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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

May 2012

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Real villains, Viburnum prunifolium, moving ‘Little Carlow’

I have always been very kind to the wildlife that shares the garden with us, by and large, practising a live-and-let-live policy. But this spring's devastation has sorely tested my patience. A pheasant is a beautiful sight in the garden. He was lucky not to end up in the oven this year. He attacked the hellebore flowers and left all the buds in neat heaps under the leaves. Bullfinches are almost as beautiful to look at as the pheasant, and just as destructive of flower buds. The lawn under the crab apple tree was carpeted with the evidence of their handiwork, so crab apple blossom is very scarce this year. This is a real shame.   

But the real villains are the pigeons. It is hard enough to protect seedlings and lettuce from our ferocious slugs without having to net all the beds in the vegetable beds. But that is what we have had to do if we are to have anything to show for our hard work. Pigeon pie is very high on my wish list just now. Then there are the rabbits. I'll just say they are easier to shoot than pigeons and much tastier.

We planted Liquidambar ‘Worplesdon' where the Quercus dentata was. I have finally come to terms with the loss of that wonderful oak. I managed to track down the Viburnum prunifolium plant that I was lusting after and it has settled in well and is flowering. I am told its fruits are edible. If I get any, I'll give them a try. It almost seems too much to expect from one plant, good flowers, fruit and glorious autumn colour. I live in hope.

The magnolias have never been better here than they are this year. In fact, all the flowering trees, well, that is, the ones that the pesky bullfinches left alone, are fabulous this year. Lilac colour and scent is the best I ever experienced and the tree peonies are splendid. I decided to add another magnolia to the garden. Magnolia ‘Vulcan' was the one I chose. It's amazing, one good year, and I've already forgotten all the years when the magnolia blossoms were damaged by late frost. In this fit of optimism I also planted Cercis siliquastrum ‘Bodnant'. I have tried cercis before with no great success. However the nurseryman assured me of success with this particular one. I hope he is right.

Perennials that I divided and moved earlier are really the better for it. The veratrums are really thriving after the move. I also moved my favourite aster ‘Little Carlow' to a new home and it is totally transformed. From observation, I conclude that this aster should be moved to new quarters every second year. If you can't give it a new home at least divide it and enrich the soil before putting it back in the same place. The swallows are back and thrilling us with their aerial display. Summer is here and I'm ready to forgive the devastators!


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