The end days of July and after the few weeks drought you can see the garden wilting a bit and in need of a few down pours and we are busy delivering water to pots where even a bucket can revive in hours a shrub in distress .
It is Jurassic Park time in the July Garden with the gunnerras !
Garden Visitors from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland
We were away for a period during the first weeks in July and came back to a mountain of work in the garden in order to get it ready for visitors from the Maghera Garden Club from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland and while normally we enjoy the hard work but when it is catch up time and running flat out to a schedule it can become a bit of a chore . Luckily the weather was good and we were able to get back in charge after a good ten days of slog and enjoy both the garden and the visitors again . Over the years of gardening club visits we have always enjoyed the feedback and relationship that exists between gardeners and always look forward to the exchange of ideas and opinions and to experience our own garden through the eyes of others .
There is a difference between garden maintenance and presenting a garden which is open to the public and you have a responsibility for visitors to show them the garden in it’s best possible condition and this extends beyond having the grass cut and edged and you need to have it reasonably clean of weeds , hedges trimmed , briars cut back from walk ways and even though I have not yet met a visitor who complained about some aspect of the garden being neglected as most gardeners are too polite to comment but I do take the responsibility seriously and like to show the garden at the best we can do at that particular moment and we don’t take bookings until we are back for at least ten days after a break … that does put pressure of course but we knew this when we opted to open the garden to the public for the first time eight years ago and we get so much positive feedback and get to meet such an interesting mix of people that we wouldn’t have it any other way !
Ever popular at the moment in the gardening world are wild flower meadows and especially since a back to nature theme was the focus of the Chelsea Flower Show this year with cow parsly and the like featuring in all the winning show gardens . I have never taken to this myself as I always feel the wild flower areas in private gardens look untidy and a bit messy and this is largely down to gardeners who tend to leave a patch uncut and then call it their wild flower area when in fact no planning or care has gone into it in a kind of lazy mans gardening . I use the words private gardens for this pet hate of mine but in public gardens run by local councils a designated wild flower area can look spectacular especially if a path or wide edge is cut carefully around the designated wild area then it can look designed and with this in mind I have set aside a small area in the lower field garden which I will try to maintain as our own wild flower area .
If you research wild flower gardening on Google you will find that rigorous preparation is needed to prepare the area beforehand and when I say rigorous I mean full blown war where the area is blasted with full on glyphosphate weed killer for at least a year so that not even a blade of grass is left alive … yes these paragons of virtue , the ruthless rainbow warriors mean business and have no scruples with the use of weed killers in making sure THEIR wild flower areas get off to the best possible start so that there is no competition such as couch grass or docks present when they sow the seed and assorted plugs of selected flowers , then after the first season you cut it all down and the second and third year you sow more special seed varieties that will kill off any stray seedlings not in the plan … so real wild flower gardening is a four year managed project and of course that is assuming you are beginning with dry soil and not too rich nourishment .
Our selected area is not the best as it is wettish with good grass growth so we can expect a lot of docks and yellow buttercup but hopefully a lot of ragged robin which has a beautiful pink flower and seems to grow there naturally and all I am doing this year is allowing the grass to grow uncut there but surrounded by mown areas so it looks a bit managed and next year I will throw in some wild seed suitable for heavy ground and perhaps some perennials and see how it goes and if it just looks like a dogs dinner well we can strim it down , nothing ventured nothing gained !
A good friend and a great Clonmel gardener passed away early in July , Mary O’Donovan and I will miss visiting her at Fairy Hill , her woodland garden set over three acres along the Suir . Mary was a no nonsense type of person when I first met her years after she had retired as Matron of Kilcreene Hospital in Kilkenny where she took no prisoners according to her former colleagues , a style she continued with to the end of a long life . I first met her eight years ago when we opened the garden here at Old Spa Road for the first time and as a near neighbour she rang to check out the garden and more importantly the gardeners … we passed inspection , remained good friends and regular visitors to each other’s garden and we will miss her .
Last month I wrote about rosa rugosa being the only rose I grow nowadays as it doesen’t have the normal rose virus’s such as black spot or pests such as white fly and since then many people have mentioned the dead heading as another reason not to grow a large amount of roses and one friend mentioned she gets someone in just to dead head every two days , another reason I am glad not to grow other varieties anymore .
The gunneras have about another six weeks left before the leaves start to flop a bit but in the meantime they are one of the big beasts in the garden and add a jurassic park feel to our water areas , some gardeners are put off by their sheer size and I see some visitors to the garden recoil slightly and certainly they are not for the faint hearted gardener requiring a fair amount of space and a nearby source of water but for us they add that certain wow factor and we wouldn’t be without them .
I was wondering why the plant in this pot looked a bit flattened in recent weeks !
Every year we have this one hydrangea , I forget it’s name but I bought it for it’s black branches , it blooms for a full eight weeks to the end of September , everyone admires it and I have given slips to friends and tried to propogate it myself from cuttings , none have grown which is why we treasure the one we have .
Generally we don’t plant shrubs or especially trees after May as without a regular programme of watering they won’t survive and unless it is a plant you are prepared to really look after we just don’t go there however like all rules there are exceptions and a few weeks ago in Clonmel Garden Centre I saw a small cercis tree for sale … now I haven’t seen a cercis tree , small or otherwise for sale over the past seven years so drought conditions or not I went for it as the cercis tree is one of my garden favourites and we have a mature one planted in a sheltered area to the side of the house , very weak spidery branches with delicate purple leaves , not a massively impressive or shouty tree like a magnolia or a silver birch jacquemontii but quietly beautiful , a bit like myself really … you don’t see it , no oh well you can’t win em all !!
The cercis is called the Judas Tree as reputedly it was the tree that Judas hung himself from in Jerusalem after betraying Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver . The cercis needs shelter from strong winds as the branches are weak so I have placed it in sunny eastern position at the entrance to the Lower Garden and hopefully it will grow into a small tree or a large shrub and in the meantime I am giving it a bucket of water every two or three days .