There can be no doubt but Irish gardens look their best in June !
The patch of ground at the entrance to the lower garden has been idle since Snezana tackled the Japanese knotweed there two years ago and after clearing I sprayed with round up at three week intervals throughout last year and we seem to have got rid of the knotweed . I have been slowly planting the sloping area with ground cover geranium slips and a few weeks ago decided to tidy up with a small edging of natural rock and I started with five nice pieces and as always with rockeries I let the stones decide which direction to take using the largest rocks as the starting point or the focus of the build , every single stone has a “good ” side and when it clicks into place as it were you know it has found it’s home and basically each stone should be buried up to a third of it’s size with the largest rocks to the front and graduating back with the smaller ones , mimicking what nature does with natural rock escarpments as this gives the natural look and what you need to avoid is the cherry cake effect where stones are just heaped on with no plan and there is nothing as bad as a badly constructed rockery and each stone has to be looked at from several angles to make sure it looks right .
I planted it up over three weeks with alpines such as sedums and campanula , plants that will mound and remain low with a few nepeta (cat mint) whose flowers will give structure and you would be right in thinking that the silver birch is and will be out of place but we selected this to be seen from the kitchen in the winter months when you need a few beacons of white bark to lighten up the gloom .
How the area looked four years ago with the knotweed in full swing in June 2015 .
After the Chelsea Flower Show the next important show in the UK is the Chatsworth Show which ran for a week earlier in June , both are run by the Royal Horticultural Society and both had as their theme back to nature with cow parsley and gunnera dominating the show gardens … not a coincidence and in these days of fake news and Big Brother online surveillance one hopes that the gardening industry doesen’t sit down and try to shape our trees and shrub preferences . .. fine if they are doing it for cultural or taste reasons and as for myself the more gardeners who switch from chocolate box pretty pretty flowering plants to wild gardening the better .
The Irish RHS visited here back in June 2015 and I wrote about their visit at the time “ On Tuesday June 15th the Royal Horticulture Society rolled up from Dublin and every corner of the garden was examined from top to bottom by over thirty members of the oldest garden society in Ireland ……. a very enjoyable visit by some of the top amateur gardeners in a Ireland .”
In February we had to change part of the front garden to get at the power supply for the outside garden lights , a messy job which saw holes dug at intervals in what was an unsuccessful search and led to a complete rewiring of the lights together with the removal of the ten or so cornus elegantissimus . I loved those dogwoods for their variegated leaf in the summer and the red bark in winter but even I would admit I had left them grow too big with the result that they reached to almost three metres high at the height of the summer and covered up that part of the Front Garden but still I loved those leaves ! However much as I loved the dogwoods , Snezana disliked them as she felt they cluttered up the area … higgedly piggedly in her words … and much as I try to accommodate her design wishes in the garden I , over the years , had dug my heels in … the dogwoods were staying !
However … ahem … I liked the bare look of the area without the dogwoods and yes it did as she has been preaching ( nagging ?) for years open up the entire area and allowed the two mature trees there , a silver birch jacquemontii and a liquidamber , to stand out whereas before their lower growth had been smothered by the dogwoods … shouldda gone to Specsavers earlier !!
Gardens do and should evolve over time and a make over every few years can be a positive as shrubberies , plantings ( and gardeners !) can get stale and I do have to accept that I am a tad conservative in engaging in large scale change in the garden unless such as here where I had no choice ( if I wanted the garden lights to work again ) so it made the decision easier … but the sound of crowing from the other gardener here was fierce annoying !
I have planted the new area up with a variety of ground cover plants , three small hebes , seven heathers WT Radcliffe variety , masses of geranium biokovo and nudosum , some Bergenia and in the Autumn I will carpet the area with dwarf daffodils and crocus for early Spring colour next year .
An old friend from my time with Revenue at Rosslare Customs , Austin Rowan , visited in early June . Austin and I last worked together in 1984 and since then Austin has enjoyed a thirty year career with the EU based in Brussels , retiring two years ago .
Colour in the garden in June
My most dramatic plant in the June garden is undoubtedly the giant gunnera which does really well here because of the moisture retentive soil which even at the height of summer heat ( summer heat in Ireland ?!) does not dry out and which provides the right conditions for gunnera to thrive . I rate gunnera as one of my favourite plants although it is not for everyone and I notice a lot of garden visitors hurry past although those of us who love them stand and go WOW !
The wooden walkways in the Water Gardens need regular maintenance
nLight and shade in the Front Garden and this stone North American Indian Totem pole head hung around the Clonmel Garden Centre for many years until last year when Snezana fell in love with it .
And thousands of miles away from the North American plains is our quirky garden gnome … another of Snezana’s acquisitions !
A visitor to the garden this week remarked on the lack of roses in such a large garden and while true I do grow only one type of rose , rosa rugosa , which is a semi wild rose and one which suits here and suits me also as it is a trouble free rose never attracting white fly or the dreaded black spot and which will literally grow in any soil conditions , you can hack it back without ceremony and it will come back every year without fail . There are two type of rugosa , one with white flowers and the other pink , short flowering when in bloom and only flowering once in the season both with a gorgeous smell but what I really like about rugosa is the foliage which is olive green and grows right down the length of the branch … contrast this with normal garden roses ( and I used to grow over 300 in a previous garden ) which have to be dead headed on an almost daily basis to keep the flowers coming and sprayed weekly against white fly and what I have referred to as the dreaded black spot which can leave a rose bush tattered looked and disfigured so no thank you to roses !
I was in Croatia for a week in June where the weather hit 34 deg each day and it made me realise how pleasant a nice temperate 20 deg is throughout summer in Ireland where plants and shrubs thrive . In the Gornja Podgora garden basically every plant just goes into hibernation from June to end of September and annual flowers shrivel and die even with regular watering . The garden here relies on a local diet of lavender , rosemary and olive trees and if you grow in pots well only alpines will survive a regular high 30’s heat and even when I water pots each night all the moisture has evaporated by the next morning … and did I mention the insects – little buggers of midges that you can’t see but bite every bit of bare flesh especially ankles and make life outdoors in the evening pretty difficult … nor did I mention the snakes that you have to be careful about in any kind of long grass or foliage – small snakes generally but apparently the small ones pack a powerful amount of venom , not enough to kill you but nasty and of course for us Irish the shock of a snake’s appearance is enough to have us climbing trees and shrieking pitifully … maybe that is just my reaction !
Still for me Croatia and in particular Dalmatia is God’s own country … now if only they had a St. Patrick who banished our snakes from Ireland to England where they are now all members of the Brexiteer wing of the British Government … yes Boris I am looking at you !
One plant that has amazed me in the croatian garden is that quentissential english plant , the hollyhock , beloved of the genteel pimms on the front lawn brigade where it towers to five feet at the back of gardens there but here it has topped out at over ten feet . Snezana’s Mum , Vera , brought it from Denmark in a seed packet and it has taken off , each year flowering prolifically and self seeding everywhere even into solid concrete as in this photo .