My Gardening Week September 30th 2019 … Goodbye Boris , goodbye !

The plants have plenty of life left in them before they too kick the proverbial bucket and both perennials and annuals are still putting on quite a show .

September is the month where the garden is getting past it’s best ,where the first signs appear that trees and shrubs are preparing for winter and as such it is a time of sadness that the year’s growth is over but winter is not that bad but hope is always there as we have next Spring to look forward to … I enjoy the winter months in the garden but it is the hanging around that I don’t like between now and then !

Lower Field , 20th September 2019

Regular readers will know that I gave up buying the UK Telegraph in January this year after forty years reading it … because of it’s over the top support for both Brexit and Boris Johnson which turned rapidly into an anti Irish bias because of our not unreasonable insistence on the back stop which guarantees economic not to mention peace between North and South …. I say not unreasonable because throughout our history we Irish have had good reason to be suspicious of English treaties ?!

But and here’s the thing I have missed the Telegraph and last Saturday for old time’s sake I bought a copy after nine months away and straight away two interesting articles in the gardening section grabbed attention , one was an article on Great Dixter Garden once owned by a garden writer hero of mine , Christopher Llyod , which details the fact that that Head Gardener , Fergus Garret , is bringing in natural methods of wild gardening , spraying , organic control of pests etc. which unlike the usual tree hugging brigade actually came across as a lot of  sense .

The second article detailed the effect woodland has on the amygdala … the wha I hear you say … yes me neither but it is the part of the brain which regulates the response to fear , anxiety and stress and the article was about a recently published German research , in the journal Scientific Reports , on 341 older mostly retired residents of Berlin . It is accepted wisdom that exposure to green space and the countryside has beneficial health effects however this research has shown that exposure specifically to woodland brings increased beneficial and calming effects to the brain and we are not talking here about a few trees in the garden … no the research found that independent of income or personal circumstances the effect was massive when actual woodland was involved … go often for a walk in the woods !

The Japanese as always are ahead of us in matters of nature and have a word for exposure to woodland , they call it shinrin yoku , “ wood bathing ” or taking in the atmosphere of the forest so that basically walking in the woods is relaxing and calming for us .

I take the London Times now on a Saturday instead of the Telegraph or at least the Irish version of it and while a good read and a more balanced approach to Brexit it is not as interesting and the gardening section is not as good either so I will be going back to the Telegraph … as soon as Boris resigns !!

Secret Garden , September 23rd 2019

Some gardeners look down on annuals , I do myself if someone uses only bedding annuals and never advances post that quick fix attitude every May but used as fillers between perennials they are great and if picked correctly a pot of annuals such as allysum , lobelia,  dianthus , sweet william , will provide colour from May through to November . I generally place a small perennial as the centre piece in each pot and fill in with geraniums and an annual I use throughout the garden , nasturtium , which if you are lucky will come back year after year even though officially it is classed as an annual and the commercial hybrids sold in the garden centres are sterile  but it is a rampant vigorous trailing plant that will happily weave it’s way through a bedding scheme .

A few perennials but this planting at the entrance to the Lower Field is mainly bedding annuals , September 15th 2019
A pot at the front door , September 21st 2019 , mainly annuals

And while on political subjects everyone is now familiar with the images that went viral of the Swedish fifteen year old , Greta , she of the extreme grimaces and scary facial expressions , losing it at the recent UN Climate Change Summit and at first I thought what a pretentious little git but then reading that she had Aspergers and was on the spectrum I was more annoyed with the cynical manipulation of a young girl by behind the scenes activists and what were her parents thinking by allowing their vulnerable child onto a UN Forum at a live event watched by billions all over the world where she went into a meltdown rant embarrassing to watch .

We use a lot of garden containers ( they even have their own site on the web page ) and for me choosing the pot is more important than the actual planting and over the years Snezana has hunted out various one off and unusual pots mostly ones that people have walked past for years so when she arrives on the scene the garden centres are delighted to shift these at a sale price … of course the planting is important but as I say the pot is the big deal as placed in the proper location they can make a big impact and where they can really enhance is close to steps in the garden as they guide the eye up the steps .

I tend to feature blue pots for impact , Gornja Podgora , September 8th 2019

Generally one focal point perennial is enough for all year interest and then I add to this each year with bedding annuals , a combination of trailing plants such as geranium and nasturtiums with colour added with allysum and lobelia and always try and position pots in part shade as they dry out easily in dry weather . I always check out the various pots when in the garden in the summer months and a bucket of water will usually revive any wilting plants .

Pots in the Front Garden , July 2015

One type of pot to avoid normally is one where the top curves in as it can be difficult to take out plants especially if you have planted a small tree or shrub and this has happened to me this month where a small olive tree which has not being doing well for years finally gave up the ghost and died … I normally use a long bread knife edging it in and out carefully so as not to damage the pot and especially in this case as it is a pot I love and eventually you will cut away the roots enough to free the plant and in this case I will replace the olive tree with a small acer but in a bigger pot … generally in this remedial action type situation the plant has been pot bound and has actually leeched all the goodness out of the planting mix over the years so you need to replace the soil completely… my mistake in originally planting a small tree in a pot too small for it to stretch it’s legs so I will not only replace all the soil but pick a more suitable plant  . 

I am always on the look out for unusual things that can be recycled into the garden such as off cuts of wood from railway sleepers which come in useful to add height to pots and I have included here some photographic examples as in the case of Snezana’s latest unusual pot bought in August at Clonmel Garden Centre ( an excellent place to trawl through as Chris has a habit of picking up interesting and outside the normal run of the mill type pots ) and beach finds in Croatia recently such as the column base which could be mistaken for roman but which most likely is a fifty year old Yugoslav holder for a canopy which had been dumped into ballast beside a pier but washed up in a storm … I’ll go with it being mistaken for roman !

Looks like a character from the movie Avatar in it’s new home at the back door , which I will plant up with a small festuca grass to look like hair.

Roman like column , in Gornja Podgora , a beach find , September 2019

Large glass storage jars always look well in a garden setting and again I picked these up on the beach in Podgora .

I am also always on the lookout for plants growing wild that can be dug out in the proper season or after flowering such as these white bearded iris’ which I saw in full flower around the slopes of Biokovo Mountain in May this year and I went back to the same location in September and harvested several buckets of tubers for the garden in Gornja Podgora and I will also try some here in Ireland … unlikely to thrive as bearded iris’ like to be baked in the sun and buried just beneath the surface in dry soil both of which are in short supply in Ireland ! I don’t generally advocate digging up plants in the wild however I do it where there is a huge amount growing such as with these iris and you are spreading their beauty to another location .

Wild iris , near Biokovo Mountain , May 2019
Iris foraged from the same group in September 2019

The plant I love most of all in the Croatian garden at Gornja Podgora is the aguave although with it’s sharp spikes you need to be careful to plant it out of the way of people and Snezana hates it for this reason but for me it is a wonderful architectural show stopper after about five years and again it is a plant I forage as it grows semi wild all along the Adriatic coast , a left over from former Yugoslav state planting schemes  .

I planted this aguave in 2003
These were planted three years ago in 2016 , Gornja Podgora , photographed September 2019
The latest batch of foraged aguave ready for planting , September 10th 2019

Stone has always fascinated me especially dry stone walls and in another life I would have been a stone mason although I wouldn’t fancy working in the open in all the weather these guys do especially in the cold on the Irish and Scottish mountains and I have always admired their skill and dedication but Croatia has in my view the best tradition of building in stone and I was privileged last year to watch up close a group of masons from Immotski building a series of stone terraces in the garden in Gornija Podgora … these guys took their time both in selecting the individual stone and finally placing it and in several tricky cases took thirty minutes over one stone before being satisfied and I also saw them rejecting three lorry loads of stone as being unsuitable for this particular project , such dedication to their craft is rarely seen and certainly not here in Ireland .

May 2016 , Immotski stone masons at work in Gornja Podgora

The Croatian Island of Brac is famous for it’s stone and legend has it that masons from Brac as well as marble from the island took part in the building of the White House in 1792 where that shy guy , Trump , currently resides and  they also built parliament buildings in Budapest and Vienna when Croatia was part of the Austro – Hungarian Empire . Brac has quarries dating back to Roman times and it’s stone was used to build The Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split in 389 AD and today one of only two Stone Mason Academies in Europe based is in Pucisca on Brac with the other one in France , the school was founded in 1909 and the tradition is very much alive today with currently 95 students from all over Croatia including fifteen from Brac itself . In September we met Ante Kusmanic , a graduate of the Pucisca Academy , at his work shop in Brac where Snezana fell in love with one of Ante’s works , a beautiful stone table with the base alone weighing over a ton weight … the pictures tell the story of Ante’s work and the finished table is a work of art !

The stone table top arrives , Gornja Podgora , September 13th 2019
Ante Kuzmanic and Snezana admire the Brac stone table , September 12th 2019

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