Vertical planters updated

I have a couple of vertical planters which adorn the trellises on my Veranda and I had them planted up with Auriculas for the past couple of years, but the position is not ideal for these shade-loving plants as the trellis is west-facing. The several bouts of really hot, sunny and warm days this summer made it difficult to keep these plants in any sort of shape. Quite a few of them perished, and I decided they needed a new home. They are now transplanted to a border where they have shading from direct sunshine so they should be happier now! But what to replace them with?

Pockets cleared of the Auricula

I picked up some Sempervivum in my recent visit to Arboretum – taking care to select plants with lots of babies! By separating the babies I managed to get enough new plants to fill all the pockets!

But there was a disadvantage. I couldn’t reach the top pockets. I always left them empty when I had the Auriculas in them but I wanted to fill all the pockets this time. Sometimes the solution to a problem is so obvious that you just don’t see it! The pockets were only held in place with twine. Why not simply untie them and replace them lower down on the trellis!

Re-positioned pockets

So I am a happy camper now! I can see all the new plants, and all the pockets are populated! I still have a row of Auriculas in the bottom row, and I am trying out a few sedums too,

Much easier to see the plants now!

I dressed all the sempervivums with grit and I think I will probably do the same with the other plants but for the moment I think this is a big improvement. However, this solution is really only suitable for one set of pockets as the other set is above my “plants in waiting” table so I will have to come up with another solution here.

Plants in Waiting Table is in the way for these pockets

For the moment I am happy to be able to keep an eye on at least one lot of little pots. It will be much easier to water them too – when they were up higher it was a bit of a performance trying to make sure each pot got enough water! I am hoping that the sempervivum and the sedums will be more forgiving or erratic watering!

Best laid plans

I woke up yesterday determined to break out of my Cocoon and go on a “non-essential” journey. My destination was Arboretum in Carlow, about an hour’s drive from my home. The plan was to have lunch there, take a walk in their very pleasant area beside the garden centre and indulge myself with a little retail therapy. Zoe (my little electric car) was fully charged up and rearing to go and I was on the road before 12 – just nice timing for lunch.

I have been to Arboretum a number of times, but each time I have gone the sat-nav has taken me a different route. I had the destination saved on the car system so I decided to go for that one. I also put it into Google Maps – but Google seemed to be having a bit of a problem with the thundery cloud cover so wasn’t much help.

So I set off, leaving my common sense at home! Zoe brought me way down into Kilkenny and at Ballyragget I was directed to Castlecomer. I had some misgivings, but Zoe seemed to know where she was going so I just carried on. Past Castlecomer and Zoe was starting to say I was getting close, so I started to relax a bit.

At somewhere called “The Ridge” disaster struck! Going through the town I hit what I thought must have been a stone on the roadway and within a hundred metres Zoe told me I had a puncture. I pulled in to a convenient gateway and got out to examine the damage. Zoe is a modern girl and doesn’t clutter up her boot with spare wheels or such like. She has a trendy aerosol that is supposed to do a temporary repair to the wheel but I have never used this feature before so it was time to get out the manual! The instructions looked a bit complicated but I had no choice but to have a go! I had got as far as removing the required equipment from the boot when a Good Samaritan arrived in the person of the local postman who quickly figured it out and we waited anxiously for the wheel to sort itself out! Alas no! It took everything the little aerosol had to offer, and with an ominous hiss released all the air again. This kind man went back to The Ridge where there is a garage to see if they could help, but they couldn’t, so he went on his way and I was once more alone on the empty road with a very sick Zoe.

The AA was my only hope. The number for the AA is on a sticker on my windscreen so I tried to call it – but the number was unobtainable! What was going on? Then I remembered there had been something on the radion about 1800 numbers! There was also instructions to download an App – so I did that, but there was the complication of passwords and by now between hunger and stress I couldn’t cope!

Then I spotted a land-line number on the window sticker for UK access – but since it was a Dublin number I reckoned it might do! Success! They logged the call and said I should be able to follow the progress of my rescue van on the App if I could get it going. Of course, I had no idea where I was! The Postman had told me I was at “Daly’s Cross, The Ridge, Oldleighlin” but this didn’t help. I managed to get Google Maps to tell me my co-ordinates so the AA was on its way! One hour seventeen minutes was the estimated arrival time. It was now almost 2 pm so my heart sank. I was also getting very hungry but there was nothing to do but wait. Sitting in the car I fiddled around with the AA App and eventually got it set up and miraculously it immediately showed my “Rescue Call” and the expected arrival time but when I looked at the map it was showing the van had not left Dublin so I had no expectation that they would arrive any time soon.

So I played a game of Sudoku to while away the time – but the map still showed the van in Dublin! There is a button that says “Call the Centre” so that was what I did! They reassured me that my Rescuer was only about 10 or 15 minutes away and miraculously he arrived! I had thought that my only option was to be towed home or to a garage but they have a much cleverer solution! Many modern cars have dispensed with the spare wheel so my situation was not unique! The AA man was able to fit a special wheel to my car, while I rang around to find the nearest Tyre Shop with the correct tyre size available! Then I just had to follow him to the tyre shop and get a new tyre fitted, while he just retrieved his special wheel and was quickly on his way! Before he left, he advised me to continue with my day’s plan. When I looked at my watch it was only a quarter past three! It had only taken a bit over an hour to sort me out! I decided to take his advice, since I was now close to my original destination and I definitely needed food and retail therapy to help me recover from the trauma!

Arriving in Arboretum I treated myself to a large slice of coffee cake and a delicious coffee and then took a stroll round the garden there before going near the plant sales! Feeling much better now I was able to recall what I had in mind when I left home a lifetime ago! My research the previous night into how I could move roses to a place where roses had been planted before had told me that lots of my own compost and some mycorrhizal fungi for the roots of the new roses would ensure their survival so that was number one on the shopping list. I also wanted to get some Sempervivum to plant up my vertical planters where the Auriculas were no longer happy! I also picked up some horticultural sand so I can divide up the sempervivum! I got 10 little pots but I need 36 to fill the planter! However, I selected plants with lots of little ones round the edges so I think I shall have plenty!

Driving home I seemed to have recovered my common sense, because I just headed the way I knew and got home safely. The glass of wine with my dinner was never so welcome!

Rose Care

I’m trying really hard to leave the chemicals in the shed this year. I was in the habit of spraying my roses twice each year – in early Spring and in the middle of the Summer flowering period.

I decided to try a new approach this year. The twin pests of Blackspot and greenfly were the main targets for me. Instead of reaching for the spray I took a different route. I don’t generally have a lot of greenfly on the roses but when they appeared earlier in the year I found that a steady jet of water removed them and they haven’t really been a problem ever since.

The other pest – the dreaded blackspot has been cropping up right through the season but I am trying a different approach. Instead of spraying I have instead removed any leaves or branches showing any signs of blackspot or other blotchy marks when doing my regular dead-heading, and if a whole branch is affected removing the full branch.

I also clear the debris of dead and mainly diseased leaves from beneath the roses. The first time I did this way back when my Zephrine Douhin showed spots on the leaves, I cut out all the affected leaves and cut back whole stems where there was a lot of damaged leaves.

The result really surprised me. Now, at the end of August, there is an abundance of new healthy growth, and even some buds! I fed all the roses several times, sometimes with rose food applied to the soil, and sometimes with a drenching of Miracle Grow.

This bag of stuff for recycling costs only €3 per bag in my local recycling facili

I am convinced that the regular removal of damaged leaves and branches has enabled the whole shrub to flourish. It is early days yet in observing this new strategy but the results so far are promising! The trimmings are brought to a recycling centre where they will be composted at a much higher temperature than I can achieve in my own compost heaps.

I will be extending this trial system in the coming months to the rest of the roses so I hope to have perfect roses all round the garden!

Taking no chances!

Tetrapanex removal outfit

My friend Rachel mentioned that she also had problems with Tetrapanex this year. I wonder was it the extremely hot weather we had recently that caused a change in the plants? I never had this problem before so maybe it is like the Giant Hogweed that becomes dangerous when there is a lot of sun about?

Either way, before I ventured out to remove the remaining suckers I took some precautions – Hat, glasses, mask, gloves, covered arms and legs – I was taking no chances this time!

I proceeded down to the tropical garden to sort out the delinquent plants! A quick swipe with the long-handled spade, and the sucker neatly severed with the secateurs and the job was done! The severed leaves were carefully lifted in my gloved hands by the stem, and holding them at arms length I deposited them way at the back of the compost heaps!

I am happy to report that no further unpleasant symptoms have returned!

Tetrapanex Rex warning

My Tetrapanex Rex are great favourites in my garden, for me and also for visitors to the garden. They seem to really love my heavy clay soil and although they lose all their leaves in winter they have managed to return with renewed vigour even when they have had their new growth zapped by late frost. This year one of them got zapped three times and still managed to come back as strong as ever!

This is how it looks in full leaf – pups from this one came up through the patio!

Unfortunately they do spread about a lot. I have lost count of how many appeared this year and since my weeding regime was a bit behind some of them have achieved significant growth. Yesterday I was working on the Tropical Garden and the Fairy Garden and both of them had lots of Tetra – some of a good size, but since they were appearing in the middle of paths and other unsuitable locations the decision was made that they had to go!

At least 3 new plants have appeared here – the path is completely blocked!

They are quite easy to remove generally – a good firm twist and they separate from the root they are growing from. But some were too big to respond to this so they had to be cut with the secateurs. I’m not sure which method was the culprit, but I had a pretty severe reaction – eyes, nose and throat were all really badly affected by the sap or pollen from it.

I am posting this as a warning to others that care needs to be taken if you have to deal with unwanted Tetrapanex offshoots!

I still have some to clear but I am going to try using a Covid Visor to protect me when I am working on them!

There are other plants in the garden that can irritate but once I know about them I just take precautions – but this was a new one for me so I thought I would warn people of the potential.

Bamboo Walkway looking good

I already described how the timber boardwalk had to be replaced with a more durable walkway a few months ago. I filled the edging with seedlings of Dahlias and Cosmos and I am happy to say they survived the heatwave! This is a temporary measure as I plan to put various sedums in their places as permanent planting as I think they will survive well in the cavities in the blocks that comprise the edging.

I have tried some sedums and they seem happy enough! But for this year I wanted instant colour and I am very happy with the results. The thing I like best about dahlias from seed is that they are always the open flowers that the bees love. All I have to remember is to dead-head so they continue to flower!

I wasn’t really sure about the Cosmos – would they be too tall? Or would they block the path? But I was worrying unnexessarily! Again, dead-heading is the name of the game!

The one disappointment i have is the Nicotiana I also grew from seed – I mustn’t have read the small print on the seed packet as I was expecting the tall and elegant Nicotiana I grew in previous years – so even though they have produced lots of flowers, the scent is nothing like as good as the larger ones. Note to self: READ THE LABELS BEFORE YOU BUY!!!

No perfume! So disappointing!

However, the first year of my Bamboo Walkway is a success in my book – now I just have to get in and put manners on the Bamboo!

A surprisingly successful planting effort! But I’m still not a fan of growing stuff from seed!

Sedums at the Wind Plaza

Sedums may not usually be considered to be formal plants but when the garden had to be remodelled a bit after the removal of the disastrous Wind Turbine I had to put my thinking cap on to come up with a way to cope with a large area of very poor soil surrounding a 2 metre square foundation.

Wind Turbine in place 2011

The foundation was actually 2 CUBIC metres of poured concrete so removing it wasn’t an option! The first task was to cover the foundation with paving slabs and surrounding it with raised beds.

Wind Plaza and Raised Beds 2012

The original raised beds made from recycled scaffolding boards lasted for a few years but now the beds are simply edged with large stones (of which I seem to have an indefinite supply from other projects!) and they have been colonised by a wonderful spreading Campanula that is a sight to behold in early Summer – but now they are going over so the sedums come into focus!

The surrounding area had very little topsoil due to the excavations for the deep foundation so rather than try and recover the soil I looked around for something that would cope with it – and up steps Sedum! I had a large clump of a Sedum called “Green Mantle” that was doing well, so that was the starting point. I was gifted lots of different varieties of low-growing sedums from various gardening friends and so I had a project for the winter!

Not having a lot of experience of propagating anything, I was taking no chances. Over 200 little pots with scraps of Green mantle and at least 50 more with pieces of the other varieties were carefully nurtuted, pampered, protected, even kept warm, in my little greenhouse for the winter.

I laid out a pattern with some left-over red bricks and we drew several trailers of sand and gravel and covered the area and levelled it for planting. Then the sedums were liberated from the greenhouse and I was really afraid I hadn’t enough plants!

As the years went by I concentrated the different varieties into the “petals” of the flower shape and I just let the Green Mantle do its own thing to a large extent! It has self-seeded to almost every border of the garden by now, and every time I look at them I am reminded of the pampering they got that first winter

The best grower of the Petal Sedums Sedum spurium coccinea

This one is a Sedum spurium coccinea from a friend.

Sedum spurium album is the main plant here but there is a piece with pale mauve flowers behind the tree!

I have more varieties than petals, but the main idea is to make a contrast with Green Mantle!

Sedum album is a great spreader too! The little pearl-like leaves root very easily.

Some of the sedums are a bit later coming into flower and this next one is one I have used as a border in the front garden too!

Sedum spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ has low-growing bright yellow flowers in late summer.

This is possibly my favourite of the low-growng sedums because the leaves are very beautiful all year round – taking on a pinkish tone in autumn!

The centrepiece for the Sedum Garden is Viburnum Plicatum Mariesii which flowers while the sedums are only waking up after the winter!

So my final photo is how it looks today! The Wind Plaza is glimpsed on the right. To the upper edge the Rose Ghislaine de Feligondeand is still flowering well, and the Willow Fence has been given a summer trim to allow the path at the top to be used!

The Sedum Garden

The Green Mantle sedum that is the main feature of this garden is found in profusion all round the garden. The maintenance on this feature garden is not onerous! In Spring the old foliage needs to be removed – I have used a lawnmower to do this on occasions! However, the manual removal is more effective as they are cut down asl low as possible and the cut materials removed! Because of the excellent ground cover weeds struggle to gain a foothold, but those that do are easliy removed because of the sandy nature of the soil. Then in early Autumn the time spent removing the dead flowers is well worth it because it allows the lovely autumn colour to be seen at its best!

Peruvian Influencers

I first came across the Peruvian beauty known as Alstromeria in my friend Rachel’s garden where she had a truly dramatic circular border filled with these magnificent plants.

My first Alstromeria was this one ‘Lady Diane’ – from Rachel’s garden

The trick with these generous plants is regular dead-heading which is done in a unique way – the entire flower stem is removed with a firm “chuck” which stimulates the plant to replace the flowering stem within a very short time. Lady Diane is a tall and elegant beauty, coming into flower just now in the height of Summer and continuing to flower for months if you remember to remove the spent flowers.

The next Alstromeria I aquired was Alstroemeria ‘Little Miss Gina’ and in complete contrast she is a tiny plant, just perching on the edge of the border! She begins to flower in June in my garden, but I don’t usually remove the spent flowers daily as I do with Lady Diane, but she still flowers with great enthusiasm right through to the end of Autumn.

Little Miss Gina with Sedum Green Mantle

I also have Alstromeria Selena which got planted totally in the wrong place in the Oak Woodland. I tried taking a piece from it at the end of the season last year but it didn’t come through the winter. This year I took a chance and have moved as much as I could of the root to the area beside the Birch Tree in the Birdhouse Garden and so far it is surviving! It is near ‘Lady Diane’ and since she thrives here hopefully Selena will also thrive!

Alstromeria Selena

I have another low-growing one that I got for the Hot Border – it recently featured in a photo with Puss. This is another long-flowering plant and the colour zings particularly when the sun is shining on it! Alstroemeria ‘Princess Diana’ not to be confused with ‘Lady Diane’ – why do they do this to us with plant names!

All these amazing flowers do exceptionally well in my garden. The first clump of ‘Lady Diane’ got a really bad infestation of Vetch so last winter I lifted the whole clump and painstakingly removed as much as I could and this year I have only found a few small pieces of Vetch an have been able to deal with them with normal weeding! The disturbance has resulted in shorter flowers this year but I am confident they witll regain their strength before the end of the season. Fortunately I have a second clump in a different part of the garden too!

The final Alstromeria is ‘Orange King’ and he certainly is living up to his name! He really is VERY orange as you can see…

Orange King

He is a real thug and has staged a takeover in more than one border but he is such a wonderful dash of colour that he gets away with it!

In one border he blended beautifully with Geranium Maderense where the unusual combination of Purple and Orange was very dramatic.

Alstromeria ‘Orange King’ with Geranium Maderense

But in another border a beautiful pure yellow Hemerocallis has appeared in the jungle of Orange King!

Hemerocallis and Alstromeria ‘Orange King’

Even the invasive thug that Orange King is, he is still a welcome addition to any border – all that is required is a certain amount of ruthlessness when weeding the borders!

Day Lilies come into their own

July is when the Day Lilies really strut their stuff! The first Day Lily I planted in Gortnalee was “Stella d’Oro” from Bakker in 2009 – it sulked for a bit but is now an early harbinger of what is to come, flowering from late May until the end of June. I have been the recipient of donations of Day Lilies from two kind gardening friends. Jacinata gifted me with a generous donation of quite a few way back in 2013 and they have been such a great addition to my long border – I tried to identify the different ones with their varying shades and combinations of yellows, oranges and some with brown markings, but regardless of the names I love them all!

I also got a pink one I believe is “Pink Damask” from another member of that year, but I don’t have their name! I spoke enthusiastically at my local Garden Club about them, and Fergal, who is the organiser of this great club, donated another great selection in 2018, in particular a deep red one and a pure yellow! I’m going to ty and put up a gallery of those currently looking good! My daily pleasure at the moment is to combine dead-heading of the roses and the Day Lilies – such a rewarding task! The Day Lilies are now star performers in my Hot Border and seem to spread a bit too!

The red one refused to oblige with a flower this morning but maybe later ……

And here she is! The Prima Donna!

And well worth the wait!

Fascinating Poppies

There are Papaver Orientale appearing in lots of places around my garden – mostly self-seeding and I thought they were all the same. But today I looked more closely and there seem to be several different ones. I am fascinated with the details on the top of the seedheads as well as the markings on the petals. Here are some examples:

Poppy 1 – Strong red, six black marks on the petals and a very intricate seedbox

This one seems to be the dominant one – the six marks inside are very pronounced. It is very large – some of the flowers are the size of a side-plate.

Poppy 2 – Four black petal marks and a different seedbox pattern

This one is slightly smaller and has only four of the characteristic black marks and the pattern on the seedbix is less complex.

Poppy 3 – quite a bit smaller than Poppy 1 – but with the same markings.

This one does not flop the way Poppy 1 does – and the seedbox pattern is very simple.

Poppy 4 – more orange than red, this poppy has a more domed seedbox

So the colour of this one is quite different to the others. It is one of the smaller ones but the seedbox is almost going to a point!

I received poppy seeds from several gardening friends with names like “Beauty of Livermere” and “Ladybird” but I am not able to identify which ones I have! I would appreciate anyone thorwing some light on this mystery for me!