Visitors to the Garden this week …… April 20th 2014
The magnolia trees are bursting into bloom all over Clonmel gardens …. all except here in our garden as I mistakenly planted the variety stellata which is really just a large shrub and the magnolia to plant (and to die for ) is soulangia with its big tulip style flowers . Every year I plan to move the three magnolia stellata I have here to a back of the border position as after its ritual three week flowering period it is a waste of time shrub which looks dowdy and adds nothing to the garden after its brief three weeks in flower .
Magnolias have been around for over 20 million years and were there before bees evolved and pollination is by beetles and so the petal flowers are very tough . I must finally get around to planting a magnolia soulangia this year as there is nothing more thrilling and uplifting in a garden as a mature magnolia tree in bloom … not a pretty tree when not in flower but has such a good round shape which adds structure to the garden that you can forgive it and the WOW factor you get when it flowers makes it worth its place in any but the very small garden … but very slow growing so you are looking at fifteen years later after planting to have a reasonable show of flowers .
I was in Mount Congreve this week where their superb collection of magnolia trees were in full bloom and there is no finer sight in the plant world in my view than a magnolia tree in flower as can be seen from the photo I took …… and as Crocodile Dundee would say THIS is a magnolia tree !!
This Easter week three lambs abandoned by their mother are being fed by hand on my neighbour’s farm ……. Snezana gave Sebastian a hand with one of the feeding shifts !
Two weeks ago we cleared and burnt a bramble patch measuring five metres by fifteen and I was awarded the Gardener’s Cross with oak leaves for the pain endured from the briar cuts and foolishly thought the hard work was over but ever since I have been digging out the roots of thick bramble clumps .
I dug out the clumps not just to kill off the roots ( you can never totally kill off bramble roots ) but to save the mower from losing its blades if it ran over them when I have reseeded the grass as the clumps are quite thick and knarly and when I reached the 45th clump I thought pheww …… then every time I ran the rake over the ground to level it for the new grass seed I hit another clump well hidden just below the surface and today I reached number 103 and I have no doubt there are still a few left to trip over .
Brambles are probably the most tenacious plant in the garden world and they cling on to life unlike any other plant with roots that can run up to 100 metres under the surface so very difficult to get rid of and every time a bramble branch arches down to touch the ground it will make new roots and a new plant every time unless you are vigilant . Constant cutting back and digging out of the roots accompanied by regular chopping out of any new growth which will spring up from the roots left in the ground is the only answer unless you import some goats …. fine if it is just a field of brambles you want cleared but goats will eat everything methodically and make no distinction between your brambles and your finest rose bush or maple … so goats as they say IS out for me !
Speaking of clearing part of garden reminds me of an evening in 1996 when walking in an area just outside Sarajevo where I was working at the time just months after the Bosnian War had ended . This was a former front line battle area and all the houses were burnt out shells but this one house was being worked on and in the small front garden I saw a man on his knees working at the soil so recognising a fellow gardener I stopped to chat .
No he wasn’t clearing brambles or preparing a vegetable or flower patch ….. he was clearing land mines … claymore anti –personnel mines to be precise which are designed to kill or maim anything the weight of a child or adult and he was carefully lifting each small mine which were live and about the size of a saucer and placing it on the widow sills around the house . I asked him how many he had cleared already …. 47 from a small patch which he was slowly working on in a grid like fashion of a metre square and unlike my brambles these mines had a fatal sting , after being stepped on or being triggered they leapt a metre into the air and exploded shredding everything within a 10 metre blast radius .
There is a real world out there far away from my bleatings about brambles and as you read this on an Easter Sunday somewhere in the world another gardener is clearing deadly mines left over from a forgotten war .