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July 2008

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‘Honey, I shrank the pond!'

Sandra O'Hagan gets good advice from fellow club-members

I've lived with the guilt of my goldfish surviving in overcrowded conditions for nearly a year now. The DIY puncture repair did not fix the leak in my pond and the thought of re-lining was quite daunting. I pondered whether to offer the fish a new beginning by giving them away - in the obligatory little plastic bags - free to a good home. Afterwards I would just fill in the large hole and forget it ever was an aquatic feature of which I was very proud. There didn't seem any alternative, it needed sorting out one way or another. Then along came my garden club.

At first I was embarrassed to let them see it. All the marginal plants forlornly resting on dry butyl lining with the central part of the pond - still underwater - resembling a refugee camp for fish. But the ever-blooming Abutilon vitifolium, that overlooks it, caught someone's eye and suddenly it was judgement day.

After determining depth and appreciating what an effort it must have been to create said water feature, the recommendation from club members was unanimous. Fill in the now-dry margin with soil, planting it with appropriate pond-side plants, to create an illusion of there never having been a bigger pond in the first place. Pretty obvious maybe but it hadn't crossed my mind at all. A project to tackle in the autumn but at least a solution has been found.


‘In a garden with such history there are always ancient plants to discover.'


With Barryroe Garden club on a bit of a roll, our next visit was only a week later. This time member Nicola played host at the garden that she works in, Lislee House which has a walled garden and lots of wonderful old tree specimens. It is early days for what was quite an overgrown estate and a lot of cutting back and clearing has had to take place but there is a certain magic about the place all the same. Several of our members related stories of when they used to pick strawberries in a large field now used for silage. In a garden with such history there are always ancient plants to discover. Here it was stunning arum lilies, the size of children, and Solomon's seal to match. We also admired a large Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Silver Dust' planted in the 1970s which, although quite unfashionable now, in it's time would have been highly desirable.

Of course the best thing about a walled garden is the walls themselves. All that shelter from the elements, providing a micro-climate to plant almost anything, especially here in West Cork. The down-side is that old walled gardens are very large and usually mean a lot of beds to fill and a massive amount of plants to maintain. Hence the need for the big house, in its time, to employ a team of gardeners to keep on top of the weeds, the pruning and all the other jobs required to keep the place tended. No wonder Nicola is so slim, who needs the gym when you work in a walled garden!

As I sat drinking tea, on a wonderful old iron bench that architectural salvage companies would fight over, it all seemed a million miles away from my congested leaky pond.




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