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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

August 2013

To see a sample of the current issue of Ireland's best-selling gardening magazine, click the image below.

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Notebook West Lorna MacMahon

Hot roses, cool blue Himalayan poppies and the 'Polar Bear'!

Life is made much easier for gardeners if they work with nature and select plants that thrive in the climate of their own particular area. Plants that are grown in conditions that suit them are likely to be healthier and more resistant to pests and diseases. For example, roses are easier to grow on the east coast of Ireland, as they prefer drier and warmer conditions, having originated in the Far East and the European Continent. If grown in wet areas they are prone to black spot and bud rot. On the other hand , rhododendrons, azaleas, Himalayan primulas and blue poppies or meconopsis prefer the high rainfall of the West of Ireland.


It is possible to produce microclimates in sections of the garden to help plants that have specific requirements. Many herbs come from the Mediterranean region and prefer drier conditions than we have in Galway. In order to accommodate them I have made the herb garden in a disused tennis court with protection from the worst gales and rain and all are planted in raised beds to help drainage. However, I still have to replace a number of herbs every year, while I seldom have to replace primulas or meconopsis. I have stopped growing alpines altogether now, as many tend to resent having rain continuously throughout the year, and instead I am concentrating on woodland and bog plants.

Nature constantly reminds us who is really in control. The severe winter of 2011 devastated many shrubs and hedges that had been thriving for more than thirty years. This winter, the long cold spell delayed spring growth by three or four weeks and there was nothing that either farmers or gardeners could do about it . However, the cold spell had also some benefits. I had a record germination rate of seeds sown in January and February because of it and I now have about 400 young meconopsis and 600 primula plants all clamouring for attention along with seedlings from about sixty other packets of seed. This month these will all be planted into larger pots with a slow release fertilizer. August is also the time I take cuttings of fuchsias, pelargoniums and other half-hardy plants so that their survival will be ensured even if next winter is severe.

Rhododendrons and camellias flower in spring from flower buds that have been developed the previous summer . While last summer was generally thought to be bad it was obviously appreciated by the plants that need high rainfall and they all flowered profusely this year and autumn last year was quite good. The beautiful large Rhododendron 'Polar Bear', which flowers in July, produced a record number of blooms.


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