As spring colour fades, the camellias need some pruning with a secateurs, just a ‘nip-and-tuck' to keep the plant in proportion with its neighbours. A lovely Betula papryfera with papery white trunk was smothered by some Rhododendron lutea - the scented yellow ‘wild' azalea, a little pruning was required to reveal the trunk of the Birch. I have also cut out some of the old branches of the azalea which had become leggy. Last year I dug out many early flowering herbaceous plants, and having replenished the soil, some species rhododendrons and spring flowering shrubs have filled the gaps. Dividing and finding new homes for polyanthus needs attention, giving them lots of rotted manure and a semi-shaded site. Primula ‘Guinevere' and Primula whitei are my favourites.
The true wild primrose has colonised in the old orchard since I stopped using granular fertilizer. Under mature pines and hazels the ground is very dry. Having removed camellias and pieris that struggled, I have succeeded with tree ferns, woodwardia ferns, epimediums and golden philidelphus underplanted with Corydalis ‘Pere David' which lights up the dark area during spring. The dreaded Allium sphaerocephalum - well, after removing all and I mean all the bulbils - up it comes again. So on my knees to remove another couple of hundred, some plants are very free-seeding. The same applies to helleborus and Arum italicum, both don't know when to stop, so I remove all flowers as they fade.
The flame creeper, Tropaeolum speciosum is a menace, flowering all summer till late autumn, a show-stopper with red flowers and intense blue-purple berries. When too vigorous, I pull as much growth away as possible and dig out some roots. The opposite applies to Tropaeolum polyphyllum, a superb yellow-flowered species with blue leaves, it is a lover of hot and dry, its shoots arising from tubers seventy centimetres down, if you are lucky, in the third year - do attempt it.
After a bumper crop of peaches last year, the tree lost its main top growth, just up and died for no reason. Fortunately, I had been training young shoots and hope in two years to be back in production. The lawn thankfully has been reduced; I have given up feeding it, scarifying and aerating. Sulphate of iron is all it gets, gone are the bare patches, disease and moss. I have moved all my excess plants to the garden in Kerry where the ground consists of rock and peat only. Hedges of Elaeagnus x ebbingei and escallonia have fared very well putting on lots of growth during the winter. Holly, the ordinary Ilex aquifolium mixed with the native guelder rose Viburnum opulus and hazel is a lot slower. Hydrangeas act as screens in the full force of the sea spray. Unlike Lakemount where I have lots of mixed beds, in the Kerry garden the only beds are against the house where on the east side. Japanese azaleas, dwarf pieris and restio-related elegias cover the ground, the western facing raised beds surrounding the terrace house have osteospermums, ginger lilies, nepeta, astelias and some new border lobelias.
Hedges of Elaeagnus x ebbingei and escallonia have fared very well putting on lots of growth during the winter.
Fuschias act as low breaks between garden and wilderness where tree ferns abound with bamboos, gunnera and some willows collected in a specialist nursery in the UK. Cortaderias, divided last March backed by cordylines draw the eye uphill to a stone seat which has Rosa Mundi, Rosa gallica ‘Versiclor' on three sides, and a view of Kenmare Bay that is breathtaking. The long avenue became a bone of contention between my wife and I, fuchsia hedge was discussed, tree lined no, so we agreed on mature trachycarpus palms underplanted with restios for both sides. A large gravel area is planted with many grasses, Verbena Bonariensis and mixed tropical palms, my favourite grass Chionochloa rubra having been divided is planted hedge-like and acts as a backdrop.