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TheH (Hazel)'s Journal

TheH (Hazel)'s Journal January 2012

Last Post 2188 days 15 hours ago

My bags are packed .....

24 January 2012 21:16:06
First of the Grape Hyacinths

First of the Grape Hyacinths

.... and I'm off to Barcelona to see the amazing granddaughter tomorrow morning! So I was just as glad that it was drizzly here today so I wasn't tempted to go out in the garden  today - much better to get the bag packed and things organised indoors instead!

Almost a week away from the garden! How will I cope???? I need counselling!!!!!

Still, the joy of seeing little Cliona, (and of course her Dad and Mum!!!) will be well worth it! 

There will be lots to do when I get back and maybe the dafs micht be showing some colour .... in the meantime here is the first Grape Hyacinth to show colour .... 

Using up stones

23 January 2012 00:29:46
Path through the Rockery

Path through the Rockery

I talked in another journal about the unlimited supply of stones my garden produces. Every bed I weed produces stones by the bucketful. I remove all the larger ones - well everything  bigger than gravel size - and then have to find somewhere to put them! 

For a while I was putting them along the fence bordering the vegetable patch but that area is pretty much built up as far as is practical, so I've had come up with another solution. Since my soil is heavy I am developing little access paths everywhere I can to avoid walking on the soil as much as possible. The problem has been deciding what surface to put on these informal paths. With all those stones to spare I've made some paths with the stones by the simple process of treading them into the muddy soil when it is good and wet!

These paths are not maintenance -free because they do need weeding, but I'm afraid I just reach for the Roundup a few times over the year :-(

It takes about a year of being trodden on for the paths to become really solid, but right from the start they provide a non-soggy surface to walk on even after heavy rain - in fact, treading these paths after rain just helps to settle the stones even better.

The path in the photo actually has water between the stones after rain, but I reckon it still works! As you can see I am not fussy about the sizes or shapes of the stones - I just kind of let the paths evolve.

The process was very simple - the path was defined at the sides using large stones and then all I did was load up the wheelbarrow with stones, then just empty them out and rake them more or less to a single layer (stones on top of stones won't stabilise) 

I think these stone paths give a nice rustic feel to the garden and plan to continue making them as long as the soil keeps throwing up stones! 

The first path I did had less stones (mainly because most of the ground was covered with bark so I wasn't harvesting such a great crop of stones - and the bonus on this path is that the stones are now a bit mossy which looks quite pretty! 

How to make a Willow Fence

21 January 2012 22:43:10
Mock-up of Elizabeth's fence

Mock-up of Elizabeth's fence

Very busy day today. We set off as planned this morning, Elizabeth, the willow quicks and I. On the way to Dublin we needed to get some of those really useful cable ties that electricians use for the construction of the willow fence. Where to get them? Well, Woodies might be a good idea .... or not!!!!

We emerged about an hour later laden down with loads of bargains - tulips, anemones, really good value packets of seeds, some seed potatoes, onion set and shallots, a new fine rose for my watering can - Oh and a pack of cable ties!

Arrived at Elizabeth's house to find her 77-year old husband struggling with the task of planting the Oak tree they got for Christmas. He is an absolute gentleman, and had prepared a lovely lunch for us before he started on the planting! So it was straight into the gardening gear and we gave him a hand to get the tree planted. He was delighted because he had been let down by a friend who had promised to help. The oak should be very happy as it has been planted with plenty of the fabulous compost that Elizabeth is so good at.

After the delicious lunch, we finally got down to the fence making. Anyone not interested in this process can safely stop reading now .....

For those readers still with us you will find a few pictures in the album "Elizabeth's Fence" and here is what we did:

First we used a crowbar to make nice deep holes at a distance of 8 inches or so apart.

Each hole had a group of 4 of the willow quicks inserted as deep as possible. They were probably sunk about 5 or 6 inches deep at least.

The ends of the fence had 6 quicks to add strength.These will form a sort of post.

Then we started the trellis design.

Row 1 

Taking 2 quicks from hole 2 and 2from hole 3 they are crossed over with  the ones from group 2 passing in front. 

Making the crossover happen about half way between the groups, and at a height of about 6 inches from the ground, the quicks are secured together using a cable tie.

Next crossover is made with the remaining 2 quicks from group 3 and the first 2 quicks from group 4 again making sure the quicks from group 3 are in front.

This is repeated to one hole before the end of the fence. The final 2 quicks from this group are plaited in to the end post. 

Row 2

Going back along the row, use the same method to form diamond shapes taking care to keep the pattern of "under -over" where the quicks are crossing.

When we got back to the start of the fence the final pair will be linked in to the end post here also. 

Row 3

The final trellis criss-cross is done in the same way, but at the same time the ends of each quick are bound or plaited along the top of the row and again tied in place with the cable ties

Unfortunately darkness overtook us so i didn;t have the chance to see the finished fence, but Elizabeth has promised to send me photos when it is done. We did a trial run down at Gortnalee so I'm putting up a photo to give the idea ..... 

Willow .... on the move

21 January 2012 00:11:17
Elizabeth and her willow wands

Elizabeth and her willow wands

This weekend is a "sister weekend" - Elizabeth came down today and we tackled the cutting back of the willow trees in the fron garden. They are Salix alba Chermesina and should have been cut back the past few years to encourage the beautiful red stems but I didn't get around to it so by a happy coincidence Elizabeth would like to try a little willow fence, so today we tackled two of the trees. I decided to coppice them but the trunks were beyond my cutting tools so they are only down to about a foot. The cuttings were cut down into useful lengths for the proposed fence and the remainder will be shredded for compost.

Tomorrow we will bring the willow sticks to Dublin and construct the fence. I'll try to take decent photos of the process for some of you who were interested in the process :-)

For now, here is Elizabeth with the results of our labours - my apologies for the poor quality of the photo but I'm still learning with Brendan's camera - The pile in front is for shredding, and the bundle beside her is for export! 

Playing truant today

18 January 2012 20:58:06
Bargain Bulbs

Bargain Bulbs

I had a lovely day today! I used up a voucher I got as a present for a lovely massage which really lifted my spirits! I've been a bit stressed recently with various domestic things so the massage was just what I needed!

On the way home from Dublin I dropped in to B & Q (as you do!) - looking for one of those gadgets for measuring how much electricity is being used by an appliance - we had a couple of them but they have vanished into that Alladdins Cave known as Brendan's Workshop (otherwise known as a 20ft container).

Unfortunately they no longer stock them. Of course it wasn't possible to leave without checking out the garden centre - just in case - you know!

I was very restrained, considering - as Rachel said in a journal recently - the bargain bulbs at the moment are very hard to pass up - and I just happen to have noticed that one side of the Woodlands had much less daffodils peeping through  - and the bulbs were good value to start with at €3.75 a pack - reduced to €2. The mixed box of pink bulbs was €6.85 reduced to €3.50 -  and then when I got to the checkout I remembered my "golden years" discount card! I have that card about 3 years and I think this is the first time I've been there on the right day to benefit from it! It's lovlely to get named varieties of bulbs at such a good price - Tete-a-tete, Martinette and Canaliculatus in the €2 packs and Anemone "coronaria sylphide", Allium "unifolium", Hyacinth "orientalis fondant" and Tulip "triumph mistress" in the pink pack! 

I was trying to figure out what to put in a spare planter - I think I now have the answer! 


Two-toned helleborus

16 January 2012 21:00:56
Two-toned Helleborus

Two-toned Helleborus

This spell of weather is really too good to be true. Even though it was very cold again today it was still possible to get a good bit done in the garden. All those photos of lovely compost heaps encouraged me to investigate my compost bin - the plastic one behind the greenhouse  - Oh dear! A bit on the soggy side! Well, the only thing to do with these plastic compost bins is to upend them - no sooner said than done. Next step was to shovel all the compost back into the bin. Monty Don said that you never need to join a gym if you make compost and now I know what he means!

Having got that out of the way I was really inspired so it was weed, hoe and rake for the rest of the afternoon. I have found a use for the many many stones that appear out of my soil - there is a new path along the edge of the Sedum Bed and the soil in the pathway is horrible gooey muck so I've started making it a stone path. Stones by the bucketful on the path, spread them out and tread them in! Works a treat!

To get myself in the right mood I took this photo of my lovely two-tone Helleborus orientalis 'Joy Hybrids'  which had ths little white flower last year too!

Heathers for Ladygardener!

15 January 2012 21:38:49
Year Four - a heather bed at last!

Year Four - a heather bed at last!

Anne encouraged me to go out and appreciate my heather bed today - Thank you Anne! 

I always wanted a "proper" heather bed. My first proper Gardening Book, The Readers Digest Encyclopedia of Garden Flowers (1973) had a wonderful picture of a heath, with masses of heathers all blending in together in one harmonious mass and this was what was my dream!

When I was planning the garden here in Gortnalee one of the few plants that Brendan wanted was heather, so that was enough to inspire me! Year one - the rabbits ate most of my heathers down to the scut. Year two - the construction works involved in the Wind Turbine resulted in the heathers being walked on, and copiously sprayed with cement. Year three - created a raised bed, transplanted the heathers, erected a rabbit fence around them. Year four - photo attached :-D  

Am I on the right track?

15 January 2012 21:22:37
Three potential veg beds - or not?

Three potential veg beds - or not?

I ventured down to the veg garden today expecting it to be totally waterlogged but to my surprise the soil had dried out quite a bit. However, the beds that were covered with manure last autumn were looking a bit sad. Because of the mild winter (I think) the manure was just sitting on top of the beds in a pretty sodden mess!

Taking my trusty fork in hand, I forked some earth from the edge of the beds up on top of the manure and in doing so, broke up some of the larger sods of "yuk". I wonder if I need my head examined trying to grow vegetables in this area? Last winter we had to dig major drainage in this area to help with the septic tank and this resulted in lots of subsoil being brought up to the surface. Even the original topsoil wasn't great, but I could make a road with the amount of stones coming up in the soi at the moment! Even the soil looks gritty and some of it is that blue clay!

This is why I put the heavy load of manure on the beds, hoping to work miracles :-( Is there any real chance that it will ever become any sort of decent loam?

Will the beds in the photo have any chance of being plantable this spring? Or should I throw in the towel and plan a different type of garden for this area?

I "banked up" the three beds in the photo today and am dreading having to dig them over properly later in  the spring. My plan was to use the little electric cultivator but it is inclined to spray the clay each side as it works and I don't fancy being sprayed with manure, even well-rotted stuff! 

Cold but dry

14 January 2012 23:52:43
Herbaceous border brightened up

Herbaceous border brightened up

Wrapped up very warm today as there was a wind that would skin you out today! I tackled some weeding and tidying in the rockery. It had been completely invaded by Celandine! 

I have painstakingly removed it before it flowered in the hopes of reducing it! I loved seeing ao much spring growth on the plants - the Arenaria is in flower and there are bulbs popping up here and there - of course I can't remember which bulbs, so it will all be a lovely surprise in a few weeks!

The herbaceous border is really cheered up with the primula from Johnstown - very good value at  €9.60 for a tray of a dozen!

It is very encouraging to read all the journals at this time of year with everyone making plans for the new season.

I'm just hoping that the veg garden will soon be dry enough to turn over the soil and dig in the manure. At the moment it is just a squigy mess! I'm glad I decided to make trodden paths between the beds - at least that cuts down on the amount of digging to do! I'm reading up on the "non-digging" approach as it has definite appeal for me!

The Buddleia and the Red Willow " Salix alba Chermesina" both need to be chopped soon. I got such great results from the Buddleia last year that I have no hesitation in chopping it to the ground again this year.  I'm interested to hear that some people do the same with Leycesteria - I have a few of these and have been letting them grow for the past couple of years - does anyone know if I'll get more flowers if I cut them back?

I also noticed that today was the coldest day I've been out in the garden - my feet and hands were both cold despite gloves and warm boots! Definitely need to work in short spells this time of year!

Late but very welcome ...

13 January 2012 17:45:39
The Curious Gardener's Almanac

The Curious Gardener's Almanac

...Christmas Present finally delivered from my son in London. It is "The Curious Gardener's Almanac" by Niall Edworthy and seems to be in the same vein as Rachel's book that is causing Fran to miss his bus stop ....

It is a collection of quotations, advice and general garden-related trivia that is giving me great delight! I shall no doubt bore everyone with quotations from it for the forseeable as it is making me smile and chuckle with every page ...

Here are a few samples ....

An addiction to gardening is not at all bad when you consider all the other choices in life.

(Cora Lea Bell)

 If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk

For a week, kill a pig

For a month, get married

For a lifetime, be a gardener

(Old Chinese proverb) 

Other than that, only spent a very short time in the garden as it was very cold so just divided up the lovely "Dianella Silver Streak" I got as my Kris Kindle - there are now 6 pretty good size plants in the greenhouse and I have just the spot for them ....  

Scrubber's not the only one ....

10 January 2012 18:20:07
Hamamelis Mollis

Hamamelis Mollis

... to be feeling tired! The weather was so encouraging today so off I went, on a mission! It has been annoying me that I didn't get to clear up the leaves at the end of the autumn. Most of them just blew away, but a few lodged in most unattractive places. My Japanese Area was one - the nice gravel was almost completely covered. The other area was the Potentilla Bed. It also has a stone mulch so the leaves look very messy at this time of year.

Fortunately, one of the garden tools that Brendan brought into the marriage was a flymo Leaf Vac. This made short work of the leaves but is a killer on the back! I also discovered it has several settings - I knew it would suck and blow, but today I discovered another setting - it sort of blows and sucks at the same time - and this proved to be the way to go today with damp leaves lodged under the shrubs. I feel really stupid when this kind of thing happens as I am usually good at reading the instructions for my many gadgets, however in this case I have a good excuse as it didn't come with a manual!

The other jobs done were the planting of the lovely cheerful Primula from Johnstown, and lifting a few more "self-seeders" for edging the woodland areas. I was talking to someone at Johnstown about the little Violets that came as "passengers" from my sister's garden and have been marchign through all my beds .... today I had a brainwave - transplant them to the woodland garden and let them march away! 

The picture is the lovely Hamamelis Mollis - does anyone know if it has another name? 

The day after ....

09 January 2012 23:24:25


Yesterday was so brilliant - and I've spent a happy few hours reading the journals and looking at the photos both of which reflect the happy atmosphere in Johnstown. Today was balmy and mild so there was a chance to plant some of the goodies from that magical day!

It was so exciting wandering around with plants in hand deciding where to plant them! The most urgent for planting was the Geranium (I think from Jurga) and I was delighted to get three good size plants from it! They are now happily planted in the East Woodland area where they will brighten up that area no end.

While I was in that area I checked up on the edging plants and was encouraged to see that many of the little edging plants I put in in the autumn look like they have taken so roll on Spring! And then to put the icing on the cake I found two little snowdrops just peeping out. This was particularly pleasing because I had quite forgotten where I had moved them too!!!!

Then it was time to place the Yucca (thanks Dick) - Found a perfect spot for it down in the "New Bed" where it is looking very happy. The Hydrangeas (thanks to both Dick and Fran - didn't realise i had been greedy and asked both of you for them :-() fitted in very well in the shrubbery.

The purchased Achilleas and Kaffir Lily were also planted, along with the lovely Pheasant Grass (thanks again Fran) and by then it was getting dark .... still, a delightful way to spend the day! 

And there are still lots to plant tomorrow :-) 

Out and about .....

05 January 2012 16:37:39
Trying out the 'Flower' setting - Winter Jasmine

Trying out the 'Flower' setting - Winter Jasmine

... at last! The rain stayed away today, even if the wind was pretty impressive! It was great to be able to get out in the garden for a while so a bit of tidying up got done. Unfortunately the wind kept blowing all the debris out of the wheelbarrow as fast as I put it in :-)

Got the herbaceous border cleaned up so it looks much better. I'm going to have to start the coffee routine again as the slugs have been having a good munch on the tulips that are coming up there.

I also tackled the Potentilla bed as it was getting a bit unruly - now the shrubs are all tidied up and weeded. One advantage of all that rain is that the weeds are very easy to pull! Mind you, some of the garden is quite waterlogged so I had to confine myself to the higher ground!

I also did some experimenting wtih Brendan's camera (a far superior one to mine) and have been trying to compare the results. I'm not sure if I have the patience for all these different settings .... but the results do seem to be worth it.

Of course this means that instead of my usual habit of sticking the camera in my pocket when I go out and then snapping as I go, I will have to take the photo stuff much more seriously :-) The difficulty I have with photo expeditions round the garden is that I keep seeing stuff I should be doing instead of taking pretty pictures.

I finished up today potting up a few bits for Johnstown - nothing too dramatic at this time of year just some self-seeders!

There is a little voice in my head saying "Can we go yet? Can we go yet? Can we go yet?" but it is 3 whole sleeps till the BIG DAY!!!! 


Heigh Ho! Lazy day!

03 January 2012 21:18:46
Morning sky

Morning sky

The storm last night caused the slates on our roof to rattle all night so i didn't sleep too well. Had to get up at 5 am to remove the Christmas Wreath from the front door where it was threatening to break the glass!

Result - one totally lazy day! didn't budge outside all day.

Spent a fairly productive couple of hours planning the garden task for the next few months and deciding what vegetables I'll grow this year.

There is an early cabbage mentioned in this months Irish Garden but so far I haven't located it - they refer to it as "Hispi". I'm a bit of a novice in the veg stakes so any clues would be welcome ... i like the sound of this one - early and "sweetheart" type.

Hopefully by tomorrow the gale should have abated a bit as it was impossible to work outside today and the cabin fever is getting pretty bad :-( 

Good start to the year

01 January 2012 23:30:23


We had some lovely sunshine here today but domestic stuff kept me indoors until 3.30. I really felt the lengthening of the days, as it seems only a few days ago that it was so dark at 3.30 that I had to go indoors! 

My first task was to cut the old leaves off the Helebores so they can show off their pretty flowers.  

Just got that finished when the rain came down so I scurried into the greenhouse where I did a bit more tidying up on the sedum plantlets for the sedum bed. The ones that were re-potted seem to be much happier with their drier compost so I took some more of the most waterlogged and gave them the treatment too. I did try Rachel's tip of putting the vermiculite  on the tops of the pots but I thing the soil was just too waterlogged to be recovered like that. I also tried standing the pots on newspaper to try to drain some of the water off but that didn't make much difference either! Really, this clay soil is very difficult! I think I'll be using a lot more sand and vermiculite in future!

I did manage to take a few photos before the rain came down, and then couldn't resist taking a couple in the greenhouse before it was completely dark!  


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