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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 😉

Despite the weather, I’ve still been working out there. You heard me 😆 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 😉 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 🙄

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 😉

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 😆 Oh and in case I forget…. do enjoy 🙂  

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Beaucarnea recurvata

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Some of these plants were used in the building of the garden in Wallacedene.

Once again they came from The Cape Garden Centre.  

They were however planted as a smaller species [you’ll see them in the images below in sand in a liner similar to a 1 litre pot]. Once again and yet again to say I was blown away when I saw them over the 6′ tall mark is an understatement. They are magnificient.
The beaucarnea, nolinaceae, are a genus of about 30 species of evergreen trees and shrubs. This variety, the B. recurvata, is commonly known as the ponytail palm. The leaves can grown to 6′ tall, the plant itself can grow up to 8metres in height and 4 metres wide. It does produce flowers through the summer time, but alas I think I’ll have to hope that one day I may see that in person…. For the moment, it is still an absoolute stunner… 😉   
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Irelands Native Irish Trees [listed & detailed]

With the lead into the winter spring/ tree planting season I went searching for a list of native Irish trees recently. Fair to say I was left extremely disappointed by what I could find.

There are many lists of trees available. On many [state involved] websites I found it extremely difficult to find any details at all. Some showed up but the pages were down or the site ‘suspended’. On others the details were so inaccurate [botanically], or the advice that came with was merely illogic horticulturally. One in fact noting that the Alnus was suitable for growing in a container, others simply a list.

I came up with what I can only describe as the most definitive list of native Irish trees that I have ever seen. That said, I don’t believe I am missing any ?

Before you go any further… I have excluded as best I can what may better be described as  a shrub. I have also chosen to list the trees alphabetically by their botanical names rather than their often variant common titles.

If you are thinking of going native Irish this season have a quick read first… you might just change our mind 😉 but I hope you dont.

1. Alnus glutinosa [alder]

[betulaceae] the commn alder. This deciduous tree can grow up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide. It has dark green leaves and produces clustered catkins in winter and ovoid fruit in summer. It grows quite well in poor soil and wet lands. Easily propagated by seed or hardwood cuttings. I always remember this one for its use in farmland shelter belts.

2. Arbutus unedo [Strawberry Tree]

[ericaceae] This evergreen beauty is a big shrub, if it is to be considered so, growing up to be considered so. It can grow up to 8m in height and width. For me it is the reddy peeling bark [kind of eucalyptus like…] that does it for me. Throw in a mass cluster of white flowers in autumn and some red fruits [not to be eaten!!]. Great in a mixed woodland or a specimen. Love it. That said, I’ve rarely seen it on a request list.

3. Betula [birch]

[betulaceae] there are 2 native birches in this list. Another catkin grower, produced seperately, these fellows are most famed for their white/ silver bark and their small leafed autumn foliage. The Betula pendula [silver birch] can grow up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide whilst the Betula pubescens [downy birch] can grow to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

4. Corylus avellana [hazel]

[betulaceae] there are many cultivars of the avellana variety. Probably most famed is the C. avellana ‘Contorta’. But they are not to be confused. And one should pay particular attention to the last part of the name, not only here, but with all trees. You have been warned!! Generally speaking the C. avellana’s can grow up to 5 metres tall and wide. Obviously they are most famed for their edible nuts and their yellow and very beautiful winter catkins.

5. Crataegus monogyna [common hawthorn]

[rosaceae] that rose family….once again, pinky white flowers borne in late spring adorn this thorny tree,that are followed by dark glossy red fruits; the seeds of which will cause some stomach upset if ingested. Whilst it is more often grown as a hedge [scioch] and wuite suitable for that, as a tree it will grow to 10 metres tall and eight metres wide. One of these most resiliant trees I have ever met and an absolute must for any garden that is seeking to attract nature. For logic reasons, they’re not a gardeners favourite for a planting nor puning – but I love them.

6. Fraxinus excelsior [Ash]

[oleaceae] The common ash. A deciduous tree, easily spotted in winter by its black buds and grey stems, personally, I love this guy purely for its autum [foliage] colour. The feathered like leaves can grow to about 12” long and go almost bright yellow – the tree itself however can grow up to 30 metres tall and 20 metres wide. Famed for its use in making hurleys…

7. Ilex aquafolium [common holly]

[aquifoliaceae] this fellow make the list of trees but really is more of a shrub or bush, to you and me that is. A more obvious member of the evergreens, its dark green prickly leaves grow to about 10cm, its red berries produced in winter are followed by spring to summer flowers. It can grow up to 25 metres tall and 8 metres wide. Not the prettiest of the holly family… but great for wildlife.

8. Malus sylvestris [wild crab apple]

[rosaceae] another member of the rose family, you can gather therefore its most promnent features are its fragrant cup shaped flowers, in ths case pinky white produced in spring. The flowers are followed by, of course, its red fruits. Often thorned this quite susceptable beauty can grow to 9 metres tall and 7 metres wide.

9. Pinus sylvestris [scots pine]

[pinaceae] with its greyish crackily blue bark at the bottom and a more reddish bark at the top. This pine really [in my opinion isn’t, in my opinion, the prettiest fellow in the book at all. The male ‘cones’ appear like catkins [tiny slim soft pendulums] the females of the pine family are more cone-like, are green conical, 6cm long approximately and can take 2 – 3 years to ripen to a red brown finish. In height up to 30 metres tall and to a width of about 8 metres.

10. Populus tremula [poplar]

[salicaceae] One of the fastest growing upright looking trees I have ever met. The small diamond leaf, spring catkin producing tree [green for the female and red/ grey for the male] has one of the most vigorous root systems I know of. It also grows up to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide. This is another that I remember famed for its use in shelter belts in farmlands.

11. Prunus [ornamental cherry]

[rosaceae] Once again there are 2 in this block. We’ve all seen a cherry tree at some stage or other…. The Prunus padus [or bird cherry] produces white fragrant flowers in spring followed by black fruits. The difference between this and any other variety of cherry…. this one can grow up to 15 metres in height and 10 metres in width. Like most natives, not exactly one for grandma’s 2 bed town house.

The second is the one I would be more familiar with, the Prunus avium or commonly called wild cherry. I prefer this for its glowing red bark, its white flowers followed by its more coloured red fruits. Once again however it can grow to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

12. Quercus [oak]

[fagaceae] Two oaks enter the native Irish category and here we’ve really hit big boy territory. The Quercus patraea [sessile oak] can grow up to 30 metres tall and 25 metres wide. Whilst the Quercus robur [common oak] can grow up to 35 metres tall and 25 metres tall. In general and as most already know,the oaks are famed for its acorns, the fruit it produces. But I love knowing the fact that its minute male and female flowers are produced seperately but on the same plant usually around late spring.  The males then follow in catkins whilst the females follow in the form of a cluster of flowers on a central stem [raceme]. Then follows what we know as the acorn [fruit]. In my opinion – these guys will grow just about anywhere. I also love their foliage in autum.

13. Salix [willow]

[salicaceae] a genus of around 300 species, the willow in my book holds so many personal memories from baby baskets to simply getting the back of my legs whipped as a nipper by my friends! To horticulture…. a deciduous tree that grows in almost any condition but much famed for that near excesses of water. Its greatest asset, after its stem [for me] is it silhouette through the winter sun – or its form and its smooth, soft catkins that grow upright. Famed in its weeping format… once again be careful the variety that is chosen. Too many varieties to be extremely specific.

14. Sorbus [sorbus]

[rosaceae] thats right, another of the rose family and 2 of to the group…. who’s more than just a pretty face?!! The Sorbus is a great producer of late spring flowers, in clusters that are followed by amazingly spherical fruits – not to be eaten by the way!  The Sorbus aucuparia [rowan or mountain ash] foliage is almost identical in layout to that of the rose [yes valentines etc as you know it] but these grow to about 8″ long. It grows to 15 metres tall and 7  metres wide. Its fruits are reddy orange in colour. 

The Sorbus aria [whitebeam] – now heres a totally new equation – yet still related. Its leaves are round and silvery hairy on the base. It produces white flowers in spring and then produces dark red berries just after. This chappy also grows up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

15. Taxus baccata [yew]

[taxaceae] an evergreen shrub on the poisonous [all parts except the arils are toxic if ingested] and the conifer list, this chappie kind of also hits the I don’t know whether I’m a tree or a shrub/ bush list. That said the reddish flaky bark is stunning when it is grown for that. The alternate is of course that it is kept as a hedge. It has dark green matt leaves, produces yellow [male] cones in spring and its fruits are green surround by red [arils]. It can grow up to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

16. Ulmus glabra [wych elm]

[ulmaceae] Now here’s one thats a toughie. This species suffered its own variation of the plague when Dutch Elm disease hit and almost wiped an entire species. As a result, you wont see too many of these guys around. No way hosé!! To the spring red flowering tree that is the U. glabra – that is followed by the production of winged green fruit; it is deciduous, its leaves grow up to 15cm long and turn a delightful yellow in autumn. It can by the way reach a height of 40 metres tall and 8 metres wide. Give one of them to your mother in law as a gift!!

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Cape Garden Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

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Whilst building the garden in the Wallacedene Township in South Africa, I would first like to note that I was a part of a team. A very large team. And I simply played a part.

To that there where so many really good people I met out there. One in particular was a really good guy Peter and not forgetting his foreman Garreth.

Btw Peter insisted he take this photograph of me… 😆

Back to it… Peter owns The Cape Garden Centre that I passed on my way everyday to work. On the final day of the build plants whilst laying out plants and running back with Garreth to get some more I got about 20 minutes to take a look around his place whilst waiting for plants to be loaded.

I had spoken to Garreth and Peter abut the operations and working side but…. To say I was blown away by his setup, the garden centres layout, the displays, the restaurant, the list is endless…. is an understatement. As my first ever garden centre review I am so proud that this is first on the list.

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Peter spoke to me about how they used what was the bark from a [weed] tree that needed clearing from the land to make what we know as willow like screening and features for the garden.

I noticed how no member of the public was left unattended and at all times there was a staff member nearby ready to help or give advice.

The door of their design studios were open for all to see into. Being really honest the people, the customers seemed really happy. It had a very feel good feel about… I sat down at one point for about five minutes and watched the people stroll by… It was phenomenal. And to think that in the midst of all of the mayhem that was happening not so far away, that I had left for just a moment… even I was beginning to relax… then Garreth bipped the horn on the bakkie [open back jeep/ truck] and it was back to it 😉

I loved the family areas, the play areas, the pet area, the garden displays…. [breath] the fact that almost any variety of plant could be seen in a setting or at the varying stages of growth and moreseo that it was for sale in abundance at any of those sizes. There wasn’t a hair out of place… Throw in the individual craft and art shops and the indoor and outdoor furniture places… it was like a little village with too much to do. I loved every second of it.

I’ll be reviewing in the next days some of the plants you may know, you may have seen or may not have that are more common to the Cape Town climate…


 

 

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November In The Garden

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It is that time of year… some say it’s bloody depressing. But I like it. I don’t know why particularly… maybe it’s that I get home [a little] earlier… maybe it’s that I get to burn the timber that I have mamaged to amalgamate over the last eight months or so… I don’t know. 😉

To the garden… mine and yours, this is probably the most important month/ season, for me, in the entire calender. It is what I do here that will pay most dividends come next season. So once again, this is what will I be doing in my garden this month and what I recommend you do in yours…

new plant trees trees ireland trees dublin

Top of my list is my trees. I’m now in a position where they can be cut back without all of that foliage in the way and so some crown raising will take place [removing of the lower branches…]. I’ve also got a batch that served a purpose until the others surrounding them matured and so I’ve got to move some and relocate others… if I don’t do it this year I am literally up the creek and next year it will become an impossible task. Stakes and straps at the ready….

berry fruits birds fruit cotoneaster-1

With the trees in mind and leave fall in place… it is time once again for the bird feeders to go back out. That and I need to get some other types of berrying plants into the garden to help those birds who don’t go to sunnier spots for their winter hols. Looks like a trip to farm supplies shop is looming….. or do I still have some in the shed…

In other news…. 😯 The apples on my trees had started to drop. It is at this point that the apples are about as ready as you will get…. I’ve picked them all now – except for the smaller fruits [about the size of a plum as they won’t taste so good – best leave them to nature]. Once again when the leaves fall off some select pruning will be required, removing dead and diseased wood and then the branches that over cross each other. If you planted yours in the last two years  make sure the straps and buckles aren’t too tight.

winter-colour colourful pots cyclamen 

If you are looking for some instant colour you’ll find there’s tonnes of it to be found – don’t those pots just cheer you right up 🙂 Some instant colour – from the plant department can however be bought in the form of ornamental cabbages and cyclamens. Add them to existing beds that need a little sprucing or redo those hanging baskets you took down last month…. g’wan you deserve to treat yourself!!

hedges lavender creative

Outside of that you [and I] still have to get those hedges cut… the plants still need to be trimmed back… and with that done… the mulch has to go down. This will leave the garden pretty much with its groove back on so it doesn’t look like a brand spanking new hair cut… more a well maintained garden, come Nanny & Poppa calling around for turkey and mulled wine for the celebrations December 25th 😉

Finally, trees and bulbs!! and finally [finally 😆 ]… herbs. Crop them and what you can’t dry store… pop them in ice cube trays… pour water on top and freeze. You’ll need them for cooking that big bird in a months time and believe me there once you move from dry herbs to fresh…. you’ll never go back. 

Have I forgotten anything…. leave me a note and I’ll add it to the list.

Enjoy!

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