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10 Plants for an Irish Garden

mary mcaleese

I did ten plants that would be suitable for a small garden, they also work for large obviously – these 10 – are those that you may, or not, have seen that often that I believe will bring a smile. Not all in flower in the images – but then it is also a case of something for all [or some] of the seasons.

All I have used before in urban and rural Irish gardens, from Galway to Dublin and from Cork to Donegal. Enjoy.

1. Rudbeckia

rudbeckia in flower

The Rudbeckia [asteraceae/ compositae] are a genus of around 20 species originating from North Africa. In short and as the image shows they are big daisy like flowers with a green/ black/ brown centre borne more often singular on long stems from summer to autumn. Brilliant in any garden and a real cheer-me-up when used as a cut flower. I absolutely love it !

2. Rhodanthemum ‘African Eyes’

rhodanthemum african eyes

The Rhodanthemum [asteraceae/ compositae] are a genus of about 10 species that are all clump forming plants. The more famed part of the plant is quite obvious in its daisy like flowers that form in spring – summer. More than that in any variety it won’t grow much taller than 12″. Another great one for the plant swapper.

3. Callistemon rigidus


I always [and usually only ever] see this plant in flower when in ‘the books’. This is what the bottlebrush looks like when it’s not being enetered into Ireland Next Top Model competition.

The Callistemon [myrtaceae] is a genus of about 25 species originating in Austalia. Famed as a cut flower arrangers favourite, the flowers litterally look like a brush you would use for washing a babies bottle. The spikes are more commonly red but are can also be found in green, purple, white, yellow or pink. Worth it just for the flowers, which depending on the variety can flower anytime from Spring to Autumn and can grow anything up to 12′ tall. I wouldn’t let that put you off though.

The rigidus hits about 8′ tall by about 10′ wide. Its flowers in summer get to about 2/3″ long.

4. Tanecetum coccineum ‘Robinsons Red’

tanecetum coccineum robinsons red

A genus of about 70 species, the Tanecetum [asteraceae/ compositae] leaves that are a bit silver and a bit hairy…. Not on this particular type though, of which some say, the foliage can irritate the skin slightly. Commonly known as ‘the painted daisy, the flowers are like like something one should see one could see in a children’s playground, are great for cut flowers and do quite well in just about any space really from pots to borders. It can grow to about 3′ tall and 1.5′ wide and flowers in early summer.

5.Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’


fuchsia magellanica riccartonii

The fuchsia [onagraceae] are one where you really need to do a little homework on what exactly you are buying before you take it home. A genus of about 100 species that range from a bedding plant to a tree there are over 8000 known cultivars.

Outside of being a great plant for seasiders [salt air/ wind tolerant], this bad boy, the F. magellanica is the hardiest [frost tolerant in short] of the lot.  The flowers of the Ricartonii are made of scarlet sepals/ tubes and have purple corollas. Be warned it can grow to 10′ tall and 6′ wide. Every Irish garden needs a fuchsia though…. doesn’t it ?

6. Stipa tenuisimma ‘Pony Tails’

stipa tenuisimma pony tails

The Stipa [gramineae/ poaceae] are a great plant, when, en mass in my opinion and remind me personally, of a field of barley. I simply love them. A genus of about 300 species, S. tenuisimma is a brightly green leafed deciduous perennial. It can grow to about 1′ tall whilst it’s panicles [think of the flowers of oats] can grow to about twice that height. It will only get to about 1′ wide so don’t go skimping on the planting…. you’ll thank me for it.

7. Salvia nemerosa ‘East Friesland’

salvia nemerosa east friesland

The Salvia [labiatae/ lamiaceae] are a genus of about 900 species and this is another example of why I am not a professional photographer…. one in ten, you’ll let me away with it ! The East Friesland [ostfriesland] grows to about 1.5′ tall and has deep blue flowers from about summer to autumn. This one is clump forming.

8. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

skimmia japonica rubella

The Skimmia [rutaceae] are a genus of just 4 species. They are dioecious meaning the male and female reproductive organs are on seperate plants. This compact Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is the male which starts with pink buds opening to white flowers in spring. Surprisingly there were a few on this plant when today [august 8th].

I think its nice that it needs to be planted next to a mate… it always made me smile thinking of that. That aside, a real pretty stalwart that brings me right back to the 1980’s. Love it!

9.Potentilla fruticosa ‘Red Ace’

potentilla fruticosa red ace

Potentilla [roseaceae] are a genus of about 500 species. This the ‘Red Ace’ is one of the better looking of the family, in and out of flower. The rose family member can grow to about 1.5′ tall, about 3′ wide and has bright orange/ red flowers with yellow backs.

10. Helleborus orientalis ‘Lady Series’

helleborus orientalis lady series

A genus of about 15 species, this Hellebores [ranunculaceae] orientalis is commonly known as the Lenten rose. Whilst it only grows to about 1.5′ tall, why I love it…. [?] it saucer shape like flowers, about 3″ in size, slightly arch out from the middle of winter straight through to spring. The foliage doesn’t do it for me, personally, but all the way through winter, it means fresh cut flowers on the table.

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