursday, December 20th: The geranium cuttings from mid-November are doing well. They look healthy, and likely the underground rooting system is underway. I will keep a close eye on these over the coming 6-8 weeks to ensure they thrive. Even in the glasshouse, there is the possibility of frost damage. I noticed yesterday that the thermometer (which gives maximum and minimum readings) recorded 1.1 degrees recently. The glasshouse is entirely free of draughts, yet I will remain vigilant. Páraig the Vigilant! If there are very cold nights ahead I may bring these delicate babies indoors.
Lovely weather here in Ireland today. I got some last-minute Christmas gifts sorted and enjoyed my usual full Irish breakfast. Not in that order, of course. Hope all my friends here are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas time. It can be a lonely time for some, so try to look in on an elderly neighbour, or simply spread a contagious smile. Little things can mean a lot.

Lookin’ good there

Friday, December 21st: it’s mid-winter, Solstice day. Warm sunshine before the rain arrived. It’s very mild too. I spent a short while doing a few small jobs, such as topping up all the daffodil pots with a shallow layer of gravel to keep weeds away and a very tiny pinch of bone meal to feed them. Also generous scattering of fertiliser around the roses. Come summer solstice in June I’ll be glad that I fed them. Having spent my few minutes in the winter garden, it was then time to go wife-shopping. How very necessary, and yet exciting. My wife rewards me so much more than my garden, so fair’s fair.
Have you anything/anyone more important than your garden?

Shortest day, sunshine and grey
Saturday, December 22nd: Here’s another shot of one of my favourite plants, Nandina Firepower, as it changes colour through the cold weather. It certainly brightened my journey this morning as I went for a very short walk before breakfast.
Afterwards, I cycled with Marion and other friends in dense fog to our favourite Summerhouse in Lismore for coffee and mince pies. This lovely bike-friendly cafe is very aptly named! The fog was very heavy but the mince pies were deliciously light and flavoursome. Finally, I returned to view the lovely Nandina amid mid-afternoon watery sunshine once again. I consider this a really good day, and a few Guinness with my friend later were very pleasant too. 
Nandina Fire Power again
Sunday, December 23rd: Today’s winter garden is as much my Sunday biking as anything. After a damp mucky ride I needed to wash the bike and overshoes. As I strolled down the garden to the glasshouse I noticed that the flashing lights on the heel of the shoes were still on. It’s all about being as visible as possible on the roads. Together with front and rear lights and an extra one on my helmet I know that I’m doing my best to be safe.
In this case the gardening connection is loose, but it can clearly be seen that the two grey pots act as a perfect bike stand, while the tiny tip of emerging narcissus can just be seen top right. You may need to go to Specsavers to get a clear view.
Good to combine two of my passions
It’s there, but barely visible, just below the centre in the pot.
Monday, December 24th: 

Tis Christmas Eve and Santa Claus
will bring his gifts tonight.
We’ll hang our stockings by the bed,
And wait until it’s light.
I wonder what he’ll bring for you?
And what he’ll bring for me?
Ah! There! It’s no use wondering,
You’ll have to wait and see!

An old man said to me, won’t see another one
Tuesday, December 25th: Happy Christmas from Dungarvan. It’s that wonderful time of the year. The fuchsia is still in leaf. Normally, it would be bare many weeks ago but we have had only three frost nights and it lingers on beyond its time.

Fuchsia non-denudendum

Returning to an attempt to connect gardening and my cycling, I received the most exceptional gift today. Not the love of the two great women in my life, which is hugely important and unconditional. My daughter gave me a miniature 5cm replica of me on my bike. Paraig ar a rothar! Complete with beard, exact Ridley bike replica, Fulcrum wheels and new DCC gear. Uphill drag about 2% but the Lady Belle (my favourite Guinness watering hole) is not far away! Go raibh maith agat, a stór.

Created by #minifigurescenes
Wednesday, December 26th: this time I am visiting Ballinacourty, Cappagh to view things from a different angle, and I come away with an extended wishlist.

Joan’s garden in Cappagh
Until next year, see ya around!
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves winter, summer and cycling in both. Furthermore and also, he likes Christmas, sherry trifle and an uplifted spirit, but not essential last-minute wife-shopping.

Short Days Challenge

This week I focus on a challenge I joined lately. It’s called Short Days Challenge. I briefly introduced it just last week. The idea is to note the little things in the winter garden and to publish one item every day between November and February on Instagram using the #shortdayschallenge hashtag. Now, I take a look back for this Throwback Thursday at the daily winter little things I noted.

Friday, December 7th: Today’s winter garden: Another journey starting. I loved cacti and succulents many years ago. Having visited Deep Route Gardening in Cork during the week, I returned with enough plants to kick-start my interest once again.

Thanks to Deep Route Gardening in Cork 

Saturday, December 8th: Today’s winter garden: I purchased a replacement thermometer for the glasshouse. The previous one fell into a barrel of rainwater about 15 years ago. This machine measures maximum and minimum and the humidity and well.

Temperature & humidity data log

Sunday, December 9th: Today’s winter garden: almost identical colour and petal form on two great winter plants: wallflowers and violas. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things.

Wallflower and viola

Monday, December 10th: Warm mid-morning sunshine. Small flowering plants at this time really stand out. These are smashers!

December sunshine 

Tuesday, December 11th: I put out a query as follows… “Can anyone I’d this plant please? It was bought as a trailing annual and has thrived to such an extent that it has rooted wherever it can. In fact, I’m now wondering will it survive the winter as three nights of frost seems to have had no effect on it.”

Glechoma hederacea variegata (Ground ivy) 

Speedily, the information came back from several sources:

plantbump
I  think it’s a variegated #groundivy 👀🌿

petalsbyparaig
@plantbump Many thanks. Indeed it is! The same info came through via #gardentags. Glechoma hederacea variegata.

Wednesday, December 12th: Today’s winter garden: It’s good to take a photograph from near ground level. Just another angle on things. Parhaps this is the everyday view of this section of the garden seen by our two Yorkies, Molly & Becks?

Ground photo. Nandina in foreground 

Thursday, December 13th: Today’s winter garden: Plants thrive in small spaces. Top left: nasturtium in a sheltered cul-de-sac. Top right: Geranium rozanne is now dormant but resurrection will happen. Bottom left: leaf shelter for the homeless creatures of the garden, and finally, another cranesbill rooted between wall and patio. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things.

Nasturtium, dormant geranium, leaf-shelter & a second geranium 

Would you like to join in? Simply use the hashtag #shortdayschallenge either on your blog, Facebook or Instagram to connect with many others noticing the little winter things that bring delight to these short days. Have you a favourite winter item in your garden, be it plant, structure or ornament?

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves his Yorkies and winter and low-angled photographs. He also loves post-winter resurrection, warmer temperature in the glasshouse and Garden Tags software but not exclusively. Shoot Gardening is his software of choice.

Tuesday’s Three Things

I took a short stroll around the dying garden yesterday before breakfast. This is something I like to do regularly and I bring a small notepad and camera with me. I have found great joy in doing this. There was a time that I would scan through my online Irish Times while waiting for my 11-minute boiled egg, but not any more. The breaking news stories and opinion pieces are not conducive to starting the day as I would like, but a few minutes in the garden gets me in a great frame of mind. It’s not that everything is always rosy, akin to the daily news, but I like to notice small things and I have other small things that need attending to thrust in my face. Here’s this week’s Three Things:

Three Things I Noticed: 

  1. The Christmas baubles on the acer and the apple tree since 2016 are to the fore once again. I put them there just before Christmas in 2016 (yes, that’s right!) and decided to leave them as permanent fixtures. In fact there are times when I forget they are there because they become almost invisible when the leaves appear.
    Slight discolouration after two years
  2. I planted Forget-Me-Not along the base of the rockery a few years ago. Perhaps it was 2016, once again. They flower in late spring and the profusion of light-blue is stunning. Furthermore, they self-seed freely, and they have appeared every year, mostly in the same area. At times some seed gets scattered to other nearby areas and I am surprised in late autumn to find a thriving new plant. This year, because my patio slabs have plenty cracks between, the Forget-Me-Not has found a new home. They look very shook at this time of the year, but I am determined to overlook that because the late-spring will bring such a lovely show of colour. The beauty of this plant really is the fact that nature does all the work and I get all the satisfaction. There are other benefits to leaving this plant where it seeded. It becomes a safe hiding place for insects, as falling leaves get trapped around the base, providing more shelter. It is always checked out by the birds for food. My wife scatters birdseed regularly and they gobble it up quickly. When is all seems gone, they start looking carefully for hidden leftovers in hidden places such as this.
    Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not) and house sparrow
  3. I planted Wallflower Winter Passion at the base of the same rockery in 2016. Generally, they come into flower in January, but this year they have started early.
    Wallflower Winter Passion

    Three Jobs To Be Done

  1.  I bought a water feature several years ago. It was definitely before 2016, but I have not yet connected the electrics. I like the sound of running water, particularly when it’s not raining! This task is now added to my to-do list.
  2. My to-do list generally  gets sorted. If there are essential jobs they get prioritised and sorted earlier. Well, one of the tasks added to my list this time last year (not 2016, you understand) was to replace a pane of broken glass in the glasshouse. It’s the place where broken glass usually breaks! It remains on my list to this day, so as I opened the glasshouse door and vent, I was reminded to undertake the task. Otherwise, there’s not much point in having a to-do list. I will prioritise this one, simply because the few small plants directly inside must be shivering in a severe draught.
    On my list since last year!
  3. There are two fuchsias on the other rockery, planted approximately two metres apart, but are quickly growing towards one another at an alarming rate. That will be ideal, but unfortunately, there are two very small shrubs in between. They are Nandina Heavenly Bamboo, currently at a height of approximately 30cm. Therefore, these will have to be moved, because they will not remain heavenly if they get smothered by the native fuchsias. They are really beautiful at this time of the year, and in fact, I highlighted this particular shrub recently.
    Heavenly Bamboo

Three Favourite Plants

Finally, as I wrap up my five-minute pre-breakfast ramble, it’s time for my current three favourite plants:

  1. Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle)
  2. Skimmia Temptation, highlighted only last week
  3. Dahlia Cafe au Lait, which is still flowering 

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves breakfast, draught-free glasshouses and has very good memories of 2016. He also likes watching the birds and providing safe places for them, but he prefers not to read the morning newspapers before a short garden ramble.