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December 2006

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Crumbling shed, space for alpines and cutting down mimosa

When the last of the tulips are planted in early December there is a lull before the first seed packets arrive. This year I've cut down on the number ordered as I was clearly losing control in the propagation area on the shady side of the house. Here my potting shed has been crumbling away for the past few years and I must soon decide whether to repair it or replace it. This has always been my refuge on wet days but when the inside becomes almost as wet as outside there is a certain reluctance to do much potting or anything else. Before the winter set in I'd put in an amount of cuttings and I occasionally check these for rotting leaves which I remove. At this season the whole area is damp but the gloom is fortunately relieved by the bright red flowers of a large Correa reflexa which clambers up the side of the shed.

For some time I've let the alpines ‘get on with it' but I find that even small alpines can grow into large menacing clumps over a few years. Now I've cleared some considerable space on all my raised beds and look forward to planting out some newly acquired treasures. I am reluctant to plant good alpines into the only natural-looking rock garden I have which is on a steep bank of subsoil. Fortunately there are some plants which are reasonably happy in this difficult spot and the area is now well colonised with the fairy foxglove, Erinus alpinus, and at least looks colourful in spring. One of my favourite foxgloves, the diminutive Digitalis obscura has survived here for a few years and Cotoneaster congestus makes a nice mat.

When I moved the few kilometres south to County Wicklow some years ago I noticed how many flourishing trees of the mimosa, Acacia dealbata, there were compared to Dublin. A few metres from my pool there was a large specimen which had been blown into a most ungainly shape by the prevailing gales. I reluctantly cut it down and was rewarded by a vigorous multi-stemmed re-growth. As a graceful bush it was the cause of considerable comment over the years. Now it has again reached giant status and I am in the process of cutting it down and hoping it will repeat its previous trick.

One of my favourite foxgloves, the diminutive Digitalis obscura has survived here for a few years and Cotoneaster congestus makes a nice mat.

An even more beautiful relative is Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea' which glows in its brilliant purple mantle of foliage all year round at the back of the shrubbery and gives a late winter golden-flowered bonus. At the very end of the garden I planted the New Zealand plant, Sophora tetraptera which in late spring has equally attractive foliage and brilliant yellow flowers. How much poorer our gardens would be without these outstanding plants from the southern hemisphere!

 

 

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