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August issue of The Irish Garden








Mairin's Journal

Mairin's Journal July 2009

Last Post 1847 days 10 hours ago

Hydrangea

31 July 2009 23:40:38
Hydrangea

Hydrangea

I read in James Kelly's journal about his hydrangea being terrific this year.  I couldn't agree more.  My niece took this picture of a hydrangea about a week ago which has been growing in the garden at home for years.  It has always had both pink and blue flowers on the same plant.  The soil is alkaline so it is a complete mystery to me as to how it has had the two different colour flowers on it.  It's not as if it gets plant food to change its colour.  And whats even more a mystery, the wall is white washed which is made up using lime!

One of my favorites

29 July 2009 01:52:37
Ligularia dentala

Ligularia dentala

Following on from Jool's O survey, I hope some of you will be able to identify this plant.  It comes up every year - the slugs and snails love the leaves which are quite large with a red underside. Its flowers come out of "pockets" (the best way I can describe it) and are yellow daisylike flowers but close to the "pockets".  It is a great plant because of both its leaves and the way the flowers appear.

Growing seeds

24 July 2009 00:13:26
Hollyhocks finally planted out

Hollyhocks finally planted out

Spring 2009 was the first time ever in my life that I planted seeds.  To be honest, I only planned to sow them in order to give my children some interest in gardening.  My son filled up the seed trays with compost.  In total, we planted three trays of twenty-four cells.  One had garden peas, the second hollyhock and the third, stripped dahlias.  The peas took off and in less than three weeks, we planted them out into the garden. 

This left us with two trays of seeds.  Every morning, the two trays were put out.  In the hot days of May and early June, the sun would bake the compost and the poor seedlings were trying to survive in hard, dry compost.  On the wet days, the rain would fill the trays with water and the same poor seedlings would be sitting in water.  Several times, I had to pour the water out of the seed trays and, of course, some of the compost would go with the water so they had even less compost to survive in.  If I left the clear plastic covers on them, the covers either blew away or filled up with condensation – neither really achieving what I wanted the covers to do in the first place.  If it was a shocking bad day or a very hot day (which we did get in May/early June) the trays stayed in the kitchen as I didn’t see the point in putting them out to suffer unnecessarily.  Their place of residence in the kitchen was supposed to be on the cover of a seldom used toy box.  But when toys were required out of that box, the two trays moved over to the kitchen table.  There they would stay until meal time and then move back to the cover of the toy box.  So between being put outside, brought in, taken off the toy box on to the table and back, there was more work.  I often thought that maybe they would disappear during the night but the children made such a fuss of “their seeds” that I relented.  But, quite frankly, there would be less minding on a child!

By the time it came to planting on (around mid-June), out of two trays of 24 cells, only 12 had survived – 2 stripped dahlias and 10 hollyhocks.  My son helped again to plant them up.  This time, I was adamant that they were not coming back into the house so a place was found for them near the oil tank at the back of the garden.  This place was equally unsuitable as they had to be moved constantly if I wanted anything from around there and they continued to dry out because it is a sheltered spot.  The children continued to watch their progress with great interest – after all, those plants were “their seeds”. 

In the meantime, the catmint had taken over.  I believe cat’s love catmint.  We don’t have a cat but some of the neighbours’ cats come in to the garden and I have never seen them doing anything with the catmint.  In fact, they haven’t even come near it.  Maybe it’s just my catmint that they aren’t interested in.   Anyway, one way or the other, I was tired looking at it.  I started to cut it down, very gently with a secateurs’ because I didn’t want to damage the new growth at the bottom.  After about 10 minutes, the impact on the plant was minimal so the hedge clippers were brought out.  In a good few mighty swings, the catmint fell.  It had suffocated Angelica Pachycarpa but it was providing support for some gladiola.  You just can’t win, can you?

The gap now left provided a perfect home for the hollyhocks.  The children squealed with delight as “their seeds” were being planted – hubby and I gave each other sneaky looks to say “Thank God those are finally planted and out of the way”.  

I know the children will want to plant more seeds next spring.  I will have to have some better system in place.  I think that is one for the “Problem list” to be sorted next winter.  

Belvedere

18 July 2009 22:57:55
Echinop Globe Thistle

Echinop Globe Thistle

It was great to see you all at Belvedere and to have faces to the names.  I don't know if any of you can help me out - the sea holly picture was taken down there.  Can any of you identify it's name?  Or even better again, recommend a supplier?

By the way, thanks for the plants - Drumanagh, Head Gardener, Jools O and Rita D.  I am sure the rest of you are like me - remember exactly who gave you what, when and where.  Memories for a lifetime.

 

Hens

17 July 2009 02:24:25

When we were children, my mother kept hens.  She always purchased them as pullets – the stage just before they start to lay eggs.  Originally, they were housed in a timber structure but one night there was a very bad storm and the timber house was damaged beyond repair.  From there on in, they were housed in a solid structure. 

We had our front yard and the haggard – the typical 2 entrances from the road and a gate up at the top between the two.  Every night we were told to close the gate between the yard and the haggard and to let the hens out.  Once the hens were let loose, they automatically made a beeline for that top gate.  Even if you had forgotten to shut the gate and when running (well actually sprinting), they still managed to get to that gate before you did.  In to the yard and over to the back door and then, they would poo!   That resulted in an immediate telling off from Mother because we hadn’t done what we had been told to do. 

Now, hen poo – it has the most annoying ability to squelch up between the grooves in the soles of your shoes.  It is a job in itself getting it off.  If you are lucky enough to spot the offending material before you step in it, the quickest way to clear it up is to get pour some sand over it.  The excess moisture is absorbed by the sand, then with a shovel lift up everything thus making the disposal process an awful lot easier.

Food for the hens in those days was purchased from the Avonmore shop/outlet.  From memory, it came in a bag roughly a 15kg bag size except it wasn’t kilograms in those days.  I don’t know if the other creameries did it then and I don’t know if Avonmore still do it.  The bag had to be keep indoors because once that food gets wet, it sort of mats together and is gluey.  Disgusting really, when wet.  Normally, they would be fed once a day with this feed and then whatever they would find when they were let out.

Hens also need water.  From memory, I think we used to change their water every day.  Now, please don’t get offended anyone but when they are eating their food, I suppose a bit like us, they like a drink and little bits of the food would end up in the water container.  So imagine the food, now wet, turning gluey and sticky either in the bottom of the container or along the sides and then having to handle this to wash it out and refill.  Not pleasant, to say the least.

Straw is what we used for bedding.  Nowadays, the bales of straw are the hugh bales that you see all stacked up in piles in the fields.  This too has to be kept dry because it is of no use if wet.  They love fresh dry straw.  Rats do to, by the way – just a little bit of useful information – great for raising a family in and all that.  Every Saturday, we had to clean out the house and put in clean straw.  Nauseating is the only word that comes to mind.  The smell was shocking – you would be in that house gagging.  It was stuck to the floor in parts so it had to be scraped off with the spade.  Yes, we used an old garden spade because it had a bigger front section compared to a shovel.  It had to be loaded into a wheelbarrow and brought to a different section of the farm where it rotted down.  I suppose the worst part was actually being in the house but emptying out the wheelbarrow wasn’t the nicest of tasks either.

The house itself, apart from having the feed and water containers, also had a nest for them to lay their eggs in and a roost.  The roost was about 3.5ft / 4ft high from the ground.  A while ago, there was a woman on with Ryan Tubridy talking about keeping hens.  She mentioned that she didn’t have a roost and that if she had, the local wildlife wouldn’t have taken them.  I don’t know if she meant foxes or the local young lads who traditionally would have hopped over the orchard walls and robbed the apples.  Foxes do like them.  One consolation is that the hens create a hugh fuss if they see one so they would nearly wake you up if there was a fox around.  But then, would you want to be woken up from your sleep for nights on end?  What would you do with the fox?

When they are getting old, the shells on the eggs are soft.  I’m afraid it’s not a case of hormone replacement therapy for them at that stage – it’s the chop.  I never had to wring one of their necks but I do remember my mother and the next door neighbour talking about it.  From memory, you have to catch them (not an easy task, let me assure you), tuck them under one of your arms, making sure the wings are restrained by your body and arm and the feet are restrained by one hand.  Otherwise they would cut the face off you.  Then, with the other hand, quickly snap the neck.  Apparently, they are also very good at pretending to be dead so when you would put them down, expecting them to stay on the ground, they get up and walk off.  I can guarantee you that you wouldn’t catch them again in a hurry. 

Hens continued

17 July 2009 02:17:48

If you do successfully kill them, you don’t pluck them and have them for dinner because the meat is too leathery.  You now have to dispose of the remains.  Honest to God, I can’t remember what happened to ours.  They didn’t end up in the compost heap, we most definitely did not dig a grave for them and we didn’t eat them so something must have happened to them.  But it was different times when you used to see signs on gates “Land laid with poison” so maybe that’s where they ended up.  I must ask at home.

As you have probably guessed at this stage – a box of eggs in the supermarket beats that any day of the week, in my estimation.

Readers’ offers

14 July 2009 22:35:09
Solar sensor light offered to Irish Times readers

Solar sensor light offered to Irish Times readers

After I put up the journal entry about ladybirds, Rita D responded with information on a UK based company (www.greengardener.co.uk) where she had purchased a ladybird kit from them before.  However, she went on to explain how they don’t ship big items to Ireland any more because of the postage cost.  This is something I have come across, particularly at the Gardeners’ World show.  Moreover, those UK companies don’t have agents in Ireland. 

In the Gardeners’ World magazine, nearly every month, there are “Readers’ Offers”.  They would normally have about 3 items each month from different suppliers.  Anyone interested in the offers orders directly but quote a promotional code given with the offer.  One such example was a solar sensor light, which I had been looking for.  It was on special offer for Stg£19.99.  When I enquired with the UK based company, they said that they don’t supply to Ireland.  The very same product was offered to the Irish Times readers for €51.95.  Amazingly, both were on offer within 3 weeks of each other.

I wonder could either Irish Garden magazine or www.garden.ie organise something similar.   The products don’t have to be necessarily sourced from a UK firm (preferably an Irish one to keep jobs here) but at reasonable prices – the solar light above being an obvious example.  The firms would only stock the goods for, say, 6 weeks from the publication or only offer them at the promotional price for 6 weeks.  

I know what would be on my wish list –

Solar sensor light;

Labybird kit

High level hanging basket watered by prototype solar pump (www.rainwatergardening.com)

What do ye think?  Is this worth pursing? 

Ladybirds

11 July 2009 00:15:15
Penstemom 'Garnet' with aphids

Penstemom 'Garnet' with aphids

I took several photos one morning of various plants in the garden.  I was delighted with them.  I put this one up as my desktop photo and admired it on and off during the day.  It was up for several hours before I noticed the aphids on it.  Those things really are the bane of my life. 

Normally, I would put the hose on to high power and give the plant a good lash but there is a big difference between a rose covered in aphids and a penstemon covered in them.  Apparently some people squash them between their fingers but I’m a bit too squeamish for that.  So I thought about spraying.  I saw on one person’s journal about how her cabbage could not be eaten due to having put down slug pellets.  (Apologies for not knowing your name – it’s just that I have read so many journals that I can’t remember who put that up and I can’t find it now either).  I have to say I often wondered about the chemical composition of those and if they are as harmless as we are lead to believe.  In fairness, on the container, there is a warning about them being poisonous.

I have strawberries, garden peas, carrots, chives, parsley, rosemary and sage growing in the garden so now I am a bit reluctant to spray.  I logged on to Mr. Middleton’s website and he sells 25 ladybirds for €29.95 plus post and packaging.  The reason why I was thinking about buying them is because I have only once seen a ladybird in my garden and that was about two years ago.  Around about the same time, one Saturday, when in Kilkenny, we were moving cattle from one field to another.  On the way back, I counted 11 ladybirds.  I was stunned.  When I mentioned this to my sisters, I seriously believe they thought I had a screw loose.  But up here, you just don’t see them.  I don’t know if it is because the farmers around here are into cereals and vegetables (whereas the farmers around my father are mainly cattle and sheep men) or whether it is because I live in a housing estate and, I assume, my neighbours use chemicals to control their aphids so by default, the ladybirds don’t stick around.  This got me thinking.  According to the website, ladybirds eat 10,000 aphids in their life – roughly 5,000 per annum.  With 25 in the pack, I would need 125,000 aphids to keep them fed for this year alone.  I know I have aphids in the garden but I hope to God I don’t have that amount of them!  Another thing, if I were to buy these, there would be no guarantee that they would stay with me.  It’s not that I could keep some type of tabs on them.  I wonder did the ladybird I saw in my garden two years ago escape from one of my neighbours’ gardens.  I think I’ll stick to the jet of water, for the time being anyway.   

Scent of summer

05 July 2009 22:51:10
Basket 2

Basket 2

The May issue of Gardeners’ World magazine had a section called “Hanging Out”.  In it, three different suggestions for hanging baskets were given.  One was called “Playing it cool” which was made up of plants with white flowers and silver foliage.  The second was called “Falling leaves” which contained trailing plants.  The third was called “Scent of summer” which contained fragrant plants.  I decided to attempt this one.  The plants needed were as follows:

 

Heliotropium arborescens ‘Butterfly Blue’ – common name: cherry pie

4 Nemesia caerulea  or Nemesia ‘Blue Button’

4 French lavender Lavandula stoechas

 

Armed with this list, I headed off to my local garden centre.  They didn’t have those exact plants so I purchased instead:

 

Basket 1

1 Lavender ‘Munstead’

3 Nemesia ‘Nemo Blue’

3 Verbena ‘Deep Violet’

 

Basket 2

1 Lavender ‘Hidcote’

3 Nemesia ‘Nemo Blue’

3 Petunia sunfinia ‘Patio Blue’

 

While they aren’t exactly as it said in the book, I am delighted with them as the scent from them is amazing, despite the fact that they haven't really filled out yet.  I will be keeping an eye out for more suggestions in future.

 

By the way, if anyone wants the list for either of the other two, contact me and I’ll forward them to you.

Logging on and posting journal

03 July 2009 00:29:38
Has the last thing at night become logging on to www.garden.ie? Has it replaced saying your prayers? I always have a quick look around midnight to see who has updated their journals. The plan is to only spend 5 minutes – it is, after all, supposed to be a “quick” look.  

I start with the person on the right hand side of “most recently updated” and work my way across to the left hand side. But I am finding that when I have had “the quick look” at the person second from the right that the two remaining have now moved over to the right hand side and I have four to view, instead of two. This isn’t a bad thing, by the way – quite the contrary. The result of this is that the plan to only spend 5 minutes goes out the window and before I know it, it is quarter to one in the morning. Is it that all of you are out late in your gardens due to the long summer evenings? Is it that your house is nice and quiet because everyone else is in bed and you can sit down and take your time posting your journal? Or maybe it’s a seasonal thing as there is so much in bloom? One way or the other, I am getting to bed later and later because of all the wonderful photos and information put up. It’s a bit like going to the pub for one drink with colleagues.One of my friends and I came to the conclusion years ago that there is no such thing as one drink with colleagues because the crack only starts after the third or fourth drink. I suppose I could always not have that “quick” look. But then I would be missing out on so much. Dilemma, dilemma……….

Garden photos as a "Desktop" image

01 July 2009 00:10:26
One of my desktop photos

One of my desktop photos

Do any of the rest of you do this - set one of your garden photos as a "desktop" image on your computer?  I do.  My late mother would go upstairs and look out the bathroom window as it was the only window in the house which gave her the best view of the garden.  She would look out at the garden, admiring the way it was coming together and be so proud of it.  As I wash up, I hardly concentrate on the dishes because I am so busy, both admiring and looking at it.  I love my garden.  Oh, don't get me wrong - there are some things that aren't right yet and there are gaps in the borders.  I do have the containers planted up with the "gap" plants but for some reason, they aren't very big so it wouldn't be worth my while putting them out in the gaps yet.  The slugs, snails and aphids are in abundance too, all of which annoy me.  But that doesn't stop me looking and admiring.  I am taking photos constantly, some not very good but I don't delete them none the less.  Every week or 10 days, I change my "desktop" photo so when I am working, I can still admire it.  I have the radio on while I work and some days either the doom and gloom is just endless or I am under severe pressure to get the work done.  Those days I really appreciate my "desktop" photo. 

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