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The Ladybird

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Coccinellidae or ladybirds as we know them are members of the beetle family, generally red with black spots head and antennae and can be anything up to almost half an inch in size. But with over 5,000 species they can also be any colour from yellow to black. The less prettier and often referred to a the mealybug Ladybird cryptolaemus montrouzieri should not be confused with the Coccinella septempunctata or what I should refer to as the common ladybird

The ladybird is most famed in horticultural terms for being predators or the boilogical control of the aphid [whitefly or greenfly] and they really are a gardeners friend. That said if you spoke to my niece Lilly… they are most famed to her because she had a pet ladybird once…. but it ‘flew away‘ ūüėČ

Ladybirds and other garden predators are/ can usually be encouraged easily by having areas of undisturbed ground and also by the introduction of attractive flowers.

I spotted this guy above just sitting pretty whilst clipping some crataegus in the garden yesterday…. ūüėČ



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Cycas Revoluta

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The Cycas or Sago palm, cycadaceae, is a genus of about 15 species. This one, the C. revoluta is better known as the Japaneese sago palm.

These are another batch of plants I spotted in the Cape Garden Centre.

It is generally a very robust plant but with age it tends to begin to lean over, begin suckering and branching out. The leaves¬†can grow to 1.5 metres long. And surprisingly, possibly,¬†this fella¬†only ever grows to a maximum of about 2 metres in height and width…. which kind of explains why I didn’t see any taller versions of it ūüėČ ¬†¬†

The flowers are dioecious [carry both male and female flowering parts seperate]. The male parts [16″ long but up to 32″ long in other varieties] are cone like and pineapple scented¬†whilst the female parts [8″ long but¬†up to 30″ long] can appear as loose clusters of leaves but in C. revoluta appear as yellow fruits.

Personally I love them simply for their foliage.

      

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December In The Garden

And what an end to November and a start to the month it has been…

Firstly to those affected in any way by the adverse weather conditions…. my sincerest best wishes to you all, I hope it sorts itself out as soon as possible. To those who chose to stand up to¬†the Green Party politicos ¬†[especially on RTE’s The frontline yesterday] more concerned with defending the amount of action groups¬†who solve extreme weather conditions by¬†sitting at a round table…. I applaud you.¬†I also think Fionn¬†has a point…

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But thats another days work…. and on to Gardens we go…. well, as best as is feasably possible….

You see gardening is a funny business. It’s not a subject that one can put off.¬†The elements maybe against the preferred conditions – but if [for example] the bulbs aren’t planted in the garden this December… it’s now spring 2011 before you will see them pop up… you follow? If you put it off last month…. you’d better get them wellies on¬†or be a very fancy dancer – one that can dodge rain droplets ūüėČ

Despite the weather, I’ve still been working out there. You heard me ūüėÜ It has to be done.

hedge cutting gardening-dublin landscaping-in-dublin-

first up is hedge cutting – some prefer to do it in the summer…. but if you have something like the forsythia which flowers on bare stems in and then goes into leaf – you’d be mad not to. Some say the best time is…blah¬†blah blah ūüėȬ†I say, this when I’m doing my crataegus and my fagus. Its also when I’ve been cutting others escallonia… get the rakes, secateurs and the lopping shears out and go for it.

landscaping-in-dublin cutting back plants gardening-dublin

It is also a time for more select pruning. Maybe in this case the hedgecutters maybe a little too harsh.¬†In this category I would add the removal of suckering growth – see the difference in leaves on the Corkscrew hazel [corylus avellana contorta –¬†first image] ; the pruning back of smaller plants that have been let go a little – in this case the likes of the helichrysum [second image above – and similar in habit to lavender]; and also the pruning by hand saw of branches that have¬†become a little elongated – almost tree like when it should appear as a shrub. Moreso, it is also to do with good garden hygiene. ¬†

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But the biggest gig that most may possibly forget is the fact that it is tree planting season. The season when dormant and mostly native Irish trees get to go in the ground in their¬†over wintering state. If you are looking for some ideas¬†and names of, see this post on Irelands favourite¬†native trees¬†which can be planted¬†now¬†– I said now !!! Don’t forget the straps, buckles and tree stakes.

If you have existing trees – check the straps and buckles aren’t choking the trees – if they are – remove or loosen them.

Regarding your lawn…. you may get a cut in before the Christmas. Once again, the ye olde garden fraternity may suggest this is the wrong time – which is perfectly fine if it is the local croquet club… but if you are my Dad… well, you’ll be picking up the phone and telling asking me when am I getting my butt over to the house to cut that grass.

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After that – the bird feeders still need filling, the shed needs to be painted and I’ll guess you never did the new-ish garden furniture last month¬†….well don’t say I didn’t tell you ūüôĄ

If you take my advice – sure get it all sorted – then go and buy some instant colour in the form of winter planters, window boxes and hanging baskets. Really brighten the place up…. God knows you deserve it. Now all you need to do is to go and get that Christmas tree ūüėČ

Whatever you do and if you are doing it yourself… stay warm,¬†dry and be careful. If you are getting the gardeners¬†[at least for me anyways…!]¬†in…. put the kettle on and give ’em a nice cuppa and a mince pie. If ever I wondered what a kite must go through…. recently is the closest I’ve ever come to realising it ūüėÜ Oh and in case I forget…. do enjoy ūüôā ¬†

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Leucospermum cordifolium x glabrum

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I was blown away when I saw this plant displayed at The Cape Garden Centre.

I have seen these guys before… but they are very much a rarity, in Ireland anyway¬†and moreso in such abundance.

The Leucospernum, commonly known as the pincushion, Protaeaceae, is a genus of about 47 species of evergreen shrubs. What is amazing about this plant is that it grows to about 1.5 meters tall and wide and in South Africa.

It’s recommended use….¬†as a hedge…¬†ūüėĮ can you imagine that in Ireland !! The best thing after that… it’s widely used¬†for cut flowers.

In case you may get confused… the L. cordifolium do grow, generally to about 2 metres tall, its leaves are about 8cm¬†and the spherical flowerheads to about about 12cm. The little pins are known as styles. It also prefers an acid soil.

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Lavender

The Lavandula [labiatae/ lamiaceae]

A genus of about 25 species, this fragrant beauty is an absolute must in any garden. Particularly high in nectar and therefore extremely attractive to bees, the answer from a domestic point of view is to be careful where exactly they are planted. A case of beneficial versus pest, possibly?

Often used in rockeries, as low hedges, in herb gardens, en mass planting¬†or as a border plant… they really are [once again] a must have/ no garden should be without plant.

My main note of advice if choosing to¬†plant lavenders is that they are cut back every season. The problem is that when they aren’t, they do go leggy, the flowers and foliage only appearing on the lasts couple of inches of the stem and the lower [soft] wood becomes almost like a moist cardboard. This leaves them¬†very prone to a soft woody fragile rotting at the base¬†which breaks then quite easily….¬† which is great for garden centres and people like me…. but not for you ūüėČ

To cut yours back, use a good, clean sharp secateurs. Grab a good tuft of the plant and cut straight across. In a two year old plant for example this will remove the most recent seasons growth.

Of course this all depends on the variety and the varying external conditions. But as a general rule cutting a plant back to half height is no harm. When you’re done give it a good ruffle. Trim up the loose ends and clean around the base of the plant.

However you chose to do it…. even though it might look like a sheep shearer just gave you a¬†bad haircut [at the time] but it is well worth it in the long run ūüôā

If you are thinking of cropping the flowers for pot pourri, do so before they open fully.