a mediateam website

See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

Scrubber's Journal

Scrubber's Journal February 2014

Last Post 1429 days 15 hours ago

Swanning it in Burtown House gardens!

24 February 2014 20:04:45

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Ill bet people don’t want to hear about Scrubber working in the wind and wet today ,gathering up the millions of branches and twigs left by the storm. Tiring and tedious but the place is a lot cleaner. No, you’d much rather hear about him swanning around in a very fine garden in Co Kildare lastFriday. Where he gets time to garden I don’t know and he feels very guilty that he has not been commenting on other people’s journals at present.Have no fear he will soon be doing so.

Last Friday Anna and I decided to visit Burtown House in Kildare-near Ballitore and not far from Athy.I think it was advertised in the garden magazine for Feb and when Scrubber was up in Angela Jupes  the present owner of Burtown House, Lesley Fennell was pointed out to him. Her mother is the wonderful  flower -illustrator Wendy Walsh and she herself is an accomplished artist. She is also a very nice lady and I said we would visit her garden soon.

Its very easy to find and we parked and walked up the curving drive. There were fine sweeps of snowdrops under the old trees and I hoped that  there would be more!  I need not have worried. I went into the very nice café and met James, an extremely cheerful welcoming young man whose lovely wife Joanna  is the cook and a jewellerydesigner  and maker! . I purchased our tickets (6 euro each)

And went out into the garden beside the house and then we both realized we had hit heaven! It’s a very intimate space , almost a sunken garden and there was a massive carpet of aconites under what I think is a white cherry. Swathes of snowdrops all around and winding paths that allowed you get up close and personal with the aconites, hellebores-some startlingly beautiful dark ones, tiny irises, a little blue flower beginning with’h’ that I cant remember ( a bit like an anemone). Just then Lesley herself came over and  gave us a warm welcome (That seems an intrinsic part of the Fennell family). She was very willing to explain what was what and where something was doing well and why such a plant was attractive to her-good gardening chat-when we were hailed across the garden and to my delight and Anna’s puzzlement I was off embracing one lady and warmly hugging a gentleman! Who was it but dear Clare and Fran , like ourselves out on a skite! One delicious moment when Fran asked courteously ‘And is this a friend of yours, Peter?’ To which I wickedly replied. ‘Ah no Fran , this is the owner, Mrs Lesley Fennell!’ As if Scrubber was well used to being guided around the gardens of the great by no less! We chatted for a while and then they were on their way. It was such a lovely surprise. Anna was a little confused not having met Clare before and then thinking that perhaps she should have recognized her but we sorted out the relationships and then, after switching off a boiling kettle Mrs Fennell returned and escorted us down to the wood.

Fran has well described it, it’s a magical place surrounded all about by a stream and you cross a little bridge and again swathes of beautiful snowdrops of many varieties, I’m afraid despite my attendance at two snowdrops events that week, I was of no help at all in identifying particular ones. I think I saw Straffan and Skyward and Hill Poe… The delightful thing was that Mrs. Fennel was able to tell me what would be coming on and how it looked in summer and I could see the area carpeted not alone with snowdrops but bluebells and trilliums and primula! The storm had knocked a number of the trees in the wood but I know they will be replaced by gifted planting that will be true to the spirit of the place.

Mrs. Fennell then had to go to her work but took us up through Wendy’s garden and showed us the best way back to the house which involved a series of smaller gardens. One of them is designed by James and is quite formal Ligustrum underplanted with lavender and a square of lawn. Its very simplicity is a foil to the other gardens which have an air of naturalness and almost (if you were easily taken in) artlessness about them. On through another with two lovely figures placed upon obelisks and out into the main garden in front of the house. We have to go back to see this in april and again in may/june and again in… that’s the effect the house and garden has on one.

In then to the café and we had a delicious cooked lunch. Everything was straight from the vegetable garden , which is very large and which I should have viewed but was so carried away by everything else that I forgot. Joanna does the cooking and there are no pre-packed sachets opened in that kitchen. The cakes are to die for and Scrubber went for an old favourite Biscuit cake- real chocolate makes all the difference!

We got some irises and cyclamen coum plants to remember our visit. One can become a friend which entitles one and three other people to visit as often as one likes so I am going to take up that offer in the April/May and use it! I only later realized that James was the James Fennell who did all those Vanishing Ireland books with Turtle Bunbury-I think there are four out and he has done many more, some on the Great  houses of England and the Great Houses of Ireland. These were for sale in the café. He is then, I realized a very successful photographer indeed but would be , Id say, the last person to bring it up! Perhaps another trait of the Fennells. Mrs Lesley Fennell is a consummate and talented gardener and yet the first to acknowledge that she is ‘not at all well up on snowdrop species’ this  despite the fact that she grows them magnificently.

Some gardens one comes away from perhaps a little despondent at their perfection. Not Burtown House. It shows what a gifted dedicated and obviously tremendously industrious gardener can do! There’s no doubt that Mrs. Fennell is a hands on, full time gardener but its also obvious that she garden in harmony with the spirit of the place. Scrubber is so looking forward to going back in other seasons-Mid April to late September open every Thursday through Sunday and of course Ill be back again next year for the snowdrops -early to late February and maybe some more biscuit cake!


Listening to Paddy!

23 February 2014 16:54:18

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

My goodness but Scrubber has been active lately. One Saturday up at the snowdrop gala in Angela Jupes, the following Thursday down to Waterford for Paddy’s presentation on snowdrops and then on Friday up to Burton House to view the splendid garden they have there. I shall get around to Garden tasks later but this journal is concentrating on Paddy’s talk in Mount Sion Waterford.

For those who may be new to the scene Paddy writes under ‘Gracedieu Lass’as he borrows Mary’s journal title rather than going to the trouble of inventing his own!

And splendid it was with Paddy drawing on all his skills as communicator and teacher and quite disarming his audience with the off- side comments and wry appraisals of the snowdrop world and its followers. One lady told me afterwards that she knew it would be good but that she didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was!’

He began by whetting our appetites with a slide of a posy of different snowdrops and telling us we would be expected to know them all at the end of the talk-probably terrifying a member or two in the process! And then we were off on a magical tour of his garden, cleverly comparing the lush fulfillment of summer with the present bleak appearance of many gardens. Thus we were to value snowdrops for a lift! There were many murmurs of agreement to be heard.

Then came the big words Applenate, Explicative and Supervolute, all new to Scrubber but explained so easily as Praying hands ,pleated and wrap around and with slides to clarify everything. And then the examples Nivalis, and its double flore pleno, and the plicatus from the crimea and G.Desdemona and Dionysious and the enigmatic G-71 which despite the name is a ‘good grower’ or to quote paddy ‘Does the business!’ one of his favourite phrases. G.Nivalis Lady Elphinstone which I think was a yellow and ‘takes time’. One of the great things about the talk was that Paddy has grown most of them and knows exactly which ones d.t.b. Thus Warburg a famous yellow ‘does very well’ where as G.Green Lantern was dismissed as pretty useless. It was this ‘down and dirty’ attitude that impressed and you realized that this man knew what he was talking about.

He told us what snowdrops were best for early growth and Scrubber’s heart went out to a lovly G.Plicatus Three Ships which arrives for Christmas!. If you think that’s early theres a ‘Tilebarn Jamie’ that flowers in mid October!One of the G.Reginae Olgae but you all knew that! Theres an early G Farington double  and G. Castlebar. And who could resist even the name of G. Flocon de Neige?

On and on and we were transported to other worlds-the inelegant but interesting ‘Scharlockii’ and G Nivalis Viridipice whom only a mother could love.g. Elwesii Grumpy went down very well! We were brought on a tour of the specifically Irish onesG. Cicely hall, G.Ruby baker G.Kildare G.Green lantern G.Skyward-very tall! G.Castlegar, G.Hill poe, G.Liam Schofield, G.David Shackelton (apparently the man himself wasn’t aware of it!) G.Lady Moore- lovely story there, G.Woodtown and many more.

Now I have loads more names but that gives you just a flavor of the talk. What you miss are the cracks, the asides, the anecdotes, the fun, the honesty of the evaluations, the wry evaluations of monetary value and fashion, the surprising twists and, he will kill me for saying this, the genuine modesty of this  superb communicator. At no stage in a long lecture were you wondering is he going to stop soon. No he had us all in the palm of his well composted, leaf-moulded hand! The Germans have a word ‘es lohnt sich’ it is (very) worthwhile, and that’s exactly what I felt about my journey down to Waterford last Thursday night. Take your bow Paddy and don’t shoot the messenger!

p.s. I hope to put up a Burton House journal soon and one on recent rocking in the garden!

Angela Jupe's Snowdrop gala

19 February 2014 22:02:43

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Well after all that unpleasantness and damage and frightening weather last Wednesday , Scrubber was very pleased to find himself on the way to Angela Jupe’s snowdrop gala on the Saturday on roads that were not flooded and passing trees that were not going to fall down on one. It was his first time going to such an event  and he was looking forward to it.

Angela had provided clearcut instructions and  Scrubber drove in the drive and into the inner courtyard  where there were snowdrop stalls being set up and all sorts of business going on. Parking was in a field and Scrubber hoped he would not ‘bog’ on the way out. (He didn’t).

One had to register and then there was tea  and refreshments. Usually this is tea and Marietta biscuits but Angela had provided delicious home baked biscuits and brownies and other cakes to go with the tea and coffee. Scrubber spotted Robert Miller (Altamount Nursery) –other than that he knew not one! And Robert very kindly introduced Scrubber to Statia O Neill, a lovely lady who discovered the Snowdrop G. Drummond Giant, a Carlow snowdrop. Statia had bought it in Drummonds seed store in the sixties, in a jelly mould! She thought it may have been from the garden of a Mr. Grey who worked in Drummonds. She noticed that it was very distinctive  with large leaves and a very fine head and she passed it on to Corona North  and Corona sold it in Altamount. Scrubber had got his from Robert Miller and from one bulb he now has six lovely snowdrops. Here he must confess that although he was exposed to all sorts of magnificent and wondrous species and varieties on the day he realised that he was not EVER going to be a galanthophile because his ideal is swathes and swathes of simple singles and doubles and he has neither the patience or the skills to cultivate the more cosseted ones. So he did learn something very important from the day.

The first talk was from Assumpta Broomfield and she was witty and informative and funny and knowledgeable and had done lots of research on the first cataloguing of snowdrops (1786). Drummonds was in 1957! She had lots of anecdotes and shared her talk very generously with others. Her Brother in law Sydney had researched 65 Church of Ireland churches where snowdrops were to be found and there were lots of slides. Then we went on to Augustine Henry and Henry John Elwees and the history of how these snowdrops arrived  in Ireland. We learned about people like Cicely and Robin hall (Primrose Hill) and how Helen Dillon was one of the prime movers in awakening modern interest in snowdrops On and on but never boring. Massey bringing back plicatus fom the Crimean War which mixed with nivalis and gave us G.Straffan .G. Hill Poe from Sarah Angel, the O Mahony Snowdrop- now G. Coolballantagart. And lots and lots more  G. Brenda Troyle which I had seen in profusion in Paddy and Mary’s. And of course Paddy was spoken of with appropriate deference! He being a shaker and mover in these rarified circles!

The second talk was given by Tom Mitchel of Evolution plants and he was obviously  a very committed and extremely knowledgeable man. He spoke about placing  snowdrops  ‘philogenetically’ and words like ‘convolute nervation tripped merrily off his tongue. Apparently THE place to go to see snowdrops is not  the scrub or even Altamount-now he didn’t mention those but the labe river (Lave?) in the Czech republic but I think you need to go next week or they’ll be gone over! He had loads of really remarkable slides which Scrubber enjoyed. But like Pooh Bear ‘Big words bother me!’

Then a young WIT Student Paul Smith gave a very clear and highly interesting talk on Twin Scaling which although technical was made very clear even to Scrubber, by use of excellent slides and a home made video. Watch for that name. He will be big! And a very nice young chap indeed.Scrubber will never do twin scaling as he gets excellent results from dividing clumps! But had one a very special bulb…

We broke for lunch and wow , were the stops pulled out. Glorious salmon and Ricotta cheese roulade, a fruity chicken curry, rice, potatoes, salsa all delicious! And TWO deserts a lovely chocolate tart and a Merengue to die for! Im not sure was one supposed to have both but the ladies at our table did and I felt it would be rude not to!

 Then there was naming of snowdrops G.Woodtown and Eimer Kellegher  with G.Barnhill. Angela had G.Jupes bell and ‘Drumard’.Angela lawlor had G.Catherine Mc Cauley I think Joe Allen had G.Hillview Mary O Brien (who tells a great story!) told us about G .Mary O Brien and I think Amanda named another G.Skyward which originally came fro H.Dillon. Helen was to be in the chair but was unable at the last minute to attend..

Then we had more cake lemon drizzle with a lovely Snowdrop motif. There was a very nice group of Dutch galantophiles there and they were quite chatty. They too, Fran, missed Altamount because of the wind.We went around Angela’s garden and viewed her snowdrops. It was so strange to see the bare clay as last time I visited was in summer and the colour was overwhelming!And then Scrubber bought –no not snowdrops-two sarcococca and a lovely white prunus from the Mount venus stand. Oliver Schurrman seemed a very nice person and his plants were top class and not overly expensive.

Then down to Shinrone churchyard to see a glorious spread of snowdrops after which Scrubber headed for home. He hit two potholes on the way and the following day had to leave the car into a garage to have the wheel fixed. A well a small price to pay for learning so much, for meeting so many lovely people and for the realization that though he will never be a galanthophile, he has something rare and precious in the  multitude of simply stunning snowdrops that bless his scrub every spring!

the recurring miracle

10 February 2014 21:35:11

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

It happened today as it always does. And as always, it was a surprise even though a longed- for one. Scrubber had spent the afternoon lugging tarpaulins ful of dead sodden leaves down to the bottom of the scrub. Its heavy monotonous and very satisfying work because as the heaps go down the scrub begins to take on form again and the paths and the rocks stand out more clearly. He also shifted two stones but that only took ten minutes as they were not big 'uns. So as dusk came he turned to go in and then in the dusk and maybe because of it, he was suddenly aware that the snowdrops had in fact come in all their glory. All around him were clusters of white perfection and what had been last week and even this morning tight grassy clumps ,had suddenly decided to put on the ballet shoes and display!

I know its a yearly event but it still takes Scrubber by surprise each time. There comes a day and there before him-wonderland. And apart from dividing clumps up each year and attempting to spread the beauty around Scrubber has nothing to do with it. This is mother nature at her most natural and beautiful and the response is always, to give thanks.


Nasty wind and nasty weather

05 February 2014 17:05:58

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

I always envy those people who love 'being tucked up inside and enjoy hearing the wind howl outside'. Scrubber hates wind, full stop and by now is thoroughly fed up of storm after storm. Last night was the worst so far and when i woke and looked out i saw it had torn a large bough off my large 'japanese' pine tree. Luckily that was all it did but it also unearthed some fir trees on the road into Borris as well.I do hope we will see an end to it because we could be out enjoying all the lovely new life around us.! But its hard to complain and I count my stars my house is not likely to be flooded as all those houses in cork and limerick were. Poor poor people!


A flash of blue!

04 February 2014 17:30:08

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Click to zoom

Got a little window of opportunity yesterday and managed to rake off the leaves from beds on lower lawn. Had intended to do only that but as the weather held I put on gardening gear and went Scrubwards! It was too flooded to actually dump leaves  (er, place them in the compost pile)-even despite the fact I was wearing my new posh wellies, Christmas present. So I concentrated on dragging them into big mounds instead. Then I saw that Eamon’s kerb-the name for my newly renovated kerb/wall had a rock that if it were removed might be better replaced by a squarer one. And imagine there just happened to be a squarer one in another bed. So I hauled it out and hit it with a hammer and it settled in nicely. And the one I took out took its place in the bed! Jigs and reels! To look straight in at the kerb, it looks a bit awry but from top and side it,s very nice indeed.

And that whole area is now quite quite beautiful-to my eyes anyway. I thought the other day how lucky I am to have a Cherub who nudges me gently but relentlessly into creating beautiful places!

Another Ah Ha! Moment was when I looked out at the terraces and saw for the first time a flash of blue! It was like seeing a kingfisher. What was it? A lovely little Iris Reticulata, a tiny plant but such a strong colour. I had planted a dozen on the slope over the terraces and had been told-not by a garden.ie. person but  by a very knowledgeable ‘other’, that to plant them in grass would not be successful. So I did get a little thrill out of seeing this first one –and there’s a few more coming!

So despite the floods and they are back in the bottoms of the Scrub with a vengeance-thankfully we are very high up over the river-there are moments of loveliness and hours of usefulness. The snowdrops are pushing through relentlessly. I think they will peak in about a fortnight . As I write the wind is building up again outside and the rain is increasing. Thursday may bring us out of it.


Garden.ie Members

Not a member yet?
Join now to:

Join Now

Existing Members

Forgotten password

Garden.ie CLUB

Join Ireland's first online garden club! Share pictures of your garden, make new friends and chat with other gardeners. It's simple to join and free! Register Here

Featured Members


Thousands of gardening facts at your finger tips:

Ask Gerry

Gerry DalyTry our unique advice service from editor Gerry Daly. Got a question right now? Search here to see if it has been answered already:

a mediateam website

©2018 Garden.ie. Mediateam Ltd, Media House, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18.

Tel (+353 1) 2947777 Email info@garden.ie

Website Design by KCO.ie