25 April 2015

The planty one

April comes and it's as though Nature has flipped a switch. Within a couple of weeks the garden and the woods have started to, well, burgeon is really the only word.

Back in February, I gathered these two photos together to remind myself that winter *would* eventually yield to spring and then to summer.

All change! Knocksink wood in winter and summer
But I don't need that reassurance now, the change is here ...

Malus ... perfect.
This year, I (and some helpers, thank you guys) did a lot of work simply splitting and moving things around in the garden. It's the sort of thing that more committed gardeners do regularly: splitting the perennials, ringing the changes in different parts of the garden, trying new things out. But it's really only over the last year or so that I feel I now have the time to do this sort of thing. And I'm loving it.

So: all the plants in and around the witch hazel and the Enkianthus in the back garden (one of my 'woodland' patches) were split and shifted around last autumn and this spring. The birches in the front garden now have an array of bleeding heart, Smilicina/Maianthemum and Pachyphragma macrophylla mixing in with all the spring bulbs that are lighting up that space too: narcissi and daffodils, anemones, scillas, that sort of thing... I love the space now and am hoping that the interest will continue with alliums, lilies and campion throughout the summer.

Spring under the birches in the front garden
Earlier in the spring I went to the annual GLDA seminar (thanks B!), and had a most enjoyable day listening to such erudite speakers as Thomas Rainer and Verney Naylor. I was a bit disappointed with the level of debate on the day, but the talks themselves were thoughtful and inspiring, even if the scale of the some of the work (e.g. Keith Wiley's Wildside Garden and Le Jardin Plume) was so daunting. My own patch looked very, very tiny on my return home. (Have a look at Le Jardin Plume: *one* of their squares is the same size as half of my back garden). Interesting thing too: since I've used Valentia pebbles and flags in my garden I asked B to paint the wooden fence--that he put up a couple of summers ago--what I thought would be a low-key purplish-slate colour. Here it is, in March, behind the rather bare and recently re-organised bed.

Hmm, not sure about the colour of that fence...
I came home that day, fresh from seeing recommendations from Verney that the perfect background for plants, to contrast well with their green, is a sort of red ochre. She showed many lovely images that proved her point. But the paint we had chosen looked a much more bluey purple than I imagined and I was more than a bit taken aback. I went through the 'oh for godsake how on earth can I imagine I should be let loose in a garden at all, I can't even get a background colour right' thing. But all was not lost... a fellow gardener (and architect) suggested that at these latitudes the cooler colours are a better backdrop and as spring has worked its magic and the plants have grown at the foot of and in front of the fence I've come to like it better. We'll see how it works as time goes on. Better than bare breeze blocks anyway. Here it is today:

Fence settling in 1...

Fence settling in 2...
Apologies for the pics, btw, they're just phone ones since my camera is being mended at the moment.

In other plant news, the Dublin and Ulster Shows of the Alpine Garden Society have been and gone. Some of my plants even did well at both shows (in the Novices section, natch): I got some firsts at both shows as well as a couple of thirds at the Dublin one.

Here's a beautiful tulip that won me a First at the Ulster Group AGS show:

My Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha (photo by catchlight.ie)
I also put a picture in the Artistic Section in both shows this year and it came first in both!

There are always lots of amazing plants at these shows: the results of painstaking effort on the part of their growers and nurterers. Here's one that won the much-coveted Farrer medal (well done Val!). It's Draba longisilqua, and is probably the parent of the Draba I was kindly given by another AGS expert a couple of years ago. Mine is still alive, but there hasn't been a single flower on it yet this year. Go figure!

Draba longisiliqua, grown by Val Keegan, winner of the AGS Farrer Medal in Dublin, April 2015
Spring weather has been a mixed bag here and this weekend was typical - sunny and showery; sunny and cold. A wet Saturday morning in Mount Usher gardens meant a quiet walk with few people around; not the best weather for visiting a garden, but even with the rain, there were moments of beauty:

Intricacies of a beech hedge in Mount Usher gardens

Fallen blossom in a rill in Mount Usher gardens
Go well all.


  1. Many congratulations on your well deserved artistic achievements///and the slate blue fence looks fine!