June is a month where the garden gets out of control quickly and you need to get it back or end up playing catch up for the rest of the summer !
So it is here where having been away for a few weeks we are both flat out cutting back and weeding not to mention primping up the new areas with bedding annuals and the odd fern here and there . To add to the work there had been a bit of a drought here while we were away and all the pots had suffered and wilted … I know … drought and in Ireland ?!
A huge job also with the euphorbias which had been in bloom since early April and now urgently needed to be cut back hard by removing all the flowering stems . I would class euphorbias as one of my favourite plants for the past forty years and we have over fifty of them here at Old Spa Road … not one of them bought in as we pot up all the self seedings and a euphorbia is a serial self seeder especially in gravel or poor soil .
Euphorbias , especially the variety Wulfeni , give a great return with a tall architectural shape , in leaf all year round and fabulous yellow flower bracts from April to June … the Garden Centres sell a variegated version but I have never liked it and find it gimmicky .
But euphorbias while generally trouble free need a bit of looking after with all the flowering stems being cut back to the base every year otherwise the plant will die out after three years if left unpruned .Pruning needs to be done with gloves as the euphorbia stems bleed lactic acid when cut which can get into eyes and other tender parts from your hands afterwards… talking to the guys here on that last bit and believe me I speak from some experience on this one !
A tree that needs similar looking after is the weeping purple willow , salix purpurea , a favourite of mine , I love it’s unstructured habit with branches taking off in all directions but again like the euphorbia you need to know it’s little quirks as this willow will revert back to a common willow if you don’t keep an eye on it and ruthlessly rip out the rogue off shoots . The purple willow is a real gem and you can buy it at various heights up to two metres as it is a grafted tree on to a common willow rootstock so it is available in various heights but this can be a problem as some specimens try to revert all the time and off shoots grow out from the stem and if you don’t rip these out … the off shoots look healthy and it is tempting to let them stay but if you do they will quickly take over the entire tree and you are left with a common upright growing willow within a year or two .
I said “ rip these out ” as this roughness will damage and retard , maybe even kill the vigorous offshoots completely but a clean cut with a secateurs just encourages new growth .
And as if we weren’t busy enough Snezana got hooked on cutting out circles around the fruit trees and topping them up with compost after seeing Brigid doing it at Clonmel Garden Centre … and of course had to get all the latest dutch hoes and trenching tools … Brigid has created a monster … looks great but this is creating huge work to keep it clean and looking as it does now as the weeds will gallop in … watch this space !
Croatia again for a few weeks in early June where the garden was suffering under 35 deg of heat every day leaving the soil parched . Luckily I have now got the weeds under control in the gravel garden which used to be a back breaking job to clean but now a quick run through it with a hoe does the trick . Last October I laid two paths with a six inch layer of pebbles taken from the beach and every trip now I top it up with fresh stones and I feel the depth of stone together with the sea salt leaching down through to the top soil has killed off a lot of the perennial weeds .
I planted up these terracota pots in October 2021 on the balcony with a selection of drought resistant cacti and between them I added the blue trandiscantia for colour , they have thickened up and come through the winter well . The pots I bought in a local hardware supermarket and while they fit in and look well they are the usual Vietnam mass produced and nothing out of the ordinary .
However these next pots are something special !
A local friend , Mate , made these pots for me out of old terracotta roof tiles , great recycling and gorgeous to look at , I placed them in the gravel area and planted with aloe which don’t need regular water … now I have to think of a way of getting some more of these pots back to Ireland !
The Croatian coast as always looking drop dead gorgeous .
Dervla Murphy , the great Irish travel writer and eccentric passed away last Month at the age of ninety . Dervla for Irish people was a national treasure who travelled all over the world on her 3 speed bicycle in journeys of up to nine months and wrote over 25 books about her experiences .
Can you imagine walking across the mountains of Peru over a period of nine months for 1200 miles … with a mule to carry a tent , essential supplies AND a daughter of eight years … Dervla did it in 1983 , an amazing experience and wrote a book about it “ Eight feet high in the Andes ” .
The New York Times in their obituary described Dervla as “ A curious, intrepid loner from Ireland, she famously went from Dunkirk through Europe and then to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India — mostly on two wheels.”
In 1992 I was on my way back to Rosslare after a six day cycling trip in Cork / Kerry and had stopped to take a photo outside Lismore in Co. Waterford when a woman out for a walk stopped and asked me detailed questions about my touring bike , my panniers , how many gears etc. and how far I had come that morning and as I was airly saying that I had set out from Cork City a few hours ago and was now pushing on over the Knockmealdowns to Clonmel and then on to Rosslare and that yesterday it was Killarney to Bantry with an overnight in Cork and and and and … when the lady says I used to do a bit of cycling myself … when it slowly dawned on me “I have just been showing off to Dervla Murphy haven’t I ” and she grinned and that was how I first met Dervla Murphy !
Dervla wrote one of the best books about travel through the Balkans called Through the Embers of Chaos , Balkan Journeys which she wrote in 2001 about a trip she took on a bike from Zagreb to Albania and I knew the route she took as my job for fifteen years with the EU was to travel all across the Balkans and I take my hat off to her as driving on some of these roads let alone cycling was heavy going not to mention dangerous with all sorts of characters floating around just after the Yugoslav wars … one tough lady .
A few years ago after Dervla published her two last books in 2015, Between River & Sea and A Month by the Sea , based on her experiences in the West Bank and Gaza I wrote to her and later met her when she gave a talk about Palestine in Clonmel .
Dervla fell passionately in love with the Palestinian cause and while her beliefs would not be mine she was as always fully committed and Between River and Sea, her last major work , is a great informative read .
Post card from Dervla March 2015
All the major newspapers around the world , The New York Times , Daily Telegraph , The Sunday Times , The Guardian carried her death and printed obituaries , a fitting tribute to an unassuming woman from Lismore who left formal education at fifteen .
The Garden in June .