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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

March 2007

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Golden philadelphus, ‘Fermoy', anthemis and sempervivums

I inherited a glorious mock orange in my previous garden. For ten days every year it was a delight to the eyes and nose. But after those ten days, it was just a spiky nothing.  Now in deep shade in my woodland I've had a rather unexpected success with the golden-leaved version, Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus'. In spring this dark corner is illuminated with the leaves' golden light and the creamy white flowers provide a bonus. As we don't live in a perfect world, the leaves later fade unfortunately and turn to green. Nevertheless it's a shrub well worth growing in shade. My other all-time golden favourite in this garden is Cortaderia ‘Gold Band'. It may be slow to start but boy in winter it's a total wow!

Spring, and golden colour, for me have always meant daffodils, big ones and small ones, and in every combination of shape and colour. As I have a particular interest in plants with Irish connections, I was glad to be able to buy the Waterford-bred daffodil ‘Fermoy' at the autumn sale of the Irish Garden Plant Society in 2005 and to top up my stock there again last year. Yet another golden Irish treasure of mine is Anthemis ‘Grallagh Gold' which flowers for a long time at the front of the summer border. It's not particularly long-lived but a few cuttings will keep it going. Anthemis ‘E.C. Buxton' is another outstanding golden-flowered plant, which grows in a particularly dry area and would seem to be very drought-tolerant.

Spring, and golden colour, for me have always meant daffodils, big ones and small ones, and in every combination of shape and colour.

In another part of the garden I've had less success with a shady corner. I had tried to create a bed totally devoted to sempervivums - following the example I had seen some years ago in the Vienna Botanic gardens. Sempervivums are not at all fashionable and I doubt if they ever will be. They are very understated but I find them particularly attractive, especially when planted together. I knew that the situation was not ideal - the drainage was not as good as I would have wanted and the shade was not ideal. All went reasonably well, however, until this winter when, after the continuous drenching rain, many of the rosettes rotted and the clumps loosened out. I've moved them all, lock, stock and barrel, to a drier, sunnier, raised bed where I hope they will settle down to long life and happiness.

The sempervivum bed will not remain empty for long. I have a good scattering of shade-tolerant primulas in pots whose roots are longing for release from confinement. With the exception of tender species and some trickier alpines, most plants thrive better in the open ground and, not the least consideration, give less work to the overburdened gardener!



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