My Gardenin Month April 2024 … Releasing the Inner Hippy !

April is a great month in the garden with long evenings and everything coming into leaf however this winter here  has been one of the worst I can remember for rain and such was the water logging I wasen’t able to get in to cut the grass until the end of April .

The Water Garden , 26th April 2024

A few years ago I saw a beautiful white flowered plant at the foot of a tree close to our laneway , photographed it and discovered I had seen my first wood anemone . Garden centres don’t stock the wood anemone as it is a genuine wild flower across Ireland and Europe especially in woodlands where it spreads slowly by underground rhizomes but eventually I got a bulb of it and planted it in the front garden under the weeping willow a few years ago… never saw it again until this March when it suddenly appeared in several clumps and I was delighted .

Wood anemone , Front Garden , 25th April 2024

Wood anemones love dappled shade in woodland or under trees that lose their leaves in the winter and this front garden area is perfect for them .

The presence of wood anemones is a sign of ancient woodlands and Google states “If you spot it while you’re out exploring, it could be a sign you’re standing in a rare and special habitat ”. 

Talk to Clonmel Garden Club on Adriatic Gardening

I gave a talk to the Clonmel Garden Club in March on gardening in Croatia and this extract gives a flavour of my take on gardening in the Adriatic .

When we as Irish gardeners think about mediterranean gardening we immediately think of lots of sun and no rain of the type we are regularly used to and we assume goody this is going to be great , roll on blue skies every day with loads of lavender , santolina and even the odd olive tree or two .

The reality of Mediterranean or Adriatic gardening is parched stoney soil and plants just managing to survive in the summer heat , lots of weeds and if you want to enjoy the outdoor life in the garden from June to October  the three most important words are SHADE SHADE AND SHADE when the temperature is hitting 40 !

It takes experience to get to know the local Adriatic wild flower plants and weeds and while at first they all look fabulous you quickly realise that some are like our Irish docks and thistles with deep tap roots that will take over any empty space unless you get down hands and knees intensively for at least three years to get control of them .

What really thrived for us in Croatia and took the worst of the summer heat were aquaves, yuccas ,santolina , lavender , especially the prostrate ground cover variety, bearded  iris’s that love dry heat , cannas  and a blue leafed tradescantia pallida …. and these are the back bone of the garden to this day .

Personally I think it is actually easier to have a mediterranean style garden in Ireland that it is actually in the mediterranean !

Talk to the Clonmel Garden Club , March 2024

Inca rug from Lake Titaca to Old Spa Road

Lake Titicaka hand made rugs , Peru , 13th November 2023

When in Peru last year in November we visited Lake Titicaca where we really liked the local hand woven fabrics which we saw on the famous floating islands … one was acquired and now has pride of place on our TV room wall .

April 2024

Ferry hopping trip to the Greek Islands

I have been a fan of Greek history from when  I was twelve years old and saw Steve Reeves as Hercules in the Regal cinema in Clonmel and I have been a regular visitor since the 1970’s although it took me a while to get used to huge amounts of olive oil on the salads used as I was to only Irish and UK salad cream as a dressing … food in Ireland in the 1960’s and 70’s was quite bland and olive oil was only for sore ears !

My first visit in 1974 was when I drove from Ireland and camped for a month at various places on the mainland and I went back on a regular basis over the years but apart from a few weeks back packing around Crete I never went to the islands aside from day trips to Hydra and Spetsae and I always hankered after a proper ferry hopping trip through the Greek islands especially the Cyclades .

I put it off for so long that it became a bucket list dream  but a few weeks ago in April I released the inner hippy and finally went Greek island hopping … a more stately progress than if I had done it in the 1970’s !

Naxos , 11th April 2024

We travelled to the Cycladic islands of Santorini , Naxos ,Mykonos , Delos and ended up with a few days in Athens … Santorini , is a freak of nature standing on the edge of a volcano 18 Km. long while Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands with a terrific interior of mountains and deep valleys and very green and of course Mykonos has a reputation as the party island supreme .

Naxos is famous for it’s marble quarries , 12th April 2024

Tourist boards everywhere exaggerate about their attractions but the Greek Tourist Board doesen’t lie in their description of Santorini “The crescent-shaped Caldera of Santorini is the biggest gem in the Aegean and one of the most impressive places to visit in the world !”

Sunset on Santorini , 5th April 2024

On Santorini we walked the classic 15 Km . caldera ridge walk from the villages of Thera to Oia ,  a thousand feet high with the sea in view the length of the entire walk , a hard slog and not just in a straight line but a series of ascents and descents with hundreds of steps up and down .

The Caldera Walk on Santorini , 6th April 2024

We saw the instagrammers famous sunset from Oia … this being April there were only a few hundred other people trying to get the classic photo whereas in Summer there can be up to ten thousand people queuing for it … for me what makes a Greek subset special is the Aegean sea , the blue domed churches and the white washed houses, spectacular of course but the sunsets over the islands of Hvar and Brac on the Dalmatian coast are equally nice .

Walking down into Oia , the end of the Caldera Walk , 6th April 2024
Santorini , 12th April 2024

 Mykonos was for me a revelation as I knew there had and are problems there with developers of beach resorts building illegally but the town itself is beautiful and not over built at all ( unlike Santorini ) and it was the prettiest of the three islands .

Mykonos , 15th April 2024
Mykonos , 14th April 2024

We ended up in Athens for four days at the end of the trip after a six hour ferry journey from Mykonos where we sat up on deck and watched a never ending line of Cycladic islands stream by .

Naturally being in Greece there were archaeological sites to visit almost every day and new one to me was the island of Delos , birth place of Apollo , the Minoan site of Akroteri on Santorini , the huge fallen statues known as  Kouros on Naxos while in Athens we walked the entire circuit around the foot of the Acropolis and on another day walked through the ancient Athenian Agora and spent a morning in the Museum of Cycladic Art .

Island of Delos , birthplace of Apollo, 15th April 2024

Normally when in Athens the Acropolis beckons and you forget everything in the rush to climb up and see the Parthenon and I fall into this trap every time even though this year I said no we will spend time walking around the Agora but still wandering along the base of the Acropolis when I saw the entrance to the Acropolis I couldn’t resist and up we went again .

Snezana at the Acropolis , Athens , 17th December 2024
Standing on the Hill of the Pynx , 17th April 2024

But when I look back at my photographs it was the Agora where we spent an entire afternoon that I took the most photos of … every important religious event in Athens in ancient times was preceeded by a procession through the Agora and along the Sacred Way to the Acropolis and I really got to explore it all this trip for the first time in numerous visits over the years .

The 5th century BC Agora , Athens , 18th April 2024

There was also fabulous Greek food and lots of feta consumed !

Lunch Naxos Island , 13th April 2024

Late April planting    

Such a pleasure to be in the garden these days rather than two months ago and this past week I have been planting out summer bedding annuals such as allysum , lobelia , nasturtium for ground cover clumps and antirrhinums , the old fashioned snap dragons , for some height .

You might think that as ours is a wildish garden and not at all formal that there would be no place for bedding annuals but I find them great as fillers and front of border plants that flower away for over four months with no attention and I particularly love the informality of the nasturtiums as they sprawl luxuriantly across the beds .

I enjoy watching Monty Don on Gardener’s World as his lanquid manner and easy style conceals a deep appreciation of gardening coupled with a down to earth approach . He is by far the jewel in the crown at the BBC but they pay a price for his presence on their main gardening show , Gardeners World and this is that Monty is indulged and funded for round the world gardening jaunts in a regular three part series such as Adriatic Gardens , Monty in Japan , Monty in Italian gardens and all of these are basically escapism gardening as Monty strolls around in a boater hat looking laid back … normally the gardens are a mixture of private gardens that only Monty has access to and the shows are fluffy to say the least however the latest series Monty Don’s Spanish Gardens  was excellent and he featured gardens I would actually like to visit .

I hadn’t realised that Spain’s climate allows for three different type gardens where in the North they have gardens very similar to our own Northern European and in the middle of Spain due to the arid conditions they have desert style gardens while the South of Spain has classic mediterranean .

As gardeners we are creating an illusion of nature and if the planting area is suitable nature will move in an lend a hand . The woodland are in the back garden that Snezana set out to tame last year is coming along nicely and the spring bulbs have died back and now the ground cover geraniums are thickening up and blending in well with the clumps of vinca that were partially cleared last year and while I won’t allow the vinca to take over it is a handy filler until the newly planted ferns thicken up … it is a cottage garden / woodland look we are going for around the seating area and this week I potted up an extra ten geranium slips that will go in to their final position in about eight weeks time .

Bog Garden in April

American skunk cabbage , 28th April 2024
Primula candelabra in the Lower Water Garden , April 29th 2024
Gunnera in the Water Garden , April 25th 2024
My son , Diarm and Yana , Water Garden , 29th April 2024

The deer of course are moving around sniffing out any delicacies but apart from a hosta in a pot have largely been disappointed as at this stage I know what plants are on their hit list !

Unsung heroes of the garden are the ferns which do their thing quietly in the background from year to year and there is a fern for all conditions be it sun , shade , dry or wet ground . Generally ferns like dryish soil and shade suits them which is why they are perfect for out of the way shady corners .

A selection of ferns for the new woodland area , 28th April 2024

Lynda at Clonmel Garden Centre has built up a nice little shady corner for ferns and she has stocked it with various types and more importantly keeps it well stocked all year round and in the past week I have bought over fifteen ferns for Snezana’s new area … another plus is that the deer don’t go near ferns .

Here at Old Spa Road this past four months it was far from Spanish style more like aquatic style gardening but as we move into May the ground gas dried out and we have better days to look forward to !

Sunset on Naxos Island

Sunset at Naxos Island , 14th April 2024

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