When typing the title August it suddenly dawned on me that the year is almost gone in the garden and soon we will be looking at winter … and if it is winter then it is Christmas again , always keep looking ahead !
Why are you buying that was Snezana’s query at the Clonmel Garden Centre recently as she saw I had added three stachy’s byzantium to our trolley … stachys comes from Armenia and Iran and is commonly known as Lamb’s Ears and is a loved old favourite cottage garden perennial which given the right conditions will spread out as a terrific ground cover plant which keeps it’s leaves all year round . I understand why some would question stachys because most people leave it flower and it has a nice yellow flower bract but after flowering the stachys becomes straggly and awful whereas if you grow it purely for ground cover and keep the flowers clipped then there is none nicer than stachys . These three specimens are for the water garden area where I have unexpectantly found that stachys does really well in the heavy clayey soil although I do back fill each planting hole with a bucket of compost to get it established .
We had drought conditions in Ireland for three weeks in August with once in fifty years temperatures of 30 degrees daily and while everybody flocked to the beaches to cool down , our poor gardens everywhere suffered especially new plants and those in pots . It made me realise that those plants we stick in pots which when you think about it is artificial and not something nature does and those poor plants are really our prisoners , totally dependant on us … we had an emergency system during the drought where we watered the plants both in pots and in the ground around the immediate front and back garden every morning for over an hour especially those shrubs planted in the Spring as for their first year these plants only have the root ball they are grown in for sustenance as their roots haven’t had a chance to spread out and anchor into the soil … however a bucket of water over a young drooping and wilting hydrangea will have a dramatic effect and help bring the shrub back from the dead .
The Purple Loosestrife have had a dramatic growth throughout all our water areas this year and this plant has been growing wild in wetland areas for thousands of years and was a favourite plant of the Celts who used it for medicinal purposes as ground down it relieves headaches hence the name LOOSE STRIFE however if you were a woman in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and knew and used plants like loosestrife for healing purposes you could be accused of witch craft and burnt at the stake by vengeful church authorities .
Nature has brought it in to our garden and over the years it has colonised the stream and throughout the marhy areas by self seeding . The plant after flowering retains a stiff architectural structure and I only cut it down in areas if it is impacting on it’s neighbours , we love it and I would class it along with wild astilbe as one of the best wild self seeders … I have bought loosestrife , lysemachia vulgaris , as a commercial plant but it has never flowered like the wild version .
Gardeners like nothing better than a gift of bulbs or plant divisions from other gardeners and last week I got a batch of white agapanthus and snow flakes from two friends . I love both plants and the bulbs had just been lifted and were plump with lovely roots … gardeners also love acquiring new plants but if you have a smallish garden then you need to move out and split big colonies of perennials to make room for some newcomers which was the case here and resulted in the agapanthus and snow flakes coming our way !
Agapanthus I have always loved but have had little success with in the past so fingers crossed this time and I have dug in lots of sand and compost in the planting holes ! Of course nothing beats seeing agapanthus or indeed any other plant for that matter in their natural habitat and we saw glorious areas of them when in South Africa in December 2019 and these photos I took in the Western Cape area and in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town .
This year has been fantastic for the flowering euphorbias and especially for the alchemis mollis which seems to be popping up all over the Gravel Garden along with erigeron which loves cracks in brick work . We love the informal air that these prolific self seeders bring but after the ball is over the flowering shoots look straggly and all over the place so the big clean up began in earnest this month !
I bought these cannas in a supermarket sale four years ago and leave them in containers which I take indoors during the winter months as our ground is too wet for cannas to overwinter in the ground . They go outside and get regular watering from May onwards after the last frosts , the deer nibble a bit at them as do the snails but they flower their socks off every August and with their deep purple foliage look good even when not in flower .
We love cannas in Ireland but just don’t have the heat they need to grow really well and while the flower is nice cannas are mainly grown for their leaf colour coming in all shades in the garden centres .They look fantastic in the middle of a herbaceous border , real stunners but I am not prepared to spend the time required lifting them in November and bringing them on indoors until end of May . It is different in Croatia where I grow the common green canna and they reach over two metres in height in sandy soil with little watering but load of sunshine .
Sometimes in gardening as in life you have to give up on a project that just isen’t and won’t work for you and that was the case until now with a portion of the Lower Field .
It is a large patch of grass in wettish ground which I have planted with a group of purple willow and some silver birch and because it is wet the usual wild flower seed won’t take and it just never looked right so until now I have resisted letting it grow wild but recently in a eureka moment I decided to cut a circular path through the long grass four metres wide and strangely enough this worked and over the winter I will plant up the new edges with a selection of birch and two varieties of purple willow , the weeping type and Sekka both of which have great structure and an unusual informal growth and because it is wet I am going to plant clumps of stand alone perennials such as gunnera and pampas grass and hopefully other wet loving wild plants such as astilbe and iris will self seed around the borders .
Finally I feel this new design will crack the problem of this space and I am looking forward to the challenge of planting it up .
Visit to Cashel Palace Hotel
The Rock of Cashel , seat of the Kings of Munster since the 10th century , is one of Ireland’ most famous and iconic places to visit and the now Cashel Palace Hotel at the foot of the Rock was originally built in 1732 as the Bishop of Cashel’s Palace .There was and still is a gate leading from the Bishop’s Palace garden directly to the Rock and at all times in the garden the Rock of Cashel is visible .
The former Cashel Palace Hotel was bought by the Magnier Family in 2015 who gutted and restored it to it’s current glory , no money was spared on the fabulous restoration down to the last detail . I had heard that the gardens had been given a total makeover by a leading UK garden design firm so we headed over for afternoon tea in early August and a wander around both the hotel and the gardens .
The restored Palace only opened as the Cashel Palace Hotel in March this year after a five year make over from top to bottom and we were given a guided tour of the interior by Sally , the Hotel Concierge , who filled us in on all the details… we had been there once before about twenty years ago when it was dark and quite run down and the contrast now is like night and day .
From the entrance with it’s beautiful terrazzo type paving ,which goes on paths all around the garden ,to the fabulous interior no expense has been spared and the overall effect is amazing , a house fit for a King not just a Bishop !
Sad to say for me the garden was disappointing and it appears like the planting in the borders was just thrown together in a rush for instant impact with far too many hydrangeas of the in vogue Annabelle and limelight varieties and the rest is just filler type alchemis mollis and geraniums for ground cover … nothing special . However this is just the first year and both Brexit and Covid have meant that a lot of specialist plants are just not available in the required quantities as a garden this size would require and I am sure that seeing the quality the owners have demanded for the interior of the hotel that over the next few years the garden will match that high standard also but for now the verdict for the grounds of the Cashel Palace has to be a “ could do better ”.
There are two gardeners here at Old Spa Road but neither of us can work together as one thinks she “ gets all the shitty jobs ” … not true of course but Snezana believes that to be the case whereas I maintain there is a list of essential jobs to do in the garden almost on a daily base such as weeding and cutting out brambles to make sure the paths are safe for visitors … anyway we continue on our separate tasks in the garden with me doing all the essential jobs and Snezana basically picks and chooses on a daily basis what she feels like doing … get over it do I hear you say ?!
Anyway just to illustrate that last week she spent the day cleaning the left hand side of the path down into the Lower Field filling wheel barrows full of weeds and cutting back when I happened to say “ great but can you do the same on the other side as the alchemis mollis need dead heading ” .
Needless to say the answer was no as “I get all the shitty jobs ” … boom boom !
Rhus Cotinus , the smoke bush tree , is a beautiful foliage show stopper .
The Garden in August , wildness in the Water Garden , August 23rd 2022
The Front Garden has it’s share of wildness too